Updated March 16th, 2020.
The second highest mountain range in the world, the impressive Cordillera Blanca, sets the backdrop for this city of dizzying heights and incomparable vistas. You feel small the instant you arrive, small in the sense that you realize the true power and might of the world around you.
The town of Huaraz itself is less than charming, but pockets of warmth and comfort can be found tucked amongst the tangle of concrete streets. Check out Andino Café and California Café for cozy nooks perfect for warming your toes while sipping a hot chai tea and swapping your book for a fresh read.
Outside of town, however, where the mountains lie is where you’ll find the true appeal of this destination. Snow capped mountains plummet down into green valleys which shelter turquoise glacial lakes and cow grazed pastures. Close enough to town to tackle in a day hike, yet expansive enough to wander through for months on end if you prefer. No matter how long you plan to hike this is the kind of destination that is sure to leave you with a renewed appreciation for Mother Nature and a hell of a lot stronger calf muscles.
Places to Stay:
- Churup Guesthouse: This cozy spot located just five minutes outside of town is an absolute gem and one of our picks for best hostels in South America!
- Caroline Lodging: This quaint backpacker guesthouse is a great value. A homey environment, free breakfast, and a good centralized location.
Things to Do:
- Santa Cruz Trek: This four day/three night trek is the most popular on offer for backpackers. Incredible vistas of glacial lakes, snow capped peeks, and bizarre mountain top deserts will make you want to keep climbing, though the road is tough, to reach the top!
Incredible views from the Santa Cruz trek!
- Laguna 69: This is the king of one day treks, three hours of trekking brings you to a snowy peak where a milky turquoise lake lies. Expect a section of steep switch backs and approximately an hour of moderate climbing conditions, which will bring you up to 4,400 meters. At the base of the hike lies the two spectacular Llanganuco glacial lakes as well, for those not wanting to brave the climb these two gems are an easy photo opportunity!
- Churup: This is a steep one but the rewards are well worth the scramble. A clear lagoon sits at the base of a snowy mountain 4600 feet up. For this trek you can either get a car to the town of Llupa where you will walk first to Pitec and then begin the climb, or you can head straight to the town of Pitec in a colectivo.
The spectacular Laguna Churup
- Willcacocha: Located in the Cordillera Negra this easier hike is great for acclimatizing before longer treks. Go early in the morning, catching a colectivo from the main market, to see incredible views of the Cordillera Blanca across from a beautifully reflective lagoon.
Wilkacocha laguna provides a stunning backdrop for views of the Cordillera Blanca.
- The Rock Forest (Hatan Machay): This trek can be turned into a one day or multi day trek depending on your preference. Huge rocks complete with indigenous rock carvings and shallow caves are scattered over the vast area perfect for exploring.
- Plus Many Many More: Above are some of the better known hikes in Huaraz but serious climbers could easily be occupied for weeks. Make sure to ask around for more options, or simply start walking and see what you find!
Other Ways to Fill you Days:
- Hot Springs: Located in the town of HGJDL about seven kilometers outside of town. Don’t let the brownish color turn you off from taking a dip in the soothing waters.
- Ice Climbing: While experts can take to the mountain peeks, newbies can try out the sport on a day long expedition in some of the lower mountains around the city.
- Mountain Climbing: For proper climbers Huaraz is a treasure trove of difficult peaks waiting to be tackled. As these are the second highest peeks in the world don’t doubt their power. Only climb if you are experienced or book with a reputable company (for some of the smaller summits).
- Rock Climbing: Huaraz, if you haven’t realized is blessed with mountains. So of course you can test your skills scampering up some of their rocky sides.
Getting There and Away:
- From the North: Direct buses go from Chiclayo and Trujillo directly to Huaraz, the journey is only done at night and will take between eight and ten hours. Alternatively you can bus down the coast during the day to Chimbote, from here buses leave every half hour to Huaraz and takes five hours.
- From the South: Once in Lima you can easily hop on a direct bus to Huaraz, day or night. The journey will take around eight hours.
- Trujillo: This Northern city couldn’t be more different that Huaraz, head here to warm your bones in the colonial gem of the desert.
- Lima: The coastal capital of Peru is the stuff of foodies dreams. Besides eating make sure to save time to take in the nightlife, cultural sights, and nighttime water show.
By Tyler Protano-Goodwin