Huaraz is an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise in Peru because it offers a multitude of hiking possibilities.
It is still little known by international travelers and the reason is very simple: it is off the beaten track for tourists who only have 2 weeks to visit Peru.
However, if you are a trekking and nature lover, you cannot miss this jewel of the northern Peruvian Andes!
To help you prepare your trip, we will present you a guide with all the best things to see and do in Huaraz, acclimatization hikes, day tours and multi-day trekking excursions.
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Now let’s find out more about Huaraz and what can this amazing city offers to you on your next visit to Peru:
The city of Huaraz
Located at an altitude of 3080m in the Andes, Huaraz is the capital of the region of the same name, in the province of Ancash.
In fact, there is not much to do in the city and its main interest is to be the starting point for all excursions.
But since you will have to pass through there, it is better to take advantage of it!
What to do in the city of Huaraz:
The Plaza de Armas
Is the central square of Huaraz, where the cathedral, the Sagrario San Sebastián, the tourist office and the archaeology museum are located.
The archaeological museum of Ancash
Presents the historical and cultural development of the Ancash region, from 10,500 BC to the sixteenth century. There are Chavin, Huaraz, Mochica, Recuay and Inca artifacts. Its garden is a must-see with its 140 monoliths.
From Tuesday to Sunday, from 9:00 to 17:00 hours. Admission 5 soles.
The Sanctuary of the Señor de la Soledad is a beautiful church located in the Plaza de la Soledad. Visit the Central Market where you can see the local life, products of all types, etc.
El Mirador Rataquenua
Is a viewpoint with a great view over Huaraz and the surrounding mountains. You can get there walking 1h from the center, or go by cab (20 soles). Further on, there is also the Pukaventana viewpoint.
Try the Sierra Andina beer that originates from Huaraz. It was one of the first craft beers in Peru! It is now very famous and available all over the country, but the best place to discover it is at the Trivio bar.
How to get to Huaraz from Lima
The city of Huaraz is located northeast of Lima about 400km by road and currently the only way to get from Lima to Huaraz is by land transportation. There are several bus companies that connect both cities daily with numerous frequencies so you will have no problem getting a ticket.
The most reputable company in Peru is Cruz del Sur and we also recommend it in our own experience. The journey time is usually between 7 and 8 hours, although due to road mishaps it took us 10 hours.
Traveling in Peru can be unpredictable and exhausting due to the state of the roads and the long distances, that is why we recommend you to travel at night.
Best time to travel to Huaraz
Huaraz is a tourist destination where you can make spectacular hiking trails surrounded by pure nature and therefore it is essential to know what is the best time to visit Huaraz.
Dry season, the best time to travel to Huaraz and enjoy the landscapes.
Temperatures are cold with maximums of around 11ºC degrees and minimums of 4ºC degrees. It is characterized by sunny days and little chance of rain.
That does not mean that it will not rain, you know that the weather in the mountains can change very quickly and it is advisable to be prepared. One of the disadvantages of traveling at this time is that there is a greater influx of tourists and therefore the places will be much more crowded.
Rainy season, the best time to travel to Huaraz if you want to avoid the crowds.
The rainy season covers the months of October to April. During the months of October to December the days are characterized by sunny mornings and afternoons where the sky is cloudy and mostly rainy.
On the other hand, from January to April, the weather worsens and the rains are very abundant, practically daily. Temperatures are cold with maximums of around 10ºC and minimums of 5ºC. One of the advantages of traveling at this time is that there are fewer tourists so you can better enjoy each place.
To get used to the altitude, it is very important that you take a day of acclimatization in Huaraz before any physical exertion, unless you are coming directly from Cusco or another high altitude destination.
For your second day, it is best to do a short hike (1/2 day or 1 day). These treks have different levels of difficulty, some are easier than others.
57 km / 35 miles from the capital, in the Callejon de Huaylas, is the large Querococha Lagoon (3980 m / 13,980 ft).
It is the most touristic lagoon in the area because of its proximity to Huaraz and Chavin de Huantar, but it is really worth visiting because it offers magnificent views of the high mountains and glaciers that surround it.
How to visit Querococha Lagoon
Tours to Querococha Lagoon (full day) usually include a visit to Chavin de Huantar and pass through the small towns of Recuay, Ticapampa and Catac.
If you prefer to go on your own, the lagoon is 1 hour from Huaraz. I recommend going in the morning as it usually rains in the afternoon.
Honcopampa is one of the most important archaeological sites in the Callejón de Huaylas. Its origin dates back to the VII- IX centuries and was occupied by the Recuay and Wari peoples.
Today you can still see a group of square houses with a central courtyard and chullpas (mausoleums).
If you take a tour to Honcopampa from Huaraz, you can also visit some artisan villages (Tarica, Pariahuanca, San Miguel de Aco, etc.), the waterfalls of Yuracyacu and the thermal baths of Chancos.
Laguna 69 located in the Huascaran National Park is a must see place in Huaraz.
You can access it walking from Cebollapampa. The hike is not very long but it is quite physically demanding because you go from 3890m to 4600m, so take your time!
The ascent takes about 3 hours and allows you to enjoy beautiful landscapes between waterfalls and mountains.
The first half of the hike is fairly easy, but the climb gets steeper towards the end. Don’t hesitate to take breaks along the way to avoid altitude sickness.
When you reach the top, you will only have 15 minutes left (no climb) to reach Laguna 69, at the foot of the Chacraraju mountain.
Walking back to Cebollapampa takes 2h-2h15.
How to get to Lagoon 69
On your own: it is possible, but not ideal if you have little time. First you have to take a bus from Huaraz to Yungay (7 soles), then another transport to Cebollapampa (15 soles).
With a tour: the easiest option is to go with a cheap tour from Huaraz. It includes pick up from your hotel, breakfast, snacks, entrance to Huascaran National Park, a stop at the Llanganuco lagoons and free time at Laguna 69.
The Llanganuco Gorge is one of the best places to visit in Huaraz.
It is also located in the Huascaran National Park, and is formed by the Chinancocha and Orconcocha lagoons, fed by the Huascaran, Yanapacca, Pisco and Huandoy snow-capped peaks.
From the park entrance, following a dirt road for about 30 minutes, you will first reach the Chinancocha Lagoon. It is the larger and more touristic of the two lagoons, you can even take a boat or horseback ride.
Orconcocha Lagoon is a few minutes away from the first lagoon.
We recommend you to follow the “Maria Josefa trail”, a nice 1h30 walk that allows you to explore the surroundings and see 80% of the plants of the region (including many orchids !). It is well marked, easy and really charming.
How to get to the Llanganuco lagoons
On your own: the lagoons are 2h30 from Huaraz. It is better to go in the morning when the sun gives a beautiful color to the water. You have to take a combi or bus from Huaraz to Yungay, and then a colectivo to the lagoon.
With a tour: it is really more comfortable! You have two tour options, you can take the tour that includes Llanganuco and Lagoon 69, or the tour only to the lagoons of Llanganuco, which includes pick up at your hotel, entrance fee and guide.
Pastoruri is a glacier located in the Huascaran National Park, which rises to 5200 m above sea level.
It is sadly famous for having lost part of its ice cover in recent years due to climate change.
It takes about 3 hours to get there from Huaraz, but the scenery is magnificent!
On the way you can admire the imposing mountains and the Puyas Raimondi, typical plants of the puna (Altiplano region between 3 200 and 4 800 meters of altitude).
The hike to Pastoruri only takes 45 min-1 hour with a small slope, but the trail is not difficult. It is especially the altitude that can be heavy.
How to get to Pastoruri
On your own: you will have to rent a car or some kind of mobility. Be careful that on the way you will lose the internet signal. If you do not want to take a tour, at least I recommend that you hire a guide.
With a tour: I recommend this excursion to Pastoruri which includes pick up from your hotel in Huaraz, entrance fees and guide. You can also choose the private excursion option.
Remind you that it is very important to acclimatize to the altitude.
The ideal is to take a quiet day in Huaraz and then do 2 days of short hikes before starting these multi-day treks. Mountain sickness can cause severe nausea and headache, or worse in some cases.
If you feel very sick at any point of the hike, you must come back down, it is the only way to recover.
Santa Cruz (4 days)
The Santa Cruz trek is one of the best things to do in Huaraz and yet there are not many hikers on the trail – this is the advantage of being in a less touristy destination in Peru!
It is a 4 days and 3 nights trip through the Cordillera Blanca that allows you to admire a series of snow-capped mountains, small rivers and beautiful lakes.
People usually go with a guide, but you can also do it on your own because the trail is well indicated.
The disadvantage is that you have to bring everything (material, food for 4 days, etc.), but if you want you can rent a mule, it is very practical!
How to get there on your own: take a bus to Caraz, then another bus to Cashapampa which is the starting point of the hike to Santa Cruz.
B Huayhuash (8 to 12 days)
The Huayhuash trek is one of the most beautiful treks in the world, but also one of the most difficult in the region because it demands to cover about 130 km between 4000 and 5490 m of altitude.
The scenery is breathtaking, with imposing mountains that exceed 6000m.
Along the way, we can observe the famous Andean condor, vicuñas and vizcachas. Halfway along the way you can also enjoy the hot springs that offer a well-deserved dose of relaxation to the body.
There are many variants of the Huayhuash trek that are shorter than the full version. There is even a 4-day “mini” Huayhuash.
It can be done with an agency or alone, although the safest way is to do it with a guide.
Doing the Huayhuash on your own: I recommend that you do it only if you have a good experience in high altitude and the adapted equipment. It is important to understand that this trip involves risks along the way and if something happens, you will be isolated.
How to get to the starting point: from Huaraz, you can take a cab to Cuartelwain. Another option is to take the bus to Llamac and then walk to Cuartelwain.
Recommendations to be considered to avoid altitude sickness
If you want to visit this area of Peru it is important to follow some recommendations to avoid altitude sickness.
- Acclimatize: It is extremely important to acclimatize in Huaraz at least a couple of days before trekking in the high mountains. For this we recommend excursions such as the Pastoruri Glacier and Chavín de Huántar, simple routes that do not require too much physical effort.
- Stay hydrated: drinking water often helps to avoid the symptoms of altitude sickness. Drinking 3 to 4 liters of water a day is ideal.
- Coca leaves: it is essential to carry a handful of coca leaves to chew along the way or carry a thermos or bottle with coca tea. You will also find candies and chewing gum made from coca. This is what helps to better cope with altitude sickness.
- Sorojchi Pills: this is a pill that you can find in any pharmacy in Peru and that you should take at least one hour before starting the trekking route. With this pill the symptoms of altitude sickness will be practically non-existent.
Take it easy: if during the route you feel you need to stop and rest because you feel tired, do it. Do not demand more than your body can give.
Finally, we know that you have to keep communication with your relatives and friends, that you need to be able to orient yourself in new cities, that you might need help with translation and that you might need to search for restaurants or hotels. That’s why with PeruSIM you can buy a SIM card including the data plan of your need without having to worry about high roaming costs.