Peru is located on the Pacific coast of South America. It shares a border with five neighboring countries: Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil, Bolivia and Chile.
Peru has a total land boundary of about 4,636 miles (7,461 km) and a coastline measuring 1,500 miles (2,414 km).
Peru has a total area of 496,224 square miles or 1,285,216 sq km. That’s bigger than South Africa and slightly smaller than Alaska (see How Big is Peru?).
Peru is the third largest country in South America after Brazil and Argentina.
In terms of time, Peru is five hours behind Greenwich Mean Time.
Political Outlook and National Symbols of Peru
Peru is a constitutional republic. It gained its independence from Spain on July 28, 1821.
The current President of Peru (since July 2016) is Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, popularly known as PPK. Kuczynski won the presidential vote by a tiny margin over his rival, Keiko Fujimori. The previous president was Ollanta Humala.
The flag of Peru is a vertical triband of red, white and red.
The total population of Peru according to the 2007 national census is 29,248,943.
Approximately 77 percent of the Peruvian population lives in urban areas (towns and cities). That means there’s a lot of space out in rural areas of the country.
The median age is 26.2 years with a life expectancy of 72.47 years (with women outliving men by a few years). That makes Peru a young nation; the UK, for example, has a median age of 40, while the USA stands at about 37 years.
Peru is predominantly a Spanish-speaking country (84 percent), while 13 percent of the population speaks Quechua (the language of the Inca Empire). Other extant native languages, of which there are many, including Aymara (1.7 percent) and Ashaninka (0.3 percent).
Peru’s ethnic makeup is as follows: 45 percent Amerindian, 37 percent mestizo (mixed Amerindian and white) and 15 percent white. Black, Japanese, Chinese and ‘other’ account for the remaining 3 percent.
Peru is very much a Roman Catholic country, with 81.3 percent of the population being catholic. Much of the remaining population — 12.5 percent — is evangelical.
The gross national income per capita is US$4,700. As of May 2016, the minimum wage in Peru is S/.850 per month.
According to the World Bank, 31.3 percent of the population was living below the poverty line in 2010 (down from 44.5 percent in 2006).
Since 2011, Peru has had one of the fastest growing economies in the world.
Major exports include minerals such as gold, silver, copper, zinc and lead; natural gas, crude petroleum and petroleum products; agricultural products including coffee and asparagus; fish products; textiles.
In terms of illegal trade, Peru has recently overtaken Colombia as the world’s biggest producer of cocaine.
Geography of Peru
Peru has a varied landscape that can be broken down in to three basic types: the costa (coast), the sierra (highlands/mountains) and the selva (jungle).
Much of the Pacific coastal strip consists of dry desert, while the highland climate ranges from temperate to freezing. The jungles to the east of the Andean Range are tropical and humid with distinct rainy seasons.
The highest point in Peru is the peak of Nevado Huascaran (22,205 ft / 6,768 m), a mountain located in the Cordillera Blanca range within the Andes. The highest city in Peru is Cerro de Pasco, situated at 14,200 ft (4,330 m) above sea level (see Peru Altitude Data and Elevation Map).
The Amazon River begins in Peru and flows for at least 4,000 miles (6,400 km) before entering the Atlantic Ocean on the coast of Brazil. Other major rivers in Peru include the Ucayali, Madre de Dios and Marañón.
Transportation and Infrastructure
The main airport in Peru is Jorge Chávez International Airport in Lima. There are about 230 airports in Peru, 58 of which have fully paved runways, but Peru’s major domestic airlines have regular flights to only 20 or so airports within the country.
Most overland transportation in Peru is via the country’s 63,931 mile (102,887 km) road network. There are countless long distance bus companies in Peru, with fleets ranging from antiquated and unsafe to modern and surprisingly sophisticated (see The Best Bus Companies in Peru). Peru’s train network is limited to a few lines.
Public transport within towns and cities typically consists of taxis, minibuses (combis) and mototaxis.
Boat travel is big in Peru. The Amazon Basin has more than 8,600 km (5,343 miles) of navigable tributaries, with major river ports in Iquitos, Pucallpa, and Yurimaguas. Roads are limited in the low jungle (selva baja) regions of Peru; Iquitos is the largest city in the world that cannot be reached by road.