Huaráz is the capital of the Ancash region that is around 7 hours from Lima by bus (perfect stop between Lima and Trujillo) It’s located in valley of Callejón de Huaylas in between the highest mountain ranges of Peru: Cordillera Negra and Cordillera Blanca. Huaráz is perfect place for trekking and day trips to near villages in the valley. If you don’t have an idea what to expect from Huaráz and where to go, keep reading!
What to experience in Huaráz city:
Places to See:
- Cute Main Square and Souvenir Market next to the church that is right now under reconstruction
- Market in Raymondi where you can find all kinds of things from food to clothes
- José Olaya Street is the only street that survived the earthquake in 1970, you will find old traditional houses unfortunately mixed with not as nice, new “peruvian style houses” without facade
- View points: there are many places with awesome view of the city. You will find Mirador de Retaqueña in many guides, but this view point is not recommended due to a lot of recent robberies. Instead you can either walk to up to Los Olivos or take combi to direction of Urpay from Raymondi Street and tell the driver to get off on mirador Mitagro which is around 20 minutes of walking from the road on the path,the view is amazing, you will see the whole city with Cordilleras Blancas in the background. To get back, you can actually walk all the way down to the city, which takes around 20 minutes.
- Hot Springs in Monterrey: Enjoy natural hot water pools or massages only 7 km from Huaráz, Open daily 7am-4pm, you can either get combi from Raymondi street or a taxi.
Places to eat:
- Breakfast: we enjoyed typical Peruvian breakfast just around the corner from our hostal (the corner of Jose de la Mar and Jose de San Martin), the place is called: “Fruti Frutita”, they have menu for 4,50 soles featuring 2 sandwiches, natural smoothie and coffee or tea, but you can also find many more awesome cheap breakfast stuff (pancakes, omelettes, tamales…)
- Traditional street food: try some of the healthy snacks, such as: chocho (andian beans served with lime juice, tomato, onion and salt), ceviche (fresh fish cooked in lime juice) or sweet kiwicha balls (energetic kiwicha seeds mixed with honey and sometimes other healthy ingredients), some of those that I wasn’t dare to try are chancho-chicharón (sliced pork grilled directly on the street served with mote– type of a corn seed)
- The best local restaurants with traditional food are in José Olaya street (go there during the lunchtime to try cuy (guinea pig) or pachamanca (traditional food featuring potatoes, sweet potatoes, three types of meat, tamal, corn, beans and all of that is wrapped in leaves and cooked under the ground with the heat from hot stones, yummy!)
- International style restaurants: “Casa Andina” (great to enjoy different flavours of local beer Sierra Andina with some snacks or get a cup of coffee or tea with a cake in a very comfy and warm atmosphere, they also serve traditional Peruvian dishes that are a bit overpriced in my point of view. If you are feeling for some Mexican or Thai food you should go to “Chili Heaven”)
As I am big fan of nature and mountains hiking was the main reason why I came to Huaráz. We tried several hikes around. There is the list that can help you decide about what to see:
Wilcacocha lake – 3786m (half day acclimatisation hike)
- Wilcacocha lake is doable on your own, it’s easily accessible by local transportation and well-marked
- All you need are 2 soles for combi (1 sol to get there and 1 sol to get back), you have to take a combi from Raymondi street to Puente Santa Cruz , from this point you will find a marked rustical path to the top of the hill. On the way to the top you will go through rural villages and farms. It’s a great way to have a look into the life of farmers. It takes around two hours up and around 1 hour down. The path is pretty steep so the challenge for sure will be breathing in this altitude. However, it’s a great practice for bigger hikes. Lake Wilcacocha is now kind of dry because recently there wasn’t enough rain, but the views from the top are worth it. You will find a nice green hill with a view of Cordillera Blanca and almost no tourists (we met 3).
Laguna 69 – 4600m (all day medium-difficult hike, 12 hrs with transportation)
- To save time, do the trek with an agency. The cost varies from 40 to 60 soles. Going by yourself can be tricky cause there are only a few combis from Yungay to National Park checkpoint where you start your hike.
- The schedule with agency: 5:30 am – pick up from your hotel in Huaraz, it´s around 3 hours by bus to get to starting point, you will have a small break for breakfast in a local outdoor restaurant, the hike actually takes around 3 hours to get to the top and 2 hours to get back, depending on your pace and breaks. The hike itself is not only about getting to Lake 69 but you will enjoy every second of the hike from the beginning until the end. From the start you will see amazing lakes (starting with light blue and Turquoise Llanganucos lakes – 3850m) later on you will walk across the green valley with a stream and cows enjoying the grass growing all around the valley, going up you will get to see waterfalls and another smaller lake so called “laguna negra”. At this point you will have the most difficult part ahead. The biggest challenge is the high altitude (Lake 69 is in 4600m). However, the reward when you get to see the lake is amazing! The view of the light blue lake surrounded by snowcapped mountains and waterfalls will definitely leave you breathtaken. The way back takes around 2 hours. Be careful cause the weather changes pretty quickly so don’t forget to bring more layers, raincoat, hat. If you go with the tour you will have to wait for the rest of the group, but the expected time of arrival is between 6-7pm.
Laguna Churup – 4450m (all day medium-difficult hike)
- It’s doable on your own as Lake is close to Huaraz. Take a combi from Huaraz (on the corner of Las Americas and Gamara), you have two options: either you take combi to Llupa and start hike there, it’s about 1 hour to Pitec and then 2 more hours to the top. Or you can take combi to Pitec so your hike will be shorter. The trails is well marked.
Santa Cruz Trek
- 4-5 day trek in Cordillera Blanca where you will be able to see one of the most beautiful mountains of the world: Alpamayo
- The prices vary a lot, but usually from 500 soles and it includes transportation, guide, food, tent and sleeping bag
Half-Day and Day trips from Huaráz with an agency:
(price: 35-60 soles) – “global warming tour” where you will be able to see the south part of Callejón de Huaylas valley and see the glacier that probably won’t be here for the future generation as the global rise of temperature cause that approximately 25 meters of glacier melts every year
(price: 35-55 soles) – Chavin is pre-incas archeological site, during the tour you will also see surrounding villages and Lake Querococha. If you wanna experience something different there are also mystical tours with ayahuasco that
Callejón de Huaylas and Llanganuco Lakes
(price: 35-65 soles)– bus tour where you will be able to most of the cities to the north from Huaráz and 2 beautiful lakes with light blue and turquoise water
Recommendations and Useful info:
iPeru: Go to iPeru office where you will be given a useful information material with maps and places to visit, if you want a detail map, they have them on purchase in Last minute souvenir shop on the first floor of Casa Andina
Hiking equipment: You can rent any hiking equipment for cheap prices. Sleeping bag is 4$/day, hiking shoes or any other hiking clothes are for 5soles/day.
Fees: The fee to enter National Park of Huascarán is 10 soles/day, in case you do more day trek, you need to get adventure pass which is valid for 21 days and it costs 65 soles
Overcoming high altitude sickness: The best way to overcome altitude sickness is to acclimatise before the hike, drink a lot of liquids, mate de coca, cover your hat from the sun. Some people use altitude pills from Pharmacy once they get to Huaráz or if they feel dizzy (around 1,20 sol per one pill). If you feel bad while hiking it is also great to chew some fresh coca leaves.
When to go? We went to Huaráz during off-season (between December and April) which is supposed to be summer and rainy season. However, we were lucky, we had blue sky everyday. The thing is that you have to start the hike early in the morning to avoid afternoon showers.
Which agency to use? There are many agencies all around the city so you can check out the prices. Nevertheless, avoid street vendors without actual office. I can highly recommend “Esperanza travel”, with English speaking guides, new buses and friendly prices. We have a great experience with them J http://www.esperanzatravelperu.com/