Located in the heart of the mountains of Lima and Junín is a fairytale location, a place of beautiful natural settings which is also home to archaeological sites that reveal great cultural diversity. We are talking about the Nor Yauyos-Cochas Landscape Reserve (RPNYC), a protected natural region created in 2001.
Covering an area of almost half a million acres, the RPNYC is located in the provinces of Yauyos (Lima) and Jauja (Junín). Its main aim is to protect one of Peru’s most picturesque high Andean landscapes. It also seeks to conserve ecosystems in a harmonious relationship with the activities of rural communities, as well as protecting historical cultural values and promoting tourism activity.
Attractions in detail
The main attraction of this spot is the section between the towns of Huancaya and Vilca. Over the course of 12 miles, the Cañete River forms impressive waterfalls such as the Cabracancha stepped waterfalls, and lagoons that resemble mirrors of water, such as Papacocha and the Love Forest, both natural attractions surrounded by reeds and waterfalls.
The cobbled, colonial-style streets of Vilca are also a highlight. Attractions include the Plaza de Vilca, and the Cantagallo and San Cristóbal viewpoints. Huancaya, for its part, has four colonial bridges made of lime and stone. Next to its main church is the Site Museum that houses mummies, ceramics and textiles, among other thing.
Another great attraction is the snowy Pariacaca mountain peak. Located in the district of Tanta, this snow-covered peak was one of the most important deities in the Tahuantinsuyo era. The journey to get here is considered by historians to be the most important pilgrimage route, since cultural and religious practices are linked to its surroundings. These days, it exerts a great influence on the world view and daily life of the surrounding populations.
Located within the area related to the Pariacaca ‘apu’ (god) is one of the sections of the Inca Trail network that linked Cusco with several destinations in the ancient Tahuantinsuyo, including the Pachacámac Sanctuary, south of Lima. This 25-mile stretch includes the Saqsha pass, 15,570 feet above sea level (f.a.s.l.), to the town of San Lorenzo de Quinti.
Another outstanding town is Miraflores, a town with an impressive canyon where cars are able to pass through a sort of half-tunnel carved into the rock. This place is also the starting point for an almost two-mile walk that leads to the ghost town of Huaquis, formerly the home of these local people.
Fauna and flora
Besides its wonderful landscape, Nor Yauyos Cochas is home to flora and fauna that are typical of the Andes, such as the Andean fox, vizcacha, puma, cimarron cat, vicunas, llamas, alpacas, the Andean cat, and a number of rodent species. With respect to birds, there are species of grebes, huaco, yanavico, the Andean goose, and diverse species of ducks, among others.
As for the flora, more than 150 species of plants have a presence here, including pajonales and queñuales, as well as the forests of Puya Raimondi.
Qaqa Mach’ay, the world’s highest cave
In this natural region, specifically in the town of Laraos, is the Qaqa Mach’ay cave, the highest in the world at a height of 16,175 f.a.s.l. and with a depth of 410 feet.
Here we can also find Pumacocha, the deepest cave in South America, located at 14,435 f.a.s.l., and with a vertical slope of 2,070 feet. Fossils and other ancient remains have been discovered here, making it a great attraction for enthusiasts and researchers.
Another attraction at Nor Yauyos is its more than 40 different archaeological remains and traces of ‘andenería’, or Andean agricultural terraces. These are advanced specimens of pre-Inca and Inca engineering, constituting a living heritage as many of these structures are still used to date.
Huamanmarca is one of the most significant complexes in this natural region. Located in the district of Carania, it was built on a hill top that bears the same name. In spite of the cold temperatures of its location (at an altitude of 13,120 feet), the ancient settlers of the Yauyos culture were able to accomplish this construction that served to defend them from their enemies.
This Inca-influenced archaeological site has a reservoir in its upper part, situated parallel to the main road, which conducts water from the Huilla lagoon, located on the slopes of the snow-covered Kipala mountain. The terraces of Carhua and the Inca laboratory of Huaytuya are located on the lower part, in addition to mortars where minerals were processed, and which confirms that the former inhabitants shared agricultural activity with mining.
Did you know?
- From this reserve you can see part of the ancient Qhapaq Ñan (Inca Trail) that crosses the whole of Peru.
Sources: Sernanp/ Andina/ TV Perú