Peru Geography and Population

Peru – geography

the Andes Mountains divide Peru into three very different natural geographical regions, all of which have a north-south extent. The westernmost, the Costa, is a 25-125 km wide coastal plain, drought-prone and in several places actually desert.

The population is concentrated in the few port cities and valleys that irregularly direct river water from the Andes to the Pacific Ocean. Here are Peru’s most fertile soils, which are used intensively with irrigation.

The Sierra, the central mountain area, is divided by three parallel duck chains in longitudinal valleys and high-lying plains. In the valleys, large rivers flow north and join the Amazon. The mountain ranges are geologically young, and earthquakes and volcanism are common phenomena. The highest peaks (Huascarán Sur 6768 m) are snow-capped cone volcanoes.

Montaña, the rainforest to the east, is Peru’s largest region. The wooded lowlands form part of the Amazon Basin, and the many rivers are the main transport routes in the sparsely populated area.


Peru is located in the tropical climate belt, but the north-south course of the Andean chains and the large altitude variations mean that you can find all types of climate from tropical to polar with associated differences in the natural vegetation. In most places, the year can be divided into a rainy season and a dry season.

The dry season usually extends from April to October-November and is described in parts of Peru as summer, despite the fact that here in the southern hemisphere it is actually the winter months.

In the Costa, the dry season is particularly pronounced, and rain can be completely absent for many years. When climate data from the coastal country, for example, state 50-60 mm of annual precipitation, this is an average of over 30 years, while the reality may only offer a few heavy rain showers throughout the period. There are areas on the coast where it has not rained for 100 years.

The background for the dry climate is the cold Humboldt current, which prevents hot and humid air from entering the land; in several places, however, a strong coastal fog, garúa, occurs. In the otherwise dry landscape you can find a rich herbaceous vegetation, loma.

In the mountains, in the clear and dry air of the dry season, very large daily temperature fluctuations can occur, while the dense cloud cover of the rainy season retains heat and evens out the temperatures. The precipitation, which varies greatly, falls especially on the east-facing slopes. It rains most on the slopes down to the Amazon, and the entire Montaña region has a tropical rainforest climate.

From time to time, the Costa in particular is affected by the El Niño phenomenon, which here means that the Humboldt Current is pushed away from the coast. This makes the water near the coast warmer, and the result is heavy rain showers and generally heavy rainfall, even outside the rainy season.


Over half of Peru’s population is Native American, and another third are mestizos. The whites of Peru, the Creoles, are mainly descendants of the Spanish conquerors and of German and Italian immigrants. They make up only 12% of the population, but have an enormous influence, both politically and economically. Peru also houses a number of other minorities from Africa, China and Japan; they are in particular descendants of added or immigrated labor.

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The population is very young; 31% are under 15 years of age. The annual population growth has fallen to approximately 2%. The population is very unevenly distributed in the country. The Montaña region makes up more than 60% of the area, but has less than 5% of the population. In contrast, the capital Lima alone holds between a quarter and a third of the population.

Many other cities are also growing rapidly as a result of a colossal migration from country to city. The migrations are partly due to the social conditions in the countryside, but have at times been reinforced by the activities of the revolutionary rebel groups.


Peru. Salt extraction at Urubamba. Since the Incas, a saline source has been redirected to these evaporation basins, where the salt is concentrated.

Peru. Woman with hand in Peru. A simple hand makes it possible to spin everywhere, eg on the way to and from work in the fields. Photography from 1982.

Agriculture employs an estimated one third of the population, but contributes only 8% of GDP. Traditionally, the cultivation of potatoes, corn, wheat and barley has been the livelihood of the large Native American population in the Sierra. There are also large grazing areas, which are used for cattle, sheep and goat breeding. Further up in the mountains, llamas and related species are the most important domestic animals. Around and west of Lake Titicaca there is an extensive dairy farm.

Apart from the valleys which are closest to the coast, the farms in the Sierra are self-sufficient, and only a few goods are traded in the money economy. Productivity is low; a spade-like digging stick, chaki takkla, remains an important tool, and oxen are the main traction. In addition, the land distribution is characterized by old systems, where the individual family has small lots of maizal, temporal and puna land.

Maizal is formed by deposits from the mountain slopes and is the smoothest and most fertile soil. Here, the main crops are maize and wheat, which are fertilized with natural fertilizers. Temporal weights are located on the slopes cultivated in terraces, often laid out in the Inca period. Neither fertilizer nor irrigation is used here, and the soil must be set aside a few years after each crop, usually barley or potatoes. The puna is common ground and in most places so depleted that a fallow period of 10-12 years is necessary; here potatoes and the highland crop quinoa are grown, a species in the saltwort family, which is popularly often called inkaris.

On the transition between subtropical and tropical climates, there is a significant cultivation of coca. In the past, coca was grown in small units and for local use, the leaves being chewed by the Indians during the work to counteract hunger, cold or fatigue. Now much of the coca cultivation is gathered on a large scale, and the leaves are raw materials in the pharmaceutical industry. However, coca cultivation is under pressure, as the leaves are also the key ingredient in cocaine production.

Only 5% of the dry Costa is cultivated, but the area still accounts for 22% of Peru’s arable land. By far most of it is artificial water; rice, sugar cane and cotton occupy large areas in competition with vegetables, tobacco, grapes and other fruits. In contrast to agriculture in the Sierra, the coastal lowlands are characterized by large farms with modern forms of operation and the sale of crops to the urban population and industries.

In Montaña, less than 1% of the area is cultivated. The region is sparsely populated and the infrastructure is very poorly developed. Most are grown for self-sufficiency, but the area offers good opportunities for increased agricultural production. On the slopes of the Andes to the west, coffee is grown and in the lower part bananas and jute.

The forests cover half of Peru, but by far the majority are Montaña’s rainforests, which are only extensively exploited. Exporting wood from here can only pay off for the finer woods such as mahogany and cedar; however, there is an increasing production of rubber, partly collected in the rainforest, partly from plantations.

Fishing. Until World War II, Peru’s fisheries had only local significance, but in the 1950’s, fisheries began to expand following American investment. Due to the Humboldt Current’s mixture of water bodies, the waters off the coast are one of the world’s most fish rich, and in 1965-72 Peru’s fish catch was the world’s largest. It was predominantly industrial fishing of sprat species for fishmeal.

High protein prices on the world market meant that resources were exploited to the utmost, but as the prices of fishmeal fell, capital was lacking to renovate the fishing fleet and factory facilities. When a powerful El Niño phenomenon in 1972 further aggravated the situation, the Peruvian fishing adventure collapsed. Continued overfishing and repeated El Niño incidents have reduced fish stocks, but fishing and fishmeal exports remain significant. Commercial fishing is especially for the local market.

Mining. Peru is one of the world’s most important producers of a number of minerals, with copper, zinc, tin, silver, lead and iron as the most important. There are up to 100 mining companies in the country, including a few state-owned ones, but only a few large ones dominate. The activities have locally led to large investments in infrastructure, the hospital and education sector. The majority of the ore finds have been made in the westernmost of the folding chains, but this is due to the fact that the exploration has mainly taken place in the most accessible mountains.

A large part of the extraction takes place at high altitude around Cerro de Pasco (copper, zinc, lead and silver). Other important fields are Chimbote (copper, lead, gold), Marcona (iron), Cerro Verde and Toquepala (copper, iron, sulfur). Thin coal layers are found in many places and are exploited locally, while the northern coastal area contains some smaller oil fields. A major oil field is located in Montaña near Pucallpa; a pipeline across the Andes leads part of the oil to Bayovar on the Pacific coast.

Peru’s overall potential for hydropower is enormous, but only a fraction is exploited for electricity generation; however, 80% of the electricity supply comes from hydropower plants.

Industry employs 18% of the workforce and contributes 23% of GDP. The majority of the industry is linked to the capital region and is based on the processing of mine production and raw materials from agriculture and fisheries. Among other things. 200 of the country’s 300 textile companies are located in Lima, but new companies have sprung up in Cuzco, Trujillo and Arequipa with aid funds.

Peru’s only and heavily worn steelworks is located in Chimbote. The chemical industry is growing rapidly (fertilizers, plastics, paints and pharmaceuticals), and factories are being set up in areas where pollution is not so bothersome.

Peru – language

The Native American language Quechua has been the official language alongside Spanish since 1975. However, most newspapers and television programs remain Spanish-speaking, just as Spanish is the dominant language in administration and teaching. Quechua is estimated to be the mother tongue of about 30% of the population and is by far the largest of the more than 50 South American languages in Peru. For culture and traditions of Peru, please check calculatorinc.

Aymará is spoken around Lake Titicaca by approximately 450,000; the other Native American languages ​​are almost all spoken in the Amazon region together by fewer than approximately 180,000; many are mastered by only a few hundred or fewer.

Peru – religion

Over 90% of the population belong to the Roman Catholic Church, which is the state church. Few percent are Protestants, among them many Adventists and members of the Pentecostal movement. Many Indians, not least in the Amazon region, still have a local religion with shamanism as the dominant feature.