Huancayo and the Central Train Service
Huancayo is a large modern city on the edge of the Mantaro Valley. The valley has been compared to areas of Switzerland and is lovely and lush for the wetter parts of the year but can dry out a bit in summer. Although the city is a lively and bustling place (the huge market is well worth a visit) the comparable lack of ancient buildings and places of interest tend to keep visitor numbers low and it’s not high on most people’s list of places to see in Peru. That is unless you like your rail travel...
Huancayo is the last stop on the train from Lima which travels along the second highest train line in the world. It’s a stunning trip and there is plenty to do in and around Huancayo before your return journey to keep you occupied. Most of the ruins here are pre-Inca and date back to the Wanka civilisation so you get a really different feel and perspective of Peru’s history in this region. Before you leave you must make sure you try some trout as it is without doubt some of the freshest and tastiest we’ve ever had.
The Central Train
This is the biggest pull for most visitors and what a pull it is. Until very recently, when a new rail line in China took the title, it was the highest in the world at 4782 metres above sea level. Not only do you have the beautiful landscape to enjoy, there are no less than 69 tunnels to pass through and 58 bridges to cross – it really is one of the most impressive rail journeys in the world, and an amazing way to begin your holiday in Huancayo.
The beautiful Ocopa Convent is also known as the Alexandria of the Andes and is well known by countless university researchers all over the world. Founded in 1725, by a Spanish Franciscan priest who decided to build a small chapel in the Andean foothills, it soon became an operating base for missionaries set on converting the Ashaninka tribes in the Amazon jungle to Catholicism. The library, which includes journals from the early friars, is like no other and the natural history collection is outstanding – we’re sure there must be a few species in there yet to be named. If you only do one tour in Huancayo, it should be this.
Huaytapallana Glacier and Torre Torre Needles
If you need to have a good stretch after your train journey then a day trek to the Huaytapallana glacier should get your blood flowing. The emerald lake on the way is simply breathtaking as is the high altitude here so make sure you acclimatise first! Unfortunately studies have shown that the glacier is melting at an alarming rate which is a real shame as the view and sense of achievement you get when you reach it is remarkable.
Just outside Huancayo are the Torre Torre needles, these huge sandstone towers are something of a natural geological phenomena. It’s easy to take a taxi here from town, it’s free to visit and the views across the Mantaro Valley are wonderful.