8 Things You Never Knew About Peru
From pants to potatoes, double QQs and many llamas, here's everything you never knew about Peru...
Ancient ruins, floating islands and llamas galore – Peru is one badass Latin American country!
But we bet there are plenty of things you didn’t know about this fascinating tourist hotspot. Youth travel expert Contiki is here to get you up to speed with everything you never knew you wanted to know about Peru.
1. Peru is home to all your favourite carb fuelled snacks
Mashed potatoes, fries, hash browns and crisps – all of your favourite snacks owe their origin to Peru, not Ireland! The humble potato was first domesticated in Peru as far back as 10,000 years ago in the High Andes Mountains. Producing over 4,000 different varieties of potato, this carb fave is a significant part of Peruvian culture – you will often here locals say; “Soy mas Peruano que la papa,” which means “I am more Peruvian than the potato!”
2. It’s tradition to wear yellow knickers on New Year’s Eve
Peruvians take their New Year’s Eve celebrations quite literally, and their traditions very seriously. According to tradition, Peruvians wear their underpants (in the lucky colour yellow) inside out until midnight; then, at the stroke of midnight, flip them around. “Out with the old, in with the new” as the locals say!
3. Peru produces the rarest form of chocolate in the world
For the chocoholics out there, this news may change life as you know it. Peru is home to the rarest and purest form of cacao bean the world has ever seen! In 2009, two mining officials working in Northern Peru stumbled across a cluster of trees which turned out to be growing the rarest and most prized varieties of cacao bean – once thought to be extinct!
4. You can white water raft your way down the Andean ranges
Peru has some of the best white water rivers in the world and Cusco is most definitely the rafting capital of Peru. Get ready to run the river – starting high in the Andean ranges along the Urubamba River, rafters will encounter spectacular scenery as the white water river plunges down into the lush canyons of the upper Amazon.
5. There are LOTS of birds
Peru has over 1,800 species of bird, and over 50% of the migrating birds in the Americas fly over Peru at some point each year. The country also holds two bird-related world records; one for the maximum number of birds sighted in one place, 650 in the Reserva Nacional de Tambopata and the greatest number seen in a single day, 361 in Parque Nacional del Manú. Oh, and did we mention the national bird of Peru is called the cock-of-the-rock?!
6. Llamas have three cousins
You’re probably not the first person to mistake a llama for an alpaca. And to add more complication, there are actually two more wild forms of camel (or camelid) native to Peru; llamas originated from the guanaco, and alpacas stemmed from the vicuana. Top tip to tell the difference between the domesticated llama and alpaca is their cute fuzzy ears; alpaca ears have short spear-shaped ears while llamas have much longer, banana-shaped ears.
7. Peru is the only country with place names beginning with a double-Q
Qquea, Qquecquerisca and Qquero are all ridiculously hard to pronounce, and all places in Peru. That’s ‘Qquea’ with a ‘qq’ thank you very much!
8. The Uros people of Lake Titicaca live on floating islands
In addition to being so much fun to say, Lake Titicaca is one super impressive body of water. At nearly 3,810 metres above sea level, it is the highest navigable lake in the world and stretches 50 miles wide and 118 miles long. But what’s even cooler is there are locals that live on islands made of living reeds that float around the lake! Every six months or so, houses and other buildings need to be lifted in order to lay down new reeds since the islands sink ever so slowly – who knows where you might wake up one day!
If these facts have inspired you to book a trip to Peru ASAP, check out some of Contiki's amazing Latin American trips (or the ones in Europe, USA, Canada, Asia and Latin America).