Peruvian cities
Huancavelica, HUANCAVELICA
Location, extension and population | Brief historic overview | Main attractions of the capital | Main attractions of the department of Huancavelica | Typical dishes and beverages | Tourist calendar

The department of Huancavelica is in the midst of the south central Sierra region of the country. It presents a rough topography that places the department between highlands and snow-capped mountain peaks, surrounded by deserted punas, solitary but lovely lagoons. The immense natural wealth within its mountains makes it a very important mining region. It limits with Lima, Ica, Junín and Ayacucho.

Huancavelica has an extension of 21,079 km² (8,139 sq ml) and a population of almost 400,000 people.

The capital is the city of Huancavelica. Other important cities are, Catrovirreyna, Tayacaja, Acobamba and Angaraes. Due to its location, the climate is dry but with low temperatures, with an annual average that varies from 5° to 8°C (41° to 46° F).


The region where Huancavelica is located today was first controlled by the Huancas. During the Inca empire, both Huancas and Chancas fought for this territory. According to chronicler Garcilazo de la Vega, this region was divided into three parts, Jauja, Marcavilca and Llacsapallanca. Later on, the latter was called Huancavelica by the Spanish conquerors.

Unlike other Peruvian regions and cities in which the Spanish left traces of their influence, Huancavelica was only a crossing route in the conquest of the empire. Hence, it did not profit from the benefits given to other cities.

When in Viceroyal times the mercury mines of Santa Bárbara were discovered, the destiny of Huancavelica changed dramatically. Santa Bárbara became one of the most important mining centers of its time. Such was its fame, that Viceroy Teodoro La Croix labeled it the greatest marvel in the world. Yet, its splendor started to decline around the seventeenth century, when several landslides occurred. Unfortunately, the difficult production conditions forced to paralyze the works in this mining bed.

The people of Huancavelica embraced with patriotic fervor the cause of liberty. With courage and determination, they rebelled in arms against the Spanish authorities, and supported the revolution led by Mateo Pumacahua.

At the time when the Peruvian Constitution was signed, Huancavelica was still part of the Intendance of Huamanga (Ayacucho). When General San Martín ruled the elections of the members of parliament, it was then named department, on April 26, 1822. Years later, however, Huancavelica lost its rank as department for having a small population. On November 5, 1839, during the second administration of President Gamarra, it finally recovered the rank of department and was named, Illustrious City.


Plaza de Armas de Huancavelica.MAIN ATTRACTIONS OF THE CAPITAL
San Cristóbal Thermal Baths
. These thermal baths are one of the main attractions of the city, because they are near, the facilities are comfortable, and their healing properties are very famous. Many people arrive to treat their ailments, specially people with skin and joint problems.

Plaza de Armas or Main Square. It keeps the traditional Colonial structure of the main square in other cities, with a Cathedral, a Town Hall, a Prefecture and Justice Palace.

The Cathedral. Two white towers and a doorway carved in red stone form a composition of singular beauty. The construction started in 1673 and ended in 1733. The main altar runs from wall to wall, and the pulpit is an example of a singular mastery in wood carving.

Iglesia de San Sebastián.Iglesia de San Sebastián. This church is located in the same plaza where the Temple of San Francisco is. It has beautiful altars carved in fine wood and coated in gold leaf. One of these altars holds the image of the Niño de Lachoc (Christ Child) that, is said, appeared in some meadow and helped Major General Cáceres in a battle against the Chileans in the War of the Pacific.

Iglesia de Santa Ana. Some say the construction started in 1590, although the real date is unknown. This church houses Colonial Baroque style jewels, shown in the altars with a unique coloring and combination of flower themes.

Iglesia de San Francisco. Constructed in 1774, this church has a main altar and a small and big altarpiece remarkably carved in wood. They form one of the most beautiful compositions in religious art.

Other churches to visit include, Santo Domingo, San Cristóbal, La Ascensión and La Dolorosa. These last two churches are known for being the traditional sites for the celebration of the Fiesta de la Cruz. Also, their images are taken out in procession during Holy Week.

Arc of Triumph. A city doorway where Major General Andrés Avelino Cáceres appeared with his army, after brilliantly fighting and winning the Breña Campaign.


Castrovirreyna, a province known by its mining fields and beautiful landscapes, is located at 3,798 m.a.s.l. (12,460 ft). It is a bleak plateau in the middle of a rough topography.

Chonta. This is a region of beautiful nevados or snow-covered mountains, which offer a spectacular view.

Laguna de Choclococha. Located at 4,605 m.a.s.l. (15,108 ft), this lagoon has a surface of 15 km² (6 sq ml) and a depth of 14 mt (5.4 ft). It offers visitors the unique sight of the nevados reflecting on the blue waters.

Laguna de Orcococha is located at 4,710 m.a.s.l. (14,452 ft). Even if it is smaller than Choclococha, it is also very charming and an ideal fishing and hunting spot.

Stone Forest in Sachapite. This unique rocky formation molded with fossilized volcanic mud and ash, holds an enormous complex of stones. Some stones look like pillars, others like watchtowers. Viewed as a whole, this rocky formation has a very capricious appearance.

Huaytará Ruins. These ruins keep a certain similarity with Machu Picchu. In total, there are 1,200 vestiges grouped in twenty zones different in technique and in time. The ruins show polished ashlar stones, fine trapezoidal wall openings and vaulted niches.

Other archeological vestiges include, Huayllay Grande, Izuchaca, Acoria, Lircay, Huanca-Huanca, Congalla, Caja, Acobamba and Andabamba, some of them visibly linked to the Chavín culture.


Some say that the Huancavelinos eat abundantly and very good food. They make good use of the fruits of their land and the meat of their cattle. They are mostly known for two dishes that are very popular today, pachamanca (barbecue) and mondongo (tripe). The former is cooked on special occasions, such as baptisms, matrimonies and folkloric feasts. It is prepared with sheep, goat, kid, pork, guinea-pig, and beef, accompanied by corn, potatoes, cheese, lima bean, quesillos and humitas. The mondongo, cooked the day before, includes white corn or mote, beef, sheep, bacon, charqui or dry meat, and the feet, head and belly of the sheep.

Due to the low temperatures, aguardiente de caña (sugar cane) or cañazo are recommended.


January 6.
The Adoration of the Magi. This is a very popular festivity in Huancavelica. The adoration scene is played all over the city capital. Different actors represent the scene while walking to the atrium of the Cathedral. Later, the majordomo is in charge of entertaining and feeding all those who participated in the ceremony.

January 15. Fiesta del Niño Perdido. Each year, a different person, known as the majordomo, hosts the celebration. He or she is responsible for hiring the band that will perform in honor of the Christ Child. The traditional dance of the negritos (dancers disguised as black men) takes place along the streets of the city. These dancers compete to see who does it better, until they get to the Plaza de Santo Domingo.

February 2. Fiesta de la Virgen de la Candelaria, celebrated in the district of Acobamba.

Holy Week. The city as a whole keeps penitence and lives intensely the drama of the Calvary. The processions of the Señor del Desprendimiento, Señor de la Columna, Jesús Nazareno, and Virgen de los Dolores are reason for a special display of devotion. In Lircay, there is a Palm Sunday Fair. On Easter Sunday, people gather in the capital city to see the products of stock breeders and merchants.

Month of May. Fiesta de las Cruces. Huancavelica set asides the month of May to pay tribute to the sacred symbol of the Cross found in the different hills in the area. The biggest cross in the region is the Cruz de Potocchi, 8 mt ( 26 ft) high. Among the others are, Santa Cruz, Cruz del Espíritu, Cruz de Oropesa, Cruz de San Antonio, Cruz Balcón Pata, Cruz Pata, Cruz de Puyhuan and Cruz Soltero. The ceremonies are presided by mayoralas (female mayorals).

June 24. Fiesta de San Juan Bautista de Huaytará.

July 16. Fiesta de la Virgen del Carmen, celebrated in Angaraes, Acobamba and Lircay.

July 24. Fiesta de Santiago, in which the local people go out on the streets and dance huaynos and pasacalles to the rhythm of the tinya (small drum) and horns. The dancing groups formed along the way are entertained with hot drinks and luscious portions of mondongo, offered by the people living in the houses they pass through.

August 4. Anniversary of Huancavelica. The commemoration of the Spanish founding of city, which is celebrated with an evening party and, specially, with fireworks. Later, parades and social parties take place in the different quarters.

September 14. Acobamba Regional Fair.

September 15. Fiesta del Señor Crucificado, celebrated in Huayllay.

December 25. Fiesta del Niño de Lachoc. It is said that it was seen in some meadow playing with a negrito (little black boy), the son of a peasant.