Hiking in Huaraz, Peru: A guide to the hikes and the town
January 20, 2018
Recently, we did a fair amount of hiking from the town of Huaraz, Peru. This is our complete guide to hiking in Huaraz including a ton of information on visiting Huaraz itself, as well as the hikes nearby.
Topics included in this guide are:
- The best time of year to go
- Getting to Huaraz
- Where to Stay in Huaraz
- Information about the most popular hikes from Huaraz
- Other things to do in Huaraz besides hiking
Hiking in Huaraz: A Guide to Huaraz and the Surrounding Hikes
Huaraz, Peru is a city in the Andes, an extremely popular destination for hikers and mountaineers from all over the world. It is a small city with not much to offer within the city itself but is surrounded by extreme mountains offering tons of outdoor activities, including our favorite – hiking.
We spent a total of about two weeks exploring Huaraz and the mountains which surround it and grew to know the area quite well. I think that it is a shame that so many travelers in Peru actually miss out on this area as it is one of my highlights in Peru!
I have created this guide to hiking in Huaraz including information on the town itself to help other travelers make it to this remote location.
May to September are the ideal months. These are the winter months but are much better for tourists as the summer months create melting on the mountains and rainy conditions that can make hiking hard, or in some cases, impossible.
Huaraz is accessible by an extremely windy bus ride from either Lima or Trujillo in Peru. Both buses are frequent (both day and night options) and are about 8 hours long. Expect to pay between 50-130 soles depending on the type of seat and bus ticket you buy.
*Note, there are no real main bus terminals in most of Peru as many of the buses operate out of private offices. Check the departure location of your bus carefully to plan your taxi/walk there. To buy bus tickets online use the website redbus.pe, it is super helpful for learning departure times and prices to help plan your journey.
There are many affordable hostels in Huaraz, in fact, Huaraz was the cheapest place for accommodation that we found in Peru!
We stayed at Raju Guesthouse which was a great budget option. Good wifi, comfortable beds, helpful owner, and a good location. Includes a basic breakfast of coffee/tea, bread, and a banana. Hot showers weren’t super reliable but it was a great value at 20 soles a night for a spacious dorm.
If you want something a little nicer, we heard wonderful things about Hostel Akilpo. Hot showers, good location, really comfortable beds and hostel for 30 soles a night.
There are literally endless routes for hiking in Huaraz. Below are some of the most beautiful and therefore the most common.
Laguna 69 – Day Hike
If you have researched Huaraz at all this hike is probably already on your list. It is a gorgeous turquoise lake surrounded by white peaked mountains. On the hike itself, you will see many mountains, waterfalls, and a variety of colorful flowers.
It is a super accessible day hike and pretty cheap. You must go with a tour operator (who really just drives you there and back) but is only about 30 soles plus another 10 soles for the national park fee. Almost every tour company in town will sell you this tour and it departs daily at about 5 am.
The Laguna is a stunning sight that you should add to your list, but do not underestimate the difficulty of the hike. I did this hike the day after arriving in Huaraz and struggled a bit with the altitude. I had done high altitude hiking in Cusco before but having just come from Lima (at sea level) this time I didn’t give myself enough time to acclimatize.
The hike begins at 3,800m and ends at 4,600m above sea level so it is quite the climb and if you experience altitude sickness it will be extremely difficult and not so much fun.
Advice: Spend at least one full day in Huaraz (3,050m) before trying any hikes at all. Altitude sickness is not fun and can be dangerous.
The tour bus on the way to the Laguna will stop at a place where you can buy a cheap breakfast but you must pack a lunch and at least 2.5 liters of water. Also, bring a rain jacket as the weather can change within minutes up there. It is a full day trip, departing at 5 am and returning around 5 or 6 pm.
Santa Cruz Trek – Multi-Day Hike
This is also a very popular among backpackers in terms of hiking in Huaraz. We didn’t actually do this one as we opted for the longer, more difficult hike called the Huayhuash (read below for details) but almost everyone we talked to hiked the Santa Cruz and loved it!
The Santa Cruz Trek is usually a three to four-day hike featuring some amazing lakes and very famous mountains (like the mountain from the Paramount Pictures logo.)
Various tour operators offer this tour including all equipment (sometimes not sleeping bags though so double check this), food, guides, and donkeys to carry your things. This tour costs about 350 soles give or take a bit depending on the group size and if the guide speaks English.
It is also common for people to do the Santa Cruz hike on their own. Just be mindful that if you don’t have the gear already, the cost of renting the equipment and buying your food and transport could cost almost the same as a tour where you don’t have to do any research, cooking, or carrying everything the whole time. Just a thought.
The park entrance fee for this hike is 65 soles.
Huayhuash – 8-12 day hike
This was the one hike we were so excited to do, and the only real reason we made the trip to Huaraz in the first place. We met a couple people who had completed it and ranted and raved about how extraordinarily special it was. We just had to give it a go!
If you are up for a challenge and some real tough hiking in Huaraz, then the Huayhuash is for you!
The one problem with this hike is booking it. There are four travel companies in Huaraz who offer this hike, everyone else sells it as a third party and will charge you more for their commission so ignore them and go straight to the companies called Enjoy Huayhuash, Andes Camp, Caleb Expeditions, or Huayhuash Adventures.
Don’t bother booking in advance either because they will charge you more. You must show up, visit each company individually and ask when they have a scheduled (confirmed) departure.
We struggled with booking as every company requires 6-8 people minimum to go on the hike and organizing this many people is a challenge (especially when there are so few people wanting to tackle this strenuous and time-consuming hike.) However, after several days of trying to book the hike we finally got a group of 16 together through Andes Camp!
The Huayhuash is still the best hike I have ever completed to date, but it is also the most difficult. It climbs over 9 mountain passes all reaching around 5,000m above sea level. It is 7 nights and 8 days of hiking at a minimum altitude of 4,200m and stretched over 115 kilometers!
Camps are setup in some amazing locations, next to lagoons or beautiful mountains and allow one’s lungs to take a break at around 4,300m. Temperatures drop below zero every night and during the day the weather can change from snow to sweltering hot in a matter of minutes. The Huayhuash is not for a beginner hiker, and definitely not for the faint-hearted.
I would highly recommend taking a tour for the Huayhuash. Tours are affordable and provide an income for locals who live in the mountains. They also include food, guides who cook, camping equipment, and donkeys to carry gear. Our tour also included three horses which could be used in case of emergency or for exhausted or sick hikers.
It is important to remember that out there, there is no cell phone service or help for several kilometers so having some experienced people and horses around at all times is a good idea.
The tour cost 450 soles per person. The gear wasn’t in the best shape and our guides did not speak a word of English, but it was good enough.
Along the way, other fees must be paid to the people who own the land (the Huayhuash is not in a National Park) totaling another 250 soles more or less. These prices are a great value considering the amount of time the trek takes, 6 hours of transport each way at the start and end of the hike, the large amount of food given, and the incredible views offered.
Advice: Before taking on the Huayhuash try a couple of other high-altitude hikes first. Pack garbage bags to keep clothes dry, water purification tablets, lots of toilet paper, and altitude sickness pills (these items will be life savers!) Also, do not underestimate the cold weather conditions, bring several layers of sweaters and pants, mittens, wool socks, and a hat.
Also, if you can book a longer tour than the typical 8 days. 8 days means each day is a full 8-12 hours of walking and staying more nights means less hiking per day. I know that some companies can accommodate up to a 12 day hike, really allowing your body to rest in the evenings.
Writing this post on the Huayhuash has inspired me to write a story about my experience on the Huayhuash, so keep an eye open for that post (coming soon!)
For more tips on Hiking in Peru, check out our complete guide here!
Besides hiking in Huaraz, there are actually a few other awesome things to do! As hiking is our hobby, we didn’t do any ice climbing, mountain climbing, or other extreme activities. But these things can be done in Huaraz. Contact Caleb Expeditions for more info on anything else you may be interested in doing in the mountains. This company offers a ton of true and helpful information.
In terms of things to do in the actual town of Huaraz, there isn’t too much. But we did manage to find a couple of fun things to do to pass the time when we weren’t out hiking.
The Monterrey Hot Springs
These are hot springs only about a ten-minute drive from the city center of Huaraz. This is great for when you get back from a tough hike or on a day when you are just acclimatizing.
You can take a taxi there if you want but the local bus is very easy and cheap.
To catch the bus, go to the street called Centenario and jump on a mini bus with the number 1 on it, it will also say Monterrey. Just double check with the driver when you get on that you are going to “Banos Termales de Monterrey.” Stay on the bus until the end. You will know you are at the end because the bus will stop and turn around, that is when you get off. It costs 1 sole each way.
The hot springs cost 4 soles to enter. There is a larger cold pool as well as several small hot pools. They also have hot showers and change rooms so bring a change a clothes for afterwards.
The bus back into town picks up from where it dropped you off. There are buses running consistently throughout the day.
The Local Market “Mercado Central de Huaraz”
Just a couple blocks from the main square there is a local market. The market is mostly inside a large building selling tons of clothing type items and other trinkets. However, out of the streets there is tons of food for sale. All sorts of interesting items can be found here including live Guinea Pig (a Peruvian delicacy!)
If your stomach can manage the strong smell of raw meat, this is a great place for shopping for groceries as it is much cheaper than the grocery stores in town.
Eat at Creperie Patrick
Huaraz doesn’t have a ton of great places to eat, in fact, most of my time there I ate street food or cooked for myself. However, Creperie Patrick is a restaurant every local and foreigner alike will rave about. The prices are fair and the food is gourmet. The names sounds like it is French food, such as Crepes, but it actually has a strong focus of typical Peruvian dishes. You can see the menu and contact them on their website here.
For more information on great treks in South America, check out this blog by Travel Outlandish!
I hope that this guide to hiking in Huaraz, as well as the town, is helpful for your stay in Huaraz. To this day, Huaraz is a place I will never forget (and likely a place I will return to one day.) If there is anything I have left out or anything else I can help with please comment or email me!
Traveling more in Peru? Check out all of our Peru travel guides here!