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Cordillera de los Frailes Overview

The Cordillera de los Frailes is a large crater situated to the north and west of Sucre. This area is the home of the Jalq’a culture, a people of around 26,000 who live in small communities around the region. The Jalq’a are famous for their weavings, intricate art works created on hand looms that represent the culture’s belief system through representations are animals, birds and mythical creatures. There are many treks around the Cordillera de los Frailes, where you can learn about the local culture and enjoy the spectacular scenery.



The Jalq’a live at between 2, 500 and 3,000 meters and make a living from farming and herding sheep, although the land is quite barren. The men from these communities are most recognizable, with stark white outfits with a thick black stripe down the sleeves and subtle colorful decoration on the hems, and dark ponchos. Both men and women wear the white, bowler style hats and the women are renowned for their apron-like skirts, axsu, decorated with distinctive weavings, known as pallays.



The three main villages in the Corillera de los Frailes are Chaunaca, Maragua and Potolo. Chaunaca is situated between the Río Potolo and Río Ravelo, about an hour and a half from Sucre. Here you can find the Hacienda Samay Huasi, which is set in beautiful surroundings, has a garden and hot water, and there are plenty of walks in the area. Chaunaca is also at the end of the pre-Inca trail.

Maragua is set in the dramatic Maragua Crater, an eight square kilometre geological formation shaped like a shell. There is a strong textile tradition in the village, as there is in the smaller Maragua communities and the neighboring Irupampa villages. There are dinosaur prints in the area and you can swim in the near-by waterfalls. There are some basic cabañas with thatched roofs where you can stay but there’s no electricity.



Potolo is the most well-known textile producing village in the Cordillera de los Frailes. You can observe the local craft ladies at work as the make the tejidos on handlooms. The village is situated in a beautiful region near the Río Potolo and is surrounded my local flora and fauna and there is accommodation at the comfortable Albergue de Potolo.



It’s possible to camp out in the area, if you ask permission first and pay a fee for using the land. This is best organized by a Quechua speaking guide, as many of the locals don’t speak Spanish.

Other attractions in the area include the rock paintings at Incamachay and Pumamachay, a pre-Inca trail and sites for rock-climbing.

23 Nov 2009

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