Stretching from the southern end of the Cordillera Blanca right up to Cuzco department, this area of stunning mountain scenery and timeless Andean towns and villages is a must for those who appreciate traditional, good-quality textiles and ceramics.
The main highlights include the cities of Huancayo, Ayacucho and the surrounding villages, which are the main production centres for handicrafts. The Central Railway from Lima to Huancayo has restarted passenger services, so one of the most outstanding train rides in South America can be experienced once more. But the service is intermittent and Huancayo is still a little off the tourist compass. Meanwhile, Ayacucho hosts one of the largest and most impressive Holy Week celebrations in Latin America and at that time becomes a real focus of attention.
If you are seeking refuge from the Andean chill, the road through Tarma to the Selva Central is one of the most beautiful in Peru, leading to a relatively unexplored region of the country. More than just fabulous landscapes, this area also hides important pre-Inca sites, such as Kótosh (near Huánuco) and Huari (outside Ayacucho), two early examples of Andean urban civilizations. Stretches of the Royal Inca Road run from the temple fortress of Huánuco Viejo and up the Yanahuanca Valley, serving as reminders of this great imperial causeway. The Spaniards, too, have left their mark, with fine churches and mansions in Ayacucho.