Top choice in Ayacucho

This spectacular 17th-century cathedral on the Plaza de Armas has a religious-art museum inside. The moody facade doesn’t quite prepare you for the intricacy of the interior, with its elaborate gold-leaf altar being one of the best examples of the baroque-churrigueresque style (in which cornices and other intricate, Spanish-influenced workmanship mingled with Andean influences, often evinced by the wildlife depicted).

These altars also demonstrate how the concept of the retablo, the ornamental religious dioramas that are Ayacucho's most famous export, came about. The word originally meant 'behind the altar' in reference to the statues placed within cases and set behind early altars. Ten such altars are contained here. Ask at the shop at the entrance about visiting the cathedral's catacombs.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Ayacucho attractions

1. Plaza de Armas

0.05 MILES

One of the prettiest plazas in the Central Andes, flanked by many gorgeous mansions, including the Prefectura. Ask at the tourist office for details on…

3. Museo de Arte Popular

0.09 MILES

Displays popular art covering the ayacucheño (natives of Ayacucho) spectrum – silverwork, rug- and tapestry-weaving, stone and woodcarvings, ceramics …

4. Prefectura

0.11 MILES

Most of Ayacucho's old mansions are now mainly political offices and can be visited, usually during business hours. These offices of the department of…

5. Iglesia de La Merced

0.12 MILES

This church, built in the mid-16th century, is full of colonial art and has one of Peru’s oldest convents attached, dating from the same period.

6. Otto Malena

0.13 MILES

Officially a restaurant, this surreal Aladdin's Cave is more a museum of curios than anything else, for the owner is primarily a collector of magical…

7. Templo Compañía de Jesús

0.14 MILES

This church has two fine bell towers and, in the body of the structure supporting them, striking embossings and motifs. It sits on the site of its 1605…