In Peru you'll find panoramic mountain ranges, vast deserts, beautiful beaches and tropical jungle, fantastically rich history, archaeology, some of the world's highest lakes, wildlife and enduring indigenous cultures. There are remains of ancient civilisations - the Inca stronghold of Machu Picchu, the Nazca Lines, and the excavated ruins of Chan Chan.
Gardens to see and visit in Peru include European-influenced historic city gardens, picturesque waterfront neighborhoods with colorful mosaics, church and hotel gardens as well as lush jungle gardens in east and south-east Peru.
Garden Travel Guide to Peru
Geography and population
Peru is located in the western central coast of South America. It borders with Ecuador in the north; Colombia in the north east; Brazil in the East; Bolivia to the south east, and Chile in the south.
There are three major regions:
- the 200 miles of Pacific coastline and narrow coastal strip which is characterised by deserts cut by narrow fertile valleys fed by waters form the Andes,
- the high Andes mountains which are lower and flatter in the south rising to the highest peaks in the central area
- and the vast region of plains covered by vegetation in the Amazon River basin, which begins at the confluence of the Marañón and Ucayali
Peru is the third largest country in South America with an area of 1,285,216 km² and a population of about 31 million, 52 % living on the coast plain which accounts for only 11% of the land.
The weather in Peru varies according to area – the changes in altitude are so extreme that the climate goes from freezing snow in the mountains to baking sun on the coast.
Pacific coastal areas are mostly dry and mild, and winter lasts from June to September. The climate of the coast ranges from a warm and semi-arid to a climate which is a bit like the Mediterranean climate with an important difference — the winter, although cloudy, cool and very humid, has very little rainfall.
In those areas located right by the ocean, the so-called ‘rainy season’ occurs between late May and mid-October. Precipitation comes from the almost permanent layer of fog, and total rainfall is only 10mm to 150mm. Despite being only 12 degrees from the equator, Lima’s daily temperature range varies only from 15°C to 20°C in winter and 19°C to 27°C in summer.
The Andes has the largest diversity of climate. Temperature is proportional to altitude, varying from temperate in the low-lying valleys to frigid in the highest elevations. However in any location the maximum temperature is often steady throughout the year due to the presence of clouds in the rainy season, which help keep in heat during the night. Cusco daily winter maximum is about 19°C while summer maximum is only 21°C. With the absence of clouds in winter the nights are much colder with an average night time temperature of 0°C and summer minimums of about 7°C.
Precipitation has a marked seasonality. The rainy season starts in September but peaks between January and March, whereas the May–August part of the year has very dry conditions and cold nights and mornings – almost the exact reverse to the coast climate.
The eastern lowlands are tropical, hot and rainy most of the year although the rainfall is highest from November to March when it rains frequently. Temperatures oscillate between 18–36 °C most of the year and rainfall varies between 1,000 and 4,000 mm (39 to 158 inches) per year.
Occasional cold surges that originate from the Antarctic may lower the temperature to 10–15 °C (50–59 °F). These events can occur between May and September and in 2010 lead the government to declare a state of emergency when even in the tropical Amazon temperatures dropped below 9°C.
Best Time to Visit Peru Gardens
The high tourist season and the best time to visit most regions is during June to September when the weather in the Andes is drier and on the coast is cooler, however summer on the coast can also be lovely with warmth and sunshine.
Although it’s a tropical area, the peaks of different heights in the Andes mountain range that either block or change the course of the winds, the currents that flow through its ocean (the cold Humboldt current from the south and the warm Niño current from the equator) are some of the reasons why the climate is not consistent with the latitude, creating a wide variety of landscapes, each with its own wildlife and agricultural and forestry resources. In fact, 83% of the world’s ecosystems or wildlife zones can be found in Peru.
The dry, sandy reaches of the coastal plain support mainly desert vegetation, such as shrubs, grasses, and tuberous plants.
The vast, fertile rainforest contains a rich profusion of trees, plants, and jungle vines, including mahogany, cedar, rubber, and cinchona trees, sarsaparilla and vanilla plants, and a variety of exotic tropical flowers.
The rugged sierra has little plant life which is largely xerophytic (adapted to survival on a restricted supply of water) and includes hundreds of cactus species, scrub and fodder grasses and eucalyptus plants. A unique plant to spot in the sierra is the large Puya raimondii from the Bromeliaceae family. The highlands plains also provide pampas landscapes and, in the high altitude regions, cushion plant vegetation.
In the Amazon forests the main vegetation is woodland, with canopies up to 60 metres high. These forests support many epiphytes, woody vines, ferns and shrubs. Most of the vegetation consists of hardwoods, with very few herbaceous plants although flowering plants and certain algae and moss can grow in higher areas, where they receive enough light. With no climate extremes nearly all vegetation is evergreen.
Many of Peru’s public gardens are designed and planted in a European style with lakes, statues and fountains, decorative pavilions, mature trees, roses, and beds of colourful annuals.
Private designer gardens often have beautifully-built walls of local stone, and a selection of plants able to cope with low rainfall, such as palms, cycads, grasses, conifers and ground-plane shapes of colourful foliage.
On the eastern side of the Andes in the hot and high rainfall areas, many resorts feature jungle-style landscaping.
Around the Sacred Valley of Peru near Machu Picchu there are several ‘mystical’ gardens developed around yoga retreats, such as the 7 chakra garden at Willka T’ika Guest House, Urubamba.
Gardens regularly open, both free and paid entry
• Parque de la Reserva has a complex of 13 fountains which are open 3pm – 10.30pm each day and laser-lit at night during a 30 minute ‘sound and light’ show which plays 3 times every evening at 7.15pm, 8.15pm and 9.30pm. (Free entry before 3pm, after 3pm entry fee S/.4,00, enter via the gate on Jr. Madre de Dios).
• Parque de la Cultura/ Parque de la Exposicion, Lima – Byzantine and Moorish pavilion, lake, amphitheatre
• Parque del Amor (Park of Love) at Miraflores is dedicated to lovers and features colourful mosaics, El Beso (The Kiss) statue by Victor Delfin and views over the bay.
• Walk along the streets of Miraflores and also Barranco (which goes down to the beach), Lima’s most picturesque neighborhoods
• La Casa Fitzcaraldo – casual guests for pool and surrounding jungle-style gardens 5 soles 9am-6pm, or accommodation. Avenida La Marina 2153, Iquitos
• Church of Santo Domingo and Quoricancha, Cusco
• The Garden House B&B in Cusco
• See the remnants of the Inca’s gardens and ruins, along with the awe-inspiring Machu Picchu
Go plant hunting in the jungle areas of south-east Peru along the Madre de Dios River to find begonia, heliconia and calceolaria
• Jardín de los Sentidos (Garden of the Senses) – 600m² garden and nursery designed to awaken the senses, with colour, fragrance, texture and water. Open 8am-12pm daily. Garden layout is inspired by the nearby archeological site of the pre-Columbian city of Chan Chan and shamanic principles.
Peru has several train services of interest to visitors, including the famous train from Cusco to Machu Picchu and there is also a very scenic view of the Andes from Cusco to Puno. There is also a network connecting Lima with Huancayo but the systems are not extensive and not connected. There are many internal commercial flights connecting main cities or an intercity long distance bus. Main roads in Peru are generally reasonably paved but minor roads can range from extraordinarily bumpy to impassable after landslides. There is a limited metro system in Lima.
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