I remember it so clearly – touching down in Huancayo, Peru in the Peruvian Andes for the first time in late July of the year 2008, right smack in the middle of Fiestas Patrias, Peru’s independence day celebrations (also see What Is Fiestas Patrias in Peru?) I’m ashamed to say that, at that moment 14 years ago, I knew nothing of Peru’s rich history, who the Incas were, or even of Machu Picchu, and my Spanish level was basic to say the least.
I remain so grateful that life chose to send me here. In the country of Peru, Huancayo is the 5th most populous city yet hosts very few international tourists, so the city continues to blend the traditional (preserved by the more rural farming towns surrounding Huancayo) and the modern (the bus from the capital city of Lima to Huancayo is only 8 hours long, after all).
Known for having more fiestas than there are days in the year, it’s not uncommon to see live music, traditional dances, parades, ceremonies, processions, and fairs in and around Huancayo. Some highlights:
- Carnaval (month of February) – weeks of getting water-ballooned and yunza celebrations (the Peruvian version of a piñata party but cutting down a tree instead of bashing a papier-mâché figure) with a central parade late in the month to get the partying out of our systems before the solemnity of Lent
- Santiago (end of July to end of August) – dedicated to Huancayo’s patron saint, families dress up in traditional clothing and dance through the city from home to home of different family members trailed by a band playing Santiago music
- Mes Morado (month of October) – literally “Purple Month” because the image of Jesus is carried in a procession of people dressed in purple robes, welcomed by streets decorated with elaborate images made of sawdust and flowers by local schools and companies
- What's the Huancayo climate like?
Huancayo has a very similar climate to that of Cusco (where you would fly in to visit Machu Picchu) as they're both in the middle of the same Andes mountain range. Temperatures range from around 5-20 degrees Celsius (41-68 degrees Fahrenheit) year-round. April to September is the dry season when it can get colder at night, while October to May is wet season with the occasional thunderstorm and hail.
- How do I get from Lima to Huancayo?
The most common way to get from Lima to Huancayo is by overnight bus (Cruz del Sur is the most reputable bus company in the country), which takes 7-8 hours. You can also take a short flight (less than hour) from Lima to Jauja (a small town with the closest airport to Huancayo) but would then need to take an hour-long taxi to get to Huancayo proper.
- Can you travel directly from Huancayo to Machu Picchu through the Andes?
Technically, yes, you can travel directly from Huancayo to Cusco or Machu Picchu through the mountains, but there are no reputable bus or transport companies that travel this route because there's not enough demand for it. The locals who go this way either drive their own car or take a series of colectivos (shared taxis) between the major cities.
- What's Huancayo's elevation?
Huancayo is at an altitude of 3,259 meters or 10,692 feet at nearly the same elevation as Cusco (3,399 meters or 11,151 feet).
- Can you get altitude sickness in Huancayo?
You can definitely get altitude sickness in Huancayo. Many people take altitude sickness pills during their visit.