Peru Geography

The Peruvian territory extends more or less between the equator and 18°S. It has a long coastline on the Pacific Ocean and is bordered by Ecuador on the north, Brazil and Bolivia on the east, and Chile on the south.Being such a large country with such varied geographical zones, you can find almost any type of climate in Peru, only reinforcing the diversity of this amazing country.    

Peru's territory has an area of 1,285,216 km², making it the fifth biggest country in South America. Looking at the Peru map, one can see it is bordered by Ecuador and Colombia on the north, Brazil and Bolivia to the east, and Chile and Bolivia to the south. To the west lies the Pacific Ocean. Peru divides into three major regions: the Costa (Coast), Sierra (Highlands), and Selva (Amazon Basin).

The Costa is a relatively narrow strip of desert along the entire coast. It is widest in the north, where much of the land consists of shifting sand and dunes. Elsewhere the Costa is generally a thin strip of dry semi desert land bordering with the rising slopes of the Peru Mountains of the Andes, at times with some broader areas at river deltas, many of which are agricultural oases. The strip is not continuous; in some areas the mountains extend all the way to the sea. Lima, the nation's capital, and many of Peru's largest cities are located in this region, on the banks of the rivers coming from the Sierra. The coast also enjoys the best road system of Peru, having the Panamericanan Highway (the longest highway in the world) passing along the entire coast from Ecuador to Chile.

The Sierra is a broad highland region, east of the Costa. It consists of rugged snowcapped Andes mountain ranges, active volcanoes, deep canyons and a number of stretched highlands. Peru's highest peak, Huascaran, is a snowcapped volcano rising 6,768 m above sea level. The Peru mountains range is made out of different smaller “cordilleras” running throughout the country. The most famous being the Cordillera Blanca in the northern Peru mountains, for its amazing trekking, and The Cordillera Vilcanote in the southern Peru mountains as it borders with the Sacred Valley and  leads up to Machu Picchu. Furthermore, Lake Titicaca, the largest freshwater lake in South America and the highest navigable in the world, lies in the Southern Peru Mountains, partly in Peru and partly in Bolivia. It occupies part of a high plateau shared with Bolivia called the Altiplano and is about 3,810 m above sea level.

The Amazon Basin or Selva, east of the Sierra, is a heavily forested lowland region that takes up around 60% of Peru's territory. Most of the Amazon Basin and is still unsettled and very little inhabited. Travel is in many places restricted to air travel or via river. This is mainly because of its remote location and dense tropical jungle. This area also contains the largest areas of protected forest and natural parks within Peru.

The large rivers of Peru spring in the Peru mountains and flow through the Amazon Basin; almost all are part of the Amazon fluvial system, ending with the mighty Amazon River itself. Among these influents are the Ucayali and Maranon, the two chief headstreams of the Amazon, and the Putamayo, Napo, Pastaza, Huallaga, Apurimac and Urubamba River. The actual Amazon River proper begins just above the city of Iquitos. A number of rivers, all of them short, drain from the Andes to the Pacific. Most of them dry up during part of the year, but their waters are extremely important for irrigation along the coast. Most coastal settlements are located at the deltas of these rivers.

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