The Sixtine chapel of Andahuaylillas presents many motives to visit, tour and have an unforgettable experience. Because Andahuaylillas is one of Peru’s best-kept secrets. The indigenous village’s treasures are tucked away in the Andes Mountains southeast of Cusco in the province of Quispicanchis.
Its name may be a tounge-twister and it’s located at an altitude that takes your breath away, literally, and it’s overshadowed by neighboring attractions such as Machu Picchu, Ollantaytambo and Pisaq. But the village of Andahuaylillas is well worth a visit. Here are five things to do.
1. The Sistene Chapel of the Americas
La Capilla Sixtina de las Americas, the Sistine Chapel of the Americas the Church of San Pedro, is located in Andahuaylillas’s quaint central plaza. Now, I know what you are thinking, “ya, ya I’ve seen old churches before. What could be so different about this one?” The fusion of traditional Incan spirituality and Catholicism makes this gold, silver and bronze adorned church unique. Constructed by the Jesuits in the 16th century on the site of a pre-Colombian ceremonial site, the Capillas Sixtina reflects the heritage of the local people. Biblical oil paintings adorn the walls, but so do images of the sun, revered by the Incas. The church’s organ, still played every mass although slightly out of tune, also dates back to the 16th century, making it one of the oldest, and perhaps even the oldest, in the Western Hemisphere. A tour of the church costs about three soles and the money goes to feed the local children. Check out the stone steps leading up to the church. The stones are part of the original Wari structure. Several symbols are carved into the stones. If you are lucky you may also see a wedding procession or religious festival, which usually includes ellaborate costumes, Andean music and traditional dances. The Festival of the Patron Saint of San Pedro, on June 29 and 30, is perhaps the best time to visit the village and get a real feel for the local culture, dance huayno and taste the local chica and cuy.
2. The Hanging Bridge
The hanging bridge of Paqpachaca, over the Vilcabamba River, is entirely constructed of sticks and straw. The bridge is re-constructed every year after the rainy season in the same fashion the Incas constructed it. Crossing the bridge is quite the adventure, especially on a windy day. If you don’t like heights, don’t look down because you can see the river flowing beneath you on the parts of the bridge where the sticks are a little scarce. Pre-Inca Wari ruins are also located on a nearby hill. To get the puente colgante just follow the river and the train tracks.
3. Highland Museum
El Museo de Ritmos Andinos is not the highest budget museum, but it has everything from the skeletons of sacrifice victims to corn exhibits. It also has the most detailed explaination of the coca leaf’s history and usages that I have ever come across. Now with improved translations in English, the museum, known as El Museo Tips, just asks for a small donation from visitors.
Just do it. Whether or not you like to go on hikes, you’ll enjoy the view from the mountain that overlooks Andahuaylillas and it’s a photoshoot waiting to happen. As you walk you will probably pass the locals planting their corn crops, herding sheep and enjoying chicha de jora. Just follow the path that passes the Q’ewar Project.
The Q’ewar Project is a social-economic doll making initiative that is creating sustainable jobs for local women. The Project has a store located in the central plaza by the Church of San Pedro. If you ask the women working at the store or a volunteer you can visit the Project, which is located just about 10 minutes up the hill. At the Project you can visit the workshops and see the women crafting the dolls and visit Waldrof Kindergarten Wawa Munakuy that is providing a quality education to some of the village’s poorest children. In the afternoons the facility serves as a day care for the worker’s women. The Project always welcomes volunteers. If you are looking for a meaningful way to get to know Andean culture, visit the Q’ewar Project’s website and contact the director Julio Herrera about volunteer oportunities.
And the last two things that we recommended too
6) Urcos’s Sunday market, has everything from colorful handmade monteras and ojotas to llamas. The market also has the best ricoto relleno you’ll ever eat.
7) The Huacarpay Lake and the nearby Wari ruins make for a fun day trip. The best part is its free. Locals plant their crops in the dillatpidated ruins and you can bring a picnic and eat inside of the ruins.