The Huayllay National Sanctuary is a sight to behold, one that many Peruvian and foreign tourists alike overlook visiting. The good news is that it’s not hard to get there and there’s more than the rocks to look forward to.
Huayllay rock forest is located in the district of the same name in the department of Pasco, at an elevation of 4,000 meters above sea level. There are 3 well known routes to get to Huayllay from Lima. The first is to take an interprovincial bus to Cerro de Pasco, and from there a “colectivo” taxi that takes you to the town of Huayllay. If you leave on a bus in the evening you will make it to Cerro de Pasco by morning.
The second option is to take the northern par of the PanAmerican highway to the city of Huaral, which sits at 4,600. From Huaral you will descend to Huayllay, so make sure to take altitude sickness medicine for the effects of the changes in altitude. The distance for this strip is 234 km.
For the third option, you can decide to go to Canta instead, allowing you to see the Cordillera de la Viuda on the way. This way is longer and can take 9 hours.
The Huayllay National Sanctuary is an area of about 15,000 acres. Though impressive rock formations that cover the Andean plateau are in the main attraction, visitors should also look out for ancient cave paintings and a variety of endemic flora and fauna.
The rock formations began to form some 66 million years ago during the Cenozoic era, when a layer of volcanic ash and the volcanic rock ignimbrite covered the landscape that was already made up of sandstone, limestone, and conglomerate.
It was the meltwater during the most recent ice age that seeped through the rocky landscape, cracking it and creating these eroded formations in interesting shapes.
The most photographed rocks and the ones you should look out for are the ones shaped like a bear, cobra, elephant, or that of a thinker, a tunnel, and the face and figure of an angel.
There are various hiking trails in the forest for you to enjoy. Take a few hours to explore the rocks and the biodiversity. Because there are wetlands in the area you will see lizards and many species of birds, like the Andean lapwing and Andean gull. The area is also home to deer, vicuña and vizcacha, as well as wild cats and the Andean fox.
There is also a thermal bath with a rehabilitative chemical composition and temperature that reaches 140ºF.
The Rural Tour Huayllay Festival happens every year in early September which will allow you to experience many activities in the forest like rock climbing, mountain biking and other adventure sports.
During the festival you will also be able to taste typical dishes of the region like fried trout, pachamanca, guinea pig picante, chicarrón and other delicacies.
Be cautious of the cold and dry Andean weather and take many layers with you, including a pair of gloves, hat, wind breaker, and sweaters. Sunglasses and a cap will be your ally during the sunny days.
The best time to visit the forest of Huayllay is after rainy season, from May to October.
You are able to camp in the area if you wish. The closest hostels are in the village of Huayllay and in Canchaucho nearby. If you are looking for more comfortable options you can book hotels in Cerro de Pasco online.
Get a glimpse of the forest:
Cover photo: Andina
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