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In Peru, the Orchidaceae family features some 3,000 species, most of which grow in the tropical jungle on the eastern slopes of the Andes: the cloud forest region. There, amidst the exuberant vegetation produced by nearly 5,000 mm of rainfall a year, orchids multiply, forming veritable natural gardens.
In the far northwest of Peru, in the departments of Tumbes y Piura, one can find several attractive species of orchids such as the Cattleya maxima, with large, violet flowers. To the east, the department of Amazonas features vast stretches of cloud forest which are a haven for a series of striking orchids such as the Masdevalia. The Mayo River Valley, in the department of San Martín, has been dubbed "the land of orchids", where one can find the Cattleya rex, considered a symbol of the region's wildflowers.
Huánuco is the gateway to the tropical jungle and an ideal place for orchid lovers: cloud forests and dense vegetation which hide hundreds of plants, including the Epidendrum which grow on tree branches, amongst rocks or on ground-based moss.
The Cordillera Blanca mountain range and the Callejon de Huaylas valley in the department of Ancash add to a breath-taking landscape the chance to spot interesting varieties of native orchids, including the wakanku (Masdevalia amabilis).
The Chanchamayo Valley in the department of Junín is home to an ideal series of circuits for orchid fans. One particularly interesting trail is the route that runs through Pampa Hermosa and Monobamba, outside San Ramon, where one can find an enormous diversity of species such as the Royal Butterfly (Psychopsis sanderae) and the lovely Star of David (Huntleya vargasii).
Finally, the Machu Picchu Historic Sanctuary is home to more than 200 orchid varieties. The finest include the wakanki, which in the Quechua language means "you will weep" (Masdevalia vetchiana), and wiñaywayna, "forever young" (Epidendrum secundum). The best way to study orchids and at the same time take in the spectacular countryside is to hike the Inca Trail, which links Qorihuayrachina (on the outskirts of Ollantaytambo), with the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu.
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