While completing my independent study in Ayacucho, Peru over the summer, I decided to visit Huancayo because I had a friend, Joni, who was also staying in Huancayo for a cross cultural experience over the summer and so I decided I had to take some time and visit her because she said it was a great city. I left Ayacucho for a long weekend trip and I took a twelve hour bus ride from Ayacucho to Huancayo and what an experience it was! You can read about the bus ride here. I arrived late in the evening and went straight to where she was staying! I must say, it was so wonderful to actually see another familiar face after a couple of months in Ayacucho.
Huancayo is located in the central Andes highlands of Peru and originally in the native language Quechua, the city’s name was Wankayuq, which means ‘place with a sacred rock’. It was such a cold night as Huancayo is located in the Andes Mountains at about 10,692 feet above sea level, so her host family gave me multiple homemade blankets that I used to bundle up as to help keep me warm all night.
Early the next morning I got up and they had multiple looms they used to make blankets, shawls, ponchos and other clothes! While Joni was staying there with her host family she had learned how to use the weaving loom and had even created her own blankets and artwork! She showed me the basics of working the loom and she made it look easy. We first had to roll the yarn using an old bicycle wheel, then place the yarn into into a wooden spindle that we would use to thread the yarn through the loom as easily as possible. I got the hang of it fairly quickly and was able to use a multitude a different colors and after awhile, I started to see my handywork coming to fruition. Her host family members were true artisans and had multiple examples of their work hanging up around the house.
I enjoyed seeing where Joni had been spending her time and loved meeting her host family and witnessing how wonderful they had been treating her. Joni’s host family allowed us to use their bicycles and we went bike riding around different parts of Huancayo on our own little tour. I always think getting around any city on a bicycle is a wonderful thing because you are able to see so many parts of the city that you might miss if you are always traveling in a car or truck. Her host father was so gracious to us and even showed us around some of the best parts of Huancayo!
Parque de la Identidad
He first took us to Parque de la Identidad, which is such a beautiful and modern city park, but is a very unique park, as it has multiple sculptures throughout the park that represent the culture of Huancayo and the Junín region. This park helps to celebrate the local way of life with its prominent statue of a famous regional folk art called mates burilados, which is actually gourds carved with intricate designs using a wood iron that helps to burn the design into the gourd. They have other statues that pay homage to well known dancers, musicians and even photographers who are all from this region of the country.
They even made the design of the sidewalks and plaza areas unique! They didn’t use just cement for the plaza and sidewalk floor, they have intricate mosaic designs that you can see and even feel under your feet when walking throughout the park. One of my favorite aspects of the park were the lights throughout the park. Sitting on top of the fences were these lights that were made to look like Peruvian women wearing the traditional hats with two braids of hair flowing down their back! This park is truly one of a kind and worth a visit when spending time in Huancayo.
The Towering Rock Sculptures of Torre Torre
The next location that is a must visit spot is Torre Torre, located just a few kilometres away from the center of Huancayo. It’s not far and you can even walk from the city center to get there. It’s a very nice walk and it’s interesting to see how rural it becomes the further away you walk from the city. You leave the main plaza behind, along with all the bustling traffic of the city and the urban buildings for small houses built with handmade mud bricks and thatched roofs surrounded by small cultivated fields of farmland that hug the rolling hills of the area.
Torre translates to ‘Tower’ and this small, but beautiful part of Huancayo reminds me of the butts and messas seen throughout Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah, except Torre Torre is on a much smaller scale. These towers were created by the windy and rainy weather and long term erosion of the red sandstone over many years. It was a fascinating place and we were the only people there besides a couple local Peruvian boys who wanted to join us in our expedition and explore the towers with us. The boys obviously live close to the towers and had been there many times because they knew their way around and were showing us all the best passageways to walk between the towers.
We had a wonderful afternoon of climbing up between the towers and also venturing down the steep trails. There are plenty of spots where you can see where someone has walked on top of some of the towers shaped like butts and messas, but you really shouldn’t because that helps destroy the rock formations much more quickly when the weather is already causing the rock formations to change. These towers aren’t protected by park rangers like the butts and messas of Bryce Canyon so it’s important for us to protect them. If you venture to Torres Torres one day, enjoy the towers just the way you see them so adventurers that follow your footsteps will still have the same opportunity to see the towers in the future, just like you have. Torres Torres is an easy and great day trip from Huancayo and once again, you can easily walk from Huancayo to the towers and back!
Huaytapallana Mountain Range
Joni’s host father wanted to make sure I had the full Huancayo experience so one of the days I was visiting he took us on a trip to the Huaytapallana mountain range, which is about a two hour drive from Huancayo and is still located within the Junín region of Peru. In Quechua, it is actually spelled Waytapallana, which means ‘a place where you collect wild flowers’, but the Spanish spelling of it is Huaytapallana. The two hour drive went by quickly and was absolutely beautiful!
Once we got there, we started on the first part of the short hike which lasted about 20 minutes and then we reached a much steeper incline and we had to zigzag our way up to the first ridge which is actually the furthest we were able to go because of time constraints, but that ridge had quite the vantage point of the Huaytapallana mountain range! It was stunning to see the glistening snow capped mountains off in the distance and truly made me feel so small in a world that is so large! The clouds were continuously moving position and helped to cover up the mountain range and then occasionally the sun would peek out from behind the clouds to make the snow reflect brightly into our eyes.
On this ridge were a multitude of stacked rocks that previous adventurers and hikers had made and my friend’s host father told us that the rocks are a temple and gift made for the gods. He showed us one that actually resembled a temple and informed us that many people give coca leaves to the gods, just one of the many different types of small gifts acceptable for the gods, so we each took three coca leaves and made a wish and gave them to the gods by placing them in the rock temple. Visiting the Huaytapallana mountain range was a wonderful experience and I wish I had more time to hike and explore the area more, but it’s definitely a place I will always remember as it was the first time I had ever seen snow capped mountains in person and not just in a photo!
Huancayo is a city full of life with many great things to see and do so make sure to see the treasures of traveling in and around the city of Huancayo, Peru!
Take a look at the map below to discover where Huancayo, Peru is located!