Ayacucho: A rest for the eyes and the soul
Ayacucho City Guide
Ayacucho doesn’t have the number of curious tourists who travel to Cusco, Machu Picchu, and the Sacred Valley. It doesn´t have the popular mystic lines of the Nazca Desert; and it doesn’t have the frenetic energy of Peru’s capital, Lima. But arriving at Ayacucho, a city nestled in the central highlands of Peru, is a rest for the eyes and the soul.
The name of this vivid colonial city, originating from the Quechua aya (death, or soul) and cuchu (outback), offers a telling insight into its bloody past.
The Shining Path revolutionary movement occupied the region, for the best part of 2 decades in the 80s and 90s, causing thousands of deaths. As a result of the city’s past, Ayacucho remained (as still remains to a certain extent) isolated from the rest of the country.
But do not worry: that time has passed. The shadow of Ayacucho’s dark past has been replaced with the tranquility of its streets and the well-preserved colonial buildings and churches. Ayacucho really wants you to come!
IIts remote location (about 10hours from Lima) means that it’s not an easy destination to incorporate into your travel itinerary, especially if you’re short on time. But don’t let that discourage you. Peru by bus you tell why!
The colonial architecture
If you are a colonial architecture enthusiast, Ayacucho has a lot to see!
Also known as the City of Churches, this town has a total of 33 (one for each year of Jesus life). The Plaza de Armas is surrounded by many beautiful colonial mansions and the city Cathedral. The mansions were formerly a home to noble people homes. Today most serve as government offices, museums, and shops.
Ayacucho is famous for its Holy Week (Semana Santa), a 10 day´s religious celebration that lasts until the Easter Sunday. During the festivities, the churches remain open for most of the day. The streets get vibrant with processions, religious re-enactments, art shows, folk dancing, live music, agricultural markets, traditional food feasts, and night fireworks!
The colors of Ayacucho
Color is Ayacucho middle name. The buildings have a variety of colors, and the parks each has a colorful gardens. The number of bright tonalities also extends to the traditional clothing and local markets.
The carnival of Ayacucho is a representative sample of Peru´s cultural fusion, combining colonizer European elements with pre-Hispanic agricultural and religious aspects.
During these days, a series of intense festive events take by storm the Ayacucho main plazas (squares). Thousands of people dancing and singing to the rhythm of the bands, artisanal and gastronomic fairs, Carnival contests and peculiar activities, are just some among them.
Ayacucho Carnival is a party you will not regret to go.
Climate and Altitude
Ayacucho weather is considered one of the most generous and healthy in the country. The city has a very pleasant climate: permanent blue sky and shining sun. At 2700m, the altitude of Ayacucho is very comfortable. Here, you just need to take the normal precautions when visiting any place in the Andes.
The Wari Ruins
Only 30 minutes by car from Ayacucho, is the Wari Archaeological Complex, one of the legacies of the Tahuantinsuyo Empire.
This ruin gives an insight into a culture which dominated Peru from around 500-1000AD.
The Wari historical site was populated by almost 50,000 people and the constructions still very well preserved. It also has a museum exposing all the objects found in the area, such as ceramic vessels, bone fragments, and clay.
Accommodation and Gastronomy
Finding a reasonable price hostel or a 5-star Hotel in Ayacucho will not be any travelers problem. There are plenty of nice options for all tastes.
Ayacucho gastronomy will not disappoint any food lover either. From the popular grilled chicken and pizza to typical foods such as guinea pig, pork rinds, or spicy puca, variety and flavor are spread all over the town.
A must-see place is the Central Market, where travelers can buy cheese, bread and fresh fruit and vegetables.
The city is also Peru’s Capital of Folk Arts and Handicrafts. Much of the artisanal work found in tourist spots such as Cusco come from this area. Looking for a traditional souvenir? Retablos are the most famous artisanal offerings in Ayacucho. They were originally portable altars in a box, but have developed into collections of tiny, hand-carved wooden clay figurines and objects, crammed into several layers inside the box. Weaving, embroidery, silver jewelry, and pottery are some other Ayacucho art expressions.
Jump into a bus and discover Ayacucho authenticity, history and culture!