Ayacucho is in the Southern Sierra region of Peru. The population is about 100,000, altitude 2,700 m. Ayacucho is embedded in a broad sunny valley with mild climate. It is home of the Morocucho people, a group of the Quechua.
During the 1980s and early 1990s, Ayacucho was mostly under control of the Sendero Luminoso, an extreme leftist terrorist group. After the successful anti-terror fights under president Fujimori, the influence of the Sendero Luminoso decreased almost completely. In the recent years, some singular activities have come up again. The area of Ayacucho is declared as zona de emergencia (emergency zone), but the only practical restriction for normal tourists seems to be the recommendation not to travel in the area during night time.
The Tourist Office is found in the Plaza de Armas.
The airport has flights from Lima. Small airlines in Peru are a bit sketchy, but a good alternative for those who don't like a rough long bus ride.
Daily buses to and from Lima on a well-paved road (11 hr). It goes over a high mountain passes which make some people sick.
Daily buses to and from Pisco the same well-paved road (6 hr).
Daily buses/colectivos to and from Huancavelica offer 3 alternatives (note: dirt roads may be impassible in the rainy season):
- The direct way via colectivo to Julcamarca, a second colectivo to Lircay, and a third colectivo to Huancavelica (all dirt roads). With luck and an early start, you could make it through in one day. Basic accommodation is available in Julcamarca and Lircay, if necessary.
- Via Rumichaca and St. Ines. Take a morning bus along the main road from Ayacucho to the coast until Rumichaca (paved and in good condition), and then catch a bus to Huancavelica (departure 10:30 AM, dirt road). The landscape is unique and impressive, most of it is between 4000 and 5000 m above sea level.
- Take the morning bus to Huancayo, get off at Izuchaca (8-10 hours) where the dirt road becomes paved, and then catch onward local transport to Huancavelica (~1 hour).
The above three options also work in reverse. However, the bus from Huancavelica to Rumichaca leaves at 04:30.
Daily buses to and from Andahuaylas, run by Molina, Wari (leaves at 05:00) and others (at least 10 rough hours). The dust road is partly in very poor condition, but the magnificent scenery is more than a compensation for that.
Taxis run for S/3 in the city.
Willy Del Posa Posa runs a tourist agency near the Plaza de Armas. He proved honest and helpful on a few occasions.
- If you want to go for a walk, get the bus 13 (S/0.70) in the big red arc (Jr 28 de Julio) until Santa Helena or a bit further. Then get down to the river Watatas and come back to Ayacucho walking along the water (2 hr). At the concrete bridge, or wait for a collectivo or walk until the center (a bit far).
- For a warmer but a bit dirtier river, get the collectivo to Muyurina (S/2.5) in the Paradero de Quinoa-Huanta. Come back to Ayacucho along the water one the right side (don't cross) cause of the dogs. Always avoid the houses. After the bridge (30 min) the way is hard on the right side, so ask if you can follow on the left side. The way is long so you will have to join the road and stop a collectivo or hitch-hike.
- Get up the great mountain of south (left of the cross). It's rough but really nice.
- High quality wool and alpaca tapestries, carpets and embroideries can be found in Barrio Santa Ana. You come there following the Av. Grau. A number of family run shops line the Plaza Santa Ana. In most you can see weaving in process, and purchase tapestries. Santa Ana is the main outlet for many of Ayacucho's weavers. The shops on the Plaza Santa Ana typically feature both the work of the owner's family, as well as tapestries, embroideries and other artesania that they purchase from throughout the area. Most of the families with shops on the Plaza Santa Ana have been in the weaving business for several generations. The Santa Ana tapestries are woven on upright looms. The best are made from handspun yarns, and dyed with natural dyes. Many of the motifs are drawn from archaeological textiles. Ayacucho is also known for its eye-popping three dimensional designs. Many of the shops are set up with a typical handicraft store in the front room. It is often necessary to ask to see the better, more expensive tapestries.
- Galería Latina, e-mail: email@example.com. Plazuela de Santa Ana #105, Phone: 528315, Spanish preferred. In the Plaza Santa Ana right opposite the church you can find the Galería Latina, a multi-generation family run gallery that exhibits and sells high quality tapestries from some of Ayacucho's best weavers. The family has exhibited their weavings, and those of the weavers featured in their shop, at a number of international handicraft exhibitions in Zurich, Switzerland. As with many Santa Ana shops, from outside, Galeria Latina looks like a usual handicraft store, but if you ask, they will be glad to show you their little carpet exhibition and the weaving rooms in the backrooms. The price for a wall carpet is about US$350, but it's worth that money.
- The Cafe of the University (UNSH(?)) is in the atrium of a lovely colonial building besides the Cathedral at the Plaza de Armas.
- Magia Negra (Black Magic) - a few blocks from the Plaza de Armas. Serves Pizza, is a bit upscale and comfortable for Americans and a foose ball table
- Don't miss the best hamburgers ever, served by the street vendors near the plaza at night. Perfect drunken food. You should get the 'triple'. You can get it with a cheap thin hamburger, egg, hotdogs, potatoe sticks, olive mayonase. It is recommended to get it "sin lechuga" (without lettuce) as lettuce is supposed to particularly harbor micro-organisms. Don't eat too many.
- Via Via (On a balcony overlooking the Plaza opposite the cathedral). Good coffee. Safe salads and some interesting mains make this a place to head for. The views and frozen Naranjada are excellent. Popular with well to do locals as well as the few gringos in these parts. Free WiFi. Nice atmosphere.
Try Puka Picante (Potatoes cooked with beetroot and peanuts) and Papa con Quapchi (potatoes with cheese and herbs) in the market or little restaurants.
- Centro Turístico Cultural San Cristobal, a block and a bit from the Plaza de Armas, 28 de Julio 178. The best place for caffeinated beverages (i.e. it actually has cappuccinos, Americanos, etc.) There are a few little cafes here. As the name of the centre suggests, the area is intended for tourists and is a bit pricier than other areas.
Try chicha de manis (peanut-sesame), agua de nipero or manzana (apple) for S/0.5, in the market (right of the big red arc, Jr 28 de Julio)
On the road towards the bus station, some places offer nice but simple double rooms for less than S/20, and S/13 for the use of only one bed.
You can stay at the Plaza Hotel for as long as you need.
- Hotel La Crillonesa, one block from the main Mercado and just a few from the Plaza de Armas, Nazareno 165. They ask for S/50 for a room with private bathroom and double bed, but may accept lower offers. Rooftop terrace (great view), cafe, cable TV in most rooms, 24-hr hot water, friendly service. You may like being near the market and the bustling pedestrian-only street that goes by it.
- Hostal Florida, Jr Cusco 310, ☎ . A good option for budget travelers. Nice views from the top rooms and they offer WiFi during the day and sporadically at other times. A matrimonial room is S/50 with bathroom, while a single is S/35 with private bathroom (but can be negotiated lower). Note that showers are electric - i.e., not truly hot. Note that breakfast is not included in the price despite what they may tell you over the telephone. However, some travellers report a number of items of value are stolen from their room in this hotel, and when reported, owners becoming very unpleasant.
- 1 Hostal Tres Mascaras, Jr. Tres Mascaras 194 (One block southeast from Plaza de Armas), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Fairly big hostel with rooms surrounding a courtyard sporting both parrots and budgies (although caged). The yard is a bit run down, but the rooms are nice. Wifi, hot water, simple breakfast on request.
During Semana santa, the prices increase crazily. You can contact Leira Figuero 990454539, at the cross between Jr Callao and Venezuela. They rent a mattress on the floor for S/10 (6 can enter), in a small room with WC, cold shower, and your own key.
- Huari/Wari is the oldest urban center in the Andes You can visit the ruins and the museum (S/2) daily. Take a colectivo in Av. Cáceres to come there (45 min, S/2). On the way back, be sure to get a colectivo before 17:00, otherwise it may become difficult.
- La Quinua is a nice village with old buildings. Nearby, you can visit the Pampa de Quinua with its 44-m high obelisk, remembering to the famous battle of Ayacucho in the Peruvian war of independence. The colectivos to Huari proceed to La Quinua.
- Go to Vilcashuaman (3-4 hr, S/15). The way is really nice. The city is calm, some inca ruins, very few tourists. Try the chiken of Polleria El Sol. Walk to a Laguna, going up the street Camino Real (30 min).
- Andahuaylas by combis (6 hr, S/25)
- Huancayo with buses Molina at the terminal Wari (far from the center), go at 20:30 (all night, S/30).
- Expreso Los Chankas, Pje Cáceres 150. Perhaps the only place to offer direct service to Cusco. S/55 each for a 22-hour ride on a semi-cama bus. Buses at 06:30 and 19:00.