Huaraz has been informally dubbed Peru’s hiking capital, and in a country famous for the Inca Trail, that’s quite the compliment! Of course, like Cusco, Huaraz is just the regional base for all the amazing hiking that take’s place in the nearby mountain range – the Cordillera Blanca.
The Cordillera Blanca (quite aptly Spanish for “White Mountain Range”) are part of the wider Andes mountain range and are made up of several imposing snow-capped peaks of over 6,000m high. They are located in the Ancash region of Peru and the famous Huascaran National Park covers nearly the entire mountain range.
Huaraz itself isn’t the prettiest town you will visit on your trip to Peru. Located at around 3,000m, walking around the town itself is a struggle, and not just because of all the ugly concrete around the streets. But you definitely don’t come to visit Huaraz for the city itself, it’s for unique location close to the Cordillera Blanca (so close that on a clear day you can see the imposing peaks from almost anywhere in the city). Read our Huaraz travel guide below for more information on Peru’s Hiking Capital.
Huaraz Travel Guide | How to arrive in Huaraz
Huaraz is most commonly visited by travelers either arriving north from Trujillo, or south from Lima.
We arrived from Trujillo and got the bus company Linea. The journey took 9 hours and we stopped along the way for some food (not included). You go from sea level to over 3,000m so the roads are pretty windy and scenic but our bus had its windows covered by a promotional poster so we couldn’t see out at all! You have the option to take a bus at night or during the day, we opted for the day bus as we had enough time to play around with and we can’t sleep on buses!
Lima to Huaraz bus is alot more frequent and has alot more companies than the Trujillo route. It is best served, in our opinion by Cruz del Sur and it takes 8 hours.
As is the norm with buses where you are going from sea level to altitude – take plenty of water with you and make sure to stay hydrated!
Huaraz Travel Guide | Things to do in Huaraz
Huaraz has a massive amount of things to do and see, so much more than what we expected when we arrived. The list of things we wanted to do grew and grew everyday, so much that we would love to return to do some of the things we didn’t have time to do! By the time we reached Huaraz we had been traveling for 9 months and so we were conscious that we needed to travel a little bit faster. That being said we still spent 10 eventful days in Huaraz and so we have listed the best things we did below (and others that are worth doing; if you have more time).
Santa Cruz Trek
The best multi-day trek we have ever done. Located deep within the Cordillera Blanca this 4 day/3 night trek will take you through some of the most beautiful scenery you could possibly imagine. Snow-capped mountains, turquoise lakes and barren dry lands are all visited during the trek. We wrote a comprehensive guide here, so check it out!
Honestly, it wasn’t on our list before we visited Huaraz. Now it is the one thing we tell people to do when visiting the region. We were discussing some day trips with a travel agency in town and saw pictures of this beautiful lake and booked to go there for the next day. A crazy colored lake surrounded by snow capped mountains (including the “Paramount” mountain) – incredible. We wrote a more detailed blog on Laguna Paron here!
Laguna 69 WAS on the list before visiting Huaraz, and it’s on everyone else’s list too. It’s busy, but it’s understandable, its amazingly beautiful! Turquoise blue lake, snow capped mountains (again) and even glaciers. This trek has it all, and the hike itself is stunning – up there with the most picturesque 1 day hike’s we have done. A full day trip guide is available here, enjoy!
Willcacocha lake is cheap and easy day trip that you can do by yourself from Huaraz. It is a sacred lake in the Huaraz countryside that has a stunning background of the Cordillera Blanca. You pass through traditional Peruvian neighborhoods and get to see what life on this part of the world is really like. This is also a really good hike to get acclimatized to the altitude – Aoife still says it was her hardest hike in the region.
Follow the steps below to visit Wilcacocha Lake:
Getting the collectivo to Wilcacocha Lake
You need to go to downtown Huaraz to the intersection of Raymondi and Hualcan streets (not far from the central market). Here you have to look out for collectivos 10 or E (its clearly marked in the window). Be sure to tell the drivier ‘Laguna Wilcacocha’ and squeeze in. Pay the helper your 1 sole fee each (0.27 cent) and the trip should take no more than 20 minutes. Dont worry if you miss a collectivo – they are really frequent!
The hike to Wilcacocha Lake
You will get dropped off near a bridge, cross the road and the then go to the right to start the trail. It’s pretty easy to follow the route. We always use Maps.me in situations like this and very rarely do we get lost.
The hike starts pretty steep, and you gain about 550m in total- taking you to 3,658m at the lake. You will pass through little villages and farmlands – on the way down we even came across some enterprising little kids who were selling water – too cute!
The lake itself is nowhere near the beauty of Laguna Paron or Laguna 69 but the views of the Cordillera Blanca are amazing.
Getting back to Huaraz
Follow the trail back down to where you started by the bridge and wait for a collectivo to come by. Chances are that you wont be the only person waiting but if you are just put your hand out and confirm that it is going to Huaraz. Again the price is 1 sole (0.27 cent). Imagine – a great acclimatizing hike with amazing views for less than 60 cent!
Huaraz is the home of beautiful lakes and Laguna Churup is no exception. Sitting at 4,450m it is also a fantastic hike to get you used to the altitude before starting on more demanding treks like the Santa Cruz trek.
Sounds perfect for us didn’t it? Except we didn’t do it! The reason wasn’t because we didn’t try. Sometimes things just don’t go to plan on a backpacking trip. Maybe it’s for the best, and maybe it is just the universe telling you that it wasn’t meant to be. Laguna Churup was one of those times for us.
We wanted to do it on our own and so we did what everyone else does – got the colectivo to Pitec at the corner of Av. Agustin Gamarra. We were there at 7am and hopped on. The only problem was that we were the only people there. And nobody else arrived for the next hour. So the driver told us it wasn’t possible to go. Disaster! Or was it? Because instead we did the hike to Wilcacocha Lake and really enjoyed it. Our advice? Go before 7am if you want to do it on your own. Or book a tour with an agency if you REALLY want to do it. We were there during high season and this still happened – just bad luck I guess!
A glacier located at 5000m and one of the day trips we wanted to do, but decided to cut it as we had planned to see more in Patagonia later in the trip. It is best visited as part of an organised tour with prices at around 40 soles (not including entrance fee to Huascaran National Park). It is a pretty glacier that has reduced its size by almost half in around 20 years – so see it before its gone!
This is an intense multi day trekking experience. Available as a 6,8 and 10 days this trek will take you through the Cordillera Huayhuash where you get to see towering snow peaks and beautiful lakes. Costs vary but you are looking at between 1000-2000 soles per person (€265 – €530), depending on the amount of people.
Huaraz Market/Souvenir Shopping
Depending on what direction you are coming from, Huaraz may just be your first glimpse of the famous Peruvian alpaca jumpers. It is possible to get them on nearly every street you come across here – which is handy for when you need to stock up before your hikes. We managed to pick up gloves and hats for 5 soles (€1.33) each off an old woman outside the central market.
Huaraz Travel Guide | Where to stay in Huaraz
Where to stay in Huaraz is kind of a touchy point when it comes to us. You see, in our 10 days in Huaraz (of which 3 were spent on the Santa Cruz trek) we had experience with 5 different hostels!
First we booked an AirBnB type house through Booking.com. It was just for 1 night so we didn’t think much about the lack of ratings. The problem was that nobody was there to check us in. Thankfully another guest let us in and gave us the wifi password so we could find alternative accommodation.
We stayed that night at Walkers House which was difficult to find due to a lack of a sign. We had a 4 bed dorm room to ourselves and slept well although it was far from luxury.
Next we checked into Casa Blanca Backpackers where we stayed for 3 nights. The local family who ran the place were really friendly and we even booked our Laguna 69 day trip with them as a thank you. Except when we came back from the day trip (tired and wanting to go to bed) we were told that the hostel had closed down and they moved us to their sister hotel Hospedaje Casa Blanca.
After quickly packing our stuff and moving to the new hotel we went straight to sleep. The noise was unbearable and people even tried to get into our room while we were sleeping. So we moved – again.
We ended up in Alpes Huaraz on the nights before and after the Santa Cruz Trek. It was abit more expensive than the other places we stayed in Huaraz but having been through all the problems before we wanted to spend abit more. The hostel was nice but the WiFi was very bad and the breakfast cost extra.
Needless to say we can’t really recommend the hostels we stayed in, but we have heard good things about Akilpo Hostel.
Huaraz Travel Guide | Our top tips
- The dry season in Huaraz is from May – October. It is recommended to visit during this time for less rain and a better chance of clear skies. I would not like to do the Santa Cruz trek in the rain!
- Go souvenir shopping around the Central Market – it’s cheaper than the stalls by Plaza de Armas.
- Huaraz has some gringo centric places to eat – Cafe California and Cafe Andino. We looked at the prices of Cafe California and walked away – not for the budget traveler. Cafe Andino is similiar but due to us being hungry we went in anyway. It wasn’t worth it! We did have a lovely chifa meal in Chifa Dinastia- probably the best of our time in Peru.
- The supermarket – Novaplaza is perfect for stocking up on items before treks and day trips. I cant recommend the quinoa chocolate cookies enough – they are amazing! The coca sweets are top notch too.
- If you need a tour guide then we can recommend Caleb Expeditions. A really good and friendly travel service with a decent budget price.
What are you looking forward to most about visiting Huaraz? Let us know in the comments below!