Huaraz Travel Guide: the trekking paradise in Peru
Huaraz is a spectacle of snowy landscapes, glaciers, lagoons and high moorlands; the perfect territory for lovers of trekking and mountaineering. Peru by Bus brings you a guide reviewing three of the best destinations nearby Huaraz.
Huaraz Travel Guide
Huaraz is a city well known amongst hardcore travellers. The Cordillera Blanca, and its turquoise lagoons, along with great snow-capped mountains are among the most renowned attractions. This incredible city at the center of Peru bestows to travelers one of the great wonders of Peruvian nature.
Huaraz, at an average altitude of 3000 meters above sea level, is located in the middle of the Callejón de Huaylas. This beautiful valley separates the spectacular Cordillera Blanca, with 35 permanently snow-capped peaks that exceed 6000 meters; and the Cordillera Negra, as its name suggests, without any snow-capped peaks. These include Huascarán, the highest mountain in Peru and the second in America, with 6768 meters above sea level; and the Alpamayo, which at 5947 meters is considered the most beautiful snow peak in the world due to its almost perfect pyramid shape.
What is the best time to travel to Huaraz?
Tourists come to Huaraz mostly to walk and contemplate nature. Thus, the best time to travel is from May to September (the dry season), when there is more guarantee of finding sunny and clear days.
Another thing to keep in mind is that most of the territory covered by the Cordillera Blanca (a total of 340 000 hectares) is a protected natural area under the Huascarán National Park, declared a World Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO. To enter, you have to pay an access fee: 11 soles for a day, 30 soles for 2 to 3 days and 75 soles for 4 to 30 days.
In addition to the great trekking of several days, these are the three classic daily excursions that you can perform from Huaraz:
1. Llanganuco lagoons
This is one of the most popular tours in the national park. You must ascend through a dirt track that passes by the vicinity of Yungay (a town buried by an avalanche of mud and stones in the 1970 earthquake) to a spectacular glacial valley, with the massif of Huascarán on one side and the Huandoy, on the other. The first stop is the Chinancocha lagoon (which means “female lagoon”, in Quechua), 1450 meters long and 28 meters deep.
The striking turquoise color of its waters, together with the green of the forests, the white of distant glaciers, the black of the polished rock that rises like cathedrals to the peaks of Huascarán and Huandoy plus the singular red color of the queñuales trunks compose an overwhelming scene. Further up is the second lagoon, Orconcocha (or “male lagoon”), smaller but also a very captivating sight.
2. Chavín de Huantar
After three hours by car from Huaraz you can visit one of the most important and famous pre-Inca ruins of Peru. Chavín culture reached a high degree of perfection in the carving of stone. To get there you have to cross the Kahuish pass, the second highest mountain tunnel in the world, at 4516 m.a.s.l.
Chavín de Huantar was one of the main pilgrimage centers of the Andes for centuries. The ruins are among the most spectacular in Peru and have a high historical value. The main plaza of the complex and a large part of the Templo Mayor and other minor buildings have been excavated. Inside, in a narrow underground gallery, the sculpture of the Lanzón is located, which is assumed to be a supreme deity of Chavín that has remain intact for 3000 years.
3. Pastoruri Glacier
The third excursion from Huaraz is to this mountain located at 5240 m.a.s.l. Unfortunately, today the glacier has retreated several kilometers and is in the process of melting. Still, the scenery is overwhelming and it is definitely worth the hike. Along the way, you can see frozen lagoons, cave paintings and small forests of Puya Raimondi, a spectacular Andean plant. Family of bromeliads, it only grows in certain parts of Peru and Bolivia above 4000 meters. The puya flowers only once in its life, throwing a gigantic spine up to 15 meters high, loaded with more than 6000 flowers.
- If you plan to make a trekking tour in the Cordillera Blanca, it is very important to have a good physical condition.
- Take your precautions and buy pills against altitude sickness. Drink plenty of fluids and always carry a bottle of coca tea and water.
- You will need to hire the services of a tourism agency. Specialists will guide you through all the attractions and help you to carry out the activities without any problems.