RealWorld Guide to Ayacucho
About halfway between Lima and Cusco is the beautiful Andean city of Ayacucho, which means purple soul in Quechua. Holidays in Ayacucho may not be on everyone's agenda but the city definitely has a lot to offer. The climate here is pleasant all year-round; the skies are a brilliant blue and the temperatures mild. For most of the year, people here are quieter and enjoy a more relaxed pace of life.
That is unless you happen to visit in Semana Santa or holy week... The Easter holidays in Ayacucho are when the place really comes alive with processions and pageants. Christianity is thriving here and the celebrations leading up to Easter are famed all over Peru and beyond, which should perhaps be expected as Ayacucho is also known as the city of 33 churches – one for each year of Jesus’ life.
Ancient History of Ayacucho
Ayacucho has a rich and varied past which started over 20,000 years ago. The dominating Huari culture used Ayacucho as its centre before the Incas turned it into one of their administration centres. The Spanish also recognised its valuable strategic location and contributed to the city’s wealth and impressive architecture, not to mention the number of churches! Probably the most exciting event here was the battle of Ayacucho in 1824 which was the last battle against the Spanish colonials before Peru and the rest of South America won their independence.
Handicrafts in Ayacucho
The various handicrafts made and sold here are simply wonderful and some of the best in Peru, if not the best. You can see examples of the creativity of the place across the city and of course in every church. There are many workshops you can visit from the magnificent woven rugs to the intricate figures, sculptures carved out of the white Huamanga stone. The artisan market is well worth a visit, just make sure you’ve left some room in your suitcases so you can take all of your purchases home!
Getting to and from Ayacucho
You can fly to Ayacucho from Lima and there are also regular buses to Cusco, Pisco and Lima. Once you're in Ayacucho, taxis are cheap, but many drivers don’t speak any English and maybe even not much Spanish (the Quecha language is still very widely spoken here) so it’s worth asking your hotel to help arrange taxis.