Huaraz | How to visit the outdoor adventure capital of Peru

Often called the gateway to the Cordellia Blanca or the White Mountains in English, Huaraz is the trekking capital of Peru. You will find lots of travel blogs that try and tell you which are the best hikes and what the best things to do and see are.  Others will list the best tours or the best Lagunas to visit.  We are not going to do that,  we were there for two weeks and even with that amount of time it is impossible to do more than scratch the surface of this area. There are hundreds of Lagunas to explore and thousands of ways to reach them.

What we will tell you is that we loved our time in Huaraz, in fact we didn’t want to leave and if we hadn’t booked our trek in Cusco we would have probably stayed a lot longer.  So you may ask what is this blog going to be about?  In this post we will try and give you our experience,  what we found good and also the bad and how we built up to doing the four day Santa Cruz trek.

Huaraz is a crazy, hectic and at times confusing city.  It’s not as you would expect it’s quite modern as most of the city was destroyed in the 1970 earthquake. In fact it seems like it’s still being rebuilt judging by it’s unfinished Cathedral and the amount of building work being done everywhere you look.  Even though it’s an ugly sprawling mess of humanity we fell in love with the place and honestly did not want to leave.

The views are amazing, the people are warm and friendly and the opportunity to get out and about into the mountains and explore the upper levels of the Andean range are unparalleled anywhere in Peru or perhaps even South America.  Where else in the world can you look down from nearly five thousand metres without specialist equipment.  Just good boots and warm clothes and your set for amazing adventures.

Huaraz
Huaraz

How to get to Huaraz the Trekking capital of Peru

Huaraz sits in the Northern Highlands of Peru in the Callejón de Huaylas valley.  At the time of writing the city does not have a scheduled air service so the only way to get there is by ground transport. There are regular buses from all the major cities in peru including Lima, and Trujillo which is where we arrived from.
 
Peru has quite a complicated network of private bus companies all with their own separate terminals which makes it quite difficult to see the complete picture.  The best way is to use and app such as Rome2rio to get an overview of the best route and then rock up to the individual bus terminal to buy your ticket.  We try to get the ticket at least the day before, especially for the longer journeys as you then have a better chance of getting a good seat.
 
For the journey to Huaraz from Trujillo we used Transportes Linea which seemed the best choice at the time.  The office and terminal is on the outskirts of town so it’s best to get a taxi there.  We used the overnight service which was quite comfortable.  It was a double decker bus but all the seats were the same so the only advantage to the lower deck is you feel the movement of the bus less when going over rough roads.  We got the two front seats upstairs which meant that there was no seats in front so you get more legroom for the same price.
 
We have not had any problems so far on the buses in South America but we always advise to keep you valuables as close as possible, don’t use the overhead storage racks and don’t push your bag under the seat.  The safest although not very comfortable way is to always have hold of your belongings.  This of course is not always practical especially if your sleeping, if your lucky enough to get the front seats you can store you carry on bag in the corner beyond reach.

Where did we stay in Huaraz? 

Huaraz has many options when it comes to accommodation all across the city and of varying cost and quality.  We are travelling on a budget so always try and look for the best places we can find at the lowest cost.  This can be a little hit and miss at times and we don’t always get it right.

Having said that we found two very different accommodations in Huaraz both with advantages and disadvantages.  We spent the first four nights in Carolina Lodgings a hostal down by the river on the edge of the city.  The owners here had some fantastic information about the hiking and treks especially the lower cost options which was really good for budget travellers looking to make the most of their money.

The second place we stayed was slightly more expensive and as a result was a little more comfortable but as a result of this they seemed to cater to the more midrange type of trekkers and the advice given reflected this in the cost of the tours they suggested.  It was good however when planning to see both sides of the coin so to speak. Akilpo Home Hostal is run by three very friendly brothers who also have a great deal of experience when it comes to tours and treks.

Bus Santa Cruz Trek
Bus Santa Cruz Trek

What we did in Huaraz and how we did it

Acclimatisation

You’re almost certainly reading this because you want to visit Huaraz to do one or more of the amazing multi day trekking routes into the high mountains of the Cordellia Blanca. The first and probably the most important thing to consider is the altitude, it’s very unwise to go straight out on a long trek without having first given yourself time to get used to the thin air.

If you have come from sea level you should give yourself time, spend your first day in the city exploring the local shops restaurants and get used to the place, gather advice from your hostal and make your plans. Then when your ready do some of the easier lower day hikes to get into the swing of things.  There are many choices and if you are short of time it’s tempting to go straight in and straight up which can lead to problems.

We wanted to do some of the less visited hikes if possible but until we got there we didn’t know which these were.  Unless you’ve got a very long visit you’re not going to be able to do everything.  Here’s what we did, you’ll notice apart from the Santa Cruz trek we stayed away from the multi group arranged tours, which worked well for us.

One day hikes

We did three one day hikes none of which involved a tour company.  Two were done by public transport at very little cost and one was done via an arranged private taxi which was a little more expensive but was the only option for that particular hike.  We wanted if possible to be able to hike at our own speed not be pushed along.  We also wanted to be able to look up and enjoy the surroundings not be constantly looking at our feet.

Hike to Laguna Wilcacocha – Easy to moderate 
Starting altitude – 3159m, Height gained 592m in approximately 7km

This is an out and back hike that’s in the Cordellia Negra but gives amazing views over the surrounding countryside including the spectacular white snow covered mountians of the Cordellia Blanca. It’s a great first hike which can be done by public transport.  You can read our full blog post by using the following link. The Laguna Wilcacocha hike will get you on the road to hiking the high routes in the area.

Laguna Wilcacocha
Laguna Wilcacocha
Hike to Laguna Churup – Moderate with optional scramble
Starting altitude – 3900m, Height gained 693m in approximately 6km

This again is an out and back hike with options. There is a quite interesting scramble on the upper stretch that can be bypassed if you don’t fancy getting your hands dirty.  It definitely gets your heart going and gets you above the 4500m mark.  Again it’s a great hike that is done at only the cost of public transport plus the park fees.  How to hike Laguna Churup is covered in greater detail on this complete post.

Laguna Churup
Laguna Churup
Hike to Laguna Llaca – Easy
Starting altitude 4215m, Height gained 343m in approximately 6km

This is a beautiful day hike which we had almost to ourselves.  It is a little more expensive than the other two as it involves a private car.  We found it to be worth every penny as it was so peaceful with a beautiful surprise at the end.  I think out of all the things we did in Huaraz this was my favourite.  You can find out why by reading our full Laguna Llaca hike blog post.

Laguna Llaca
Laguna Llaca

Multi day trekking

There are a good number of multi day treks you can do from Huaraz with numerous options for each.  Some are long and extremely difficult others are easier and more popular.  I think we choose to do the most popular option in an arranged group tour which isn’t like us generally but it worked out ok.
The Santa Crus Trek – Moderate
Approximately 50km over four days, three nights.  Starting altitude – 3500m, maximum altitude – 4750

We loved every minute of this hike although it wasn’t always as we imagined.  There are things you need to do that most people wouldn’t enjoy but when you’re out in the wilds there’s not much in the way of options for doing the the things you take for granted in everyday life.  In our full post we will give you the full nitty gritty of how this trekking tour works, what to expect, what to pack and what you won’t need and how it really works.  You may be surprised but if you know in advance what to expect, in our experience,  you will enjoy this wonderful trek much more.

Santa Cruz Trek
Santa Cruz Trek

Archeological sites around Huaraz

We love a good ruin and like to explore how people lived long ago, their customs and relationship with the environment has always fascinated us.  Unfortunately the main archeological attraction Chavin de hunter was closed when we were in the city but there are a couple of smaller sites open to view which a still quite interesting if not quite as impressive.

Waullac

This series of funeral buildings or Chulpas is located within the city. The buildings themselves are in quite good condition but the site itself is not well looked after.  It’s quite difficult to get in to, there are big gates which were locked when we got there  we had to walk round to the back of the site and we were directed to hop over a wall by the locals.  To get back out we had to pass through an old farmers field who charged us three soles for the privilege.  Unless your very keen to visit I’d leave this one and concentrate on the next site below which contains similar examples.

Waullac
Waullac
Wilcahuaín and Ichik Wilcahuain
These two sites are within a few hundred metres of each other.  They contain fine well preserved funerary buildings or chulpas and are some of the finest examples of the pre Incan culture known as the Wari.  They are just outside the village of Paria about 7km from Huaraz and can be reached by collectivo. The office for the collectivo is at Jr.13 De Diciembre 797, on the corner.
Regional Museum of Ancash

Located across from the main plaza in the centre of the city, this small but interesting Museum is well worth an hour or two.  It has some great items from around the local area, some stone heads and other interesting items.

Ichik Wilcahuain
Ichik Wilcahuain

Our view

We really enjoyed Huaraz, the city is abuzz with activity and although not a quaint mountain village it does have some character.  The Hiking and trekking from the city is world class and in our opinion Huaraz is an unmissable stop on any South American adventure.

We would recommend, if you have the time to spend at least ten days here, longer if you can.  There is just so much to see and do from the city.  Don’t forget to view our detailed posts on the hikes and Treks we did to get an insight into how to get the most from your stay.

Booking resources for your visit to Huaraz

Flights

You can compare cheap flights on the Expedia platform or here on the Aviasales website.  Both will give you a good idea of how much its going to cost you to get to your chosen destination.

Accommodation

We have always tended to use Booking.com having said that if your on a tight budget another good site to try as a comparison is Hostelworld, If your looking to compare different sites you can do that on Hotellook, we tend to look on here first to make sure we are getting the best deal.

Tours & Tickets

You can book your visits as you go at the entrance to your chosen attraction or site.  Or you could use the following links to book in advance or just to find out what your choices are in the area. GetYourGuide and Tiqets are our go to choices you could try Viator to see how they compare.

For a full list check out our resources page. Don’t forget always shop around to find the best deal for you. What works for us should be good for you but it’s always reassuring to check.

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