The Plaza de Armas, one block away, is quiet and graced by a colonial cathedral. El Señor de la Caída, on la Plazoleta la Victoria, is a very simple colonial church that has fine paintings from the Cusco School. These churches are mostly open during early-morning mass, with longer hours on Sunday.
Abancay is at the center of one of the purest Quechua-speaking zones in Peru, and even urbanites rant in a Quechua-Spanish hodgepodge. The road between Abancay and Cusco was paved in 2002, cutting travel time between the two cities down to four hours.
There is good trekking around the snow-covered Ampay (5,240 meters), center of a 364-hectare national sanctuary that preserves one of the last highland forests of itimpa, Peru’s only indigenous conifer. Though rarely visited, this wilderness contains small lakes up high near the snowline. The entrance to the park is a mere six kilometers from Abancay itself.
Some trekkers also use Abancay as a launching point for reaching the ruins of Choquequirao, though nearly all of the trekking agencies are based in Cusco.
Getting to Abancay
The route to Cusco is entirely paved and only takes four or five hours, including incredible scenery in the Apurímac Valley and a long ascent into the high plains around Anta before entering Cusco. The best bus company on this route is Expreso Wari (Arenas 200, tel. 083/32-2932).
Turismo Ampay (corner of Arenas and Nuñez) runs buses for the five-hour trip to Cusco, and to Quillabamba in the jungle. Expreso Los Chankas (Diaz Barcena 1033) has two buses a day leaving for Cusco and Andahuaylas–Ayacucho.
© Ross Wehner and Renée del Gaudio from Moon Peru, 3rd Edition