Hailed as the capital of the Ancash region of Peru and located at a dizzying 3000m above sea level, Huaraz welcomes in thousands of adventure seekers, history buffs and nature lovers every year.
Home to Huascaran, the highest mountain in Peru (6768m) and surrounded by the the snow capped peaks of the Cordillera Blanca, Huaraz provides the perfect base for exploring glaciers and hidden lakes such as Laguna 69, within the nature of Huascaran National Park. If walking is too slow a pace for you, there is no shortage of adrenaline pumping options including mountain biking, paragliding, snowboarding, rock climbing and so much more.
Go Travel and Talk Top Tip: Because of Huaraz's elevation, altitude sickness is common. Drink plenty of water and coca tea which is often given out for free at the hostels, or head to the central market where you can pick up a bag for 1 SOL. I would also suggest heading to a local pharmacy and picking up some anti-sickness tablets (Sorchi tablets). I would also recommend chewing on coca leaves as this alleviates the headaches that are common when at altitude. And wrap up warm! It is much colder in Huaraz compared to other cities in Peru.
*please note that if you are not into hiking / outdoor pursuits, Huaraz probably isn't the place for you.
Huaraz is a well connected city in Peru with multiple buses dropping people off daily. There are multiple bus stations rather than one single place so make sure you check with the bus company you book with, as a reference:
- Linea buses depart from Terminal Plaza Norte
- Movil Tour buses leave from Avenida Javier Prado, Paseo de la Republica or Avenida Alfreedo Mendiola
- Cruz de Sur buses depart from Avenida Javier Prado
- Oltursa buses leave from Avenida Aramburu.
If you are arriving in Huaraz from Lima, it will take around eight hours. Costs vary: between S/.35-100 (€9/$10 - €27-$30) for a one way ticket, depending on bus company and class you book. Through personal experience, I would advise traveling with:
If you are coming from Trujillo or Chichlayo, the bus is direct and takes a maximum of seven hours and often a lot less due to their speed. We took a night bus from Trujillo and we got to Huaraz in five hours! Cost for a one way ticket is between S/. 35-60 (€9-$10 - €16-$18). I would advise traveling with Movil Tours or Linea.
You can catch a direct flight with LC Peru from Lima (Jorge Chavez Airport) to Huaraz.
Huaraz's airport is located outside of Anta Village, 25km from the centre of Huaraz. The flight takes one hour (be careful: there are big restrictions on luggage, 15kg max for hold bags and 10kg for carry on).
You can then take a taxi or collectivo to the centre of Huaraz, they all hang around right outside the door to arrivals – taxis cost anywhere between S/. 30-50 (€8-$9 - €13-$15) and collectivos cost S/.3 (around $1).
Huaraz is a fairly crazy city with A LOT going on so during the day, it is really nice to take a stroll around. However, as the city is fairly large and some areas can be dangerous at night, I would suggest making use of the many taxis and collectivos driving around the city.
Collectivos are minibus style vans that whizz around the city at all hours of the day. These are much cheaper than taxis and really give you an authentic experience. It can be quite overwhelming as most of the time they don’t completely stop to pick you up… you are expected to jump on whilst it slow crawls down the road. Be careful of your belongings on these as there are rife with pickpockets. You can get a collectivo from pretty much anywhere, just stand on the side of the road and look for the town name on the front of the minibus / van.
Before we get into the details - lets just talk about the weather in Huaraz first...
Firstly, it is cold. So stock up on woolly jumpers, scarfs, hats and gloves.
Secondly, the weather in Huaraz fluctuates by the hour in rainy season (December to March). From clear blue skies to torrential rain in the afternoon. So I suggest getting out earlier in the morning before the afternoon rain around 3pm.
In dry season it is much better, with clear blue skies everyday. But the evenings do get very cold so again, make sure you have layers of clothes to put on.
If you are travelling from Lima, Trujillo, Chichlayo or another Peruvian city on a night bus, you will most likely arrive early in the morning. Make sure you have your layers of clothes at the ready - it is cold in Huaraz!
Head straight to your accommodation to check in (most have 24 hour receptions).
Best Hostel in Huaraz:
I highly recommend Hostel Akilpo which is located in the heart of Huaraz and a couple of blocks away from the central square (around a 20 minute walk from the central bus terminal - use Maps.me).
Akilpo hostel is a really big hit with backpackers and adventure seekers. On the same street is the colourful central market which is bustling at all hours of the day. It has a great tour agency on site and a beautiful top terrace/kitchen offering great views of the streets below. SUPER COMFY beds with privacy curtains and great bathroom facilities. This hostel is super sociable but not a party place as a lot of people come here for the hiking, so most nights, it is light outs by 9pm! Cost: S/.30 (€8/$9) per night for eight bed dorm. There is someone on reception 24/7 so if you get in super early from the night bus, head straight there and ring the bell. The door is located next to the pharmacy.
Once you have dropped off your bags and drank some Coca Tea (make sure you do this to help with the altitude sickness), spend the morning mooching around the city. Take it slow because your body wont be use to the altitude - and although you think you are fine, altitude sickness creeps up on you very quickly!
Head to Cafe California for a delicious breakfast. The cafe serves up some of the best all day breakfasts in town. It may not be the cheapest place to eat (around S/. 22-28), but the portions are decent and who can turn down fresh roasted coffee and pancakes! The cafe is also a great place to hang out, with comfy sofas, an awesome vibe, free wifi, a large book exchange, music and lots of board games to keep you entertained if the weather isn't so great outside. Opens from 7am.
Visit The Mercado Central de Huaraz:
If you stay at Hostel Akilpo, you are right in the centre of the action, with views of the local market from your bedroom window - providing endless entertainment as the day starts up and continues to flurry below. If you are veggie or vegan, it can be overwhelming - expect to see yellow chicken caracasses everywhere, ladies in traditional dress selling and buying Guinea pigs and lots of noise and chaos.
Whilst it is a lot to take in, the central market gives you a true insight into life in Huaraz, and some of the cheapest fruit and veg you will find in Peru. Whilst I would say to avoid the meat section if you are veggie like me, the market is a must do when you are in Huaraz.
The Mercado Central de Huaraz can be found on Calle Jiron Juan de la Cruz Romero, but it spills out on to the next couple of streets too.
If you are feeling up for it, later in the morning head out to Willcacocha for an acclimitisation hike. You can get a collectivo from the street corner next to the Central Market (outside Hostel Akilpo) - look for the name on the front of the van. This should cost you no more than S/. 2.5 for one way.
The journey will take around 25 minutes to take you to the Cordiliera Negra. Whilst the hike is easier than the others, such as the Laguna 69, it still requires effort as the ascent feels like it goes on forever - in fact it only takes around 2 hours max each way. But remember your body is still adjusting to the elevation. At the top you will have incredible views of the Cordillera Blanca across from a beautiful lagoon.
To return to Huaraz, go back to the starting point of your hike and wait on the roadside for a collectivo which whiz by fairly frequently. There is also a shop at the bottom to stock up on some snacks for the ride home.
** As an alternative, you could check out Lake Paron for your acclimitisation hike. As the largest lake in Huascaran National Park, Laguna Paron is stunning and there are few crowds at any point of the year. However, from Huaraz is about three hours drive to the North.
When you get back to your hostel / accommodation, have a shower and relax (and more Coca tea) before heading out to Krishna Bhog - a pure Indian / vegetarian restaurant. This place is unbelievable. Based from the owners home, the Krishna Bhog is only a ten minute taxi ride from the central market (don't walk in the dark). If you like Indian inspired veggie food, this is for you! And it is supper sociable with communal style dining and BYOB (bring your own booze).
Get to be early, because you are up at 6am!
The Pastoruri Glacier:
The Pastoruri Glacier is stunning glacier based in the Cordillera Blanca and the Huascaran National Park.
If you go with an organised bus tour (which most people do), it takes around three and a half hours to reach the bottom of the glacier and costs S/.30 (€8/$9). You leave early, so make sure you pack breakfast (although there is a stop 30 minutes into the journey) and plenty of snacks and water. You can organise this tour through your accommodation / hostel.
Before you arrive at Pastoruri, you will stop off at Patococha lake, which offers beautiful reflections and home to many ducks and birdlife. You will also see gigantic Puya Raimondi plants, nicknames 'Queen of the Andes'. As a relative of the pineapple family, these plants can reach up to 15 meters tall.
Once you arrive at the Pastoruri Glacier, you walk for around forty five minutes to one hour to reach the viewpoint. It is absolutely stunning, but at 5,100m above sea level, I found it tough and I really felt it on my chest, so my advice is to take it nice and slow.
Sadly, it has been estimated that in seven to ten years time, the Pastoruri Glacier will disappear through global warming. So if you are in Huaraz, I strongly suggest going to see it.
And as part of the tour, you will stop at a couple of places in Huascaran National Park along the way back and at the same cafe you stopped at on the way.
Go Travel and Talk Top Tips:
- Prepare for the altitude with lots of water, coca tea and chewing coca candy / leaves.
- Take warm clothes and a waterproof jacket, it gets very cold by the glacier.
- Pack suncream.
Chavin de Huantar Archiological Site:
As an alternative to the Glacier (or as an extra day in Huaraz) you could spend a day at the Chavin de Huantar ruins.
The Chavin de Huantar ruins are a fascinating archaeological site with underground labyrinths tracing back to the earliest Andean cultures. Most artefacts and findings date back to 1200 BC. As a UNESCO World Heritage site, Chavin de Hunter is a must see for those interested in history, Peruvian culture and spirituality.
It can be easily explored as a day trip from Huaraz, either as an organised tour (S/.40 / €10 / $12) or you can catch a local bus from outside the Central Market which leave Huaraz at 7.30am and 9am for S/.12 (€3 / $4) and return in the afternoon between 3pm and 5pm (note the site is closed on Mondays).
The bus journey takes around two and a half hours to reach the Chavin de Hunatar ruins and it is another two and a half to get back to Huaraz, so you actually spend more time on the bus then you do in the archaeological site, but it is worth seeing. When you arrive you have the option of hiring a guide. I would strongly suggest doing this so you can learn about the history of the site. Cost around S/.40 (€10 / $12).
Go Travel and Talk Top Tip:
- Prepare for altitude sickness as you go via a pass which is 4500m high
- Bring warm clothes, it gets cold on the journey back.
Depending on what activity you choose to do, you will arrive back in Huaraz around 6pm. Have a shower, relax and grab a bite to eat and a beer at Trivio Restaurant. At Trivio you get huge portions for great prices - for a S/. 10 menu del dia you can an appretize, main meal, drink and desert. It has a great atmosphere as well and it is the official restaurant for selling Sierra Andina beer, a craft beer brewed in Huaraz.
Early to bed - you have another super early start!
The Laguna 69 trek is an ABSOLUTE bucket list must do if you are visiting Huaraz!
You will be blown away by the scenery along this trek. You can do this on your own (it is very well marked to get to the lake, although transport can be difficult to organise, speak to your hostel) or book through a tour. I booked through a tour for the ease factor as the bus picks you up directly from your hostel, prepare for an early 5am start though! (I booked through Akilpo Hostel).
After stopping for a hearty breakfast (not included), you are then dropped off in Huascaran National Park where you begin your trek. It takes around three to four hours to reach Laguna 69 and it is worth every bit of sweat and occasional nausea. You start in Cebolla Pampa which sits at 3800m and you climb to 4600m to meet the glory of Laguna 69!
Whilst the last thirty minutes is tough (for me anyway), once you get over the ridge and catch the sight of the bright turquoise waters set against a dramatic white backdrop of snowy mountains, all will be forgotten.
Pack a picnic as the lake is the perfect setting for having lunch. It is then a quick two and a half hour climb back down to the bus. You should be back at your hostel by 6pm. It cost us S/.60 (€16 / $18) to book through Akilpo hostel but you can definitely get it cheaper in town, around S/.40 (€10 / $12). Transport and guide are included (although you do the trek unguided, they are just there to show you the starting point and sites along the way). Food and drink is not included.
Go Travel and Talk Top Tips:
- Drink plenty of water.
- Drink coca tea or eat coca leaves/ candy – AVOID caffeine because it dehydrates you.
- Acclimatise. Spend two or three days in Huaraz before starting this hike.
What To Pack For The Laguna 69:
- Food for lunch and lots of tasty snacks and of course water.
- Coca tea and leaves to chew on for the altitude.
- Money for park entrance (S/.10) and any food/water you want to buy.
- Suncream is an absolute must and a hat for sun protection.
- Waterproof clothing - it is known to rain at points on the hike.
- Layers - it goes from hot to cold constantly along the hike.
- Wear sturdy trainers or preferably hiking shoes as the terrain can be tough.
Your Onward Journey From Huaraz:
You will arrive back to Huaraz for 6pm or just after. You can either spend another night relaxing or jump on a night bus to get yourself to your next destination. I would suggest pre-booking your ticket as the buses fill up fairly quickly. Use the suggested bus carrier options above to go to their individual websites. Please note, each company has a different bus terminal in Huaraz - make sure you go to the right one.
You have many options across the surrounding areas of Huaraz.
Popular choices include:
- Laguna Paron (Mentioned above - 1 day hike)
- Santa Cruz (Four day trek)
- Cordillera Huayhuash (Eight to thirteen days)
- Quilcayhuanca (Four day trek)
All of these hikes can be booked through Akilpo Hostel or head to one of the many tour agencies in town. Costs vary. You can hire all the equipment you need through the tour agency or buy it in town – there are lots of shops that cater for hiking in Huaraz.
Huaraz is an amazing place for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers and whilst there is not much to do in the city itself, there is plenty to see. It is authentic and raw and a brilliant insight into life in the mountains of Peru.