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Altitude: 2,500m (8,202 ft) Population: 10,000 Phone Code: 43

Yungay is a city that lives in the shadow of its traumatic past; it is the site of one of the most cataclysmic avalanche in recorded history. On May 31, 1970, while many residents were tuned into the closing moments of the World Cup match, an 8.0 earthquake struck, collapsing the city’s infrastructure and residences before the immediate onset of an even greater calamity: 10 million cubic meters of rock and ice were dislodged from the north side of the Huascarán massif into the lakes below, which in turn overflowed and sent a wall of mud, ice and rock over 900 meters (3,000 ft) wide and one mile long charging down upon Yungay at a reported speed of 120 miles an hour. Within moments what was Yungay and its 20,000 inhabitants were annihilated. Only 400 survived, many of them by-now-orphaned children who had been at a circus set up on higher ground.

The area was later declared a national cemetery by the government and is marked by a large white statue of Christ. What is now known as Yungay is in fact a new city, constructed on more elevated terrain and away from the path of any more potential landslides. Visitors to Yungay can observe some remnants of that catastrophic day, such as a rusting, battered bus and other ruins, but unlike Huaraz, which also sustained heavy losses, you are unlikely to meet any survivors who can tell you stories.

Yungay had previously been the setting of a political and historical debacle in 1836—a decisive battle that defeated an attempt by Bolivia and Chile to co-opt Peru into a confederacy, and thus led to the permanent establishment of Peru as an independent nation.

On Sundays the people who now populate Yungay still pay tribute to their past and culture in an open-air market in which they don colorful, traditional garb. They also speak more Quechua here than in other parts of the Ancash region. For most travelers, Yungay matters most as its role as the gateway to some of the most spectacular geography in the central Andes, such as the Llanganuco lagoon, itself containing the biosphere reserve Huascarán.


Other places nearby Yungay: Caraz, Huaraz, Chiquián and Carhuaz.

By Ricardo Segreda
Growing up in New York, Rick Segreda used to cut out of high school in order to hang out at the Museum of Modern Art and catch foreign-language...
14 May 2012

Things to do in Yungay

Campo Santo

Old Yungay is presided over by a tall white statue of Christ to the north, overlooking the devastating path of destruction left by the 1970 aluvión, a deadly mix of avalanche, waterfall and ...
City Park
Yungay, Peru
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