Peru never ceases to amaze! Its nature not only impresses with its charm, but also with its enigmatic beauty. In Apurímac, a department that celebrates its 148th anniversary, a place awaits you that will leave you speechless due to how spectacular and mysterious it is: Pankula Hill, located in the Pampachiri Stone Forest. Discover with us a little more about this place that seems to come out of a story.
As well as Cajamarca or Pasco, the department of Apurímac also has a stone forest worthy of admiration and visit. It is called the Pampachiri Stone Forest, which is one hour from the town of Pampachiri and which, in turn, is three hours from Andahuaylas.
Pampachiri and its stone forests have been gaining popularity for some years. To discover why people are attracted to you, you will have to see it with your own eyes. Pampachiri, which in Quechua means “cold pampas”, is a town full of natural attractions, with innumerable historical traditions and a very rich culture. One of them is this stone forest, located one hour from the town, in the middle of the pampa de los Pabellones. It extends over 60 hectares and is just over 3,600 meters high. This is a detail that is not minor, since many people are affected by altitude sickness. However, that should not be a reason to stop visiting this incredible natural corner. The stone forest of Pampachiri is a paradise for photography lovers and for those looking to live a different experience.
Although touristically it is known as "the Smurfs' Village" due to the resemblance of the rock formations to the houses where these popular characters lived, it is also popular by other names. Some prefer to call it "Village of the Andean goblins", since according to local belief these beings appear near the forest. However, its real name is Ayamach'ay, which means "the cave of the dead". These caves, villages, valleys and plateaus with the name AYA abound in the Peruvian highlands. According to legend, the Ayas or Gentiles were a very ancient civilization that populated the areas of Peru for many years.
The Pampachiri stone forest is located in the district of Pampachiri, province of Andahuaylas; framed in the department of Apurímac.
The stone forest is located at about 3600 meters above sea level. But, the district of Pampachiri is located at about 3360 meters above sea level.
It is believed that the origin of this spectacular rocky landscape of Pampachiri was the product of the eruption of the Qarwarasu and Sotaya volcanoes, about 4 million years ago. The matter expelled by the fury of the volcanoes would have given rise to this geological area. Added to this were the rains and the wind that, like two artists, shaped these stones into cones. Some of the formations have very sharp points and others are more mushroom-like. In general, they have a height of 8 meters, although sometimes they exceed it, reaching almost 10 meters. However, the mushroom-shaped rock formations are not the only ones you will see. With a little help from your imagination, you will find rocks that resemble human faces, animals and plants.
The most incredible thing is that some rocks have a large space inside, which has been used by the residents as a food deposit for their animals. One of the main activities in this area is grazing, so they did not hesitate for a second to use this gift of nature.
In addition to the shapes of the rocks, the color given by quartz, one of the minerals present, is also surprising, giving it a very attractive hue. On the other hand, depending on the location of the sun, the landscape can change color, turning an intense orange during twilight. For this reason, it is best to visit Pampachiri during sunset. In these hours the colors are unique and the wind, passing through the rocks, generates a sharp and strange sound.
The trek to the Aldea de los Pitufos is an excellent opportunity to see closely the usual way of life of the community members, who graze their sheep in the place. Also, you can make contact with the flora and fauna of the area. Don't be surprised if you come across an alpaca along the way, as they are common.
The journey begins with a walk to the stone forest, which takes an hour at most. Before reaching the Smurfs' Village you will see a gigantic white stone that welcomes you to the place. Already at that moment you can imagine yourself painted blue and dressed in the white pants and dresses that the Smurfs used (it's not bad to be children again for a while). After crossing the sign, you can start exploring these rock formations, which seem like a whim of nature.
In one part of the Pampachiri area there are families of shepherds who took advantage of the warmth and protection of the rock formations to build their homes. Within them you have the possibility to taste typical Andean breakfasts and lunches and inspect the interior of the houses. In addition, it is not uncommon to come across villagers who wear Smurf costumes and walk through the stone forest. With them you can take pictures and have an unforgettable memory of the trip. After that, you have the option to continue walking to visit the rest of the rock formations that make up the forest.
The route lasts about 20 minutes and does not present any difficulty for those who do not have much experience in hiking. The path is very well signposted and before reaching this sector you will see a large stone painted white and with the phrase "House of the Smurfs". Once there, the first thing that will come to mind is one of the episodes of the famous animated series. Some are 6 to 7 meters high. Other rocks reach up to 10 meters.
From the stone forest of Pampachiri it is possible to trek to the Roqrosqa lagoon, located in the town of Cabra Wasi. This 90-minute route runs through beautiful landscapes until it reaches a lagoon of volcanic origin. It presents cold waters and a greenish color, contributed by the minerals present in the water. However, what makes it special is the fact that, when people approach the shore, air bubbles begin to come out of the lagoon. When people move away, it returns to its resting state.
Another unmissable thing to do is a walk along the shores of the Pacucha lagoon, one of the largest and most beautiful in Peru and another important tourist destination in Andahuaylas. The lagoon is located at an altitude of 3,200 meters and, in addition to incredible views, allows travelers to enjoy exquisite cuisine. You can also do different activities, such as boat rides, horseback rides or bicycle rides to explore the lagoon. Lovers of adventure tourism have the option of paragliding as an alternative activity.
The Laguna de Pachuca has the particularity that its waters are suitable for taking a bath, since their temperature is around 16 and 19 degrees.
Very close to the Pacucha lagoon is the Sondor Archaeological Complex, an incredible site where you will find a majestic building built in stone. There are still many mysteries to unravel about this place, however, it is believed that 2 thousand years B.C. It was a kind of fortress-city. For 22 years, festivities of great tourist attraction have been celebrated there, such as the Inti Raymi festival. For this occasion, thousands of national and foreign tourists come to Sondor to witness the rituals in honor of the Sun God.
The area occupied by the complex extends over 10 hectares and is made up of various sectors, each with its own archaeological and cultural wealth. One of the most outstanding is Puka Corral, which is surrounded by 3 terraces, of which the middle one is the one that most attracts attention due to its architectural details. On the lower terrace there is a platform known as the "Sacrifice Table" which is also very interesting. Another of the most visited sectors of the complex is a huge pyramid-shaped construction over 200 meters high, known as Muyu Muyu.
But, the alternative options to do after visiting Pampachiri do not end here. You also have the possibility of taking a restorative bath in the Pincahuacho hot springs. The thermal complex has several pools to enjoy the properties of its waters, special to relieve stress, fatigue and rheumatic pain. The hot springs are located about 15 minutes from the city of Chalhuanca, in the province of Aymaraes.
In the area of the Pampachiri forests there is a lagoon named Roqrococha or enchanted lagoon, when someone approaches small bubbles of air emerge from its depths in the form of foam, the event only happens when someone approaches its shores.
It is located within the geopark between the towns of Llancama and Cabra wasi, in the sub-basin of the Yanamayo River, it is a white plateau where tourists use it as a viewpoint, in addition to making writings with the small stones found there.
It is also worth climbing to the top of Cerro Páncula, from which you can get beautiful panoramic views of the entire stone forest of Pampachiri. Viewed from a certain angle, Pancula Hill has the shape of a perfectly molded dome or dome.
It is located very close to the Pancula hill, it only separates a few meters. Its construction is recent, unlike the House of the Smurfs in this cave no one lives, it is the visitors who temporarily spend a few moments.
It is located 111 kilometers from the city of Andahuaylas, on the right bank of the Chicha River, at 3,390 meters above sea level. Its creation dates back to January 7, 1961, when Prado Ugarteche ruled. Pampachiri comes from the Quechua word "Chiri pampa" which means plain or cold pampa.
The best month to visit the Pampachiri Stone Forest is August, when the sky is clearest and perfect for stargazing. In addition, during the day the weather is warm and at night it is not extremely cold. From December to April is the rainy season, so it is recommended not to travel at this time.
Pampachiri is one of the 19 districts of the Andahuaylas Province, located in the department of Apurímac. If you travel from Lima, you must first take a bus to Andahuaylas and from there to Pampachiri.
First of all, you must go to the province of Andahuaylas – department of Apurímac. To do this, we will take the city of Cusco as a starting point, go to the land terminal; and take a bus to Andahuaylas. The cost of the ticket ranges between 50 to 80 soles and the travel time is approximately 7 hours. The difference in prices is due to the category and type of service provided by each company.
Once located in Andahuaylas, you must take the services of a bus to the town of Pampachiri; Due to the tourist influx, some drivers usually make a transport service to the same attraction. Finally, it only remains to coordinate with the driver of the vehicle. The cost of the ticket is S/.15.00 and the trip lasts approximately 3 hours.
The good news about visiting the stone forest in Pampachiri is that you do not need to pay an entrance ticket.
Because the place is freely accessible, it is not subject to a set schedule. But, we recommend you visit between 9:00 am to 5:00 pm maximum; due to return transportation.
There are no restaurants or shops near the stone forest. But, if you go back to the Pampachiri district you will be able to find some stores; restaurants and some hostels, this town is an hour from the stone forest.
Many are the routes that take you to Machu Picchu, but none is like the Inca Trail Tours, the most famous pedestrian path in the Americas. After flying from the capital of Perú, Lima, you will arrive in Cusco to walk for four days along a path through forests and dense fog, millenary stone steps and discovering the ruins of ancient fortifications and Inca cities, and all the time enjoying majestic views.