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Huayllay National Sanctuary

Date of Submission: 05/08/2019
Criteria: (vii)(viii)
Category: Natural
Submitted by:
Ministry of Culture
State, Province or Region:
Department of Pasco, Province of Pasco, District of Huayllay
Coordinates: S10 57 45.6 W76 20 04.5
Ref.: 6421

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The National Sanctuary of Huayllay (SNH) is a protected natural area legally recognized since 1974, thanks to the extraordinary geological formation of the Rock Forest of Huayllay. It is located in the district of Huayllay, in the province and department of Pasco at an altitude between 4,000 and 4,600 meters above sea level, covering an area of 6,815 hectares north of the intermontane del Bombón plain, in the central Andes of Peru, in the bioregion known as Tropical Puna. It includes a rocky area of great beauty and uniqueness, formed by ancient volcanic chimneys molded by the erosive processes caused by wind, water and the melting of glaciers.

The rock forest within the Huayllay National Sanctuary presents a variety of unique rock formations, outcrops, hills of varied silhouettes and natural viewpoints forming a landscape of exceptional beauty, among which are water well (puquiales) and wetlands (bofedales) that form numerous micro environments where a variety of highly specific flora and fauna proliferate, specially adapted to the extreme conditions of the area. There are also numerous water resources such as the Anticona, Pana, Japurin, Bombonmarca, Putajayoc, Ricrau, Colorado rivers, the Japurin, Cocha, Huaychacocha, Huamangayan and León Pata lagoons, as well as numerous wetland (bofedales) and thermal waters such as Calera that reach more of 60°C of temperature located at more than 4,000 meters above sea level. The main biotic component consists of grasses or stiff ichu, shrubs and resinous trees called yaretas and quinuales. Camelids and cervids abound throughout the Puna region. In the rivers, lagoons and wetlands (bofedales) there is presence of birds, fish, frogs, etc.


It is characteristic of the puna region an average annual temperature of 6°C, there are radical variations in the temperature between day and night. There are two distinctly different periods in the year; the rainy months that extend from September to March, characterized by frequent rainfall in the form of downpours, hail and snow, mostly cloudy days and with a temperature fluctuation between -3.7°C to 12.1°C. the dry months occur from April to August, during which it almost does not rain, but during which the frosts usually appear at night, fluctuating the temperature between -8°C to 13.8°C.

However, in the Sanctuary, it tends to form a wide variety of microclimates by the action of the rocks that accumulate heat during the day and emit it at night, and forming curtains natural windbreaks. In the open areas there are dry and cold winds with speeds of 20 to 30 m / sec that contribute to lower the temperature and dry the environment.

Geological formation:

In the Huayllay National Sanctuary and surroundings you can find rocks of different origin, age, colors, texture, composition and resistance to erosion and weathering. That is why the geoforms of the relief contrast in topography and color, mainly in some sectors of the Sanctuary, as well as in the immediate areas to this (INGEMMET, 2016).

Lithologically National Sanctuary Huayllay is constituted by 90% by volcanic rocks (stink or volcanic ash) and is whitish tuffs dacite to riodacítico nature, the remaining 10% is made rocks of sedimentary origin as limestone, sandstone and shales that are located at the base of the tuffs. The volcanic material of the rock forest corresponds to pyroclastic flows, which probably originated in a volcanic center which would be located west of Huayllay (on the Pariamachay hill, approximately 15 km); however, a volcanic caldera morphology is presumed, 20 km southwest of Huayllay, around which are thermal waters and paleosinters (INGEMMET, 2016).

Geological studies carried out at a regional scale allow to establish a chronology of the phases of tectonic activity in the National Sanctuary of Huayllay:

  • In the Paleozoic, approximately 300 million years ago, a large part of the Central Region of Peru constituted a seabed. At the end of the Permian, in transition to the Triassic (Mesozoic), there was a marine regression leaving elements or marine remains that over time and helped by environmental factors became sedimentary rocks.
  • In the Mesozoic, approximately 100 million years ago, specifically in the Upper Cretaceous, in the so-called Peruvian Tectonic Phase, the folding of the limestones of the Pucara Group occurs which are emerging in the valleys formed by glacial erosion in the National Sanctuary of Huayllay.
  • At the end of the Late Cretaceous and at the beginning of the Cenozoic, approximately 65 million years ago (Paleogene), there is the series of Red Layers called Casapalca Formation formed of reddish sandstones and shales that show a lacustrine character in its upper part. presence of fossils, these sediments are affected by the Inca Tectonic Phase, which are emerging to the south west of the National Sanctuary of Huayllay.
  • In the middle of the Cenozoic, in the Neogene (Miocene) about 25 million years ago there is a third Tectonic Phase where there is an intermediate volcanism, with the deposition of andesites and basalts which are shown in the form of small dams that cut the limestone of the Sanctuary.
  • In the Pliocene, about 13 million years ago, a last Tectonic Phase with late volcanism begins, known as the Huayllay Formation, consisting of acidic volcanic (volcanic tuffs), ignimbrites and tuffs or volcanic ash from the rock forest, which are emerging in the whole area that constitutes the National Sanctuary of Huayllay.
  • The intermediate and late volcanism occurs with the so-called Phase Quechua, which is the main manifestation in the Pliocene especially giving rise to the "Stone Forest".
  • Finally, in the Quaternary, a million years ago, there was one of the last glaciations, known as the "Wisconsin Wurn Europe and North America". These are most likely the phenomena that sculpted the "Stone Forest". To this it is added that during Pleistocene Holocene (Recent), glacial retreat occurred accompanied by heavy rainfall, increasing the erosion process in the area.

These stink or tuffs were deposited in the form of a viscous mass, without stratification, which upon cooling gave rise to strong prismatic disjunctions, which in turn gave rise to a system of parallel fracture, hence the columnar shape of the rocks. These rocks reveal a complete lack of order: the minerals observed in these rocks are located without any order or crystallization, which indicates that the consolidation took place at the same time.

Currently, the rock formations present reflect the contribution of about 8 volcanic erosions at various times or stages as observed with the naked eye layers of overlapping rocks, being this erosive process that gave rise to the different positions and shapes that are observed in the rock forest of the National Sanctuary of Huayllay.

Characteristics of the biotic environment:

Given the particular climatic conditions, both plants and animals have developed special adaptation mechanisms to live and develop. Native vegetation thrives in a dry and warm with rains that occur during frigid environment, so plants that flower in the cold season observed. Likewise, another group of plants develops, in the season sheltered with rains, their phenological processes of flowering and fruiting, since they require heat for their reproductive processes. This kind of plants is the most abundant in the area and is very resistant to frost and lack of water, developing special mechanisms such as stay in dormancy, and is the largest contributor to forage for wild animals, as well as providing their seeds for feeding various birds.

As for fauna, different mammalian species have developed a capacity to adapt to the climatic conditions and the type of existing power, as herbivores (vizcachas and deer) and carnivores (fox and wildcat). Different species of birds also show their ways to adapt to the altitude and dense feathers frigid climate developing mostly gray to black in order to capture and maximize solar heat and retain body heat.


Flora: It is mainly represented by "pajonales" dominated by Poaceae (Gramineae), commonly known as ichu belonging to Stipa, Festuca, Poa, Calamagrostis and important for feeding herbivore species. Amid the tall grass grows a wide variety of plant species with healing properties.

In the rivers and lagoons there are also emerging and submerged aquatic species, with food values for fauna, and in the humid and wetland (bofedal) areas the "star grass" grows, from where the inhabitants obtain, as an ancestral custom, the peat or "champa" that they use as fuel in the furnace or artisan kitchen called "bicharra". The only arboreal species in the Sanctuary is queñua (Polylepis sp.) Which is the genus with the highest distribution of angiosperm trees in the world.

Fauna: The ichthyological fauna present in rivers and lagoons is represented by fish known as chalhua (Orestia sp.), catfish (Pygidium sp.) and trout as an exotic species. The amphibians are represented by several species of toads while the reptiles are only represented by a species of lizard of the genus Liolaemus.

Mammals are represented by the wild guinea pig (Cavia tschudii), deer or taruca (Odocoileus virginianus), vizcacha (Lagidium peruanum), skunks or anas (Conepatus chinga), Andean fox (Pseudalopex culpaeus), llama (Lama glama), alpaca (Lama pacus), guanaco (Lama guanicoe), vicuna (Vicugna vicugna), bobcat (Oncifelis colocolo) and several species of mice ( "ucush").

Birds are the group most species presents the Sanctuary, among which are the lique-lique or liklish (Vanellus resplendens), andean gull or gueula (Larus serranus), whistle or andean carpenter (Colaptes rupicola), the mountain partridge (Tinamotis pentlandi), the yanavico (Plegadis ridgwayi), the small plumbate (Phrygilus plebejus), the cordilleran churrete (Cinclodes fuscus), the gray dormilona (Muscisaxicola alpina), the puna duck (Anas puna) and the huallata or huachua (Chloephaga melanoptera) among other species.

Human presence:

The special geographical conditions of the area attracted a large population of primitive hunter-gatherer men who inhabited the caves and sheltered areas in the rock forest, whose presence is notorious for the numerous archaeological remains such as the cave paintings scattered throughout the area, which number more than 100 and are part of multicomponent archaeological complexes in large and small scale, realizing an old relationship between man and this unique ecosystem.

The rock art of Huayllay is multi-temporal, being able to observe three or four sustainable traditions with related themes (camelids), which are apparently combined to the territory dominated by the rocky outcrops. For example, "Cuchipinta" is located where the paintings are located on one of the outer walls of a rocky volcanic eaves and the site of Machaycuna, very close to the Japurín Lagoon, is located inside caves, some of which with evidence of human occupation.

It should be noted that, according to the testimonies of rock art in Huayllay, the process of domestication of the alpaca and the llama in the forest of stones and communities adjacent to Lake Chinchaycocha would have started 6000 years BC, but its incorporation as a pack animal It would go back to 4500 BC. There are also numerous pictographic representations of camelids such as the case of the Guanaco Pintasha (Cuchipinta) and selective hunting scenes practiced by the hunter-gatherers of the lithic period (9000 BC). Likewise, the Sanctuary keeps numerous testimonies of pre-Inca archaeological sites and vestiges of Inca and colonial constructions that account for the continuous use of the territory in such extreme conditions for life.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

The Huayllay National Sanctuary has an extension of 6815 hectares as a Protected Natural Area with its respective Buffering Area, in which all the features of the geological processes that illustrate episodes of the formation of the Andes are represented, and the present biotic aspects that characterize it and confer it a great scientific importance, constituting a more extensive, complete and therefore representative example of its type worldwide.

The Sanctuary comprises a gigantic group of rock formations located at an altitude of 4100 at 4600 m.a.s.l. in the central highlands of Peru, whose exceptional lithography is characterized by being mainly rock of a volcanic nature from the beginning of the Tertiary or Cenozoic Era (65 million years ago) superimposed on sedimentary limestone layers due to the fact that the Huayllay area was part of the bottom marine in the Upper Triassic (210 to 250 million years), as attested by the high concentration of ammonite and bivalve fossils. The geomorphology, characterized by its tectonic movements, orogeny and hauling of materials constantly eroded by water and wind action, consists of rocky areas formed by rocky outcrops, massifs, cliffs, shelters, eaves, caves and gently sloping plains that give origin to an extraordinary and extensive rock forest that illustrates the formative and evolutionary geological processes that took place in the area. In addition, it shows the interaction of man with nature in such extreme conditions, showing in this way a great scenic beauty.

Its geological and geographical characteristics originated a special high Andean or ecosystem of the puna region that is in a good state of conservation and that hosts a great variety of flora and fauna species adapted to the extreme conditions of altitude and climate, part of which is endemic. On the other hand, the Sanctuary keeps testimonies of the passage of man for 10,000 years, which is evident in the presence of cave paintings, pre-Inca archaeological sites and vestiges of Inca and colonial constructions.

The ecosystems that make up the rock forest of the Huayllay National Sanctuary are in an optimum state of conservation, with the population and local authorities being aware of the conservation and proper management of the site.

Criterion (vii): 
Special geomorphic features of the National Sanctuary of Huayllay, its location between 4100 and 4600 m.a.s.l. and the incidence of extreme climate at that altitude, have determined the formation of a high Andean ecosystem with a particular natural environment. Thus, in the forest of rocks are numerous water wells and wetlands, as well as multiple diffuse runoff from open water, rivers and lakes that form freshwater ecosystems, in conjunction with the conditions of altitude, solar radiation, shelter and soil types, they form singular microenvironments in which a specialized high-Andean flora has been created, adapted to the endogenous and exogenous natural circumstances of the area, which attracted numerous South American camelids, cervids, rodents and birds that in turn were the main alimentary sustenance of Paleolithic man. it settled 10,000 BC. These special conditions also allowed the development of a significant variety of endemic flora and fauna, among which 23 medicinal plants and 3 species of birds. The zone is also characterized by the cultivated origin of different plant species such as maca and wild potato shiri, likewise constitutes a zone of domestication of camelids (6000 years BC).

Criterion (viii): 
The great geological events that have affected Peru and the world have conditioned its relief, climate, biodiversity and human occupation. Huayllay is witness of great geological events in the evolution of the Andes, whose current geodiversity is the result of a remarkable and complex geological history, which evidences six geological episodes that span more than 250 million years, evidencing a great sea during the Paleozoic, Tectonic and Andean Folding in the Mesozoic, Red Layers in the Cenozoic, a great episode Explosive volcanic in the Pliocene and glaciation and fluvial erosion in the Quaternary, all of which represent the current relief.

These episodes have led to an exceptional geomorphology that characterizes the geodiversity of the Huayllay National Sanctuary and is related to its lithological, structural elements, erosion and deposit processes, weathering, rock dissolution, as well as gravitational processes. The forms of erosion in the volcanic rocks, originated on the initial landscape of a fractured ignimbrite plateau (and with columnar disjunction), exposed to physical weathering, glacial erosion, ice-thawing processes, gravitational processes on the slopes. The forms are complemented by the regional structural-tectonic character that constitute the generated surfaces of the sedimentary rock mass, folded and fractured, affected by an intense erosion probably from the Plio-Pleistocene, and in the evolution or uplift of the Andean mountain range. In this same lithological context, there are also relief features characteristic of calcareous rocks or karst landscapes in some sectors. As witnesses of the climatic changes in the area, the glacial fluvial development (lagoons and moraines), fluvial and alluvial current, expressed in the presence of confined and narrow valleys with gullies and small canyons, drainage, erosion and accumulation of deposits carried by ice and water (moraines and terraces). They also highlight elements slope or hillside with chaotic accumulations of boulders removed by gravity or mass movements.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

The National Sanctuary of Huayllay (SNH) is an area that due to its particular location at more than 4000 m.a.s.l., difficult access and very limited human activity, has been fully preserved, so it retains intact the fundamental natural features that illustrate the remarkable geological processes in the area, in addition to housing a large sample of the flora and fauna of height, especially adapted to the height and extreme climate zone. Forest ecosystems that compose rocks have an optimal state of conservation, being sensitized population in the conservation and proper management of the site.

In the same way, the official recognition of the Government as a Natural Protection Area established as Huayllay National Sanctuary by Supreme Decree No. 0750-74-AG dated August 7, 1974, guarantees a permanent policy of safeguarding its integrity as of recognition of their protection areas, being administered by the National Service of Protected Natural Areas by the Government (SERNANP), which is a technical-specialized institution under the Ministry of Environment of Peru. Document management features as the current Master Plan approved Resolution No. 192-2005-Jefatural INRENA, which specifies the objectives, zoning and action plans to maintain its integrity. Conservation of the Sanctuary is made from a holistic perspective, which involved the State and society through spaces as the Management Committee, made up of associations and public, private and NGO institutions, which has the task of ensuring good operation of the Sanctuary, track the implementation of the Master Plan and monitoring, evaluation and feedback for compliance with current regulations. Likewise, the local governments (at the provincial and district levels) and the Pasco Regional Government participate in the protection and management of the site.

Cultural components present in the sanctuary, but are not natural features, give the site additional cultural values as evidence of the oldest continuous interaction between man and this unique ecosystem from 10,000 years ago, which are protected under Peruvian law through Law No. 28296 General Law of Cultural Heritage of the Nation and the Constitution of Peru (Art. 21 °). These cultural components are duly registered and are part of the Historical and Cultural Zone of the Huayllay National Sanctuary, which is defined in 4 sectors that comprise the Inca Trail and Bridge, the pre-Hispanic archaeological sites of Rumichaca, Bombón Marka and Gaya Cave, as well as the rock paintings of Chaquicocha, Vicuña Pintasha, Cuchipinta, Machaycuna and Japurín, among others, and remains of the old colonial and republican mining mills such as Oquruyoc.

It should be noted that the Huayllay National Sanctuary has an established buffer zone corresponding to its adjacent areas, which enables the physical continuity of ecosystems, considering that the fauna of vertebrates such as birds and mammals complement or include their functions and subsistence needs in this area. In this sector, there are important wetlands for waterfowl, as well as habitat for fish species. In this area there are interesting natural landscapes such as the Huamangayan and León Pata Lagoons, historical cultural values such as the branches of the Inca trail near Rumichaca and the old Hacienda Diezmo, as well as the thermo-medicinal waters of La Calera and Yanaututo.

Comparison with other similar properties

The Stone Forest or Shilin is a remarkable group of limestone formations located in the autonomous county of Shilin Yi, in the province of Yunnan, People's Republic of China, approximately 86 km from Kunming, the provincial capital. The high rocks of limestone formations seem to emerge from the ground as if they were stalagmites and many look like petrified trees that together create the illusion of a forest made of stone, since 2007 two parts of the site, the stone forest of Naigu and the village of Suogeyi , have been inscribed on the Unesco World Heritage List as part of the Karst of southern China.

The Garden of the Gods is a public park located in Colorado Springs, in the state of Colorado. The geological formations of the park are ancient sedimentary layers of sandstone and limestone that were deposited horizontally and that were vertically inclined by the seismic forces that created the mountain range of the Rocky Mountains. The site was designated in 1971 as a natural landmark of the United States of America because the site shows the lithological character of the sedimentary rocks, as well as providing a habitat for the honey ant of North America and excellent observation opportunities for several species of birds.

The site called "Arc of Time of the River La Venta" (State of Chiapas, Mexico), is located in an area of geological formations of more than 87 thousand years old, with predominant karstic reliefs, due to the dissolution of stone limestone. Part of the La Venta River is bordered by high cliffs, forming a canyon with limestone walls that reach heights of more than 500 meters. This canyon has a length of 84 km and many natural caves have formed on its walls. The whole is a karstic system that, added to the tectonic factors, has created depressions that can be observed physically, such as abysses, fissures, sinkholes and caverns.

The Classical Karst is part of Dinaric Karst in Slovenia, it is a typical karst landscape located in temperate latitudes, the largest continuous area of karst in Europe and belongs to the largest karst areas in the world. The geological strata of the classical Karst include the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous limestones and dolomites, as well as those of Paleocene and Eocene limestone to a lesser extent. The geomorphology of the classical Karst strongly reflects the tectonic processes with an extremely diverse relief. The highest relief in the central area includes high karstic plateaus that fall into waterfalls towards plateaus or lower karstic poljes. The rivers that sprout from non-carbonated rocks disappear in contact with the karstic landscape and form blind valleys or cross the karstic through karstic valleys and gorges. Numerous large and complex systems caves were formed by streams that disappear and are connected to the surface by numerous forests.

The National Sanctuary of Huayllay highlights aspects totally different to the natural goods in comparison, since its same formation includes exceptional geological processes of volcanic origin superimposed on the bottom of a great sea of the Paleozoic with great amount of fossils and molded by physical weathering, glacial erosion, processes of ice-thaw, gravitational processes on the slopes, while all of which constitute karst landscapes caused by chemical weathering of certain sedimentary rocks, such as limestones, dolomites, sandstones, etc. composed of water-soluble minerals, with no volcanic influence determining their formation.

Likewise, geographical location and environmental characteristics differ completely from the aforementioned goods, since it is between 4100 and 4600 m.a.s.l. while others do not exceed 2700 m.a.s.l., a situation that determines the formation of high Andean ecosystems that are not present in other cases and that determine in a decisive way the presence, evolution and development of species of flora and fauna.

It should be noted that the property covers an area of over 6815 hectares, forming a vast forest of rocks of great landscape beauty, with the presence of ecosystems in good condition harboring endemic flora and fauna as well as the presence of cultural events with more than 10,000 years old.