A city that is often overlooked by people on a Peru vacation, but should not be, is the city of Ayacucho. Ayacucho is hidden away high in the Central Peruvian Andes, more than 350 miles from both Lima and Cusco-the two main tourist destination cities in Peru. Ayacucho has some of the best colonial buildings in Peru, and many of them are in pristine condition. The city also has an important history and strong art scene, as well as many other reasons for people to visit.Due to its mountainous location, the best way to visit this part of Peru is via plane. A flight from Ayacucho from Lima is about an hour and usually not very expensive. A bus ride will take about 10 hours and will include a very windy journey. A decade ago not too many people would be keen on traveling to this city, as it was overtaken by the rebel group the Shining Path in the 1980s. For almost two decade the city was isolated from the rest of Peru by its rebel overlords. When translated, Ayacucho means "City of Blood" or "City of the Dead," depending on the translations, and its bloody history dates back to the Conquest. A battle here in 1824 set the stage for Peru's encroaching independence, and going even further back the native population of the Chanca people strongly resisted becoming part of the Inca Empire.Despite its past, today Ayacucho is a welcoming city. One of the best things to do here is simply stroll along the streets and admire the beautiful buildings. The Plaza Mayor is lined with 16th, 17th, and 18th century homes, and walkways divide from the center in a star-shape formation.To learn about the crafts of this area you should visit the Museo de Arte Popular Joaquin Lopez Antay. Here you will learn about the artisan works and crafts that make the city and its surrounding areas so famous. You'll see rugs, silver, ceramics and clay figures. Ayachuco is especially known for a type of craft called retablos. These are wooden boxes divided in two two or three levels and full of hand painted wooden figures. This craft was passed to the locals from the Spaniards, who often used the boxes to depict religious scenes to try and convert the locals. Today, religious scenes are still popular, but so are agricultural scenes and wedding depictions. Though most of the retablos are small, some are massive, up to six feet tall and very detailed.
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