Huancayo, Perú


Huancayo, Perú, sits at an elevation of 3259 meters (10,692 feet) in a high mountain valley called Mantaro Valley. The greater metropolatin area has a population of around 380,000 people, making it the fifth most populous city in Perú. Huancayo is the cultural and commercial center for all of the central Andes Mountains communities. Being so very high in the sky at more than 10 thousand feet it is also quite chilly. Yes, daytime highs reach the low 70s for a couple of hours, but beyond that, it's downright cold. During a few months of the year the night temps drop to near zero. I don't do well in such cold climates so I spent only two nights here, as I did in the previous mountain towns/cities I have visited.

There is evidence of this area being populated back well into the BC years. The first peoples were the Huancas, then they were assimilated into the Wari Empire, then eventually the Incas conquered them. And then, of course, the Incas were conquered by the Spaniards. In 1570, the viceroy Francisco de Toledo established the site as the center of his encomienda Guancayo. An encomienda is an estate or piece of land and the inhabiting indigenous people formerly granted to Spanish colonists or adventurers in the Americas for purposes of tribute and evangelization. That then became a tiny town. The town was officially established in June 1572, with the title of Santísima Trinidad de Huancayo. Construction of the cathedral started in 1831. There are very few colonial-era buildings still standing. The railroad was built in 1908 and extended to Lima. I haven't gotten a definitive answer about the current state of the railway, some websites indicate is is still operating, and others say no. And people here are all over the map in responses.

The climate of Huancayo is classified as a tundra climate. The average daily high is 19° C (67° F), while the nightly average temp is 7° (45° F). The valley averages 1682 mm (66.2 inches) of rain per year. The humidity is 67% - 83%. Huancayo sits at a very high elevation, if you are not acclimated to such altitude you will most certainly feel short of breath, especially if you climb stairs or walk uphill. And the UV is strong at high elevations so keep that in mind and wear a wide-brimmed hat (many of the locals do).

I don't care much for Huancayo. There's nothing particularly pretty or interesting here, maybe out in the mountains, but not in the city. The streets are generally clean, though, as there are garbage cans on most streets. But it is cold enough you'll see people pretty well bundled up all day long. Should you put Huancayo on your to-see list? I don't think so.