Peruvian territory was home to ancient cultures spanning from the Norte Chico civilization in Caral, one of the oldest in the world, to the Inca Empire, the largest state in Pre-Columbian America. The Spanish Empire conquered the region in the 16th century and established a Viceroyalty with its capital in Lima, which included most of its South American colonies. Ideas of political autonomy later spread throughout Spanish America and Peru gained its independence, which was formally proclaimed in 1821. After the battle of Ayacucho, three years after proclamation, Peru ensured its independence. After achieving independence, the country remained in recession and kept a low military profile until an economic rise based on the extraction of raw and maritime materials struck the country, which ended shortly before the war of the Pacific. Subsequently, the country has undergone changes in government from oligarchic to democratic systems. Peru has gone through periods of political unrest and internal conflict as well as periods of stability and economic upswing.
Lima is the capital and the largest city of Peru. It is located in the valleys of the Chillón, Rímac and Lurín rivers, in the central coastal part of the country, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Together with the seaport of Callao, it forms a contiguous urban area known as the Lima Metropolitan Area. With a population of almost 10 million, Lima is the most populous metropolitan area of Peru and the second-largest city in the Americas (as defined by "city proper"), behind São Paulo and before Mexico City.
Machu Picchu stands 2,430 m above sea-level, in the middle of a tropical mountain forest, in an extraordinarily beautiful setting. It was probably the most amazing urban creation of the Inca Empire at its height; its giant walls, terraces and ramps seem as if they have been cut naturally in the continuous rock escarpments. The natural setting, on the eastern slopes of the Andes, encompasses the upper Amazon basin with its rich diversity of flora and fauna.
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