The history of Peru stretches back more than 10,000 years. It is a land filled with enchantment, riches, and, mystery. It is the most verdant part of its vast territory – tropical forest teeming with life – where the majestic Amazon River emerges. The potato, that prodigious food source that saved the world, was first cultivated in the ancestral soils of the Andean highlands. On the Peruvian coast, at the heart of an immense plam, men who had contemplated the stars traced the enigmatic Nazca Lines, which can only be fully appreciated from the air.
This is a land of exceptional diversity and exuberance: more than 3000 kilometers of coastline bathed by the clear and cold waters of the Pacific Ocean; the icy peaks of imposing mountains defying the imagination as they soar almost 7000 meters above sea level; millions of hectares of tropical Amazonian forest that shelter such an enormous variety of natural species humankind has still not been able to discover and classify them all. Peru is a paradise in which landscapes that can certainly be seen in other places and different latitudes around the planet have, by some miracle, been brought together in one country.
Peru was also the setting for the fabulous empire of the Incas, extraordinary people whose warrior elite extended their influence until they dominated much of South America. As a legacy of that period of their greatest splendor, they left behind stone fortresses, architectural jewels set in sacred mountains, including Machu Picchu, declared one of the new wonders of the world in 2008 and a magnet for travelers from all over the world.
Before the Incas, there existed other peoples and kingdoms that also left behind magnificent remnants of a glorious past. One of these is the sacred city of Caral, considered the cradle of South America’s most ancient civilization and revealing how, some thirty centuries before the birth of Christ, ancient Peruvians had begun to create a unique culture.
Other extraordinary examples of the legacy of pre-Inca peoples include the royal tombs of Sipan, perhaps the most lavish funerary structure in the Americas, which for centuries zealously guarded the evidence of its creators’ vivid history.
And we cannot fail to mention again in more detail what is one of the most fascinating enigmas bequeathed to subsequent generations by the ancient inhabitants of Peru: those lines etched into the desert of Nazca, those immense figures traced onto the plains of the department of Ica, the secrets of which remain largely unsolved. Their presence seems to lend the area a peculiar magic, and not far away, the region’s sandy soils produce the country’s best grapes, from which the finest piscos are made.
There can be no doubt, therefore, that Peru is a magical,marvelous and splendid land. Its prodigious qualities are reflected in the oassis and grapes that emerge from its desserts as well as the delicious fish and shellfish harvested from its oceans, and the medicinal plants offered up by its tropical forests so that humankind can treat all manner of maladies.
It is a territory which fully merits its reputation as the most megadiverse natural environment on the planet, as indicated by the fact that 84 of the world’s 117 ecosystems, or “life zones”, can be found within its borders.
In terms of living culture, throughout the length and breadth of its territory more than 50 native languages are spoken, while if we were to devote this article to the task, we would fall short of describing the artistic, musical, cultural and religious ecpretions of which Peru’s traditions are composed, in a melting pot that brings together and fuses the invaluable legacy of pre-Columbian civilizations from the coast, highlands and jungles with the knowledge brought by the Spainiards, resulting in a Creole culture that inits turn has been influenced by those peoples who arrived from Africa and Asia.
Inevitably, this amalgam of cultural influences is present in Peru’s varied cuisine, which delights the palate with extraordinary ingredients, unique porducts and unforgetable recipes. The current gastronomic boom is the result of the fusion over centuries of countless aromas and flavors, and today Peruvian cuisine is recognized throughout the world and enthusiastically celebrated at home.
And with fine food, of course, there come fine beverages. And it is within the world of spirits that we find one of the most prized jewels of Peruvian gastronomy: pisco, that finest product of the distillation of the grapes brought to this land almost 500 years ago, made today using traditional skills and techniques so perfect in their simplicity that they have remained largely unaltered.
In this long history, which continues to be written every time grapes are harvested and pisco distilled, a special chapter is reserved for the Old Hacienda Caravedo for it has played a key role in pisco production since 1684 and now the home to the magnificent Caravedo Pisco.