The north-east of the country is in the upper Amazon basin and comprises equatorial rain forest, while the south-west half is occupied by the Andes mountain ranges, with snow-capped peaks that rise to over 6,500 m (21,000 feet).
Between the ranges are plateau areas of wide, rock-strewn slopes and many valleys used for cultivation and the rearing of livestock.
In the extreme southeast is in the high mountains is lake, Titicaca, South America's largest lake.
Peru is very rich in minerals, especially in the high mountains.
The rugged Andes hinders travel across Peru.
Most of the country's roads are rough and unpaved.
The Peruvian section of the Pan American Highway is the longest paved road.
Music and dancing are extremely popular throughout Peru.
Traditional Indian music is performed on drums, flutes, rattles, and a kind of small harp.
Mestizo music also uses these instruments plus such others as guitars, fiddles, and horns.
Mestizo bands attract large crowds in cafes and dance halls throughout Peru.
Soccer, which Latin Americans call football, ranks as the most popular sport in Peru.
Almost every city and town in Peru holds an annual festival, called a feria, to honour its patron saint.
The Chavin Indians established the first known civilisation in Peru, from about 800 to 400 B.C. in the central Highlands, Mochica on the northern coast, Nazca on the southern coast, and Tiahuanaco round Lake Titicaca in the Andes.
Between 600 and 1000 A.D. Huari in the central Andes conquered a small 'empire', and the Chimu state rose on the northern coast 1000 A.D.
The Incas were another such group, based round Cuzco, who began their regional expansion in 1200 A.D. and eventually conquered a vast empire stretching from Chile to Ecuador during the 15th century.
Spanish explorer Francisco Pizarro's victory over Atahualpa in 1532 led eventually to direct rule by the Spanish crown.
Inca revolts continued for nearly fifty years.
Since the 1930 Peru is aligned with US policies.
In 1968 a left-wing military junta seized power, seeking to nationalise US-controlled industries.
A more moderate junta succeeded in 1975.
In 1980 a new constitution was established on democratic principles.
In the 1990 elections, the son of Japanese immigrants, Alberto Keinya Fujimori of the Cambio 90 Party, was elected President.
A new constitution was introduced in 1993, and Fujimori was re-elected in 1995.
In December 1996 Marxist guerrillas took nearly 500 politicians and businessmen hostage at the Japanese embassy in Lima.
The four-month siege ended when Peruvian forces stormed the embassy in April 1997.
Population, around 26 million, mostly Roman Catholic.
Official Languages : Spanish, Quechua.
Capital : Lima, which has over 3 million people, is by far the largest, busiest, and most modern Peruvian city.
Lima and the neighbouring city of Callao make up the metropolitan area of Greater Lima.
For more information about Peru see Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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