Rural Temples of Cusco

Photo by Nan.

Rural Temples of Cusco is part of the Tentative list of Peru in order to qualify for inclusion in the World Heritage List.

Rural Temples of Cusco is a group of ten churches whose architectural style and artistic components reflect a unique style resulting from the mixture of indigenous and European knowledge and techniques. These temples contain outstanding examples of paintings, murals and sculptures from the Cusco School of Art. The objective behind the construction of these churches was to impress and educate the indigenous populations in order to foster their evangelization.

Map of Rural Temples of Cusco

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The coordinates shown for all tentative sites were produced as a community effort. They are not official and may change on inscription.

Community Reviews

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Carlo Sarion

Philippines | New Zealand - 26-Feb-23 -

Rural Temples of Cusco (T) by Carlo Sarion

One of our day trips from Cusco was spent visiting Valle Sur, located southeast of Cusco, with the intent of hopping between churches and archaeological sites. Said churches belong to the proposed "Rural Temples of Cusco", a group of 10 churches that are said to be the tangible representation of the Christianisation of indigenous peoples of Cusco. Authorities creatively took advantage of the artistic and touristic value of 3 of the 10 "rural temples" that they marketed them to tourists as part of the Ruta Barroco Andino. Many Cusco-based tour companies offer guided full or half-day trips to Valle Sur but we chose to hire our own car and driver so we could customize the sequence of our visit and avoid crowds, as we were visiting during the peak season (August 2022).

We left the hotel in Cusco after a hearty breakfast and a couple of soroche pills (Cusco is higher but I was still having symptoms of altitude sickness). How I planned the itinerary was to start at the farthest site and visit the succeeding sites on our way back to the city. Thus, we visited the sites in the following order:

    1. Capilla Virgen Purificada de Caninunca in Huaro (see photo) - this dusty, stocky, terracotta-roofed chapel that is located next to a lake (Laguna de Urcos) was locked when we arrived at around 9:30am. Our driver chatted with a vendor who happened to know the caretakers. After a bit of waiting a couple of ladies opened the chapel and issued us our Ruta Barroco Andino tickets. I remember paying 15 soles for each ticket, which allowed travellers to enter the 3 Valle Sur churches. Upon entering we quickly noticed that the walls are painted from ceiling to floor with murals of what seemed to be textile motifs and local vegetation. The golden reredo dominate the altar, which was fronted by rather modest pews. Additionally, we noticed that sculptures were absent (unless we missed a few), although we thought that the paintings already compensated for this. 
    2. San Juan Bautista de Huaro - by car, this church was just a couple of minutes away from the first. Many features contrast Huaro from Caninunca, such as (1) the bell-gable that sits on the left side of the façade; (2) the bold and graphic mural paintings featuring Biblical scenes; (3) the numerous sculptures housed in reredos located in the altar and sidewalls; and (4) the woody and ochre hues that dominate the walls of the church. The church also has a cobbled public space in front of its entrance. 
    3. San Pedro Apostol de Andahuaylillas - the last and relatively the grandest of the churches we visited. If you haven't felt worn out of the murals in the first two churches, this one would surely do. The bold colours and patterns on the coffered ceiling, the fine drawings in the murals and framed paintings, the ornate gilded carvings on the walls, and the tall golden altarpiece just make this church visually stunning. There was a mass celebration at the time of our visit, so we had to wait until the mass ended and the crowd dissipated. 

Note that photography of the interiors of all the churches we visited was prohibited at the time of our visit. Additionally, the Ruta Barroco Andino comprises the 3 churches we visited and the Iglesia de Compania de Jesus, located in Cusco. 

After having a snack in front of San Pedro Apostol church, we drove back to Cusco, stopping at the archaeological sites of Pikillaqta (Wari culture) and Tipon (pre-Incan and Incan) along the way. I definitely recommend including these sites in any Valle Sur itinerary, if time allows.

I thought that the three churches we visited adequately embodied the history and aesthetic value that this serial proposal presents in its OUV. Thus, I can say that this site has a strong potential for inscription, especially once the State Party guarantees its protection and communicates its management plans. Besides, I see that a comparable property in Bolivia (the Jesuit Missions of the Chiquitos) set a precedent and is a good example for justifying its inscription.


Germany - 28-Oct-20 -

Rural Temples of Cusco (T) by Nan

Looking for an easy way to travel from Cusco to Puno, I settled on a tourist bus that would make several stops along the way. Itineraries for all companies seem to be quite similar (Andahuaylillas, Inka ruin Raqchi, lunch, mountain pass La Raya). Only stop that I was initially interested in was Raqchi as it's part of the Qhapaq Nan sites.

When we rode into Andahuaylillas (the town) we found a rather sleepy rural town, scenically located below a mountain range. The church is in the city center and from the outside there is little to set itself apart from other churches. However, when we entered the church I was awed. All parts of the interior is richly decorated. The style is named Barroco Andino. It is not a poor reproduction of European ideals, but a unique blend of European ideas with Latin American culture, symbols and heritage. Calling it "Sistine Chapel of the Andes", though, is overstating the case. It's a lovely rural church for and by the local population.


I am always happy, if my "should be inscribed" post in the forum later materializes with the state party making a proposal. For Peru, I posted in 2017 that Barroco Andino had clear potential:

I have only seen the splendid church of Andahuaylillas and supposedly there are more sites like this. Stellar and unique with the local influences. Again, I would heavily favor inscription of these churches. The artistic level is superior to the similar Popocatepetl churches in Mexico.

In 2019, Peru added the Rural Temples of Cusco to their tentative list. I happily stand by comment from 2017 that this would be a great addition.

Getting There

If you are travelling between Puno and Cusco by tourist bus, a stop at Andahuaylillas is included. It's probably the easiest way to visit.

While You Are There

You are in the heart of the Empire of the Inkas with plenty of epic sites to visit. The road between Puno and Cusco is dotted with Qhapaq Nan sites as it follows the historic road. In the direction of Puno is another Baroque tentative site, the Baroque Temple of Collao (T). Not sure how this relates to the rural temples of Cusco. Puno itself is the gateway to Lake Titicaca (T) and Bolivia.

Kyle Magnuson

California - United States of America - 08-Aug-19 -

Rural Temples of Cusco (T) by Kyle Magnuson

The Church of San Pedro Apóstol de Andahuaylillas, the "Sistine Chapel of the Andes" was mostly lost to me in 2009. Its hard to appreciate such a structure without information and during a pit-stop on the way to Puno! Granted, the church does not take much time to explore, its murals and elaborate interior are exceptional. Considering this nomination has 10 components, this can barely be counted as a visit. However, since The Church of San Pedro Apóstol de Andahuaylillas is one of the key properties I though I would write a review.

Between Cuzco and Puno, bus routes can be organized (at least as far back as 10 years ago) to stop at Andahuaylillas and Raqch'i for a limited amount of time. As I sleepily exited the bus, I appreciated the exterior of the church, but it's something else altogether to cross the threshold into the church where gold and murals await. Unfortunately, I did not take pictures of the interior (or I tried), but the light was poor and the images were immediately deleted because of poor quality. I also remember having battery issues with my camera at the time, leading to a tight economy on pictures!

The proposed nomination may be underwhelming for some, but Peru is under-represented on the world heritage list and even their average tentative list entries are arguably worthy of inscription. Sites like the Church of San Pedro Apóstol de Andahuaylillas were built over a pre-columbian ceremonial space, the emphasis on indigenous murals, and the importance of these churches as the doctrine temples of the indigenous people in the vicinity of Cuzco might be enough to claim OUV.


Read more from Kyle Magnuson here.

Full Name
Rural Temples of Cusco
Religious structure - Christian
2019 Added to Tentative List

Unesco Website: Rural Temples of Cusco

The site has 10 locations

Rural Temples of Cusco: San Salvador de Oropesa (T)
Rural Temples of Cusco: San Pedro de Andahuaylillas (T)
Rural Temples of Cusco: San Juan Bautista de Huaro (T)
Rural Temples of Cusco: Capilla Virgen Purificada de Canincunca (T)
Rural Temples of Cusco: San Juan Bautista de Ccatcca (T)
Rural Temples of Cusco: San Pablo Apóstol de Ocongate (T)
Rural Temples of Cusco: San Francisco de Asís de Marcapata (T)
Rural Temples of Cusco: Virgen Inmaculada de Checacupe (T)
Rural Temples of Cusco: San Martín Obispo de Tours de Huarocondo (T)
Rural Temples of Cusco: San Jerónimo de Colquepata (T)
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