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The hidden mountain town known as "The Pearl of the Andes" has grown into a city of 55,000 whose traditions and sights illuminate its Peruvian roots. Long before the Spanish arrived, indigenous peoples built homes and temples in the hills that framed the town, the ruins of which local farmers continue to turn up as they turn the rich soil into flower and potato fields, coffee plantations,
and orchards. The town's look is Spanish though, with a small Plaza de Armas and several colonial-style churches and mansions.At an elevation of 3,050 meters (10,004 feet), Tarma has a cool and breezy climate, with crisp nights all year. Get out in these nights, too, as candlelight processions are a major part of the town's many festivals—notably the Fiesta San Sebastián in January, Semana Santa in March or April, Semana de Tarma in July, and Fiesta El Señor de Los Milagros in October. Tarma is definitely not a tourist town, but a place to visit for true Peruvian traditions and easy access to the jungle to the east.
Tucked into the folds of the Andes, 2,740 meters (8,987 feet) up on the slopes, Ayacucho is a colorful, colonial-style town. Though its looks...