Hiking in Huaraz, Peru – The Cordillera Blanca
This is our complete guide to hiking in Huaraz including a ton of information on visiting Huaraz itself, as well as the hikes in nearby Cordillera Blanca region! (Updated in 2019)
Hiking in Huaraz, Peru – The Cordillera Blanca
The city of Huaraz is located deep in the Andes Mountain range and is quickly becoming one of the best places in the world for hiking, mountaineering, and rock climbing. However, it’s not the town itself that offers these activities but rather the stunning mountains that surround it. These mountains are known as The Cordillera Blanca.
We spent a total of three weeks exploring Huaraz and the Cordillera Blanca and grew to know the area quite well. However, what we found is that although this region has gained popularity it’s still visited by very few. To us this was such a shame as the hikes we did in this area where our favorite during our trip to South America
I have created this guide to hiking in Huaraz to help other travelers make it to this remote location and enjoy the stunning hiking trails.
The Best Time of Year to Go Hiking in Huaraz
May to September is the most ideal months to go mountaineering or hiking in Huaraz. These are the winter months in Peru and although they are coldest months, they provide the most ideal weather for hiking in this region.
In summer heavy rains and winds make many of the trails inaccessible and too dangerous.
Getting to and from Huaraz
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.
Where to Stay in Huaraz
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 for only 30 soles a night.
Hiking in Huaraz
There are literally endless routes for hiking in Huaraz. however, below are the three best hikes in Huaraz.
Laguna 69 – Day Hike
Length – 12km return
Time – 5 to 6 hours
Altitude – 3800 – 4600m
Difficulty – Medium/hard
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 is very cheap. You must go with a tour operator (who really just drives you there and back) but it only cost us 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.
One thing I found was that I underestimated 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. Most people we met suffered from some form of altitude sickness by the time the day was over. The most common symptom was a headache however some reported much worse symptoms and looked pretty beaten up on the bus home.
*Advice: Spend at least one full day in Huaraz (3,050m) before trying any hikes at all and taking your time on the first few hours can also help a lot. 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
Length – 50km one way
Time – 3 to 4 days
Altitude – High of 4760m
Difficulty – Hard
The Santa Cruz Trek is the most popular trail for travelers who go 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.
If you are on a short holiday and would like to book your Santa Cruz guided hike in advance you can book here!
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.
The park entrance fee for this hike is 65 soles.
There is a great blog here written by Be My Travel Muse about the Santa Cruz Hike if you would like more information!
Huayhuash – 8-12 day hike
Length – 115km loop
Time – 8 to 12 days
Altitude – 4200 to 5150m
Difficulty – Very hard
The Huayhuash 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 of people who had completed it and ranted and raved about how extraordinarily special it was. So 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 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. The quickest time to complete the trail is in 8 days however many people opt to do it over 10 and sometimes 12 days. This allows more time to relax and makes the hike longer but easier.
Camps are set up in some pretty amazing locations next to lagoons and beautiful mountains. 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.
Taking a Guided Tour on the Huayhuash Trek
I would highly recommend taking a guided tour on 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 an 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 locals 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 great value considering the amount of time the trek takes, the 6 hours of transport each way at the start, and end of the hike and the large amounts of food provided.
Booking the Huayhuash Trek
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. For this reason, its best to ignore them and go straight to the companies called Enjoy Huayhuash, Andes Camp, Caleb Expeditions, or Huayhuash Adventures.
The problem we faced with booking the Huayhuash was getting enough people to join us to make the hike more affordable. For us to get it at 450 soles each we needed at least 8 people. For every person under we had to pay another 100 soles each. With that said, our budget at this time was very limited and if I did the trail again I would likely just pay more to go when I wanted rather than waiting for enough hikers.
If you are short on time and need to book your hike before you arrive you can book a 10 Huayhuash guided tour here.
For more tips on Hiking in Peru, check out our complete guide here!
Things to do in Huaraz
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 very 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 minibus 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 of clothes for afterward.
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!
January 20, 2018