It’s a mystery why more travelers don’t visit this pretty colonial city. It’s bursting with beautiful churches, charming plazas and mineral springs and lies picturesquely nestled within craggy peaks. These days, it’s even easily accessible, with a good road connecting it to Huancayo 147km to the north. Still, few people make it here and therein lies another attraction: Huancavelica is a safe, serene spot to take a break from the Gringo Trail and soak up life as locals live it. This entails partying at one of the frequent fiestas, browsing the markets or, for the most part, just watching the colorful cross-section of society pass by.
Huancavelica was a strategic Inca center and shortly after the conquest the Spanish discovered its mineral wealth. By 1564 the Spaniards were sending indigenous Peruvian slaves to Huancavelica to work in the mercury and silver mines. The present town was founded in 1571 under the name of Villa Rica de Oropesa (Rich Town of the Lord), somewhat ironic given that Huancavelica is today the poorest city in Peru. Bear in mind the city suffers from frequent bone-chilling winds and icy temperatures at night.