Ayacucho has a lot of history and goes back to when the Spanish conquered the Incas in the 15th century. According to the tour guides it was a place of rest between Cusco and Lima, basically a half way point between the two cities. The city is also famous religiously as it has 36 different churches from the colonial age.
St. Mary’s Cathedral was built in the 17th century. Most of the churches have gold in them and some of the alters are made of gold too. The 36 churches used to be open to the public until vandals started stealing very old portraits and gold. So, now only a handful are open to the public as the churches lack security guards. The only day of the year when all 36 are open is in Easter as Ayacucho is packed to high heavens with people. Probably not the best time of the year to visit as everything is more expensive and jammed packed with tourists.
The above picture I took, which is on the outskirts of the city as part of the city tour has a nice view, however, there are better places much higher up. When I went on the city tour, I realized I was the only foreigner there, which I thought was quite strange. So, me being me I asked and then suddenly remembered. In the 1980s, Peru went through a period of terrorism and the group was called the Shining Path, over 66,000 Peruvians well killed as well Ayacucho has left a stench, although they caught the head of the group and he is still in prison now, Ayacucho is super safe, but because of what happened, tourism took a hit and is slowly but surely recovering, but the tourist numbers are nothing like other Peruvian cities.
There are two ways you can get to Ayacucho from Lima, bus or fly. The flight is about 40 mins long and I would recommend it compared to a boring 8 hour bus drive. Plus the flights are really cheap. Check out Sky Airlines and Latam.
Once here, like I always say NEVER BOOK TOURS ONLINE as you will be charged in dollars and be ripped off big time. Go to the main square or the Plaza de Armas, and check out the tour agencies there. You can negotiate prices if you take all the tours with the one agency.
Tours 1: Archaeological complex of Wari
This place goes back to before the Incas even came about. It is considered to be one of the biggest sites of the “old Peru”. It shows how the Wari people used “advanced technology” and flourished 10th and 11th centuries. The area itself is about 2.000 hectars and is divided into sections with constructions made of rock and mud with its own aguaducts and underground sewage system. The only thing about this place is that the majority of their constructions are still buried. However, they got a grand from Belgium, which gives them enough money to continue digging and finding artifacts. There is also a museum beside it, which has things they had previously founf. The negative thing about most of these sites is that the Peruvian government will not invest and foreign countries such as Belgium and Japan who do, take about 80% of the objects they find out of the country. The picture below are these guys who dress up as Wari soldiers and you give them a “propina” or tip and you can take some cool, funny photos.
Pampas de Ayacucho Historic Sanctuary
This is one of the highlights of the tour. Basically after the Wari complex, about 15 minutes up the road we arrive to the place where Peru won their independence from the Spanish crown.
Here you pay about $2USD to get in. Remember that the tours do not include entrance fees to most complexes, but they are pennies to the pound, so no worries there. Breakfast and lunch are neither included. But again, they are really cheap all the same.
When you arrive to this part of the tour, the guide will explain exactly what happened and so on. Then you have about an hour to take photos and buy some food or souvenirs just down the hill. I had a drone, so I took full advantage of it. I completed a video taking from my drone for you guys to have a gander:
The Wari complex, I did not see as being spectacular but the statue of the Peruvian independence was quite nice, especially with a drone.
Tours 2: Millpu – Natural Turquoise Pool
For most people, this is why they come to Ayacucho. I visited Ayacucho about 8 years ago and this place was not even discovered, but today it is a gem. So, when they first opened it to the public, since they are like mini natural “swimming pools” you could swim there but not anymore, due to the damage it was causing, so they decided to not let people use the pool for swimming purposes and just for taking photos.
So, for about S/.65 soles o just under $20USD you can visit this magical place. Again, as mentioned above buy the tour in an agency in Ayacucho, do not worry about maybe there are not tickets left, this place is never full and daily trip are available. The tour includes the guide and transport. Breakfast and lunch is covered by you. Again, super cheap to eat and quite healthy too. At the pools they offer fried fish, it is so fried that you can eat the whole thing, head, skin, teeth, eyes the lot. So, I went for the chicken soup, not a fan of fish, but most people opted for the fish. The trip is about 3 and a half hours there and about 3 hours going back, you leave quite early in the morning and it is quite tiring, but a must if you are there.
Tours 3: Intiwatana & Vilcashuaman
The route to this place is similar to that of Millpu, and breakfast is in the same place as well. After breakfast they take you to this place which is owned by a community, and has native plants which are 100 years old and can only be seen literally every century as being fully flourished. The name is Puyas de Raimondi. It is just a little bit of history which dates back centuries. So from here we went to Inti Watana or the archaeological site of Pumuaccocha. Here you can see Incan ruins, carvings on the walls, Inca baths…
The Inca’s left a few carvings on the walls to, which are quite spectacular for the era
This place is quite stunning to visit and the views from above are even better. The surrounding mountains and the Inca pryamid in the background. For those who are not great with high altitudes, this place is 3,500m above sea level and according to the tour guides, this “city” was considered to the an Inca administrative centre.