can assure your majesty that it is so beautiful and has such fine
buildings that it would even be remarkable in Spain.
---Francisco Pizarro, describing Cuzco in a letter to King Charles V of Spain.
Peru is South America's
third largest country, covering 1,285,215 sq. km., and can be divided
into three distinct geographic regions. The best known of these is the
central high sierra of the Andes, with its massive peaks, steep canyons,
and extraordinary pre Columbian archaeological sites. The Andes are still
one of the world's most unstable mountain ranges, with frequent earthquakes,
landslides, and flash floods. Despite such instability, the Andes are
also the site of the most fascinating pre-Columbian cities of South America-like
the great city of the clouds, Machu Picchu.
The Andes are by no means the only region to visit in Peru. Also of great interest
is Peru's narrow, lowland coastal region, a northern extension of the Atacama
Desert. Although the Atacama is generally known as the most arid region on the
planet, the climate along Peru's shores is made cooler and less dry by La Garuùa,
a dense fog created by the collision of the frigid waters of the Humboldt Current
with the heated sands of the Atacama. Lima, Trujillo, and Chiclayo, three of
Peru's major population centres, are located along this coastal desert.
Peru's third great region is the dense forest that surrounds the headwaters of
the Amazon beneath the eastern slopes of the Andes. This part of the country
is so inaccessible that only the most adventurous and intrepid travelers should
attempt to penetrate its mysterious emerald depths. In fact, the region's capital
of Iquitos, a city of 400,000, is accessible only by air or by boat up the Amazon.
climate varies considerably by region, although January through March
tends everywhere to be the wet season. The coastal areas, which are quite
hot and humid during those months, are cooled during the rest of the
year by La Garuła. The fog doesn't penetrate very far inland, however,
and the western side of the Andes are very clear, warm, and dry for the
greater part of the year. As one moves up into the mountains, night-time
temperatures become considerably colder. The eastern slope of the Andes,
like the Amazon basin, experiences very heavy rainfall during the wet
season, which extends from January all the way through April.
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