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Huaraz & Cordillera Blanca
Travel Guide

Glossary


If you love outdoor adventuring, then Huaraz and the surrounding Cordillera Blanca is a destination for you. Think up close and personal encounters with nature and the thrill of camping under the stars and less luxury lodging and services.

This edition of Sense Peru is an introductory guide to this central mountainous region that’s still off the beaten path to the majority of travelers coming to Peru. Scroll through the carousel of highlights to learn about the leading attractions, sports, and excursions. Specialized maps, details about travel logistics, and tips from our Peru for Less team also help you plan your trip.

HUARAZ & CORDILLERA BLANCA


Introducing Huaraz

Travelers often say they’re going to Huaraz but the city is more often used as a stopover point before journeying into the Cordillera Blanca - where the real action is.

The Cordillera Blanca is touted as the mountaineering capital of Peru. Its name means White Range which hints at the wonderland of picturesque glacier lagoons and less trodden trails that are amid these snow capped mountains. Here, trekkers, rock climbers, runners, and mountain bikers have access to world-class experiences without mass crowds. Even folks who visit Huaraz and prefer a lighter agenda of day excursions by car with minimal walking are easily overwhelmed by the region’s beauty.

Enjoy a bird’s-eye perspective of the Cordillera Blanca.

Photographer Icon Produced by Esteban Barrera

Regional Map & Climate

Ancash Map

ELEVATION

  • Huaraz: 10,013 ft (3,052 m)
  • Huascaran Mountain Summit: 22,205 ft (6,768 m)
  • Santa Cruz Trek, Highest Mountain Pass: 15,584 ft (4,750 m)
  • Laguna 69: 14,764 ft (4,500 m)

TEMPERATURE

  • Daytime: 69 to 75ºF (21 to 24ºC)
  • Nighttime: 44 to 50ºF (7 to 10ºC)

DRY SEASON

  • From April to September. Best months for trekking. Expect clear sunny days and cold nights.

WET SEASON

  • From December to March. Highest precipitation levels generally in January and February.

DISTANCES AND TIMES FROM HUARAZ

AIRPORT


  • 40 minutes
  • 14 miles (23 km)

NATIONAL PARK TRAILHEADS


  • 1 to 3 hours depending on hike

LIMA


  • 8 hours // By Bus
  • 248 miles (400 km)

Cordillera Blanca Highlights

Declared a protected natural area by UNESCO in 1985, Huascaran National Park safeguards 340,000 hectares of the Cordillera Blanca. It’s home to more than 27 mountains above 6,000 meters but none surpass the soaring 6,768 meter (22,205 feet) summit of Mount Huascaran - Peru’s highest peak. Alongside rugged mountains are turquoise lakes, deep ravines, glaciers, and a diversity of vegetation types. With some luck you may spot local wildlife favorites like vicunas or Andean condors.

Tip IconRead more about Huascaran National Park.

Huascaran National Park, Peru

Glaciers clinging to jagged mountaintops, piercing turquoise lagoons, and grazing herds of alpacas amid river ravines are around every bend of the Santa Cruz Trek. These striking landscapes are no doubt why this trek is the most popular option in the Cordillera Blanca. Typically organized on a 4-day/3-night itinerary, the daily walking distances and uphill climbs paired with the high altitudes make the Santa Cruz Trek best suited for people in good physical condition.

Tip IconItching to do the Santa Cruz Trek? Learn more

Santa-Cruz Trek, Peru

Laguna 69 is one of the most recognized day hikes within Huascaran National Park. The uphill journey to Laguna 69’s blue waters backed by snow covered peaks is your picture perfect reward. It takes about 3 hours to arrive to the lagoon, and 2 hours to return.

Tip Icon

“I loved this hike! It starts off in a beautiful field with streams and cows before you start going up. All the views throughout the hike were gorgeous and the lake itself was nice and bright blue. This is a hike I’d recommended for active people.”
- Rachel W, Travel Advisor

Given the hike’s popularity, you might not get that nature solitude you crave.

“I did Laguna 69 and thought of course the view at the top was incredible. However, it’s really unfortunate that there were a ton of people on the hike. The group spread out but it was still pretty crowded at the top. A great tour guide can make a big difference in the experience.”
- Adam L, Travel Advisor

Laguna 69, Peru

Sandwiched between towering cliff faces, these iconic lakes in the national park sit at the bottom of the Huascaran Peaks. On a sunny day their waters are a dazzling shade of turquoise. Driving into the park, the first Llanganuco Lake of Chinancocha is often dotted with rowboats filled with passengers. The other lake is Orconcocha. Along the lakes’ shores you’ll come across trees with unusually flakey red trunks known as queñua trees that grow in high Andean regions.

Llanganuco Lakes, Peru

Huaraz is likely on your Peru trip planning radar if you’re a person who spends their weekends scaling walls and a lot of free time at the local indoor climbing gym. Accessible from Huaraz are numerous routes for sport climbing and bouldering. Tip IconMountain Project is a helpful resource to begin exploring the options ranging from beginner to advanced.

Rock Climbing, Peru

In a region where nature gets most of the limelight, the archaeological site of Chavin de Huantar (near Huaraz) reminds us of the early human civilizations that called these mountains their home. This pre-Inca complex is a UNESCO site that served as a ceremonial and pilgrimage center. The lithic art and symbolic carvings that decorate the plazas and columns are among its most significant features.

Tip Icon

Read more about the archaeological site of Chavin.

Chavín de Huántar, Peru

The Huayhuash mountain range neighbors the Cordillera Blanca in Peru. Noted as one of South America’s premier multi day treks, the Cordillera Huayhuash Circuit is packed with high mountain passes, glacial lagoons, hot springs, and remote villages. The 8 to 14 day itinerary for the Huayhuash Circuit - frequently compared to trail routes in Nepal - is far more demanding than the classic 4-day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in southern Peru. Most people organize their Huayhuash expedition from trekking providers based in Huaraz.

Huascaran National Park, Peru

Each year a growing number of events bring runners to the Cordillera Blanca.

45K Sierra Andina Chavin Trail

Sierra Andina Mountain Trail

  • August 7-8, 2020
  • 13K Llanganuco
  • 30K Pisco
  • 45K Santa Cruz
  • 80K Huascaran
  • Tip Icon More race info...

The Cordillera Blanca is home to some of the highest tropical glaciers in the world. In total, the range tallies over 700 glaciers, and one of these ice masses is Pastoruri. Like many destinations within Huascaran National Park, Pastoruri resides in a very remote location and there is no direct public transportation to get there, so the best way to reach the glacier is by tour.

Blogpost Icon

Photographer Icon Adam L., Travel Advisor

Huascaran National Park


Declared a protected natural area by UNESCO in 1985, Huascaran National Park safeguards 340,000 hectares of the Cordillera Blanca. It’s home to more than 27 mountains above 6,000 meters but none surpass the soaring 6,768 meter (22,205 feet) summit of Mount Huascaran - Peru’s highest peak. Alongside rugged mountains are turquoise lakes, deep ravines, glaciers, and a diversity of vegetation types. With some luck you may spot local wildlife favorites like vicunas or Andean condors.

Tip IconRead more about Huascaran National Park.

Huascaran National Park, Peru

Santa Cruz Trek


Glaciers clinging to jagged mountaintops, piercing turquoise lagoons, and grazing herds of alpacas amid river ravines are around every bend of the Santa Cruz Trek. These striking landscapes are no doubt why this trek is the most popular option in the Cordillera Blanca. Typically organized on a 4-day/3-night itinerary, the daily walking distances and uphill climbs paired with the high altitudes make the Santa Cruz Trek best suited for people in good physical condition.

Tip IconItching to do the Santa Cruz Trek? Learn more

Santa-Cruz Trek, Peru

Laguna 69


Laguna 69 is one of the most recognized day hikes within Huascaran National Park. The uphill journey to Laguna 69’s blue waters backed by snow covered peaks is your picture perfect reward. It takes about 3 hours to arrive to the lagoon, and 2 hours to return.

Tip Icon

“I loved this hike! It starts off in a beautiful field with streams and cows before you start going up. All the views throughout the hike were gorgeous and the lake itself was nice and bright blue. This is a hike I’d recommended for active people.”
- Rachel W, Travel Advisor

Given the hike’s popularity, you might not get that nature solitude you crave.

“I did Laguna 69 and thought of course the view at the top was incredible. However, it’s really unfortunate that there were a ton of people on the hike. The group spread out but it was still pretty crowded at the top. A great tour guide can make a big difference in the experience.”
- Adam L, Travel Advisor

Laguna 69, Peru

Llanganuco Lakes


Sandwiched between towering cliff faces, these iconic lakes in the national park sit at the bottom of the Huascaran Peaks. On a sunny day their waters are a dazzling shade of turquoise. Driving into the park, the first Llanganuco Lake of Chinancocha is often dotted with rowboats filled with passengers. The other lake is Orconcocha. Along the lakes’ shores you’ll come across trees with unusually flakey red trunks known as queñua trees that grow in high Andean regions.

Llanganuco Lakes, Peru

Rock Climbing


Huaraz is likely on your Peru trip planning radar if you’re a person who spends their weekends scaling walls and a lot of free time at the local indoor climbing gym. Accessible from Huaraz are numerous routes for sport climbing and bouldering. Tip Icon Mountain Project is a helpful resource to begin exploring the options ranging from beginner to advanced.

Rock Climbing, Peru

Chavín de Huántar


In a region where nature gets most of the limelight, the archaeological site of Chavin de Huantar (near Huaraz) reminds us of the early human civilizations that called these mountains their home. This pre-Inca complex is a UNESCO site that served as a ceremonial and pilgrimage center. The lithic art and symbolic carvings that decorate the plazas and columns are among its most significant features.

Tip Icon

Read more about the archaeological site of Chavin.

Chavín de Huántar, Peru

Huayhuash Circuit Trek


The Huayhuash mountain range neighbors the Cordillera Blanca in Peru. Noted as one of South America’s premier multi day treks, the Cordillera Huayhuash Circuit is packed with high mountain passes, glacial lagoons, hot springs, and remote villages. The 8 to 14 day itinerary for the Huayhuash Circuit - frequently compared to trail routes in Nepal - is far more demanding than the classic 4-day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in southern Peru. Most people organize their Huayhuash expedition from trekking providers based in Huaraz.

Huascaran National Park, Peru

Trail Running


Each year a growing number of events bring runners to the Cordillera Blanca.

45K Sierra Andina Chavin Trail

Sierra Andina Mountain Trail

  • August 7-8, 2020
  • 13K Llanganuco
  • 30K Pisco
  • 45K Santa Cruz
  • 80K Huascaran
  • Tip Icon More race info...

Pastoruri Glacier


The Cordillera Blanca is home to some of the highest tropical glaciers in the world. In total, the range tallies over 700 glaciers, and one of these ice masses is Pastoruri. Like many destinations within Huascaran National Park, Pastoruri resides in a very remote location and there is no direct public transportation to get there, so the best way to reach the glacier is by tour.

Blogpost Icon

Photographer Icon Adam L., Travel Advisor

Mountain Wonderland


Huascaran View, Peru

Huascaran View


Photographer IconBritt Fracolli

Lake Parón, Peru

Lake Parón


Photographer IconEduardo Flores

Laguna 68, Peru

Laguna 68


Photographer IconPaul Lequay

Pastoruri Glacier, Peru

Pastoruri Glacier


Photographer IconClement Taquet

Lake Parón, Peru

Lake Parón


Photographer IconAline Rodrigues

Lake Parón, Peru

Lake Parón


Photographer IconAyden Stoefen

Laguna 69, Peru

Laguna 69


Photographer IconClement Taquet

Huascaran View, Peru

Mountain View


Photographer IconMeghan Joyce

Huascaran Lake View, Peru

Lake View


Photographer IconAugusto Nagahiro

Huascaran Lake View, Peru

Lake View


Photographer IconOrlando Leon

Huascaran View, Peru

Huascaran View


Photographer IconBritt Fracolli

Huascaran View, Peru

Mountain View


Photographer IconAyden Stoefen

Tip IconCapture epic travel memories utilizing these photography tips.

3 Day Hikes in Huaraz You’ve Probably Not Heard Of

Our friends at Lazy Dog Inn are experts in Huaraz travel and shared great wisdom about 3 lesser-known hikes in the southern Cordillera Blanca.

1

Laguna Rajucolta

Laguna Rajucolta, Peru

“This is a good day hike for acclimatizing as the lake sits about 250 m (820 ft) lower than most lakes in the Cordillera Blanca. The hike is shorter than most and it’s a gentle incline from the trailhead gates to the lake.”

Photographer IconGina Allman

2

Quebrada Shallap

Quebrada Shallap, Peru

“A great option for older or younger trekkers that need a gentler ascent with a lake at a lower elevation, as Lake Shallap is almost 250 m (850 ft) lower than other lakes in the area.”

Photographer IconRebecca Hollman and François Haché

3

Quebrada Llaca

Quebrada Llaca

“Llaca Valley is one of the most under-used hikes and lakes on the southern side of the Cordillera Blanca and is characterized by a celestial blue glacial lake surrounded by the three glaciers.”

Photographer IconRebecca Hollman and François Haché

Tip Icon Read more insider information about these trails on our blog.

Spotlight: Santa Cruz Trek

Santa Cruz Trek

Photographer IconDesk to Glory

Violeta from Chavin Tours in Huaraz answered some common questions about the Santa Cruz Trek.


Why is the Santa Cruz Trek so popular in Huaraz?

The Santa Cruz Trek takes you to beautiful areas full of nature. The trek follows a path with breathtaking views, quenual forests, lagoons, rivers and other attractions of the Santa Cruz ravine.

What are unexpected highlights along the Santa Cruz trail?

Definitely all the spectacular views of the Cordillera Blanca. It’s breathtaking!

What is the most challenging day of the trek? Why?

The third day is the most difficult one as the highest point of the trail goes over a mountain pass of 4,750 msnm. High altitude trekking is always a challenge!

The Santa Cruz Trek is best suited for what type of outdoor lover?

The Santa Cruz Trek is one of the best in the region and is suited to trekker in good physical condition. Training in advance is a must as it’s a high altitude trek. There is also others good treks such as Cedros Alpamayo and Huayhuash that are also challenging!

Tip Icon Check out a daily breakdown of the trek.
Santa Cruz Trek

Photographer IconDesk to Glory

Huaraz


Huaraz is the capital of the Ancash Department of Peru and home to some 119,000 residents (2017, source). The city hosts a handful of attractions, restaurants, and hotels that are within walking distance of the Plaza de Armas or a taxi ride away.

City Map

Huaraz Map

DISTANCES AND TIMES FROM MAIN PLAZA

HUARAZ CATHEDRAL


  • Jirón Jose de Sucre 821

PROM PERU OFFICE


  • Pasaje Atusparia, of. 1.

REGIONAL MUSEUM OF ANCASH


  • Av. Luzuriaga 762, Plaza de Armas

CRUZ DEL SUR


  • Jirón Simon Bolivar 491

MOVIL TOURS


  • Av. Confraternidad
    Internacional Oeste 451

OLTURSA


  • Av. Antonio Raymondi 825

Restaurants & Bars

Car Icon

The food served here is varied, from classic Peruvian favorites to sandwiches and some veggie options. Charming decor with a fireplace and chill music greet you at the door. Go up to the second floor balcony for a nice view.

Contact info:

  • Jirón Lucar and Torre 530, Huaraz
  • Website

This cozy cafe is the spot in Huaraz to enjoy North American style breakfasts and international dishes for lunch and dinner. Complement your meal with homemade bread, speciality coffee, or fresh juice. Check out the selection of books in the cafe’s sharing library.

Contact info:

  • Av. 28 de Julio 562, Huaraz
  • Website

This restaurant’s speciality is in its name. Order from an extensive list of savory and sweet crepes. More filling options include pepper steak, chicken dishes, and classic Peruvian meals.

Contact info:

  • Av. Luzuriaga 422, Huaraz
  • Website

Founded in 1997, this dining establishment has a Novoandino menu with meat specialities like pollo a la brasa and anticuchos served with a side of fries. Open for lunch and dinner.

Contact info:

  • Av. Mariscal Toribio Luzuriaga 928, Huaraz
  • Website

An Italian restaurant with a Peruvian twist and other traditional dishes. Enjoy handmade pasta in various sauces or a classic lomo saltado.

Contact info:

  • Calle Juan Bautista 840, Huaraz
  • Website

Come for sourdough artisan pizzas and artfully presented tapas served on home baked papa amarilla (yellow potato) bread. The menu is filled with vegetarian-friendly options.

Contact info:

  • Mariscal Toribio de Luzuriaga 923, Huaraz
  • Website

Order the locally brewed Sierra Andina beer on tap with a casual meal. Burgers, Thai soup, and fettuccine alfredo are on the wide-ranging menu.

Contact info:

  • Av. Luzurriaga (block 6) - Parque del Periodísta, Huaraz
  • Website

Accommodation

Hotels in Huaraz


In and around the city’s main plaza, backpacker hostels and no frills hotels are the norm. These accommodations are particularly enticing to budget travelers or someone planning a brief overnight stay close to the bus station.

Lodges Outside of Huaraz


Staying at a comfortable lodge away from the bustle of the city is a wonderful opportunity to maximize your contact with nature. Book a few nights to take it easy while adjusting to the high altitude before a trek, or stay after your adventures in Huaraz to enjoy the mountain scenery at a slower pace.

TRAVEL TIPS


How to Get to Huaraz

Take the bus, fly, or drive to Huaraz from Lima. The city of Huaraz is the region’s main transport hub.

Bus Icon

Bus travel is the easiest and most affordable way to get from Lima to Huaraz. Daily departures also permit more trip planning flexibility if you don’t know your desired travel dates far in advance.

  • Direct bus service Lima to/from Huaraz is about 8 hours
  • Lima - Javier Prado Bus Terminal
  • Huaraz - bus companies have separate terminals

Cruz del Sur, Movil Tours, and Oltursa are reputable bus companies that offer comfortable service to Huaraz. Upgrading your ticket to VIP generally includes a fully reclinable seat, a personal TV screen with entertainment, and meal/snack service.

Take the overnight bus to Huaraz. That way you arrive to Huaraz early in the morning between 6 to 7 am and can maximize daylight hours to acclimate and soak in the region’s beautiful scenery.

Plane Icon

The 45-minute flight from Lima to Anta Airport in Huaraz is the most time efficient transport. Flights are best booked from May to September during the dry season months. Inclement weather may delay flights or cancel them altogether during the rainy season.

Attention Icon Important Travel Notice:
As of 2020, flight service is not available to Huaraz. Contact Peru for Less for help planning your trip to Huaraz and up-to-date transport details.

Car Icon

The journey from Lima to Huaraz in your own transport takes approximately 5 to 6 hours. Traveling during the daytime is advised due to the curvy road conditions and limited phone coverage in the mountains.

Huascaran National Park Entry Fee

The Servicio Nacional de Áreas Naturales Protegidas (SERNAP) of Peru manages
entrance fees for Huascaran National Park.

Rate of National Park
  • Blogpost tipThe entry fee may or may not be included with the price of your trek or tour.
  • Blogpost tipPayment for entry to Huascaran National Park needs to be paid in soles cash.

High Altitude

Soaring elevations of 9,840+ feet (3,000+ meters) greet you in Huaraz and the Cordillera Blanca.

Blogpost tip

Monique, our general manager at Peru for Less, shares her advice for adjusting to the altitude.

“In Huaraz, most activities start early in the morning (especially treks) so try not to cram too much in; your body will already be dealing with altitude and the long bus ride from Lima.

Acclimatization in Huaraz is more key than Cusco, arguably. Why? I arrived super tired from the bus ride, so the combination of little sleep plus higher altitude meant I was out of it for the first day completely. In general, this is a region for doing more outdoor and adventure activities so you want to make sure you're feeling as good as possible.

Ideally, arrive at least 2 days before starting any rigorous activity. Don’t have anything planned for the first day you arrive, and on the second day consider doing one of those van tours. Lago Llanganuco was great, for example, with several stops and a modest amount of walking. Don’t feel guilty about taking it easy!"

Blogpost tip Read more about symptoms of altitude sickness and acclimation tips.

Blogpost tip Read more about altitude sickness.

Huaraz Packing List

Here’s a list of packing essentials that you’ll need for day excursions in Huaraz.

Packing List Huaraz Preview

Download your checklist now!


  • Gear for Day Hikes

  • Gear for Multi-Day Treks

Trip Planning

Travelers going to Huaraz are encouraged to book services with credible companies to receive quality service, professional guides, and security. Our Peru for Less travel advisors are happy to help out with trip planning and answer your questions.

Alternatively, if Huaraz is a leg of your Peru trip you’re planning on your own, be sure to ask around for recommended trekking and excursion providers. Not all tourism services are the same and super low pricing may be a cautionary flag of cutting industry standards or lacking proper certification.

Blogpost tip Contact Peru for Less for help planning your trip to Huaraz.

Sense Peru Huaraz Edition

    SENSE PERU

    Huaraz & Cordillera Blanca Travel Guide Edition


  • PUBLISHER: Peru for Less
  • CONTENT CREATION: Britt Fracolli
  • VIDEO PRODUCER: Esteban Barrera
  • FEATURED GUESTS:
    • Rachel Walker and Adam Laughter, Peru for Less
    • Gina Allman, Lazy Dog Inn
    • Violeta Aguirre, Huaraz Operations, Chavin Tours
  • PHOTO CONTRIBUTIONS:: Gina Allman, Rebecca Hollman, and Fracois Hache
  • DESIGN & PRODUCTION: Clement Taquet
  • LAST UPDATED: April 2019

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