The main sites of the Central Sierra are linked up by the Incan Andean Road and divided by contrasts of vividness and modesty, city bustle and mountain serenity, rich vegetation and austere plains.
This city is the best starting point for exploring the Central Sierra. A wide choice of bus companies operate between Lima and Ayacucho, so decide which comfort level suits you for an eight-hour journey, climbing from sea level to 2700 m, or you can pick one of four flights.
Despite its gloomy name – it was dubbed “corner of the dead” after a bloody battle in 1825 – Ayachuco is a very lively city with an engaging blend of indigenous and Catholic beliefs.
It’s most famous for its 33 churches, starting with Catedral Basilica de Santa María at the Plaza de Armas. Be sure to stop at this square on Sunday to try the delicious local ice cream known as
Also highly recommended is Museo de la Memoria (S/. 2 or
Don’t miss the Santa Ana artisan district, where traditional retablos (devotional story boxes) are made. For great views over the whole city, hike up to Cerro Acuchimay or Cerro Picota.
Ayacuchan locals love to celebrate. Many fiestas are celebrated during the year, beginning with Carnaval Ayacuchano in February/March, when the whole city dances and shows its ceremonial face.
But few Peruvian festivities can compare with Ayacuchan Semana Santa (Holy Week). Every visitor can take part in observing the creation of floral carpets, weeping over Christ's coffin, ducking for cover during the bull chase, or celebrating the Easter Sunday vigil.
To escape the bustle of the city, take a
Half-way between Quinua and Ayacucho lies this extensive pre-Incan cultural site, accompanied by a small museum. Every year on the summer solstice Familia Ancestral Kunturkanki holds the ceremony of Inti Raymi at this site. The scent of palo santo, the music, and the ceremony itself make you feel truly connected to the earth.
Even higher into the mountains, you’ll find this picturesque colonial town. With the rising elevation, temperatures can be chilly, so the local thermal baths come in handy.
A tip for adventurers wanting an authentic local experience: take a
Taking the local train Macho (S/. 13 or
Huancayo itself is a very pleasing town with an abundance of thematic parks like Parque de
The quirky rock towers known as Torre Torre are only a few steps out of the town, and a trek to the Huaytapallana glacier begins just 17mi (28 km) away.
Nature enthusiasts shouldn’t miss the surroundings of Tarma village (alias La Perla de
The nearby Reserva Nacional de Junín, located within the vast Bombón plateau, features endless plains and Chinchaycocha, the largest lake within Peru and home to an abundance of birds.
The so-called gateway city to the Amazon, Huánuco is inseparably connected with the symbol of crossed hands, which was discovered within the religious pre-Incan site Kotosh. Although the original artifact was moved to Lima, Templo de las Manos Cruzadas and the whole site is worth exploring before you leave the mountains and plunge into the jungle.
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