- South america
A Complete Backpacking Guide to Huaraz
I can not say enough good things about Huaraz in Peru. It's a low-key adventure town that most travelers ignore and that is one of the many reasons why I love it so much. As mass tourism befallen Cusco and Machu Picchu, Huaraz is left untouched, leaving stunning mountain ranges like the Cordillera Huayhuash and the Cordillera Blanca for those who seek real adventure.
It is one of the best places to hike in South America or even the world, only second to the Himalayas in Nepal, and this is the complete backpacking guide to Huaraz, and 10 most adventurous things to do in Huaraz, Peru.Table of Contents
- Huaraz Things to Do Map
- Peru Travel Video
- When to Visit Huaraz
- How to Get to Huaraz
- How to Get around Huaraz
- Where to Stay in Huaraz
- Travel Insurance
- Awesome Things to Do in Huaraz
- Further Reading for Peru
Huaraz Things to Do Map
Peru Travel Video
When to Visit Huaraz
The best time to visit Huaraz is from May to October to maximize the number of clear days you will have as most of the things I recommended here are all outdoor activities. That said, with good weather, come more hikers hitting the trail. That might be a good thing but if you want to have the places to yourself, trying visiting during the shoulder season, like late April or November.
How to Get to Huaraz
You can fly to Lima with Delta, United and American airlines if you are from the US, Air France, KLM, British Airline if you are from Europe or Asia, or Avianca or LATAM if you are within South America. To find the cheapest deal, be sure to browse through Skyscanner or Momondo and get a flight that works for you itinerary.
From Lima, you have to option, fly domestic which is more expensive (150+ USD) but fast, or take an overnight bus which is cheaper (7 - 20 USD) but slower. I would recommend taking the bus as it will help you with acclimatization since Huaraz is 3000m above sea level. Go with either Cruz del Sur or Oltursa bus companies as they have the most comfortable seat and services out there.
Keep in mind: Buses in Peru operate differently from the other countries as each bus company has their own bus terminal in a different location so make sure you go to the right one.
How to Get around Huaraz
Collectivos (minivans) are your best bet at getting around Huaraz cheaply and it is FUN! For only around 1 PEN, you will need to get on the right minivan (ask your hostel where you want to go, they will let you know the collectivo number), sit among the locals and, with the help of Google Maps, shouted "Pare Aqui, Por Favor", pay the driver and get off. That's it. Super cheap, easy, and fun to practice your Spanish with the driver! 😁
You can also take a private taxi if you have a lot of luggage but be sure to negotiate the price before you get on one.
To go further, say the start of a hiking trail (Santa Cruz, Huayhuash) you can either flag a collectivo down on the road heading toward the trail direction and ask the driver if they are going to Yungay (for Santa Cruz trail) or Chiquian (for Huayhuash trail) or you can go to the Empresas De Transporte (bus terminal) and catch the collectivo from there.
For further remote areas, more often than not, you will find a transfer service from a tour agency that leaves every day and you will be sharing with other tourists towards a destination. Laguna 69, Pastoruri Glacier and Nevado Mateo can be done like this or with a daily tour you can book a day prior from Huaraz city center.
Where to Stay in Huaraz
Budget - La Casa De Maruja B & B - 7.97 USD/Night (Dorm) | 23 USD/Night (Double Room)
One of the best hotel experience in Peru. The owner knows everything about all the hiking you can do in Huaraz. He will even organize you a trip if you want to. The room is really comfortable, perfect for when you come back from the long hike. If there isn't a lot of guests, they will upgrade your dorm room to a double room for free. Highly recommended.
This place is quite cheap compare to all the other countries in the world. If you are planning a trip here, you can expect to pay around 25 - 45 USD per day per person and that should include accommodation and 3 meals.
Keep in mind that this is just a suggested daily budget based on my style of traveling, which is leaning more toward the budget side of things. If you want to stick to this budget, expect to sleep in dorms, eat out only a few times, and be comfortable using the cheapest and most convenient way of transportation, which often times involves walking.
If you are looking for a travel insurance to go along with your trip to Peru, I would recommend WorldNomads.com, which is what I use to look for a travel insurance that fits my kind of adventure.
Awesome Things to Do in Huaraz
Photos by Uwebart
Of course, the first thing when you arrive in a new city is to explore what the city center has to offer. Huaraz is a small city where most of the tourist-friendly activities are all congested on a few streets, mainly on Av. Mariscal Toribio de Luzuriaga and the Antonio Raymondi streets. This is also a street where you can find plenty of outdoor stores, camping gear rental places, and travel agencies where you can book your tour to Laguna 69, Pastoruri Glacier and Nevado Mateo Ice Climbing trip. Be sure to resupply your hiking-related stuff here before embarking on the journey.
There are a few places worth seeing in the city center as well, such as Plaza de Armas Huaraz square and the Main Market if you want to see how the people of Huaraz spend their days. For a nice cafe, you can go to California cafe, a great place to meet people (more on that later) or Ardino Cafe, a cafe with a view.
You also gotta try Ceviche from a street food cart along the Antonio Raymondi street. Walk around and you should see a lot of people, eating and chatting in front of one of these carts at lunchtime. For a nice pint of beer and fun live music, you can head over to Trivio Resto Bar. It can get quite crowded on Friday so go early.
Find Hiking Partners or Enjoy the Coffee at California Cafe
California cafe is a cafe in Huaraz runs by a Californian woman, which is probably not the best place to have an authentic Peruvian experience but it is a good place to have a proper coffee and good western breakfast fix. It is also the only place where you will be able to find a hiking partner if you do not want to go into the mountains alone.
They have a pin board at the entrance where anyone can post up anything related to Huaraz. Keep an eye out for the notice on the board, or you can simply ask the Barista if there is anyone looking for other people to hike with.
Acclimatize by Hiking to Laguna 69
One of the things you have to take in consideration here is the altitude. The city is 3,000m above sea-level and if you are planning to go hiking, you will need to spend a few days in Huaraz and acclimatize. The best way to do that is to go on a day hike to Laguna 69, a pristine alpine lake tucked away in the Cordillera Blanca mountain range.
I would recommend you book a transportation service from any of the travel agency in the city for the next day and they will organize a pick-up and drop-off transportation for you. This is by far one of the most convenient and affordable ways to do Laguna 69. The bus should pick you up at 6 AM and you will be back by 6:30 PM.
I know it's touristy doing this way but the hike takes 3 hours to go up and 2 to go down, and people hike at a different speed so it won't feel as crowded as the beginning of the trail when you started hiking.
The difficulty is somewhat moderate with an easy-going first part, a little bit of steep climb up the first lake before you arrive at a plain where it's another 30 mins stroll before the steep ascent to Laguna 69.
The landscape throughout the trail is beyond stunning, hence why it is so popular among travelers in Huaraz. Be very careful with the altitude though as the lake is at 4,600m above sea level and the risk of altitude sickness is very real, so take it slow.
If you are going with a tour, there will be a guide that will tell everybody when to start descending to be at the bus on time. The descent is pretty simple and should take you around 2 hours to get back. The bus should start heading back by 4:30 PM.
If you want to do it independently with a public transport, here is a great guide: Hiking Laguna 69 | Everything You Need to Know.
Experience Pastoruri Glacier Up Close
Another great day trip that will get you up close with a glacier of the Andes is a trip to Pastoruri Glacier south of Huaraz. You will have to book a seat on a bus from a tour agency in town to get there and the trip should start at 9 AM and back in Huaraz by 5 PM.
You will be on the bus for about an hour before you arrive at the trail to the glacier. The trail takes only an hour, but do not estimate it since you will be hiking at the altitude of 5,000m which is no easy task. At this altitude, anyone will have difficulty breathing regular so be sure to walk slowly and breathe fully.
You will be able to stand under a towering Pastoruri glacier once you arrive at the top. It is quite a sight to behold. When I was there, it was snowing heavily but that didn't stop me from enjoying the surrounding beautiful landscape, in fact, I think it looks prettier than during a clear day, don't you think? 😉
Go Ice Climbing up the Nevado Mateo Summit
Looking for something really adventurous? How about ice climbing in the Andes? Huaraz is one of the best and cheapest places to ice climb as a beginning since quite a few peaks here are reachable in a day and is relatively easier than elsewhere. One of that peak is the Nevado Mateo, a 5,200m snow-capped peak in the Cordillera Blanca mountain range.
I organized this trip via my guesthouse (La Casa De Maruja B & B) and they provided me with all the equipments for the climb. The tour begins with an early pick-up (3 AM) and we start our journey to the trailhead in the dark. The bus trip took around 2 hours before we arrive at an unmarked rocky trail near a 4,740m high, the highest and longest vehicular tunnel in the world. From here, we will have to ascend on foot for the next 2 hours.
Once you have reached the icy slope, you will have to put your ice climbing gear on and start climbing the ice. It's not super steep nor technical but it is still challenging for a beginner (me). Don't worry though, as you will be hooked to your guide and he often secured himself with a rope.
When I was there, it was snowing like crazy so I didn't get to see any of the delicious view people see up there, but it was my first time climbing ice and that was a fun experience to have. I hope you will be lucky with the weather than I do.
Trek the Santa Cruz Trail (4 days)
Santa Cruz is one of the best short treks you can do in Huaraz and since you are already acclimatized with all the activities I suggested above, you are now ready for the big trek. The trek will take 4 days and you will have to be camping, cooking your own food and carrying everything yourself if you want to do it independently as I did.
The trail begins at Vaquería where you can take a collectivo to in the early morning and from there, you will have to hike along the valley to your first camping site, Paria.
On day 2, you will be ascending steeply into Punta Union pass (4,750m), the highest point of the trail so start as early as you can. From there, you can branch out and do side-trip to Arhuaycocha Alpamayo viewpoint or you can rest at the Taullipampa campsite and do the viewpoint the next morning. The campsite here has the perfect view of the Tawllirahu mountain.
Day 3 will be a simple descend to the lake and from the lake to the Llamacorrel campsite, your last night in the mountain.
Day 4 is all descend to Cashapampa and from there take a collectivo to Caraz and to Huaraz for a proper shower and a good night sleep.
Trek the Huayhuash Trail (10 days)
Hiking 4 days in the Cordillera Blanca isn't enough? How about a 10 days trek through the Huayhuash mountain range. I gotta admit, I didn't have the power, time and forecasted clear days to do this trail but if you are looking for the best adventure of your life, a 10 days Huayhuash trail is for you.
The Huayhuash trail is considered to be one of the most beautiful trekking circuits in the world and for good reasons. The Cordillera Huayhuash is home to mountains like Yerupaja (6,634m), the second highest in the country, and the Siula Grande, the infamous mountain of the incident that was captured in the book, "Touching the Void" by Joe Simpson (excellent to read while in Huaraz).
It is a very challenging trek as you will be hiking above 4,000m most of the time so it would be better if you go with a travel agency that will help organize the logistic of camping gear, food and other equipment for you.
For more detail on the trek: Hiking the Cordillera Huayhuash Without a Guide
Further Reading for Peru
Peru is my favorite countries in South America and there is a ton to do in the country. To better plan your trip in Peru, here is a selection of articles about Peru you might like:
- Looking for a complete travel guide for Peru? Here’s a one month backpacking itinerary for Peru.
- One of the best treks you can do in Huaraz if you have 4 days to spare is the Santa Cruz trek. Here’s everything you need to know to trek the Santa Cruz trail independently.
- Machu Picchu is maybe one of the most crowded tourist attractions in South America but there are ways to avoid that and have the whole place to yourself without hiking. Here is how to avoid the crowds in Machu Picchu based on my personal experience.
- You can also watch my Peru travel video here: "Peru" travel video.
- To see all articles about Peru, visit Peru Travel Guide page.
- Looking for a place to go after Peru? How about Ecuador or Bolivia?
- Looking for more travel guides for the South America? You can find more on my South America Travel Guide page.
- For more of my travel guides, visit my Destinations page.
The Solo Traveler’s Journal is a series of posts by Pete Rojwongsuriya, the founder of BucketListly Blog where we will follow his solo journey around the world as he experiences different cultures, people, and historical locations one country at a time.
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