Located at 3,052 meters above sea level you will find the Peruvian city of Huaraz. The city itself is not very special, but Huaraz is an absolute must visit when you travel through Peru. Surrounded by the Cordillera Blanca, Cordillera Negra and with numerous clear blue glacial lakes, it is a paradise for hikers and undoubtedly one of the most rugged and beautiful places in all of Peru. In this ultimate travel guide all my tips and tricks for a visit to hikers paradise Huaraz; from the best restaurants, the finest accommodations to the most beautiful day trips and hikes!
How to reach Huaraz?
Huaraz is located 400 km north of Lima. A long way off the well-known backpacking route, but I promise you -if you have the time- it is well worth the detour! There are many comfortable (night) buses that take you from Lima to Huaraz in about 8 to 11 hours. Depending on how fast the driver drives and how often he stops. There are no direct flights to Huaraz, so the bus is actually the easiest option!
Altitude sickness is no joke! Annoying headaches, stomach problems, diarrhoea, poor sleep and shortness of breath are some of the main symptoms of altitude sickness. You can experience these symptoms above 2,500m. The air becomes thinner, the oxygen level drops and your body has to get used to this. The city itself is located at over 3000 meters, which is already quite high. However, the many beautiful hikes in the area are even higher.
So give your body time to acclimatize. Huaraz was our very first destination in Peru, after Lima. So we were definitely not used to the height. We spent a total of 11 full days in Huaraz and had enough time to do some beautiful hikes and to rest in between. That was more than necessary, because we have both been a bit sick here. Not only the altitude was difficult in my case, but we also both suffered from a cold.
The most beautiful day trips from Huaraz
Not everyone has the desire and physicality to do multi-day treks. Fortunately, there are also many wonderful day trips to book from Huaraz. Keep in mind that the majority of these tours / sights are still a long way from Huaraz. It is therefore the rule rather than the exception that you can easily spend six hours in the car during these day trips. This is why they often start so early in the morning (pick-up is often between 2 and 5am). We made some fantastic day trips.
1. Laguna Wilcacocha
Laguna Wilcacocha is a perfect hike for acclimatization and one of the easiest hikes in this region. From Huaraz you can easily and cheaply take a bus to the start of the hiking trail. This walking tour takes you past an authentic village surrounded by fields and the beautiful mountains in the distance. At the top you will arrive at Lake Wilcacocha and here too you will be spoiled with fantastic views over the mountain range. Read all the information for an independent hike to Laguna Wilcacocha here.
2. Paramount hike/Laguna Paron
Laguna Paron is undoubtedly one of the most famous day trips from Huaraz. It is the largest lake in the Cordillera Blanca and perhaps the most beautiful. You can choose to take a day trip to the viewpoint of Laguna Paron. Keep in mind that this is a three-hour drive (+three hours back!) and on these trips you often only spend an hour at the lake itself. So you spend a lot of time in the car. For that reason we chose an alternative; the Paramount Hike!
Here you spend a whole day at the lake and walk along the beautiful blue Laguna Paron, towards the famous Paramount mountain. All information about this hike can be found in this blog article.
3. Laguna 69
Perhaps the most beautiful place in this region and undoubtedly the most popular day trip from Huaraz. We ourselves opted for an alternative multi-day trek towards Laguna 69 (more on that later). The day hike is ideal for those who don’t feel like camping or longer trips. You can choose between the classic route, although some tour agencies also offer the Panorama route. I would definitely go for the second option!
4. Nevada Mateo
Technically not really a hike, but mountaineering! The day trip to Nevado Mateo is a challenging glacier hike and climb to the snowy Mateo peak. Ideal for a first mountaineering experience. This one was sky high on my bucket list, but unfortunately we had to cancel it due to illness. A great pity, because this also seems to me to be one of the coolest day trips in this region!
5. Laguna Churup
We did not visit Laguna Churup ourselves, but just like Laguna Wilcacocha, this is an ideal hike for acclimatization. A perfect first hike before you go to a higher altitude or do multi-day trips. You can also visit this independently from Huaraz. This is a fun and adventurous hike, where you have to drag yourself up a sheer rock face with nothing but a rubber covered rope to hold on to. Along the way you will also be treated to beautiful views, with Lake Churup as icing on the cake.
6. Pastoruri Glacier
This is not really a ‘hike’ either. On arrival you only have to walk for an hour towards the glacier. A day trip to Pastoruri Glacier is also extremely popular and very cheap. Do you want to see this glacier? Then be quick! It is likely that the majority of glaciers in the Huaraz area will melt within the next 25 years. Pretty sad! Read here our experience with a day tour to Glacier Pastoruri, as well as costs and other useful information!
The most beautiful multi-day treks from Huaraz
The area around Huaraz is beautiful and extremely suitable for multi-day hikes! Below are the three most beautiful treks you can make from Huaraz.
1. Santa Cruz Trek
The Santa Cruz Trek is the most popular multi-day trek from Huaraz. It is not an extremely long trip and in terms of difficulty it is easy to do with a good basic condition. The trek takes four days (three nights). At first we thought of doing the Santa Cruz Trek, partly in preparation for the Salkantay trek. In the end, our plans changed a bit in Huaraz. This trek winds its way through the valleys of the Cordillera Blanca, enjoying some beautiful turquoise lakes along the way. The highest point of the trek is Punta Union, at 4750 meters.
Experienced hikers can easily do this trek on their own, although a tour is also very cheap due to its popularity. Count on 150 to 280 euros. Depending on comfort, size of the group and how popular the agency you book with is.
2. The Huayhuash trek
The Huayhuash trek is one for more experienced hikers and certainly not for the faint hearted! This is undoubtedly the most beautiful hike in the region and even one of the most beautiful hikes in the whole world. The Huayhuash trek takes 8 to 12 days (there are several options). During this tour you walk along one of the most rugged landscapes in the region. From blue lakes to snowy peaks and endless plains. This trek will leave you gasping for breath all the time!
Do you want to experience a piece of Huayhuash yourself, but don’t feel like or have the time to spend 8-12 days? Then the Mini-Huayhuash might be something for you! You will discover the best of the Huayhuash trek in 4 days/3 nights
3. Milky way trek to laguna 69
We opted for a trekking that is absolutely not popular and, as far as I know, is only offered by Akilpo. This is an alternative route to the famous Laguna 69 (2D/1N) and a fantastic trek for photographers! The landscapes are rugged, untouched and breathtakingly beautiful! During the trek we also enjoyed a beautiful glacier and being here as the only tourists makes it all the more special! Normally you can enjoy an impressive starry sky at night (partly the reason we booked this trek! We wanted to focus on astrophotography here). Unfortunately we saw nothing but a thick layer of fog. Unfortunately, you can’t control the weather.
The next day we woke up in a snowy landscape and it was too dangerous to descend towards Laguna 69. This highlight was also not in it for us! I can imagine that with a starry sky and with Laguna 69 it is one of the most special treks you can book. For us it turned out a bit differently, although it is without a doubt one of the most beautiful landscapes I have ever seen!
You can read our adventure during the Milkyway Trek here.
The best restaurants in Huaraz
- Paulline: delicious Indian food. The portions are quite big and not expensive!
- Chile Heaven: secretly maybe even better than the above. You can also eat delicious Indian food here! Tip; Do not eat here if you are easily car sick and have to take the (night) bus afterwards. My spicy curry was out in no time and this was a miserable night!
- Cafe California: hip place with good coffee and delicious (healthy) meals. A lot more expensive though. Nice place to chill a bit longer. There are comfortable seats, books and board games.
- JAMA: fancy restaurant. Very fine cuisine and delicious special flavors. You get, as it were, small works of art on your plate. Nevertheless not expensive!
- Cafe Andino: cozy interior, delicious tea and good to eat.
- El Fogon: tipped by a local and definitely a nice and delicious restaurant. Wide choice and also a bit cheaper. Not suitable for vegetarians!
- La Casita del Mago: three courses for about 10 euros. Simple, but tasty!
- El rinconcito minero: cozy interior and a menu full of delicious (local) dishes.
The finest accommodations in Huaraz
The majority of the accommodations in Huaraz are quite simple, but certainly offer enough comfort. Pay close attention to the reviews when you book a room. Some rooms are freezing cold and sometimes don’t even have hot water. In Huaraz it can be nice and warm during the day, but it cools down considerably in the evening. After an intense day of hiking, it is so nice to be able to take a nice hot shower and not end up in an ice-cold room.
We stayed in Huaraz for 11 nights and our first accommodation was terrible (cold!). We were so happy when we found a fantastic alternative, namely Akilpo home! Wonderfully spacious and comfortable rooms with a king-size bed and a large TV with Netflix! The bathroom was quite big and we had a lovely hot shower. In the morning you can enjoy a breakfast buffet. Such a luxury! We really appreciated this after the first nights in the less pleasant accommodation.
Selina hostels are popular all over South America and Selina Huaraz also looks great! The prices are just a bit more expensive.
Are you looking for something on a budget? Then the Krusty hostel B&B is perfect for you! Nice and cheap, clean and sufficient comfort. Perhaps the best budget choice in Huaraz.
Not convinced? Find here your favorite accommodation in Huaraz and that for everyone’s budget.
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