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Amidst the high Andean pastures and cropfields that make up the department of Ancash, one can almost always find a small church or village of red-tiled roofs with a fragrance of freshly-baked bread on the air. These are the everyday wonders of the Peruvian Andes. There, in all its ancient glory, lies the Callejon de Huaylas.

Llama trek

This wide valley, some 200 km long, is split by the Santa River and fringed by a picturesque group of towns and villages, among them Recuay, Huaraz, Carhuaz, Yungay and Caraz. It is a land where time appears to have stood still. Wedged between two soaring mountain chains -the Cordillera Negra and Cordillera Blanca- the Callejon de Huaylas gave rise to the ancient Chavin civilization, who have left a legacy in the Chavin de Huantar temple just hours from the city of Huaraz, the capital of the department.

Ancash, however, is a vast department that includes not only the highlands, but also stretches as far as the coast where one can find cities like the fishing port of Chimbote or Casma, a tranquil town by the shores of the Pacific. Possibly Ancash's geographic and climactic diversity has made it one of Peru's premier tourist destinations.

Huascaran National Park, named after the 6,768 meter-high Mount Huascaran, offers opportunities to practice just about every adventure sport under the sun, from rafting down the Santa River to climbing up the Pastoruri snowfields. Mountaineering Week is one of the major events in the region.

Also famous are Lake Llanganuco and the pre-Hispanic stone temple of Sechin. These and many other attractions are reasons enough to explore one of the most beautiful and rugged parts of Peru.

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