Lonely Planet Writer

Traveller shares images of remote Peruvian town engulfed by an earthquake in 1970

Travel blogger Emily Bloor from Luxury Backpack recently travelled to the Peruvian highlands, capturing these pictures of what was once the thriving town of Yungay.

Taking the shade in Yungay
The town of Yungay in the Peruvian highlands. Image by Emily Bloor/Luxury Backpack

Sadly, the town was struck by disaster 47 years ago, as Emily explains; “In 1970, an earthquake destabilised a glacier sitting high up on the mountains above Yungay. Ten million cubic metres of ice, rock, and snow tore down the mountainside at 120 miles per hour. Just moments later, Yungay and every single inhabitant in that town at the time was buried by the landslide.”

Yungay with the Peruvian highlands in the background
Memorial roses grow in Yungay. Image by Emily Bloor/Luxury Backpack

Emily was staying in Huaraz when we heard about the village. “We took a bus to get there”, she says, “not really knowing what to expect. There’s a large entrance sign for the old Yungay town, which is hard to miss, otherwise it just looks like the rest of the highlands – green, covered in wildflowers, and surrounded by snow-capped mountains. The most striking sight is the graveyard which overlooks the site. It’s very eerie, and hard to imagine how the only people who survived in the town that day were there at the time. It serves as a poignant reminder of what happened.”

Dog sleeping under a rose bush in Yungay
Dog day afternoon in Yungay. Image by Emily Bloor/Luxury Backpack

“In many ways, the area is quite beautiful”, she continues, “with the crosses hidden amongst the overgrowth, and the rose bushes planted as memorials. There’s a small stand with a few photographs of the town as it was. Seeing this really put everything into perspective, and I was able to see the shape of the town as it was before the avalanche swallowed it up and it became just another part of the highlands.”

Yungay memorial
Disaster memorial in Yungay. Image by Emily Bloor/Luxury Backpack

“It was almost impossible to imagine Yungay as a busy thriving town, which it most certainly was on the afternoon that the avalanche came. The whole area was extremely quiet and calm, and yet what happened there that day was the opposite. I think it was a good decision to leave the land untouched, left to nature, as a mass resting place for all the residents of the town.”