Peru, the largest in area in the Andean countries, was the cradle of the
most advanced indigenous civilizations and most powerful empire in pre-Columbian South America-that of the Incas. 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 borders 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 other Andean states. It's the multiple layers of great civilizations that make Peru so intriguing. You can wander around colonial cities that have preserved the legacy of the Spanish conquistadors, visit the ancient Inca capital of Cuzco, explore the lost city of Machu Picchu and ponder the enigma of the Nazca Lines.
It also has some of the most spectacular and varied scenery in South America. The Peruvian Andes are arguably the most beautiful on the continent and the mountains are home to millions of highland Indians, who still speak the ancient tongue of Quechua and maintain a traditional way of life.
You don't have to be in Peru too long to realize that the ' New World ' had a rich and complex cultural life thousands of years before Pizarro turned up wearing funny clothing.
And then there's the natural world. The verdant Amazon Basin, which occupies half of Peru , is one of the world's top 10 biodiversity 'hot spots' - a species-rich area of tropical rain forest that will make your head spin when you start to learn about its ecology. And the coastal deserts, with their huge rolling dunes, farmland oases and fishing villages, are underappreciated by travelers but offer the opportunity to get off the Gringo Trail in a big way.