The Inca heartland in the east, the hiking territory of Cordillera Blanca and Cajamarca/Kuelap further north, Lake Titicaca to the south: these areas of the Peruvian Andes are relatively well trodden by visitors. But to the north and west of Cusco there is an equally beautiful and culturally rich mountainous region speckled with historic colonial towns only now beginning to attract visitors, following a period of political instability happily now resolved.
Ayacucho, 2,761m, is the jewel in the crown of the region, a Spanish colonial glorious city of at least 33 baroque churches, its cobbled streets resonating with atmosphere. South of the city, Andahuaylas, 2,926m, and Abancay, 2,377m, are worth a look. Further north is the market city Huancayo, 3,259m, reached from the coast by road or rail on one of the world’s most dramatic train journeys, and the ancient indigenous town Huancavelica, 3,676m. The fertile Mantaro gorge and valley shows off the contrasts of Andean scenery at its best while Tarma, 3,053m, one of the oldest towns in Peru and famous for its many festivals, is the principal flower growing region, the terraces around it a riot of colour.
This remote region is not short of archaeological sites, one of the most important being the Inca ruins at Huánuco Viejo, and the 4,000 year old temple of Kotosh.