The department of Ayacucho is crossed by the western and central Andes, which has generated two very characteristic landscapes: the mountains and the rain-forest. The region does not have major valleys; there are, however, plateaus and small plains, some covered by snow.
The department has two protected areas, namely the Historic Sanctuary of the Pampas de Ayacucho and the National Reserve of Pampas Galeras “Barbara D’Achille”, aimed at the conservation of their biological diversity and cultural value.
The first one was given this status on August 14th, 1980 for having been the location of the Battle of Ayacucho, which signaled the end of the Spanish domination in Peru and continental America. The area comprises nearly 300 hectares and includes the monument honoring the “Victors of Ayacucho”, as well as a large sample of the area’s indigenous flora and fauna.
The National Reserve is located in the province of Lucanas and comprises an area of 6,500 hectares. Its main objective is the conservation of the vicuna, the animal that is the symbol of Peru. The “Feast of the Chaccu”, a symbolic ceremony at which these animals are sheared, takes place in the month of June.
Amongst other places of interest, mention should be made of Titankayocc, the largest Puya raimondi forest in the world; Huanta, the “emerald of the Andes” with a varied topography from the edge of the rain-forest up to snow covered peaks; and Cangallo province, with waterfalls, thermal waters and aerated waters used in rituals in honor of Andean spirits.
This topography, together with a very varied climate depending on altitude that ranges from the warmest temperatures to the peaks with temperatures below zero degrees, is the reason why the department has a large variety of plants and animals.
The coca plant predominates in the area, and is considered “the mother who solves the daily problems of Andean men”. It is thought to have a sacred character and is used in medicine and in gastronomy. A coca infusion or mate is the most common drink.
There are also many different fruit trees in the region, providing ample and exotic variety to local cuisine.
The most important animals in the area are falcons (whose name in Quechua is waman, which is the origin of the name Huamanga) and vicunas, the former being valued for the symbolic value and the latter for their meat and wool.