ULTIMATE Guide to Huaraz, Peru – Hikes, the city, and more!
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This is our complete guide to Huaraz, Peru including a ton of information on the best hikes in Huaraz as well as how to best enjoy the city itself (other things to do, where to stay, and where to eat!)
The city of Huaraz, Peru 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 city itself that offers these activities but rather the stunning mountains that surround it.
We spent a total of three weeks exploring Huaraz, Peru. In that time, we grew to know the area quite well, we were hiking, eating, exploring local markets, and more!
I’ve written this guide about Huaraz to help other travelers make it to this remote location and enjoy the stunning hiking trails and unique city (hopefully as much as I did!)
About Huaraz, Peru
Huaraz is a city in Peru and the capital of the state of Ancash. It is home to approximately 120,00 people in the built-up area and is the second-largest city in the Peruvian Andes.
The city of Huaraz, Peru sits at 10,000 feet (3,052 meters) above sea level (that’s almost as high as Cusco!) The altitude and surrounding mountains make for a tough climate that is cold in the winter and wet in the summer.
Huaraz, Peru is most commonly visited by tourists who want to go hiking or mountaineering. Hiking in Huaraz is very popular because the nearby hikes are absolutely breathtaking!
However, this very authentic Peruvian city is still a hidden gem to explore. So while hiking in Huaraz is world-famous, I encourage you to have a look around the city too and appreciate what a unique place Huaraz, Peru really is!
For that reason, in this blog, I’ve not only included information about the best hikes in Huaraz but also the best things to do in and around the city itself!
Best Time of Year to Visit Huaraz, Peru
May to September is the most ideal months to visit Huaraz, Peru. This is because these are the months when you can go mountaineering or hiking in Huaraz. These are the winter months in Peru and although they are the 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. You can book your bus in advance online on a safe and reliable website Busbud.com.
If a public bus isn’t your thing, no worries! You can also book a private transfer from your hotel or airport in Lima directly to Huaraz!
*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.
Hiking in Huaraz: 5 BEST Hikes in Huaraz, Peru
There are literally an endless amount of trails to explore for hiking in Huaraz. However, below are what I (and a few fellow bloggers) think are the 5 best hikes in Huaraz, Peru, and ones you should consider doing for yourself!
1. Laguna 69
|Length:||7.5 miles (12km) return|
|Altitude:||12,470-15,100 feet (3800-4600meters)|
If you have researched Huaraz at all, this hike is probably already on your list. It is a gorgeous turquoise lake surrounded by white mountain peaks. On the hike, you will see many mountains, waterfalls, and a variety of colorful flowers.
Laguna 69 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 50 soles plus another 30 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 this hike in Huaraz. I did the Laguna 69 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), 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’s 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 ride home.
*Tip: Spend at least one full day in Huaraz (3,050m) before trying any hikes at all! Taking your time on the first few hours of any hike 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.
Save yourself the hassle and book this day trip to Laguna 69 – it is only $15 USD!
2. Santa Cruz Trek
|Length:||31 miles (50 km) one way|
|Altitude:||Up to 15,580 feet (4,750 meters)|
The Santa Cruz Trek is the most popular hikes in Huaraz. And to be honest, I can see why – the trail is just that beautiful!
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, what’s included, 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 with a reliable provider you should book online in advance!
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, buying your food, and transport to the hike from Huaraz will 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!
|Length:||71.5 miles (115 km) circuit|
|Altitude:||14,780-16,900 feet (4200-5150 meters)|
The Huayhuash was the one hike in Huaraz 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 16,400 feet (5,000m) above sea level. The quickest time to complete the trail is in 8 days but 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 heat in a matter of minutes.
The Huayhuash is not for a beginner hiker, and definitely not for the faint-hearted but the rewarding views are so worth the struggle!
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 that 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.
Our tour cost 550 soles per person. The gear wasn’t in the best shape and our guides did not speak a word of English.
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.
If you are short on time and need to book your hike before you arrive (with a reputable company) you should book a your Huayhuash guided tour online in advance. This particular tour is pricey, but it guarentees quality and a departure date (something we wished we would have thought about before going with the cheapest company!)
To save a couple bucks, consider joining a group instead for only $650.
If an 8-12 day hike sounds too long, there are actually 4-day shorter tours available (and they are cheaper too!)
4. Laguna Paron
|Length:||5.6 miles (9km) from the entrance gate one way |
(possible to drive the entire way on a tour)
|Time:||4-6 hours hiking from the entrance|
|Altitude:||Laguna Paron sits at 14,780 feet (4,200 meters)|
|Difficulty:||Medium (easy if going on a tour from Huaraz)|
Laguna Paron was one of my hikes in Huaraz AND one of my favorite places in Peru!
It is the largest of the lakes in the Cordillera Blanca and the color of the water is amazing. As soon as you arrive the only thing you can say is “wow”! This hike is one I told everyone they must do while they were in Huaraz.
To visit there are 2 options, you can either do a tour from Huaraz OR stay in the town of Caraz and go from there on your own:
Going on a tour from Huaraz
The tours take you directly to the lake and you get around 1 hour 30 mins to 2 hours to spend at the lake.
The lake is not the main attraction though and you must hike up to the viewpoint for another view!
The hike from the lake up to the viewpoint takes around 40 minutes and since you are at 14,780 feet (4,200 meters), it is not the easiest hike. At parts, you have to climb over the large boulders. It is well worth it though as the views from the viewpoint are amazing.
Once you have come back down to Laguna Paron, then you have the option of taking a boat or kayak onto the lake, or you can just sit at the shoreline and enjoy your lunch.
This is a great option for those who want to experience the high altitude without having to do any strenuous hiking! Perfect for acclimatization or just knowing how your body reacts to high altitude (everybody is different!)
A tour from Huaraz to Lake Paron costs around 55 soles, not including the entrance fee of 5 soles. Booking online in advance is a little more expensive as you don’t have to haggle and shop around saving you time, plus it only costs $30 USD anyways!
Solo Adventure from Caraz
If you don’t want to pay for the tour or you want a bit of a bigger adventure, then you have the option of staying in the town of Caraz and visiting Lake Paron from there.
Catch the 7 am collectivo from Caraz to the town of Paron. From there you walk 1km to the checkpoint before starting the 9km hike all uphill (800m) to the Laguna.
It should cost around 7 soles return for the collectivo.
5. Laguna Wilcacocha
|Length:||4 miles (6.5 km) one way|
|Altitude:||10,500 feet (3,2000 meters)|
|Difficulty:||Easy (perfect for acclimatizing!)|
Laguna Wilcacocha is the perfect hike in Huaraz, Peru to start with. It’s one of the lower hikes set at an altitude of just over 10,500 feet (3000 meters) making it the perfect hike to help you get used to the altitude!
Getting there is very easy and quick! From the corner of Raymondi and Hualcan streets (near the central market) flag down a collectivo van marked for Route 10 or Route E. The ride should cost approximately 1 sole.
Once on the bus, tell the driver you want to go to Laguna Wilcacocha – it’s a pretty popular stop for gringo backpackers, so they’ll know exactly where you want to go. If you’re worried about getting lost, use Google maps to keep track of where you’re going.
You’ll arrive at the base of the hike within 20 minutes. It will be an open dirt road. You can follow this road all the way up to the top (like we did because we were NOT acclimated at all and anything steeper would have killed us) or you can use the shortcut path which is steeper but cuts through straight to the top.
The short cut path is easy to miss so be on high alert! If you miss the first entrance, don’t worry, you’ll see a few other entrances later on in the hike.
The hike should take about 3 hours to get to the top and 1.5hrs or less to get down. It’s fairly flat on the dirt road path, but if you opt for the short cut, it’ll be a bit steeper but take less time.
Once you get to the top you’ll be rewarded with stunning views of the Cordillera Blanca. Take a break, have a picnic lunch and enjoy the views. You’ll even make some doggy friends at the top!
To get back to the city, just cross the street to the opposite side where you got dropped off and flag down a collectivo.
Before going remember to wear sunscreen (the sun is brutal at high altitudes), bring snacks/water, and dress appropriately!
It’s truly one of my favorite hikes in Huaraz because it was fairly easy, there were cute dogs, and the view is honestly unreal.
Other Hikes you can do from Huaraz, Peru
There are literally dozens of different hikes to explore around Huaraz. The ones I’ve mentioned above are my personal favorite (and the most commonly raved about) but that doesn’t mean they are your only options.
A few other hikes you can tackle from Huaraz are:
- Querococha Lake
- Lake Llanganuco
- Laguna Churup
- Laguna Rajucolta
- Quebrada Shallap
- Quebrada Llaca
To be completely honest, I didn’t do any of these ones so I don’t know much about them. My advice would be to ask a tour shop or local for advice on hiking them and more information – it could turn into quite the adventure!
5 BEST Things to do in Huaraz, Peru (other than hiking!)
Besides hiking in Huaraz, there are actually a few other awesome things to do in Huaraz!
As hiking is our main outdoorsy hobby, we didn’t do any ice climbing, mountain climbing, or other extreme activities. But these things can be done in Huaraz too.
Here are a couple of fun things to do in Huaraz to pass the time between hikes!
1. Relax at 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 sol 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.
2. Explore 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.
3. Eat local cuisine
One of the things I liked most about Huaraz was how the city is filled with locals. Sure, there are a few tourists around, but in comparison to places like Cusco or Mancora, it is still authentically local – which means local food!
Join a gastronomy experience in Huaraz and sample some of the traditional and Peruvian dishes. Some are delicacies and some are just plain tasty!
There is one experience in particular from Huaraz that actually takes you to a local family’s home where they cook and prepare “Cuy” (a Peruvian delicacy, AKA Guinea Pig) for you. It is such a unique cultural experience and one that is totally worth the $15 price tag!
4. Go Mountain Biking
Some people like to hike, and others like to ride! Mountain biking is another popular activity in Huaraz.
When you join a mountain bike tour you will see amazing mountain views and even pass through rural villages.
Assuming you aren’t traveling with your own mountain bike, you’ll have to join a tour. Tours are generally pretty reasonable though and include your equipment as well as a guide to show you around to all of the best spots!
This particular tour is only $57 USD and inlcudes your gear and a guide. Itstarts and leaves from Huaraz center and goes for about 5 hours.
5. Day trip to Pastoruri Glacier
This glacier is one of the last glaciers remaining in the tropical area of South America. And although it sits at 16,400 feet (5000 meters) above sea level, it is losing volume quickly. In fact, one day it is predicted to be completely gone – so you need to go now!
Pastoruri Glacier is located in Huascaran National Park. The only way to get there from Huaraz is with a taxi or organized tour. Tours cost about $20-25 USD and include a guide and transport.
Book your Pastoruri Glacier tour online in advance for only $22!
Where to Stay in Huaraz, Peru
There are many affordable hostels and hotels in Huaraz, in fact, Huaraz was the cheapest place for accommodation that we found in Peru!
All of the options below are our own opinions, and NOT sponsored or paid advertising. We have hand-picked THE BEST hostels and hotels in Huaraz, Peru based on our experience and research.
We stayed at Raju Guesthouse which was a great budget option. Good wifi, comfortable beds, helpful owner, and a good location. It included 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.
More Comfortable Hotels
Selina is technically a hostel as they do offer dorm rooms, but if you want an affordable and really nice double room with the vibe of a hostel this is your place! Selina has built itself the reputation of being a reliable brand across South America and Huaraz is no exception.
El Jacal is a guest house with a mountain view that delivers comfort to its guests. This family-owned guesthouse has a personal touch in a good location with an amazing included breakfast. Rooms start at about $40 USD per night.
For something a little bit nicer, Hotel El Tumi is about as “luxury” as it gets in a hiking town like Huaraz. I mean, there is a spa and sauna on site – what more could you ask for after a day of hiking?!
Don’t like our suggestions? Browse all of the accommodation options in Huaraz!
I hope that this guide to hiking in Huaraz, as well as the town, is helpful for your stay in Huaraz, Peru. 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!
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January 30, 2020