Peruvian Cities
Ayacucho, AYACUCHO
Location, extension and population | Brief historic outline | Main attractions in the capital | Main attractions of the department of Ayacucho | Typical dishes and beverages | Tourist calendarAyacucho

LOCATION, EXTENSION AND POPULATION
The department of Ayacucho is located in the south central Sierra of the Peruvian Andes. With an extension is 44,181 km² (17,050 sq ml), 88% of its territory is located in the Sierra and the rest is the High Jungle. Its has a population of over 541,000 people.

The capital is the city of Ayacucho (although the local people still use the old name, Huamanga) is located at 2,761 m.a.s.l. (9,000 ft). The climate is mild, dry and invigorating, with an average temperature of 17.5°C (63.5°F). The rainy season goes from November through March.


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BRIEF HISTORIC OUTLINE
The first vestiges of human presence in Ayacucho are found in the Pikimachay cave and date from 20,000 BC. Later on, during the formative period, between 1,000 BC and the first years AD, settlers established in Rancha, Chupas and Wichqana. Between 250 and 500 AD, the Warpa culture developed, and from the sixth through the twelfth century the Wari empire flourished, founding its capital in the Ayacucho region, to later give way to the Chanka regional state.

The Incas conquered Ayacucho, building a provincial administrative center of great importance in the zone of Vilcashuamán.

When the Spanish arrived, they founded the city of San Juan de la Frontera, located between the towns of Quinua and Huamanguillas. However, due to strategic and climatic reasons, the center was transferred to Pukaray.

In December 9, 1824, the Battle of Ayacucho took place and put an end to the Spanish oppression.

Basilio Auqui and María Parado de Bellido deserve special mention for their courage during the struggle for independence. The former, as leader of the legendary Morochucos, who for many years carried around the revolutionary flag on horseback, until he suffered treason and fell. The latter, who preferred torture and to face the firing squad rather revealing the names of the revolutionary leaders.

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MAIN ATTRACTIONS IN THE CAPITAL
The ancestral colonial mansions and 38 churches and monasteries in Ayacucho make it a very attractive city. The Cathedral and churches of Santo Domingo, San Cristóbal, La Merced, Compañía de Jesús, San Francisco de Asís, Santa Clara and Santa Teresa stand out. Their architecture --some date from 1540-- is remarkable; some were built in Baroque style, others in Churrigueresque. Besides their rose colored stone, they also have beautiful altars in fine carved wood and gold leaves.

Other attractive sites in Ayacucho are the casonas or colonial mansions that exist until today. Apart from the Town Hall and Prefecture, worthwhile visiting are the casonas of Castilla y Zamora, Chacón, Velarde Alvarez, Olano, Jaúregui and Vivanco, several of which were built more than 450 years ago. The patios and interiors still keep the sumptuous and solid arcades of fine carved stone.

Santa Ana Quarter. Famous for the beautiful work of its weavers and potters.

San Juan y Tenería Quarters. Known for their leather handicrafts.

Pikimachay. Located at 24 km (15 ml) from Ayacucho city, site where the first men dwelled 20,000 years ago, the oldest settlers in this part of continent.

Wari. Pre-Inca citadel at 22 km (13 ml). It was the capital of the Wari empire and, according to historians, sheltered a population of 5,000 people. Walls, graves, canals, etcetera, can be still observed.

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Iglesia de  Vilcashuamán. Ayacucho. Fotografía: Carlos Sala / PromPerú.OTHER ATTRACTIONS OF THE DEPARTMENT OF AYACUCHO
Vicashuamán
. At 120 km (75 ml) south of Ayacucho. It was an Inca administrative center. Outstanding buildings are the Temple of the Sun, Temple of the Moon, the Ushno or ceremonial pyramid, the plazas, among others.

Intiwatana. Near Vilcashuamán. An archeological complex with a palace, a tower, the Inca bath (with a 17-corner stone) and an artificial lagoon.

Tinankayoq. Natural forest in the road to Vilcashuamán, where the highest plant in the world is found, the Raimondi puya or Tintanka. Some of these Raimondi puyas reach up to 12 mt (40 ft).

Vicuñas en Pampa Galeras. Ayacucho. Fotografía: Alejandro Balaguer / PromPerú.Pampa Galeras. National reserve in the province of Lucanas where the vicuñas are kept in their natural habitat.

Laguna de Parinacochas is in the province by the same name, this lagoon houses the parihuanas, birds with red wings and white breasts that inspired Libertador San Martín to create the Peruvian flag.

San Francisco. Town at the Jungle edge, distinguished by its tropical climate and abundant fauna and flora.

Quinua. Town of potters at 37 km (23 ml) from the capital. It was the site of the famous Battle of Ayacucho, where the independence of the country and expulsion of the Spanish troops was confirmed.

Huanta. Gorgeous city located at 51 km (32 ml) from Ayacucho. The valley is outstanding for its rich flora and fauna.

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TYPICAL DISHES AND BEVERAGES
Similar to other departments of Perú, Ayacucho has a diversity of dishes that make the delight of visitors. Among the most solicited are the puca-picante, a dish with fried meat, pig feet, and well-seasoned potatoes; also, the mondongo ayacuchano, which is cooked all night long.

Other attractive dishes are qapchi, chicharrón, patachi, human caldo (head broth), cuy-chactado and the pachamanca (barbecue).

To drink, the chicha de jora, molle or siete semillas are recommended.

TOURIST CALENDAR
January 1 through 8.
Week dedicated to celebrate the New Year and the Fiesta de la Circuncisión del Señor. In the Templo de Belén the adoration of the niño is performed with huaylas and huerajos. In Bajada de Reyes or Epiphany, the dancing and drinking continue until provisions are finished.

February 2. Procession of the Virgen de la Candelaria.

February. Carnivals. Disguised dancers go on the streets swaying with the cortamontes. The whole town and guests also participate.

Holy Week. This is one of the most important religious dates in the country. In Ayacucho it is an impressive faith act close to a collective drama, that goes on for a week and with the entire population participating. On the Friday before Palm Sunday, the commemorations begin by taking out the image of La Dolorosa. On Palm Sunday, flowers and palms are blessed at seven in the morning in the Cathedral. In the afternoon, the procession of the image of Christ starts by coming out of the temple of Santa Teresa. The image rides on a small donkey accompanied by twelve men dressed as the apostles. Simultaneously, at the main square, people await the arrival of the chamizo that is to be burnt on Holy Saturday. Other processions take place on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. On Holy Thursday, the temples open their doors for the people to visit the stations of the cross; and on Good Friday, after hearing the three-hour sermon, the procession of the Holy Grave is taken out from Santo Domingo. All these ceremonies take place in the dark, just with candlelight. Holy Saturday is a joyful day when bells begin to ring and the festivals start. On Easter Sunday, the procession of La Aurora starts at four in the morning as a farewell to the last shadows of the night with fireworks and skyrockets.

May 3. Worship of the Cross at Verde Cruz, Molle Cruz, Puca Cruz, Conchopata and Capillata.

August 15. Fiesta de Nuestra Señora de las Nieves de Parinacochas. Popular festivity with bullfights and folkloric presentations.

September 14. Fiesta del Señor de Maynay. Celebrated in Huanta with a fair, procession and folkloric celebrations.

December 4 through 10. Several acts commemorating the Battle of Ayacucho, with a parade and a pageant in the Pampa de la Quinua.