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  Peru : A Glance at Peru

A Glance at Perú

The Peruvian territory is divided into three large geographic regions: the coast, La Sierra, and La Selva (the forest.)

Costa

TrujilloThe western, or coastal zone is a strip of desert-like land- a result of the Humboldt current and the presence of the Andes to the east- that at is 180km (112mi) at its widest point and is pressed up againt 3,080km (1,914mi) of the Pacific Ocean, its beaches and stunning cliffs. Here it almost never rains. 

The central and southern region of the Peruvian coast possess two main time periods: one in the winter, from April to October; and one in the summer, from November to March. During the winter a dense cover of clouds fill the sky and frequent drizzling or light rain occurs. During these months the temperature rarely goes above 12° C (54°F). During the summer, on the other hand, the sun shines brilliantly and the temperature can go above 30°C (86°F). The northern region of the coast is not impacted by the Humboldt current, and thanks to this has almost 300 days of sun, and the temperatures can top 35°C (95°F) in the summer.

The topography of the area is mostly very flat, with maximum elevations of 650 meters (2,100ft) above sea level, and close to 50 river-like water oasis'. They are called coastal valleys, fertile agricultural areas formed by the rivers originating in the high Andes that run to the sea. The majority of these are smaller, irregular channels of water that shrink considerably in size during the summer months (April to December).

LimaOn the coast, associated with these vallets, you will find the the capital, Lima, and the cities that are responsible for the major economic activity of the country. The territory was also important for cultures such as la mochica and their archaeological ruins, of which the most important is the  "Monumento Arqueológico de Sipán",  to the south of Chiclayo. Trujillo, further south, also is know for its rich archaeology, and was ancient land for cultures such as the mohicas, lambayeque, and chimú. And much further south, in the Ica region, you can find the mysterious Líneas y Geoglifos de Nazca (Lines and geoglyphs of Nazca) in the Parque Nacional de Paracas.

Between November and March you should prepare for rain, for in those months the effects of El Niño markedly increase the amount of rain in the region.

Sierra

La sierra is dominated by the mountains of the Andes which, like the shape of a column, stretches from north to south. The gigantic mountain range comprises the continental division of waters, as some rivers travel to the Pacific Ocean (sloping to the west), and the others merge with the huge Amazon River (sloping to the east).

HuascaranThe topography of the area, abrupt and complex, is marked by varied landscapes such as, deep fertile valleys, large plateaus in the Andian highlands, large navigable lakes -like Lake Titicaca-, and more than 12,000 lakes, as beautiful as the Llanganuco, situated in a section of a valley of the Cordillera Blanca (White Mountain Range) in the middle of the parque nacional Huascarán.

While the average altitude of the mountain range is between 3,000-4,000 meters (9,840-13,125ft), it is possible to reach heights higher than 6,000 meters (19,685ft) only 100km (62mi) in the distance. The snowy Huascarán, at 6,768 meters (22,205ft), the the highest mountain in Peru, and the second in America, second only to Yerupajá (6,634meters, ), situado en la Cordillera Huayhuash.

In the Sierra is where you can find the historical capital of Peru, Cuzco, whose surroundings offer archaeological ruins from the Incas such as Sacsayhuaman, Qenko, Ollantaytambo, and the lost city of the Incas, Machu Picchu, which you can reach on the slanted road, Camino del Inca, a walk that can take two or three days. Also, between the elevated valleys you can find beautiful, traditional cities such as Cajamarca with its Baños del Inca and Cumbemayo, and in the surrounding areas places such as Arequipa to the south or Puno on the shore of Lake Titicaca. There are also the beautifully rich and fertile valleys of Colca or Urubamba to see.

Machu PicchuLa sierra has two very different seasons: one of summer, from April to October, characterized by sunny days and very cold nights (here there is often frost) and an absence of rain (an ideal time to visit); and a rainy (also called "winter"), between November and March, when precipitation is abundant. One characteristic that is common to this area is the large daily variations in temperature. An common day could see daytime temperatures of 24° C (75°F) and lows of -3° C (26°F) before the the sun rises. La sierra also counts on a dry and pleasant climate, ideal for the cultivation of a large variety of crops.

La selva (the forest) can be divided into the high or moutainous Selva (more than 700m or 2,300ft above sea level) and the low Selva (below 700m or 2,300ft above sea level). 

The Peruvian Selva is a lush region because of the abundant amount of precipitation they receive every year. The topography undulates with gentle slopes. From its origins in the east, near the Andes, the tropical vegetation dominates the landscape, extending all the way to the Amazon. Possessing an extraordinarily rich amount of nature, it is a land of forests and meandering rivers that often serve as a unique means of communication between the villages along its path.  In fact, in order to get to Iquitos -the most important city in the Peruvian Amazon- you must fly there. All the rivers of La Selva merge with the Amazon River, the largest river in the world.

Tambopata-CandamoThe high or mountainous Selva has a subtropical and temperate climate, with a lot of rain between November and March, and sunny days between April and October. The nights are always cool. The low Selva has two seasons that are accentuated based directly on the distance from the equator. The summer season, between April and October (ideal time to visit), is filled with days of sun and high temperatures, often above 35° C (95°F). During these months the rivers drop significantly and roads are easily passable. The rainy season, between November and March, is characterized by frequent downpours (at least one a day) thus causing land erosion. The humidity in the Selva is very high most all of the year. In the southern region there are occasional "friajes" or "surazos," cold fronts coming from the south of the continent that occur between the months of May and August, during which time the temperatures can drop to 8-12° C (46-54°F).



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