We may not be able to travel at the moment, but our new series of virtual guides brings the world to you – starting with a cultural tour of Peru
There’s something fitting about a virtual guide to Peru. For would-be conquistadores, it was a land of fantasy and imagination. The very name of the country would have conjured up illusions of untold treasures, Inca emperors, wild beasts and heathen practices. Lima was the seat of Spain’s South American imperial territories for 300 years; it was where you had to be if you wanted to acquire booty, land, or influence. But it was traversed by impassable mountains and treacherous rivers, fringed by dark jungles in the east and uncharted seas to the west.
Explorers chased visions and mirages across Peru, too. Francisco de Orellana, the first European to explore the Amazon, in 1541, reported pitched battles between female warriors straight out of myth. Machu Picchu “discoverer” Hiram Bingham called one of the sites he unearthed the “Plain of Ghosts”. Archaeologists are still searching for lost cities – and occasionally finding one, as happened in 2002 when a team led by American Gary Ziegler and British writer and explorer Hugh Thomson identified Cota Coca in the Vilcabamba area of southern Peru.