There are three worthwhile sites to the north of Ayacucho  that can be seen in one (very full) day. Huari (22 km from Ayacucho, 8 a.m.–6 p.m. daily, US$0.75) is the sprawling capital of the same-named empire. Much of the city, which covered over 2,000 hectares (4,940 acres), has been buried by drifting sands. The ruins are badly deteriorated and largely unexcavated, but what can be seen today, about 10 percent of the original city, includes huge complexes of walls up to 12 meters high.
The best place to start a visit is at the on-site museum, which lies on the road between Ayacucho  and Quinua  and contains a stone monolith, ceramics, and a few useful historical charts. A short walk away lies the ceremonial center of Monqachayoc, which has an enigmatic half-moon shape. It appears to be a calendar, because it faces exactly north and contains 18 niches, which is a strange link to Mayan calendars in the Yucatán Peninsula of present-day Mexico. Holes, where stone cylinders once stood, were found nearby and were probably used for casting shadows onto the niches.
Nearby are a few unexcavated pyramids, covered with prickly pear cactus, and a huge stone table where sacrifices were probably made. Archaeologists believe the umbrella-shaped paty trees were used in a potion that prevented blood from coagulating during sacrifice ceremonies—a trick the Huari may have learned from the Moche in Peru’s north.
A tunnel, closed to visitors, leads underground 50 meters from the ceremonial area to a labyrinth of funerary chambers that was excavated in 1997 and leads an astonishing 19 meters below ground—the hidden level underground is apparently built in the shape of a llama.
Another interesting area, called Cheqo Wasi, lies a half kilometer farther up the road and includes more funerary chambers, some of which are constructed of 1.5-ton rock slabs. The joints between the rocks are perfectly smooth and rival later Inca stonework. One theory holds that the Huari used these fortified chambers to store, and guard, both their own mummies and those of the cultures they conquered. Like the Incas, the Huari worshipped their ancestors’ mummies as a source of power and displayed them in public during sacred festivals.