His tour company has single handedly revolutionized tourism in Central Peru and made a region with practically no tourist infrastructure become one of the most tourist friendly and fascinating places in the country.
Peru has dozens of major regions that all have fascinating sights, great hotels, and once in a lifetime tour opportunities, but most are centered around travels to Cusco and Machu Picchu, and to some extent the Amazon, Lake Titicaca, and Lima. The North Coast, Central Jungle, Northern Andes, and other locations see very few tourists, but slowly international visitors are beginning to look around the country for new locations after they come on their second or third trip to Peru.
Lucho and Incas del Peru have proven that with the right kind and focused effort, tourists will come. They have been instrumental in ethno tourism in Peru where guests can learn craft making from villagers in the Mantaro Valley, study Spanish and Quechua in homestays, and helping to get the world’s highest railway running again.
Huancayo is the capital of Peru’s Junín region and one of the most tourist friendly Andean towns in Peru.
Blessed with sunny days almost year round, green hills, and unspoiled surrounding villages, Huancayo (population 350,000; 3240 meters above sea level) is quickly becoming one of the staple tourist visits for travelers to the Andes.
The main plaza, Plaza Constitucion, has its charm and the architecture is so-so, but parks, crafts and culture abound throughout the city and the Mantaro Valley. The area was originally the capital of the Wankas, or Huanca, empire that stretched throughout the Andes, but was conquered by the Inca Pachacutí and incorporated in the Inca Empire. However, Wanka culture and traditions still thrive throughout the region.
Parque de la Identidad Wanka
This quiet little art filled park was built of stones from area rivers. The mosaic buildings and pathways are reminiscent of Barcelona’s Parque Güell. The centerpiece of the parquet is the giant replica of a mate burilado, or carved gourd. Traditional foods, crafts, and occasionally live music can be found in the park.
Cerrito de la Libertad
This hill one kilometer from the center of the city has great views of the tile roofs and adobe buildings of the valley. There are a few small restaurants and craft stands and is a popular place for families on the weekends.
Huancayo’s Sunday market has been running continuously since 1572. People from the surrounding villages hike in to sell their produce and crafts in what is one of the greatest spectacles in the Andes. Huancayo is best known for the Mate Burilado and some of the best can be found during the Sunday market, which can be found along Avenida Huancavelica.
Casa de Artesenal
If you don’t have time to explore the valley and meet direct with the craftsmen, this large handicrafts market off the plaza has a wide selection that prices at just a bit more than in the villages.
La Cabaña and El Otro Lado
This restaurant and adjoining bar/peña is a tourist attraction of its own. The rustic, charming environment attracts travelers from around the world who come to Huancayo to study Spanish, craft making, do volunteer work, hike, or Limeños who come for the weekend. The food is some of the best in Huancayo and ranges from area specialties such as Anticuchos, Papas a la Huancaina, and Calientitos to wood fired pizzas. Live folkloric music and dances take place Thursday-Saturdays from 9pm. Both are owned by tour operator Incas del Peru.
Getting to Huancayo
Huancayo is six/seven hours by bus and only 45 minutes by plane from Lima or twelve hours by train. It also connects by rail to Huancavelica, and by road to Ayacucho (10 hours), Tarma (3 hours), and Huanuco (8 hours).
Most who visit Huancayo spend time exploring the markets and craft shops in the Mantaro Valley or arrive on the highest train in the world.