It is said that a thousand churches line the streets of Ayacucho. But the truth is that in the capital of the department of Ayacucho, there is practically a church on every street corner. There are 33 in all, built in Ayacucho during colonial times, each with their own history, their own art, their own personality.
The old city of San Juan de la Frontera of Ayacucho (Saint John of the Frontier of Ayacucho) was founded by Spanish Conqueror Francisco Pizarro in 1539. Featured with countless attractions for the tourist, is the ideal starting point to explore the rest of the department. Just 22 km (14 miles) north of the city, lies the Wari citadel, capital of the Wari civilization that flourished in the southern Andes from 500-1100 AD and once was home to a population of 50,000. Travelers can also visit the Inca ruins of Vilcashuaman and the scenic Lake Parinacochas, a haven for thousands of flamingos.
Easter week in Ayacucho is worth a separate mention, as it is possibly the most spectacular and emotive version of the Christian holiday in Peru. Daily processions, carpets of flower petals and ritual re-enactments are just some of the ways the Ayacucho townsfolk express their Christian devotion.Visitors can taste traditional fermented maize beverages such as chicha de Jora, Chicha de Molle or Chicha de Siete Semillas during the five days celebration. At the end of the festivities, visitors can buy some of the traditional retablos (small portable altars which represent scenes of everyday life in the Peruvian Andes), figures sculpted from the white Huamanga stone, or any of the different traditional arts and crafts made by Ayacucho artisans, to cap off an unforgettable week in the City of Churches.
:: AYACUCHO: THE CITY OF 33 CHURCHES
To stroll through the city of Ayacucho, is to experience a profound reencounter with religious fervor on each corner. With 33 churches in the city, one for every year of Jesus Christ’s age, Ayacucho is one of the most interesting religious destinations in the Americas and lasting proof of the Christian faith so imbued in Peru’s people. Each one of these churches - the oldest was built in 1540-houses a relic a work of art and a legend. Visitors standing in the main square can admire the majestic Baroque and Renaissance architecture of the Ayacucho Cathedral, built from pink stone in its central section and towers crafted from gray stone blocks. The Cathedral dates back to 1612 and is held to be one of the most beautiful of its kind in Peru for its exquisite inner decoration in the Churriguerra style.
Other churches, like Santo Domingo, which dates from 1548, or San Francisco de Paula, built in 1713, show how the style and taste of its builders evolved: Romantic and Byzantine arches in Santo Domingo, Greco-Roman facades with haut-relief carvings in San Francisco de Asis and Baroque interiors in La Compania de Jesus. Each church in Ayacucho has its own personality.
At the same time, the 33 churches in Ayacucho house some of the fines works of art to be crafted by Ayacucho artisans: superb altarpieces, carved wood pulpits, heavily decorated altars and hundreds of oil painting from the various schools of painting that flourished there. A veritable invitation to experience Peru’s religious history.
:: WARI: CAPITAL OF AN ANCIENT EMPIRE
In 1550, Spanish chronicler Pedro Cieza de León wrote of the discovery of a vast set of buildings, some 25 km (15 miles) from the city of Huamanga. The architectural style differed systematically from Inca constructions.This was Wari, capital of the first pan Andean State, dating back well before the Incas, whose culture flourished in the area from 550-800 AD.
Wari is a classic example of pre-Hispanic urban planning and engineering techniques. The urban nucleus sprawls across some 400 ha and is thought to have housed 40,000 inhabitants at its peak. It is located in a strategic position due to its rapid access to the central coast and jungle, and lies halfway between the northern and southern highlands, where the Wari people built administrative centers and colonies.
A visit to Wari will take in the sector of Cheqowasi, a set of burial chambers that run down several levels. Possibly the graves of rulers and nobles, these chambers used rectangular, circular and quadrangular slabs of stone. Another sector, Moradochayoq, shows evidence of contact with the Tiawanaku, a culture that existed in the same era some 1,500 km (930 miles) away in the Lake Titicaca watershed.
A third sector is that of Capillapata, which is made up of trapezoid-shaped and rectangular constructions up to 400 meters (1312 feet) long and featuring stone ramparts that stand over 10 meters (32 feet) tall. The Ushoaqoto sector meanwhile, has unearthed carved human figures, pointing to the existence of workshops and deposits.
• Patachi. Soup with wheat, peas, cabbage, broad beans, bacon, fresh and salt-dried meat and mint.
• Qapchi. Potato and fresh cheese salad.
• Puka picante. Pork fritters in peanut sauce.
• Caldo de mondongo. Tripe soup with beef , bacon and mint.