The hidden mountain town known as "The Pearl of the Andes" has grown into a city of 40,000 whose traditions and sights reflect its ancient 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 uncover 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. Take advantage of these nights, 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 rather a place to visit for authentic Peruvian traditions and easy access to the jungle to the east.

Tarma's Oficina de Turismo, on the Plaza de Armas, can help you find qualified local guides for sights in the region.

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Fodor's Essential Peru: with Machu Picchu & the Inca Trail

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