Peru is a country in South America, situated on the western side of the continent, facing the 3,220km Pacific coastline and straddling part of the Andes mountain range, with soaring snow capped mountains and volcanoes, the stunning legacies of the Incas and other sophisticated pre-Columbian civilizations, and of course, Machu Picchu. Peru is bordered by Ecuador and Colombia to the north, Brazil and Bolivia to the east, and Chile to the south. Peru is a place of brilliant hand-woven textiles and fascinating peoples. Although Peru has rich natural resources and many great places to visit, the poverty scale reaches 27% of the population. Peruvian territory was home to ancient cultures spanning from the Norte Chico civilization, 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, which included most of its South American colonies. After achieving independence in 1821, Peru has undergone periods of political unrest and fiscal crisis as well as periods of stability and economic upswing.