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The land of gold and of the sun-worshipping Incas, Peru was sixteenth-century Europe's major source of treasure, and once the home of the largest empire in the world. Since then the riches of the Incas have fuelled the European imagination, although in many ways the country's real appeal lies in the sheer beauty of its various landscapes, the abundance of its wildlife, and the strong and colourful character of the people - newly recovered after a period of political upheaval, from the 1980s until the early 1990s, that was as bloody and unpredictable as any during the country's history.
Above all, Peru is the most varied and exciting of all the South American nations. Most people visualize the country as mountainous, and are aware of the great Inca relics, but many are unaware of the splendour of the immense desert coastline and the vast tracts of tropical rainforest . Dividing these contrasting environments, chain after chain of breathtaking peaks, the Andes , over seven thousand metres high and four hundred kilometres wide in places, ripple the entire length of the nation. So distinct are these three regions that it is very difficult to generalize about the country, but one thing for sure is that Peru offers a unique opportunity to experience an incredibly wide range of spectacular scenery, a wealth of heritage, and a vibrant living culture.
Always an exciting place to visit, and frantic as it sometimes appears on the surface, the laid-back calmness of the Peruvian temperament continues to underpin life even in the cities. Lima may operate at a terrifying pace at times - the traffic, the money-grabbers, the political situation - but there always seems to be time to talk, for a ceviche, another drink & It's a country where the resourceful and open traveller can break through complex barriers of class, race, and language far more easily than most of its inhabitants can; and also one in which the limousines and villas of the elite remain little more than a thin veneer on a nation whose roots lie firmly, and increasingly consciously, in its ethnic traditions and the earth itself.
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