Located in the North Yauyos-Cochas Landscape Reserve (Reserva Paisajistica Nor-Yauyos Cochas), 12 kilometers off the Huancaya detour (fork in the road) in Tinco-Alis (Km 163), Vitis is a traditional Andean town just 2.5 kilometers next to its more frequently visited neighbor, Huancaya. Vitis’s main town square is located at 3,615 meters (11,860 feet) above sea level. It offers much for the tourist looking for a traditional Andean spot or looking to hike, with marvelous hikes ranging from 2 to almost 20 hours total (getting to the spot and back). Most Vitisinos also have horses and donkeys and are willing to give a paid, though very affordable, guide along with the use of the animals.
On the way to Vitis one passes Lake Piquecocha (about 3,200 meters above sea level, or 10,500 feet), which has a pier, numerous birds (including the blue duck native to the area and the Andean Huachua, or Huallata), and an abundant supply of fish (especially the trout, an introduced species which thrives in the area). Sticks made from sugar cane are used by Vitisinos as fishing rods, although the lake has been declared for sport fishing-only for outsiders. From Piquecocha one can enjoy views of the surrounding mountains and the Incan terraces, which are still used by the locals to farm. If one comes across a Vitisino, he or she may ask the local about the name and story behind Piquecocha, which at only 5 kilometers from the main plaza is territory of the town.
From the main town square in Vitis, noted for its large cypress and native queñal trees, one can walk to the top of the mountain next-door, named Pilca (about 3,750 meters above sea level, or 12,300 feet) in 20 minutes. From this mountaintop, in about 20 minutes walking down, one can walk to a patch of centuries-old queñal trees by the river Puente (about 3,600 meters above sea level, or 11,810 feet).
Also from Pilca is the path to the archaeological sites of Cochaswasi and Huayllugina, about a half an hour from the mountaintop. Cochaswasi is located at about 3,600 meters above sea level, Huayllugina about 100 meters, or 330 feet, higher. Vitisinos can show you the monument constructed in dedication to their ancestors in Cochaswasi, the old water irrigation system and terraces used by the pre-Incas there, the building which was an ancient worshipping center, and more, showing their knowledge and appreciation of the past. For the very adventurous, Huayllugina is a near-straight-up climb from Cochaswasi and located on a tall mountain top.
About two hours or more from Pilca, almost all uphill, one can see the famous Puya de Raimondi, which is located in abundance near the border of the towns of Vitis and its neighbor, Miraflores, and at about 4,000 meters above sea level (13,120 feet). Also, for those looking for something more adventurous, permanently snow-covered mountains, or glaciers, can be seen from and even reached with a hardy 8- to 10-hour hike from the town. Upon arrival to a lake in the heights, one can ask his or her guide the legend of it, as many, if not most, lakes in the heights of Vitis have one.
All of the treks from Pilca offer amazing views of the mountains, rivers, lakes, and Andean terraces and most certainly the chance to see and talk to the townsfolk on their way to or from the farm, while often wearing traditional sombreros, mantas, or chuyos and knitting socks or other garments while walking. Also the chance to see alpacas and llamas, as well as the Andean condor, exists.
Peace Corps Volunteer, Brad Goodman