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The first signs of human habitation in Peru were discovered in the Pikimachay caves, near Ayacucho. (There is nothing of interest to be seen there.)

Five hundred years before the rise of the Inca empire, the Wari empire dominated the Peruvian highlands. The Wari’s ruined capital, 22km northeast of Ayacucho, can be reached along a paved road. Ayacucho played a major part in the battles for Peruvian independence, and a huge nearby monument marks the site of the important Battle of Ayacucho, fought in 1824. And it was here, in a rural university campus, that Professor Abimael Guzmán nurtured the Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) Maoist revolutionary movement in the 1970s, which became an armed guerrilla organization bent on overthrowing the government.

Today, Ayacucho is a safe place to visit. The populace doesn’t discuss the dark days of the 1980s much, and welcomes travelers with enthusiasm and good cheer.