Peru, the largest area in the Andean countries, was the cradle of the most advanced indigenous civilizations and most powerful empire in South America pre-Columbian cultures. Peru was also the focus of Spanish colonial domination for its first two hundred years of rule. What remained of pre-Columbian America with regard to people, culture, and settlements is perhaps better represented in Peru than in any other country.
The country has a 2,400 kilometer (1,500 miles) long coast on the Pacific Ocean and bordes Colombia and Ecuador in the North, Brazil and Bolivia on the east, and Chile on the south. It is the only country that borders all the Andean state.
Language: the official languages of Peru are: Spanish which is used on a 73% of the population; the Quechua or runasimi, spoken for a 24% of peruvians. Some specialists recognise to especific variations of quechua on the national territory : the huáihuash, which is quite popular on the central part of Peru and the huámpuy, spoken by the rest of the country. Most of the quechua-speakers are bilingual and have spanish as their second language. The same thing happens with the Aymaras, whose language extends strongly over the Altiplano. There are also over 55 amazonic languages spoken by tribes on the peruvian jungle such as: asháninka, aguaruna and machiguenga.
Religion: The official religion is the Roman Catholic. Over an 80%ofthe population practice it with deep devotion, However there is a freedom of cult in this country, nobody is compulsed to believe in what others say, besides some people from the Andes and the Amazonia practice the Catholic Religion mixed with some old traditions such as the cult to the Pachamama (the mother earth) and the natural phenomenums.
Currency: The Official currency of Peru is the Nuevo Sol and its symbol is S/. It is divided in 100 centimos (cents): with coins valued at S/.5 , S/.2 , S/.1,and 50, 20, 10 centimo pieces, although the latter is being phased out as it is virtually worthless. Notes in circulation are S/. 200 , S/.100 , S/.50, S/.20 and S/.10. The echonomy of Peru goes side by side with the American dollar, that’s why many businesses are treated with the use of both currencies.
Exchange Rates: The easiest foreign currency to exchange is the american dollar, very common on the tourism issue, most of the entrance fees, tickets and and fares are given in american dollars. There are plenty of Exchange Houses and you could also exchange your money with the cambistas people on the street who are usually walking up and down Sol Av. Hotels and credit card may do that for you even though they are extremely reliable their exchange rate is very low which makes you lose a fair bit of money. The exchange rate varies everyday on a consider difference.
Travellers Checks: Travellers checks are not very used, it gets a bit problematic even in some banks, and especially because the loss of porcentage is about 2 to 5% of the total value of your check.
Money Transfers: You can do some movements on your accounts from Peru with no problems at all, it is just a matter of time, which could take from three days to more in case they are of international matter, if it is a national transfer it should take no longer than one day. There is also the use of ATMs which are easy to reach and located on the main avenue , Av. Sol.
Credit Cards: The most popular and accepted credit cards are: Visa, Dinners, Mastercard and American Express. However the use of these is not very popularing some provinces in Peru.
Banks: Generally the banks in Lima and another cities are open to the public from 09:00 until 18:00 from monday to friday and saturdays and sundays only until midday in capital, However in some other cities like Cusco some banks close at midday or lunch time for about three hours and start again.
Time: Peruvian time is located five hours after the GMT (Greenwich Mean time) and it’s similar to the EST (Eastern Standart Time) time in the U. S. A..
Referencial Times: when it is noon in Peru, in Santiago de Chile and Caracas is 13:00; in Rio de Janeiro and buenos aires it is 14:00; in New york it is 12:00 , and in Tokyo it is 03:00 on the day after .
Three main natural regions are distinguishable: the coastal zone (Costa); the hoghlands (Andes or Sierra); and the eastern hills and lowlands (Selva).
THE COASTAL ZONE
The Costa is an arid, mostly hilly region between the Pacific shore, much of which is bordered by high cliffs, and the Andes farther east. In the north, it is characterized by a low, extremly faulted plateau, a substantial part of which is an almost flat, arable land where water for irrigation is available.
Because of the nature of the terrain and its aridity, settlement is almost enterely confined to river valleys and small sections of the coast, mostly near the mouths of rivers.
A narrow coastal mountain range rises steeply just behind the Pacific shore in the southern part of the Peruavian coastal zone. It is composed mainly of a very rugged surface, much of which is covered by bare hard rocks with deeply incised narrow gorges. Troughlike basins running parallel to this range separate it from the Andes. These flat-bottomed basins are covered with a thick mantle of sediment in which rivers have cut deep valleys. Agricultural settlements that irrigate and cultivate small areas of these valleys are actually oases in this desertlike environment. Unlike other parts of the coastal belt, most of the population in the south resides along its eastern margins, away from the coast and close to the foot of the Andes.
THE HIGHLANDS: THE ANDES
The highlands in Peru are generally considered to consist of two parallel ranges, the Cordillera Occidental and the Cordillera Oriental, extending in a northwest to southeast direction. Valleys and basins, which follow the same direction and in the south broaden into the Altiplano (with lake Titicaca and a few smaller lakes), are generally cited as the structural features that separate the western range from the eastern one.
Both the western range and eastern ranges, with peaks rising over 20,000 feet are not continuous, which are in most cases arranged in echelon. The high peaks and slopes are permanently snow-covered, with some remnants of glaciers. Volcanoes, active and dormant, are confined mainly to the southern part of the highlands.
The basins and valleys wedged high between the Peruvian Andes are interment high level surface over which, historically, the majority of Peru’s population has been concentrated. Most of them, which lie at altitudes between 10,000 and 15,000 feet, are broad and covered with a mantle of sediment washed down from the neighboring mountains. They are crossed by rivers whose sources are in the Cordillera Occidental or in the basins themselves and which are, in fact, the tributary headwaters of the Amazon river.
The Altiplano of the southern Peruvian Andes (which extends into Bolivia) is made up of some basins and valleys of the high level surface, including Peru’s share in Lake Titicaca, with its densely inhabited environs. Only the lower basins and valleys of the high level surface are climatically within the zone suitable for agriculture. The altitude of most of this surface is outside the limit of cultivation or is marginal for some crops, such as potatoes, barley and corn. Much of the high level surface is used mainly as pasture for sheep, goats, alpacas, and llamas.
THE EASTERN LOWLANDS: JUNGLE
The eastern lowlands are generally divided in the selva alta, the higher hilly areas at the foot of the Andes, and the selva baja, the lower areas farther east (especially in the northeast) that slope toward the boundaries of Colombia and Brazil. The selva alta is dominated by low, gently sloping eastern spurs of the Andes (1,200-3,000 feet) with broad valleys that have potentially arable land.
There is a gradual transition to the selva baja, a much lower undulating plain where the relief is dominated by a dense network of rivers and river terraces. It slopes gently northeastward from aproximately 1,200 feet to 300-400 feet. The eastern lowlands are covered with dense tropical rain forest. Over large areas the forest is so dense that access is possible only via the rivers. The eastern lowlands of Peru are, in fact, part of the western margin of the huge Amazon plain.