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Peru is best known for its ancient cultures, especially the Incas, who dominated much of South America. Starting in the 15th century, in less than 100 years, they built an empire stretching from Colombia in the north to Argentina in the south. The combination of incredible Inca stonework and wonderful mountain scenery make discovering the sites around the Inca capital city of Cusco, the nearby Sacred Valley and, of course, Machu Picchu a fabulous experience.

The arrival of the Spanish in the 16th century, when the Conquistadors rapidly took control of the country, led to the end of the Inca Empire, and a shift in focus to the coast, from where the invaders could export their plundered treasures back to Spain. They built fine cities, and the colonial centres of Lima, Cusco and Arequipa are all UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Prior to the Incas, many other cultures thrived on the coast and in the mountains, leaving fascinatingremnants and ruins. The north coast of Peru around Trujillo and Chiclayo is possibly the richest archaeological area in all the Americas, and the enigmatic Nazca Lines, south of Lima, still attract debate and wonder about their meaning.

However, history is only part of the story. Peru stretches south from the Equator for 1,300 miles. The Andes run the full length of the country, rising to almost 7,000 metres, and separate the arid coastal strip from the lush Amazon Rainforest. Over 80% of the world’s different ecosystems are represented in Peru, more than any other country.

Today, Peru is a fascinating blend of local folklore and European influence. There are traditional festivals in the highland towns, whilst the modern cities are home to some of the world’s best restaurants and museums. Whatever you are looking for, Peru almost certainly has it.

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