5 Maps That Will Help You Visualize Peru

Bird eye view of Surat Thani

 Peetatham Kongkapech / Getty Images

In Peru, the Andes Mountains have defined the country's development, dividing Peru into three distinct regions: coastal, highlands, and jungle. By studying Peru through the maps of its settlements, national boundaries, population density, altitude, and topology, you can get a better sense of how its unique geography influences the country's administrative organization.

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Political Map of Peru

Political map of Peru

 PeterHermesFurian / Getty Images

The stripped-down political map of Peru doesn’t provide many physical details, but it does give you a clear picture of Peru’s borders, neighboring countries, major cities, and rivers. Notable features on this map include the equator, running along the northernmost point of Peru, and the Amazon River. Three major Peruvian rivers—the Marañón, Huallaga, and Ucayali—join the Amazon in northeastern Peru. The Río Madre de Dios flows into Bolivia and across Brazil, where its name changes to Beni and Madeira respectively before joining the Amazon near Manaus.

The Peruvian capital, Lima, sits near the midpoint of Peru’s Pacific coastline, dominating the coastal strip. The former Inca capital of Cusco is located inland, with the colonial city of Arequipa to the south and Lake Titicaca, which forms a part of the border between Peru and Bolivia, to the southeast.

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Administrative Map of Peru

Regions and Departments map of Peru
Huhsunqu/Creative Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

Peru is divided into 25 administrative departments, which in turn are divided into provinces and districts. Each department has its own elected regional government, but political control is centralized in Lima. Take note of the trend in department sizes. Moving inland, department areas tend to increase. This reflects a decrease in the density of the population as you move from west to east. For example, Loreto is the largest department and makes up the entire northeast region. However, it is mostly made up of jungle areas and the population is relatively low.

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Population Density Map of Peru

Population density map of Peru by regions and departments (2007)
Huhsunqu/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

Peru's ​three geographic regions of coast, mountain, and jungle split the country into distinct zones, each running from north to south. The map above, created using census data from 2007, reveals the close relationship between geography and population density in Peru. The coastal strip is the most densely populated and Lima's highly populated urban area sets it apart from all others. Out of the estimated 32 million residents that live in Peru, the capital city of Lima is home to nearly 10 million.

Population densities decrease as you move away from the coast, first with the Andes Mountains, which run through the center of Peru, and then followed by the sparsely populated jungle regions.

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Vegetation Map of Peru

Peru vegetation map

Central Intelligence Agency / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

Peru's diverse landscape is clearly illustrated by a map of its vegetation. Along the coast, the yellow color represents mostly desert and scrubland. However in the northern coast of Peru, you'll also find a tropical savanna, mangrove swamps, and dry forests. The brown color represents the highlands, which consist primarily of grasslands and alpine deserts. Unlike the dry coastal strip to the west of the Andes, which lies within a rain shadow area, the eastern foothills are green and lush. This area is known as the cloud forest or upland jungle, commonly referred to in Spanish as selva alta (high jungle) or ceja de selva (eyebrow of the jungle).

Further east is the vast lowland area of the Amazon Basin, a region of dense tropical rainforest, where riverboats are the main form of public transportation.

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Physical Map of Peru

Physical map of Peru

Urutseg/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

If you’re worried about altitude sickness, Peru’s altitude map, as well as the altitudes of individual Peruvian cities and tourist attractions, will give you a good idea of the areas in which you’ll be at risk. Altitude sickness occurs at elevations of 8,000 feet and higher, so the green and light brown areas, which represent elevations below 8,000 feet, indicate no risk of altitude sickness. However, the brown strip indicates the highlands, which tend to rise above 8,000 feet. This area includes popular tourist destinations such as Cusco, Machu Picchu, Lake Titicaca, Huancayo, and Huaraz.