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One of the highest cities in Peru, Cerro de Pasco, capital of the department of Pasco, in the central highlands, is also one of the most extraordinary places in the area. Its rough climate and high altitude contrast with the placid surrounding highland countryside. Shortly after the Spanish Conquest in the sixteenth century, groups of explorers and missionaries settled in the region alongside the local chieftains, digging gold and silver out of the rich mines in the area.
News of the mineral wealth of the area drew hundreds of adventurers and fortune hunters, who wasted little time in setting up operations in the area, staking out mines and establishing residences. This flurry of activity gave Cerro de Pasco its reputation as a mining town, a reputation which it still enjoys today. Many buildings, however, date back to the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, a valuable heritage of the colonial era.
On the outskirts of the city lies the Huayllay National Sanctuary, a set of natural stone formations shaped like animals and humans, which appear to change constantly depending on the position of the sun, a work of art of Nature. Other places worth visiting include Oxapampa, a picturesque town with German influences in its architecture and local dress, and the waterfalls of El Incanto and El Velo Azul.
Here, visitors can taste the delicious and traditional pachamanca (meat and vegetables cooked over hot stones underground) to the strains of the Chonguinada (a local festive dance) or witness in May the time-honored Festival of Las Cruces, the main religious celebration in the region and which involves the city's neighborhoods.
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