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.
Exports include copper, zinc, lead, and silver.
There is a wide range of agriculture, and Peru is almost self-sufficient in food, with crops such as potatoes, rice, and sugar.
Llamas and sheep provide wool for export.
One of the world's leading producers of fishmeal.
Peru has a well-established manufacturing sector, which includes petroleum products, although oil production is declining.
The coastal plain is semi-tropical, arid and mostly desert, cooled by the Peru Current and subject to dense mists.
Peru is divided into 12 regions, which are further divided into provinces, and the provinces are divided into districts.
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.
But most travel in the selva is by river.
Llamas often serve as pack animals in the highlands.
Peru has two airlines.
Railway extends from Greater Lima to the mines and ore refineries high in the Andes.
It climbs 4,829 metres above sea level, higher than any other standard-gauge railway in the world.
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.
Peruvian law requires all children between the ages of 6 and 15 to attend free state run schools, but many rural people, mostly Indian are poorly educated.
Peru has about 30 universities, including the famous University of San Marcos in Lima. Founded in 1551, it is the oldest institution of higher learning in South America. High inflation and a large foreign debt have caused economic problems for Peru.
Scholars believe that the first people to live in Peru were American Indians who arrived from North America about 12,000 years ago. They tamed the llama and began to cultivate the potato, which grew wild in the highlands and became an important food in Peru long before they were known anywhere else in the world.
Peru's population is made up of Quechua 47.0%, Mestizo 32.0%, European 12.0%, and Aymara 5.0%.
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.
The viceroyalty, with its capital at Lima, attempted to placate the various factions but was not in reasonable control until the mid-16th century.
In 1821 Jose de San Martin captured Lima, proclaiming an independent republic and issuing a constitution in 1823.
In 1824 Jose de Sucre won the battle of Ayacucho, and Spanish troops were withdrawn.
Political quarrels in the new republic led to an invitation to Simon Bolivar to accept the powers of a dictator.
He tried unsuccessfully to bring Peru into his state of Gran Colombia, comprised present-day Colombia, Ecuador, and Venezuela.
A long period of civil war followed, until 1844 when Ramon Castilla, became President, ended slavery, established an education system, and promoted the extraction of guano (seabird droppings), which brought prosperity.
The cost of the War of the Pacific led to national bankruptcy in 1889.
Civilian politics had emerged in the 1870s with two parties, the Democrats and the Civilians, alternating in office and introducing some progressive legislation and settling the Tacna-Arica Dispute.
After World War I a radical group, sought to obtain greater participation in politics by the Indians.
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 1985 President Alan Garcia confronted by massive rescheduling requirements for Peru's foreign debts, imposed an austerity program and engaged in a guerrilla war against a strong ultra-left Maoist group, Sendero Luminoso ('Shining Path').
In the 1990 elections, the son of Japanese immigrants, Alberto Keinya Fujimori of the Cambio 90 Party, was elected President.
The austerity measures that he continued resulted in protests, with strikes and guerrilla attacks across the country.
In September 1992, however, his government won a resounding victory against terrorism, by capturing and imprisoning Abimael Guzman, who had founded and led Sendero Luminoso since 1970.
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.
Spanish and Quechua are the official languages.
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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