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Peru has been attracting millions of visitors and tourists for years. After all, the country does have a lot to offer. It is a hiker’s dream, and the adventure of a lifetime for history buffs. However, there is one portion of the beautiful Andes that is much less explored - the Central Andes.
Lying between Huaraz and Cusco, this area has some of the most stunning views to offer, and some of the greatest escapades in the world. The best part is that it hasn’t turned into a tourist bait yet, so you will get to explore it at your own pace, without having to worry about fighting off throngs of people!
Are you ready to explore the path less taken? Let’s step into some of Central Andes’ greatest spots!
So, you have decided to explore the Central Andes (wonderful decision, by the way). However, how do you get to these spots and back? If you’re in the north of Peru, Tingo Maria and Huanuco are the two airports you will be flying into. If you’re in the south, Ayacucho will be the airport closest to you. There are flights connecting these cities to Lima every day. However, if you want to go into the heart of the Central Andes, you might want to rely on buses.
It would be a wonderful opportunity for you to travel by bus. Not only will you get to see more of the Peruvian countryside, you will be saving a lot of money, and connecting with the heart of Peruvian local culture! Just make sure you stick to a schedule. Some bus connections are not that frequent, and you will not want to miss it!
The Central Andes in Peru is full of hidden gems waiting to be discovered - and you can be the one who does that! However, as a starting step, here are some of the most beautiful destinations in the regions. Think of these as the places you should definitely not skip!
Ayacucho is a city that comes close to rivaling Cusco, but without the footfall and the tourist craze. This city has beautiful colonial buildings (including some of the finest churches in Peru), and thought-provoking museums that will connect you to local Peruvian heritage better than any other museum abroad can. The city is more relaxed than Lima or Cusco - a place you come to when you want to spend a leisurely day at the museum, then head to a nearby bistro for some delicious coffee and puca picante (a local delicacy that you must definitely try).
If you’re more in the mood for ruins, don’t worry, because Ayacucho has plenty of those as well. Just a few miles out of the city lie beautiful Wari and Inca ruins that are still extremely under the radar, as far as tourists are concerned. Want to be one of the first tourists to set eyes on the nearby Wari ruins? Board a bus from Ayacucho now, and claim your part in history today!
If you have decided to take a bus from Huaraz to get to the Central Andes, La Union is the first town you will come upon (it’s also the town that will offer you a welcome reprise from the tedious bus travel). La Union still does not get a lot of tourists, which is why the town still retains its quiet charm. It’s a traditional Peruvian community, so make sure you’re in your best behavior! La Union is home to Huanuco Viejo, a huge and beautiful Incan settlement - one that can be accessed by a 2 hour hike from La Union. Believe us, this hike is definitely worth the effort.
If you have the time, you can hike up further to go to Tantamayo, and visit the Yarowilca ruins in Susupillo. The Yarowilca culture is older than the Incan culture, and it is much more mysterious, so you will definitely have the time of your life!
Huancavelica is the ideal example of the varied beauty the Central Andes have to offer to those smart enough to explore it. The biggest attraction is the thermal springs that populate the area - but make sure you find out which ones are safe to take a dip in before you go. Besides the thermal springs, there are a number of 16th and 17th century churches here. Many of them still decorated with the silver this area was so famous for.
The indigenous Quechua people will provide you with a wonderful cultural connection to Huancavelica. In fact, when you visit this town, you will be able to observe their lives, the same way they have lived it for hundreds of years. If you’re lucky, you might even be in town during one of their many festivals! That will be an experience you will definitely not want to miss.
Huancayo, in the Rio Mantaro valley, is one of the most stunning cities in the entire country. Whatever you’re interested in, this town will offer. Beautiful mountains? Amazing cultural heritage? You can find all of this and more in Huancayo. There are two things that are unique about Huancayo - its handicrafts and those trains. Huancayo is a traditional Peruvian community, so they make some of the most unique crafts and handicrafts in the entire world. Make sure you stop by a market and shop to your heart’s content!
Huancayo is also home to two of the most beautiful rail journeys in the world. You can take a scintillating train ride from Huancayo to Huancavelica, or go to Peru aboard the second highest train line in the world!
From Huancayo, you can also visit Santa Rosa de Ocopa (famous for its Franciscan architecture), San Jeronimo de Tunan and Cochas de Grande - which are well known for their handicrafts exhibitions.
Relevant tours covering the Central Andes:
This is just a small glimpse into the beauty the Peruvian Central Andes has to offer. This off-the-popular-path journey will give you great insights into Peru, and of you, as a traveler. Every tourist needs to explore parts of the world nobody has frequented before - and now, you might have found your part of the world!
Travelling to Peru? Chat with a local travel specialist in Peru who can help organize your trip.
Lisa Artal Travel Expert in Bolivia & Peru
Brian Rosengren Travel Expert in Peru
James Mackender Travel Expert in Peru