It's the multiple layers of great civilisations that make Peru so intriguing. You can wander around colonial cities that have preserved the legacy of the Spanish conquistadors, visit the ancient Inca capital of Cuzco, explore the lost city of Machu Picchu and ponder the enigma of the Nazca Lines.
It also has some of the most spectacular and varied scenery in South America. The Peruvian Andes are arguably the most beautiful on the continent and the mountains are home to millions of highland Indians, who still speak the ancient tongue of Quechua and maintain a traditional way of life.
You don't have to be in Peru too long to realize that the 'New World' had a rich and complex cultural life thousands of years before Pizarro turned up wearing funny clothing.
And then there's the natural world. The verdant Amazon Basin, which occupies half of Peru, is one of the world's top 10 biodiversity 'hot spots' - a species-rich area of tropical rain forest that will make your head spin when you start to learn about its ecology. And the coastal deserts, with their huge rolling dunes, farmland oases and fishing villages, are underappreciated by travellers but offer the opportunity to get off the Gringo Trail in a big way.
Areas where the government is conducting counter-insurgency campaigns have been designated 'emergency areas' and should not be entered. Though the Shining Path guerrilla movement has largely abated, they are still known to conduct occasional operations in the Ayacucho, Huancavelica, Huanuco, Junin and San Martin areas.
The government called a 30-day state of emergency in the northern part of the Puno region on 19 October, 2004, as a result of an attempted takeover of a power plant by local coca farmers that led to two deaths.
Full country name: Republic of Peru
Area: 1.28 million sq km
Population: 28 million
People: 54% Indian, 32% Mestizo (mixed European and Indian descent), 12% Spanish descent, 2% other
Language: Aymara, Quechua, Spanish
Religion: Over 90% Roman Catholic, small Protestant population
Government: constitutional republic
Head of State: President Alejandro Toledo
Head of Government: Prime Minister Dr Luis Solari
GDP per capita: US$2,060
Major Industries: Pulp, paper, coca leaves, fishmeal, steel, chemicals, oil, minerals, cement, auto assembly, steel, shipbuilding
Major Trading Partners: USA, Japan, UK, China, Germany, Columbia