Perhaps the most luring aspect of travelling to Peru is experiencing its natural and cultural treasures, from its timeless cultural traditions to its diverse geographical areas. Indeed, Peru is home to three of South America’s most dramatic geographical regions; all of which intersect in Peru: A narrow coastal strip of desert; the towering Andes Mountains and the tropical rainforest of the Amazon basin (the world’s largest). On our tour, we cover all three regions plus the Altiplano and its crown jewel, shimmering Lake Titicaca, the world’s highest navigable lake. What’s more, we do it all in the month of May or September, the ideal "dry season" months to visit Peru. May has the advantage that it takes place at the end of Fall. Consequently, much of the Andean area will be green.
Candelabra de Paracas. Photo by Vinh Phung
The Coastal desert: The entire coast of Peru consists of a narrow strip of desert stretching some 2,000k. (1,300 ml.) long. This vast barren landscape, however, is located in the tropics yet receives very little rainfall. In fact Lima, located just 13* s. latitude, receives less than two centimetres (1.8 in.) of rain per-year; most of it in the form of fog condensation. But why is this tropical desert so dry? In part because of the presence of the cool Humboldt Current which interacts with the off-shore winds disallowing rain to fall along the coast. And in part because the Andes impedes the southeast trade winds from drenching the western slopes of the Andes. Yet the ancient Peruvians did not consider the desert a total hindrance. By cleverly tapping the combination of terrestrial and maritime resources, the ancient Caral people took the pioneering steps towards civilization by building the first permanent settlement in the Americas around 3000 BCE! Likewise, the barren landscape did not bar the ancient Nazca people from etching their giant curvilinear and animal configurations on the desert. Even the off-shore islands remain rain-less and that is why vast heaps of guano have accumulated on the islands over time; some reaching 50 meters in height! Your trip to the guano-shrouded Ballestas Islands will illustrate how climate and temperature interacts with the marine fauna to produce one of the word’s most productive ocean and in doing so, helped to usher the rise of Andean civilizations.
Lake Titicaca. Photo by Vinh Phung
The Andean Highlands: The Andes Mountains, the world’s longest mountain range, stretches from the shores of the Caribbean to Cape Horn, a distance of some 7,850 kl. (4,880 ml.) and is crowned by lofty Aconcagua peak (6,962 mt.). The mineral-rich Andes cover almost a third of the South American land mass and boasts the world’s highest permanent settlement, La Rinconada, a mining town located some 5,100 mt. (16,730 ft.) above sea level. That is slightly above the traditional snow line of 4880 mt. (16,000 ft). The Andes began to rise some 15 to 20 million years ago when tectonic forces shifted and through subduction, the Andean range began its long journey upward! In doing so, it trapped an ancient inland sea and left its vestiges forming Lake Titicaca, the Altiplano’s center piece. In Peru, the Andes consist of a set of “cordilleras” that run parallel to one another in effect diverting the rivers to go east and contributing to the formation of the Amazon basin. The mountains are also the legendary home to millions of Quechua and Aymara speaking Indians; descendants of by-gone civilizations that have permeated the Andean landscape for thousands of years. On our tour, you will see these mostly subsistence farmers plying their trade and taking the surpluses to the various colorful weekly markets that dot the Andean area. They bring to life the artistic traditions of their ancestors ranging from young musicians using their authentic wind and percussion instruments, to weavers using the back-strap loom and natural dies.
Lake Sandoval, upper Amazon. Photo by Vinh Phung
The Amazon rainforest: The world’s largest rainforest, when seen from above, resembles a lush green carpet. But underneath this giant carpet lies a vast collection of extraordinarily rich flora and elusive animals ranging from a few reptiles and mammals to hordes of insects and the world’s largest concentration of birds (around 2,000 species). Indeed, the driving force responsible for creating such a spectacle is the excessive amount of annual rainfall (between 200 to 400 cm.) accompanied by high levels of humidity and anchored by a fairly stable temperature year round. But for all of its life ingredients, the Amazon soil is quite poor making it unsuitable for sustaining agriculture. Yet, in spite of these limitations, humans have taken the challenge and have settled the forest since ancient times. Unfortunately, the Amazon rainforest is threatened by over population and large-scale deforestation projects. We hope that the governments that share the Amazon rainforest come to their sense and enact projects to limit human migration and preserve the rainforest before it is too late.