Peru's Colonial past at its best

Peru Travel: Ayacucho children
Peru: Ayacucho Children - © PromPeru

Remember particularly well my first travel to Ayacucho, Peru.

We were traveling with Anibal Solimano, Reuters photographer and a good old friend since then, plus another journalist from AP.

Later, came back on my own to continue the reportage I was working on.

Those were pretty scary days in the region, as Shinning Path (Sendero Luminoso) had the city more or less under their control.

Shinning Path was an extreme leftist terrorist group very active in Peru during the 80s and early 90s.

Its leader Abimael Guzman - nom the guerre Presidente Gonzalo - used to teach philosophy at the local San Cristobal de Huamanga University.
He went underground in the 70s, pursuing a Maoist insurgency that advocated a peasant-led revolution. He was captured in 1992 and serving life imprisonment since then. One night we were picked up from our hotel by a twelve masked-men Army unit to join them in their patrol. I wasn't too comfortable. Guess none of us were. But we made it alright and came back with some pictures for the record.

Sometime later this year we'll publish some pics in the Peru Photo Gallery. An intimate approach to our lives and work in those days. Little of it has been published in Europe.

Peru Travel: Ayacucho, Santo Domingo church
Santo Domingo Church - © Alejando Balaguer/PromPeru

It's alson known as the City of Churches.
In fact, it has an impressive Cathedral - completed in 1672 - and nearly thirty other churches of Renaissance and Baroque style dating back to XVI, XVII and XVIII centuries.

The oldest chapel in town is San Cristobal - 1540.
It's a gigantic monument of Colonial architecture, a superb destination for your Peru holidays.

With such a strong religious influence, Holy Week here is the biggest celebration of this kind in Peru.

It was born in 1539 as "San Juan de la Frontera de Huamanga", founded by Francisco Pizarro.
Its name later changed to Ayacucho, in 1824, after the historic battle that bears its name and determined Peru's independence from Hispanic rule.
The name comes from Quechua language and means "the death ones corner".

It's also famous for its artisans: ceramics, textiles, retablos, mates burilados, silver ware and even sculptures made of Piedra de Huamanga. An incredible and talented mix of Indigenous and Spanish Colonial art.

Quinua it's the town of ceramic artisans, with about 3,000 years of experience, way before the Inca civilization.
Among other interesting pieces, they produce naive-like chapels that are placed on each house's roof top.

Retablos, also known as Saint Anthony boxes, are another landmark of the city, dating back to the Spanish conquest. Made of wood, with one or more horizontal floors and two doors profusely decorated, they depict religious icons as well as daily scenes and historic/social events. Let's visit a workshop through the following video (narrated in Spanish)..

Mates burilados (carved gourds) are another pre-Inca handcraft most visible today, used originally to carry food or liquids.

Piedra de Huamanga (Huamanga stone) it's extracted in the nearby town of Huamanga. Harder than clay, but less than marble, it's the raw material for unique sculptures, most representative of Peruvian Art. For Silver Ware and Filigree, visit the quarter of Santa Ana. For more info on Peruvian Artists and Master Craftmen visit Peruvian Art and Peruvian Art Part Two.

So after you're done with the round of churches, have visited at least two museums...

..hanged around its charming Plaza de Armas - with the Cathedral and University in one side and continuous stone arcades on the others, visited the market - provably the most interesting in Peru - you're ready to explore its surroundings as part of your travel Ayacucho experience...

Peru Travel: Ayacucho, Pampa Galeras, vicunas
Vicuñas at Pampa Galeras National Reserve - © Alejandro Balaguer / PromPeru

And if you have time for more travel Ayacucho before leaving town, get a taxi to Cerro Acuchimay, for a really nice view of the city.
Do it in day time only and you could also walk back to the city.

Let's hear local children singing in Quechua at Pampa de Quinua...

Even Been to the Highlands?...

How to Get There:

By Air:

From Lima it takes just over one hour. You'll land at Alfredo Mendivil Duarte Airport. Visit airports in Peru for more info.

By Bus:

Lima-Pisco-Ayacucho Distance: 558 km. Estimated duration: 8-9hrs.
Lima-Huancayo-Ayacucho. Distance: 551 kms. Estimated duration: 10-11 hrs.

Where to Stay:

Find and compare best hotel rates.


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