Huancavelica Tourist Attractions
Huancavelica is a remote and beautiful colonial town set in the mountains. It is the capital of this little visited department of the same name and boasts some impressive colonial architecture, including eight churches.Huancavelica was inhabited by the Incas prior to being discovered by the Spanish. The area became important to the Spanish shortly after the conquest, when they learned the region contained mercury and silver. They used Indian slaves who were forced to work in the mines. At that time a railway was built to transport goods from the mine to Lima. Today, this same track carries passengers to Huancayo.The town has several colonial churches, which are known for their unique silver-plated altars. (Most altars in Peruvian churches are gold plated.) Sunday is Market Day, although there are small daily markets as well.The Huancavelica area is very high and can be very cold and wet in the rainy season of December through April. Roads up here sometimes become impassable during this time period.
Mercury Mines Hike
The remains of mercury mines, which were created during the time of Francisco Pizzaro, can still be seen outside of Huancavelica on the mercury mine hike. A three-hour round trip hike leads to the village of Santa Barbara and the remains of the mercury mines, which were closed in the mid 1970s. The entrance to the original mine can still be seen past Santa Barbara on the way to the mining installations. The entrance is not sealed off but entering the old mercury mine is not recommended for safety reasons. The mine is nicknamed Mina de la Muerte, meaning death mine. Some of the locals still mine mercury on a small scale.The hike is steep and climbs to over 4000m / 12,920ft.
National Institute of Culture
The Instituto Nacional de Cultura (National Institute of Culture) focuses on the natural and cultural history of the Huancavelica area. Housed in an old colonial building, the center contains both the Museo Arqueológico and the Museo de Arte Popular.The Museo Arqueológico displays a variety of Inca artifacts, including tools, ceramics, and mummies. The Museo de Arte Popular features exhibits on local art and history, with local costumes. The Instituto Nacional de Cultura even offers traditional dance classes and an introduction to folkloric music. It is worth a visit while in Huancavelica.The Instituto Nacional de Cultura is located on Plaza San Juan de Dios, just west of Plaza de Armas.