Peruvian andes travel guide
Huancayo is located in the Peruvian Andes, in the Mantaro Valley. It is the most important agricultural city in Peru. But for the traveller Huancayo is a paradise full of surprises.
My trip to Huancayo
I remember my first time there when I was 17, we went by car at a time when terrorism was at its most dangerous point. Still, my family, never coerced by anyone, decided to visit Tarma, a small town near Huancayo famous for its stunning flower carpets at Easter.
After packing clothes, food and hunting guns, we started the trip to the Andes. We were a convoy of several families and thank goodness despite our fears and the men going with their guns on their lap we never encountered either the police or the terrorists, at the time equally feared in the area.
The trip lasted a few hours. Not long we had left the dry sands of Lima when we appeared within a green lush jungle, warm and humid. Tall mountains, endless deep ravines, the bumpy road, the odd 'cholita' -woman from the Andes- climbing up a hill carrying on her back probably double her weight. Despite our initial fears, it was a fantastic journey.
Many years later I went back, this time to Huancayo city. Terrorism had declined, almost disappeared and again, despite the limitations we had a very good time there.
Huancayo: a tour
Tarma's flower carpets
How to get to Huancayo
The most popular, but not easiest way to get to Huancayo is by road. It is 310 kms. From Lima, but due to the toughness of the road the trip can take about 5 hours if you are driving, or 8 hours if you take a bus.
The Ferrocarril Central Andino, the line joining Lima to Huancayo is the second highest railway in the world and the Highest in South America.
There is a daily service to Huancayo. The trip lasts11 hours, but the journey is breathtaking, to the point that you traverse the tunnel La Galera, the highest point in train at 4,780 metres (15681ft) above sea level. The tunnel built during 1870 and 1908 is an architectural achievement.
A return ticket cost as little as 70$ or 125$ in first class. The train leaves Lima at 7pm and arrives to Huancayo at 6pm.
310 Km. from Lima you will find the beautiful city of Huancayo
What to see in Huancayo
- La Capilla de la Merced, considered a National Historical monument dating back to the times of Spanish colonization. .
- Cerrito de la libertad, at 1km. from Huancayo, from the top you will have and advantegeous view of the town and the whole Mantaro Valley. It is a good place to spend the day, it has a mini zoo and a heated pool. There, you can also taste some of the local cuisine.
Grutas de Guagapo, a 33kms de Tarma. Inside you can discover paintings from pre inca cultures. The grotto is about 2000 m. deep, the deepest in South America.
Places to visit around Huancayo:
- Cochas Chico, at 8km. from Huancayo has one of the most beautiful scenarios. A small town famous for its ship hats.
- Pilcomayo, at 2km. from Huancayo.
- Hualhuas., at 12 km. from Huancayo, a good place to go if you are interested in buying knitted products made from alpaca and ship.
- San Jeronimo de Tunan, at 16 km. from Huancayo, a place to go for its silver works. Also has a church considered national monument for keeping beautiful wood works on baroque style dating back to the XVII century.
- Ingenio. There you will find a Trout farm.
- The Geophysical observatory of Huayao. At 17 km. from Huancayo is the place encharged of registering the sismical movements on the region.
- Santuario de Warivilca. A beautiful sanctuary belonging to the Wari culture.
- Sapallanga, famous for its virgin the Cocharcas celebrations on September.
- Pucara. Here you can visit the arms museum.
- Convento Santa Rosa de Ocopa. 25 km. from Huancayo, this is the oldest and most complete Franciscan convent in Peru. Founded in 1725, it had a very important role in Christianization
- Tarma, also known as the "pearl of the Andes" is 100 km. from Huancayo and about 200 km. from Lima. 3,080 metres above sea level. During the Spanish colonization Tarma was one of the main contributors to the crown. Here you will find the sanctuary of the Señor de Muruhay. Every year in May they celebrate their festivities. For Easter, following an ancient tradition, the streets are carpeted with flowers to receive the processions.
La Oroya, 125km. from Huancayo is the biggest mining centre in Peru. Here you will find the highest Golf course (9holes) in the world.
Traditional HUAYLARSH danse
- El Huaylash: A dance which represents courting .
- La Chonginada, mostly danced in May by couples dressed in multiple colours richly ornamented.
- La Jija. A dance executed by men to thank the earth for the harvest.
- Cortamonte, danced during carnival around an ornamented tree. It resembles some May pole dances.
Altitude Sickness - Soroche
There's no way to predetermine if you are vulnerable to coming down with it, it strikes randomly. When I've been there, I seem to be the only one getting it! Still, after a couple of cups of "mate de coca" it starts to feel better and I would not be deterred to go back again.
Soroche, as it is known in Peru can give you nausea, dizziness, fatigue and headaches. Sometimes all of them at the same time. Even if you do not get altitude sickness remember that the altitude will make you feel tired and breathless.
Tips to help with altitude sickness:
- Drink coca tea, "mate de coca" as it is said to help with the symptoms of altitude sickness. It is perfectly legal and it will not make you high. It has a pleasant taste of a light green tea and is also supposed to aid in digestion.
- Chew on coca leaves. They are available everywhere and a bag is about 1 sol (30 cents). They won't make you high either, but they are very bitter and not to every bodies taste.
- Don't eat too heavily or drink (much) alcohol.
- Drink lots of water.
- There are also some specific pills - Diamox is a popular one- but that's only for extreme cases. Some hotels also have oxygen available if you request it.
More about Peru
- Visit Peru
The third biggest country in South America, Peru is known worldwide for Machupicchu. But, Peru has many other beautiful places to offer. About 10% of the territory belongs to the Coast, while the Andes occupy...
- Peruvian Cuisine
Papa a la Huancaina & Papa Rellena( stuffed potato) are two of the delicious dishes from Peru. Making them is really simple and they can be made in advance.
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