Andahuaylillas: South America’s Sistine Chapel

The exterior of the church

It’s part of the southern touristic route (circuito sur) that begins in Cusco and goes down to the archeological sites of Tipon and Pikillacta ending in Andahuaylillas. It’s a great half-day trip, one that you can do on that day you’re not visiting Machu Picchu or the Sacred Valley. If you’ve had enough of tour group expeditions, then the faster and cheaper option is to take a regional bus from Cusco to Andahuaylillas.

There, you’ll find the church of San Pedro Apostol de Andahuaylillas, built by the Jesuits in the 16th century. Like other Spanish and religious constructions of the time, it was built on top of a huaca, or sacred place for the Incas. Made out of adobe and brick, the church is a small structure consisting of one nave, apse and bell tower. But there’s a reason why it’s known as the Sistine Chapel of America. Here’s what you’ll find inside:

-A Mudéjar-style painted ceiling. Mudéjar being an Iberian artistic style with moorish influence. The ceiling is a spectacular example of craftsmanship and use of kur-kur, a pre-Hispanic method of construction using cane, straw and mud.

-The interior walls are covered in Baroque frescoes by artists from the Cusco School (escuela Cuzqueña), the colonial and religious artistic tradition.

-The altar: covered in gold leaf, silver and mirrors throughout.

An impressive sight and experience.