The highland city of Ayacucho in Peru has a very complex and dark history, which makes it a very interesting place to visit. Ayacucho is one of Peru’s most beautiful highland towns, with resplendent churches and a charming plaza de armas, all of which betray its dark past. It’s only a decade since the atrocities committed by the Shining Path; this town was once the stronghold of Peru’s most notorious terrorist group, a scar not apparent when visiting the city. Here is our guide to what to see and do while in Ayacucho.
Tour the City of Churches
If there is any town worthy of the title “the city of churches,” it’s Ayacucho. The city is home to an astounding 33 churches, and you can spend at least one day walking around the town trying to find all of them. Take a church day and admire the town’s religious presence and beautiful churches; it doesn’t even have to be on a Sunday.
Visit the Plaza
The city’s plaza de armas just might be the most beautiful in the entire country. The plaza is large, with grass and benches in the center, and is surrounded by beautiful colonial buildings and a large, 17th-century cathedral, which immediately attracts your attention. Around the plaza there are also a lot of beautiful restored colonial mansions. If you wish to visit anything in the plaza, just ask the tourist office for information about walking tours.
Learn About the Shining Path
You may not be able to tell, but this charming highland city was the once the stronghold of the terrorist organization called the Shining Path. They terrorized Peru, especially the major cities and the countryside where they would recruit, for decades. Professor Abimael Guzman, the leader and philosophical architect of the group, came to the city to attract its mainly poor population to arms against the establishment. If you want to learn about this terrorist group and its history, Museo de la Memoria is dedicated to retelling the story of the group’s dark history.
Discover the Local Art
The city has a rich art history and boasts many talented artists. Because of this, there is a very popular Museo de Arte Popular. The museum holds classical works from the town’s past, including silver work, stone and wood carvings, tapestries, and ceramics. There is also a photography section where you can see how the town has changed over time.
Check out the Mirador de Carmen Alto
Take a taxi or a bus to the top of the mirador (lookout), from where you will get a stunning view of the entire city. It is especially beautiful at sunset, when you can see the sun’s last light touching the tops of the buildings. There are also restaurants at the top, which makes it a good place for a date and a relaxing evening.
Join in the Semana Santa Celebrations
If you’re in Peru for Semana Santa, you should fly to Ayacucho, because it is a party you don’t want to miss. It is held the week before Easter and it shouldn’t be understated how big a party it is – it’s an everyone in the street sort of party. You must make sure to book your accommodations early, because everyone else in Peru will be coming here, looking for a good time.
Visit the Santa Ana Neighborhood
Ayacucho is the proud home to some of Peru’s best handicrafts and the neighborhood of Santa Ana is the place to go to find them. If you want some souvenirs to bring home, look no further than Santa Ana. Spend some time strolling the area and shopping for trinkets and knickknacks.
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