Antioquia is famous for its colorful churches, houses and streets, which earned it the Guinness Record for the "world's largest altarpiece" in 2007, and is today a very popular destination for sightseeing near Lima, thanks to its warm climate, tasty gastronomy, archaeological sites and even corners for adventure in the middle of nature. Learn more below.
Currently, the so-called 'magical town of colors' has more than 120 facades painted white and full of designs similar to those seen in Ayacucho altarpieces, in the form of plants, animals and other figures that refer us to the spring season. But its appeal is not limited to that: in the surroundings you can do activities such as camping, trekking, mountain biking, canoeing, canopy and off road motorbike.
This colorful story began in 2004, when the inhabitants of this district of the Huarochirí province looked for another source of income besides agriculture, in an attempt to improve their economy. This is how the project 'Colors for Antioquia' by the artist Enrique Bustamante, winner of the Center for Research, Education and Development contest, emerged. Under this idea, the facades of houses and premises were decorated with various colors and motifs.
Antioquía is located 76 kilometers from the center of Lima, in the province of Huarochirí and at about 1,500 meters above sea level. This district was founded in 1935 and its capital is the town of Espíritu Santo.
You can get to Antioquia by car or your own transportation, take the route to Cieneguilla in the direction of La Molina and continue directly to the province of Huarochirí; or take one of the buses that leave from the intersection of Nicolás Arriola and Rosa Toro avenues, in San Luis. You can also sign up for a full day tour of this magnificent destination. The duration of the trip is about three hours.
One of the best things about Antioquia is its climate, warm for most of the year. The best time to visit this charming town is between April and December, when the temperature usually averages 22°C.
Here is a list of the best places you can visit in the Antioquia district for a tour full of unforgettable experiences:
The central temple of the town of Espíritu Santo offers perhaps some of the most memorable postcards of the place, with its façade full of Andean and multicolored designs. This church has small altars inside with golden motifs and a main altar with a large altarpiece.
Near the Plaza de Armas you can also find a small but interesting museum with ceramics, utensils and ancient tools, samples of plants and animals, and even mummies.
One of the two viewpoints that Antioquia has. You can go up to it from the city, admire the colorful houses along the way and, once at the top, enjoy an unbeatable view of the picturesque town and the green valley that surrounds it.
The town of Santiago de Cochahuayco is located 3 kilometers from the populated center of Espíritu Santo. You can visit the beautiful Temple of Santiago de Cochahuayco, declared Cultural Heritage of the Nation, as well as the Processing Plant that offers a tour to learn about the agribusiness of the area.
In the Santa Rosa de Chontay area you can find one of the best preserved segments of the Xauxa-Pachacamac section of the Inca trail or Qhapaq Ñan. On it you can go trekking and admire the landscape.
In the area you can also find this river surrounded by greenery. The pools on its shores are ideal for taking a refreshing bath, as long as the waters are calm.
Near the small town of San José de Nieve Nieve is this archaeological site that houses houses from the Inca period and even a cemetery. This town also boasts a beautiful stained-glass church and a lookout for incredible panoramic views.
I love its tranquility, the only thing I miss is the internet connection that is very limited (the cell phone signal does not reach well), something that I think has already been solved.
You can go on your own or on a full day tour. There are six things that I recommend you do in Antioquia, and if you want to do them all, you need more than one day:
Beginning with its parade ground, the church, the community hall, the school and going up to the viewpoint. Along the way, you will see the houses decorated with murals. Now it has two viewpoints.
Small museum with ceramics, utensils and tools. They can also find 2 mummies, among other accessories. The entrance costs 3 soles per adult, children do not pay.
Cochahuayco is another very quiet town just 2.5 km from Espiritu Santo de Antioquia. It has a 17th century church and a small apple and quince jam production plant, which I hope is still running.
You can go by car or on foot. It is an easy walk, which can be done with children, as my friend from Escape with Family did. I also prefer to go on foot and enjoy the scenery.
As long as the river is not too fast. After the walk and the intense sun, we refresh ourselves in the river. The only drawback were the mosquitoes.
The best of Antioquia! I have done the hike twice and loved it. The trekking begins in Cochahuayco, bordering the hills, following a stretch of the Inca trail that linked Pariacaca with Pachacamac. You go through some tambos, a desert landscape with very peculiar cacti, you cross the river in Oroya and you reach Antioquia.
It's an easy hike but it takes three to four hours, depending on your pace and stops. I recommend starting it before 11 am.
The pumpkin mazamorra that the ladies in the Plaza de Espíritu Santo sell is one of the richest I've ever tried.
Jams and quince and guava nectars. Be sure to take home a pair.
Handmade ice creams
I really believe that the history of Antioquia is a very creative example of how to promote the local economy, which was based on agriculture, with apples as its main product, towards other sectors. Since the 1990s, the CIED (Center for Research, Education and Development) has worked promoting agricultural development and agro-industrial products; however they needed to reach a broader market. For this reason, in 2003, they proposed the strategy of attracting visitors by developing their tourist offer. This is how the project “Colors for Antioquia” arose, to turn it into a work of art.
The first step was to sensitize the population, with plastic arts workshops for adults and children, and with an Art Symposium. They summoned several plastic artists, who lived with families from the town, to later paint pictures related to local identity and exhibit them in a gallery in Antioquia.
The second step was an international contest to choose the artistic design that would be painted in the town, the winner being the Peruvian painter Enrique Bustamante.
Finally, Antioquia was painted in 2004, starting with the school, the church, the communal area and the renovation of the facades. Rafo León in his Guide to the Lima Region mentions that initially some residents were reluctant to paint their facades, because the colors (pink, blue, yellow and lilac) were "very mountainous." Over time they joined the initiative and to date you can see beautiful murals in most houses.
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.