Huaraz: Everything You Need For an Incredible Adventure
Are you planning a trip to Peru, and you’re tired of hearing the same things again and again. Yes, Machu Picchu, sure, the Rainbow Mountain. Both are incredible experiences, but for those who are looking to get off the beaten track and to see the most incredible mountainous landscapes of their lives, Huaraz is just the place for you.
One of the major cities in the highlands of Peru, Huaraz is the perfect place for those on the hunt for adventure. It is relatively close to Lima, just a 7 hour bus journey into the Northern Highlands, and is right at the feet of the Cordillera Blanca. It is possible to get a night bus or travel through the day. You can also fly if you prefer.
Huaraz is the second largest city in all of the Peruvian Andes (with 120,000 citizens) and is full to the brim with history and stories, as well as being well known amongst the locals for its archaeological monuments, both Inca and Pre-Inca, as well as being the unofficial hiking and mountainous sports capital of Peru. This is unsurprising given it sits in the Callejon de Huyalas, a valley that runs between the Cordillera Blanca and the Cordillera Negra.
Please be aware when you are traveling that in 1970, a huge earthquake rocked the entire valley. Half of the population of Huaraz was killed, and a town close to it was completely buried and Huaraz itself was mostly destroyed. The earthquake has been recognised since as one of the most deadly earthquakes in South American history.
Most travelers who find their way to Huaraz are there on the search for outdoor activities, and to visit the Huascarán National Park, where you can take treks, tours, and all sorts of other excursions. For those who really want to push themselves, there is the Huascarán Mountain, which, at 6,768 meters above sea-level, is a serious climb for even the most experienced mountaineers.
The city of Huaraz was also noted by Simon Bolivar, (the man who led the rebellions against the Spanish, which led to the liberation of the Peruvian people) as “The most noble and generous city of Huaraz”, as citizens sacrificed their possessions and civil and religious institutions in order to provide funds, equipment, supplies and materials to the Liberation Army.
A Brief History of Huaraz
One of the earliest religious sites of Peru, the ruins of the Chavín culture lay a few hours outside of Huaraz. Chavín is identified as the second oldest set of ruins in Peru, after the Caral culture (near Lima). Chavín was the beginning of organized civilization in the highlands, and then later, the area became Waras and the center of Pumacayan. Shortly after, the Huari Empire came through, which left many other important remains that you can visit, such as Waullac. After the Wari Empire dissolved, it was overtaken by the Inca government.
The town of Huaraz was founded by Captain Alonso de Santoyo in 1574, and in 1576 Francisco de Toledo created the province of Huaylas, and Huaraz was named as the capital of that.
Huaraz was the first place in Peru to have a regional government, which was formed in 1970. It helped to modernize the city, providing better roads and improving the infrastructure after the city suffered the damage from the major earthquake of 1970.
Traveling to Huaraz
Getting to Huaraz is relatively easy, you can buy a bus ticket in advance or at the bus station. Depending on the class and the company of the bus that you travel with, a ticket should cost anywhere between 35 soles and 110 soles (from Lima). Huaraz is the perfect weekend break for those who live in Lima!
Weather in Huaraz
The annual temperature ranges from 7° C to 24° C and the weather has two distinct seasons, it is mild and dry from May to September, and known as the “Andean summer”. Around this time of f year the climate is pleasant, with sunny days and cold nights. October to April is the rainy season, when you can generally expect sunny morning and rainy afternoons.
What Should I Wear in Huaraz?
Since the weather in Huaraz varies throughout the year, it is important to note what time of year you will be traveling. However it is a general rule of thumb that layers are an important factor, as through the day it can be warm, but get colder later in the afternoon. Take a good coat and waterproofs, so you’re prepared for when the temperatures sink. If you plan to visit during the rainy season (October-April) then make sure you pack plenty of waterproofs.
Altitude sickness is often underestimated by travelers, but it is important to take it seriously and take the necessary precautions. Make sure that you sleep well, and drink lots of water. It’s also a good idea to have some altitude sickness pills ready, and a little pouch of coca leaves, which you can chew or enjoy in a mate de coca (a tea made with the leaves). Don’t drink alcohol and try to avoid heavy meals.
Main Tourist Attractions
- Laguna 69: The trek to the Lagoon 69 is an ideal adventure if you love nature. The route to the lagoon is flooded with amazing mountain landscapes, andean wildlife and other lagoons. Laguna 69 has some of the most beautifully blue water that there is to see. It is advisable to take a tour to Laguna 69, as going it alone often turns out to be more expensive. You can check out your options on FindLocalTrips. Be aware that the most challenging thing about this hike is the altitude, so make sure that you are acclimatized properly before setting off.
- The Llanganuco Lakes: At 3800 meters above sea level, the Llanganuco lakes are made up of two lagoons: Chinancocha (the ‘female’) and Orconcocha (the ‘male’). Chinancocha is a beautiful turquoise green color and is located at the foothills of the Huascaran Mountain. Both lakes were formed due to the melting of the glaciers Huascaran, Huandoy, Pisco, Chopicalqui and Yanapaccha. It is recommended to arrive early (around 7 or 8 am) to appreciate the lagoon in its best lights.
- Archaeological Site of Chavin: The capital of the Chavin culture is located at 3 177 meters above sea level in the Eastern highlands of Anchas, just east of the Cordillera Blanca. The structure has a complex network of roads and stone interior galleries that you can explore. There are underground tunnels that total up to 2 kilometers in length. If you can navigate the maze, then you will find the Lanzon Monolithic, which is 4 meters of carved stone, to meet the face of a dragon. Chavín was a religious site, and is one of the oldest archeological sites in Peru. You can also see the giant stone heads while you are visiting.
- Plaza de Armas: The Plaza de Armas is the heart of the city, and is the main public space of Huaraz. Here, you can find the Cathedral of Huaraz and the San Sebastián Shrine (Sagrario San Sebastián). As it was affected by the earthquake in 1970, the main square has been renovated several times. It’s perfect for those who want to spend time wandering and relaxing on a peaceful day. You can even visit the artisanal market for an alpaca jumper.
- Mercado Central: Located in Jirón Juan de la Cruz Romero 210, the Mercado Central de Huaraz is a huge, colorful market offering almost everything – food, juices, fresh fruits, meat, fish, cheese, etc. It is a good and cheap place for a late breakfast or lunch.
- Pastoruri Glacier: Sadly no longer truly a glacier, this magnificent block of ice is 5000 meters above sea level and climate experts say that within 8 years it will be completely melted. There is a small hike (around 1.5 kilometers each way) that you can do. If you find the altitude too much then you can also rent a horse for a small cost. Be aware though, they only take you half of the way.
Trekking in Huaraz
- Trekking Laguna 69: As mentioned before, Laguna 69 is much better to use a tour for, as there is no public transport that will take you close, and the cost of renting a taxi to do it yourself is far higher than the price of a tour. The trek itself is relatively easy, the main challenge being, of course, the altitude.
- Trekking Huayhuash: This is a multi-day trek that is considered to be difficult and sometimes dangerous, especially for those unaccustomed to high elevations. However, with great risk comes great reward, as the entire path gives visitors a panoramic view of gorgeous mountainous landscapes at all times. Don’t miss the opportunity to discover them. If you are an inexperienced mountaineer then it is vital to go with a tour. You can choose to either trek for 4 days, or the full trek is 12 days.
- Trekking Santa Cruz- Llanganuco: This is one of the most famous routes in the Cordillera Blanca due to the impressive landscapes, beautiful snow-capped mountains and cristalyne water lagoons. The trek lasts for 5 days.
- Trekking Olleros-Chavin: Trekking this circuit through the Pre-Inca trail connects Callejon de Huayalas with the Valle de Conchucos. This is 3 days (2 nights) of travel, where you can discover the amazing landscapes of the Andes mountains, the local wildlife and the Archeological Museum of Chavin de Huantar.
- Trekking Laguna Churup: This trek begins at 7:00 am from the city of Huaraz and takes about 8 hours. It is recommended to do this trek from April to October as the climate conditions are better during these months.
- Trekking Laguna Wilcacocha: The walk begins at 8:00 am and finishes around 1 pm, depending on the speed that you walk at. It starts in Huaraz and makes its way to the town of Santa Cruz. After two hours walking you’ll reach the Wilcanota lagoon.
What to eat in Huaraz?
- Picante de Cuy: Fried cuy (guinea pig), accompanied with potatoes and peppers.
- Llunca Cashki: Wheat soup with meat (chicken or lamb) and vegetables.
- Trucha Frita: Fried trucha (local fish), usually accompanied with salad.
- Shakwi: Soup thickened with wheat flour accompanied with eggs and cheese.
- Puchero: A kind of soup made of cabbage, potatoes and sweet potatoes, meat and served with oregano.
If you’re planning a trip to Huaraz, the best restaurant in the area is Jama. Locally owned, the food in this place is unreal, fine dining meets traditional Andes Highland cuisine. Do yourself a favor and check it out.
Start Planning Now!
If you are on the hunt of a beautiful destination, with amazing landscapes, great food and adventures for everyone, Huaraz is the perfect place for anyone wanting to get off the beaten track and experience some of the true Peru. High up in the mountains, you realise that the destination is the start, and it is the journey that is unforgettable. Don’t miss out the amazing hidden gems that Huaraz has to offer along the way.