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Cordillera Blanca Trek – Vicos to Ishinca

Alternative Cordillera Blanca Experience
FromUSD$1,070
Alternative Cordillera Blanca Experience
FromUSD$1,070
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1730
  • 9 Days Starts in Huaraz
  • Group Size: 2 - 8
  • April through November
  • Difficulty: Quite hard. Only for really fit people who have trekking experience

Get to know the Cordillera Blanca the alternative way! This 9-day experience, including a 5-day trek through the famous mountain range, is a unique alternative to the more famous but sometimes overpopulated trekkings in the area like the Santa Cruz, Cedros, or Huayhuash trek.

It combines the spectacular natural surroundings you’d expect from the Cordillera Blanca, with a community that has a special connection to these mountains. Your local host families will allow you to have a glimpse of their daily lives and their nature-based religion, where the mountains, lakes, glaciers, rivers, the earth, the moon, and the sun can be seen as gods. Some archaeological sites will also be visited so that you’ll get an idea of the civilizations that inhabited these places before us.

Trekking the Cordillera Blanca this way not only gives you an extra dimension to your trekking experience. It also allows the local community members to sustain their ancient lifestyle. 

To finish off your experience in style, we included two nights at The Lazy Dog Inn: a sustainable mountain lodge above Huaraz. The Lazy Dog Inn works hand in hand with its surrounding community to jointly grow the local economy and strengthen society. You will enjoy this amazing mountain area while supporting the local community!

If you are not an experienced trekker but still want to get to know a community in the Cordillera Blanca, you can! Have a look at the Complete Vicos Experience with Pachamanca (3 days) or the Most Authentic Community Experience in the Cordillera Blanca (2 days).

If on the contrary, you are a hiking fanatic and want to explore more of Peru on foot, you should not miss out on our whole range of Peru Hiking Tours

Day by Day

Day 1Huaraz - Community of Vicos (3.100 m / 10.170 feet)

We’ll be picked up at our hotel by our guide and our host from the community of Vicos (3.100 m / 10.170 feet), who will accompany us by public transportation to Vicos. We have chosen public transportation for the experience because it is a good and cheap alternative to private transportation. However, if you wish, we’d be happy to organize private transportation for you as well. 

Upon arrival at Vicos, we’ll walk to our lodging: a short walk of about 20 minutes. On the way, we’ll start learning about local life with our guides who will be happy to respond to any question about what we see around us.

Once installed in our rooms in the private lodge next to the host family’s house, we’ll get to know the family members, who will welcome us with herbal tea made with medicinal plants that you will learn to recognize in the field. Afterward, we’ll have a delicious local lunch.

In the afternoon, activities depend on our preferences. We’ll discover the surroundings of our house and learn about medicinal plants, Andean agriculture, and the chores of family members. Oh, and we’ll prepare bread as well: Vicos-style!

After dinner it’s story time: we’ll listen to legends and stories of the Vicosinos sitting by the kitchen fire. Buenas Noches.

Day 2Hike from lower to upper Vicos (3.300 m /10.800 feet)

After having an Andean breakfast, we’ll start our hike to the upper part of Vicos (3.300 m / 10.800 feet), which takes about three hours. On the way, we’ll pass by some interesting places like:

– Viewpoints with panoramic views over the Vicos community and its surrounding peaks, including several sixthousanders of the Cordillera Blanca;

– The house of an artisan (if available) who will show us his atelier, explain to us his techniques and tools and allow us to buy some of his stuff;

– Medicinal plants that grow in many places and have many different medicinal applications that our local guide will explain to us;

– Archaeological sites of (probably) the Wari period that have never been studied;

– Agricultural fields and grasslands, where our local guide can share ancestral knowledge with us. 

On the way, we’ll have a small snack, too. However, once we arrive at the house of our next local host family we will be received with Andean hospitality: a varied lunch with local specialties. In the afternoon we’ll have free time to enjoy the surroundings and the tranquility, read, or walk around with members of the host family or by ourselves. Enjoy yourself and rest.

In the evening, we’ll have dinner together before going to bed. 

Day 3Vicos community - Honcopampa - Cochapampa Campsite (3.780 m / 12.400 feet)

After this amazing experience in the authentic mountain community of Vicos, we will start the second and more adventurous part of our expedition.

From the house of our host family, we depart on foot in the company of our experienced mountain trekking guide. Whilst observing the landscape, typical villages, and the daily activities of its inhabitants, we reach the majestic site of Honcopampa located at the entrances of the Aquilpo and Ishinca Valleys. Honcopampa lies at an altitude of 3500 meters above sea level (11.500 feet)  and probably belongs to the Recuay Period (200 to 800 after Christ). 

After visiting the monument from the outside and inside we’ll visit the waterfall “Yurac Yacu” at the entrance of Aquilpo Valley before continuing to our campsite of tonight: Cochapampa, located at 3780 meters above sea level (12.400 feet). The rest of the team (cook and muleteers) will be waiting for us here with the camp all set up already and a hot cup of tea or chocolate milk ready to be enjoyed. 

 

Today’s hiking time: 4 to 5 hours, from 3.300 to 3.780 masl. 

Day 4Cochapampa campsite - Ishinca Base Camp (4.350 m / 14.270 feet)

After a night spent right in front of the impressive Copa, Hualcán, and Huascarán snowcapped mountains, it’s time to wake up, have breakfast and continue our expedition into the Ishinca Valley: one of the National Park’s prettiest valleys! We will find ourselves surrounded by the peaks of the Vallunaraju, Ranrapalca, Tocllaraju, and others, and by beautiful forests full of native species like the fairy-tale Quenual tree. 

After having experimented with one of Peru’s typical dishes on our riverside picnic, we continue further up until we reach the Ishinca Base Camp where once again our cook will be waiting with hot chocolate!

 

Today’s hiking time: 4 to 5 hours, from 3.780 to 4.350 masl. (12.400 feet – 14.270 feet)

Day 5Ishinca Base Camp - Ishinca Moraine Camp (4.850 m / 15.900 feet)

After a good breakfast, we get ready for another good hike: we will go up a zig-zagging path to Ishinca Moraine Camp.

The higher we get, the more impressive will be the landscape that surrounds us! The peaks Aquilpo (5560m / 18.240 feet) and Tocllaraju (6034m / 19.800 feet) shout for attention. Once at the camp, we have lunch and then our mountain guide will help us to prepare for tomorrow’s climb to the summit of the Ishinca. Apart from trying out and preparing the equipment, we will do a short climbing course to make sure you understand all the necessary basics for tomorrow. 

Tonight, make sure to get some good rest to be ready for the climb! 

 

Today’s hiking time: 4 to 5 hours, from 4.350 to 4.850 masl. (14.270 – 15.900 feet) 

Day 6Ishinca Moraine Camp - Ishinca Summit (5.530 m / 18.150 feet) - Lake Palcacocha (4.450 m / 14.600 feet)

Today, we will have a very early breakfast (around 5 AM, which may change according to weather conditions or the guide’s indications) before taking off for our ascent to climb the Ishinca! We’ll enjoy the climb, win over any obstacles, put to the test our acclimatization and physical condition, and get to the top together with our attentive mountain guide. 

The summit of the Ishinca is greatly located and allows us to enjoy a panorama of many majestic mountains like the Vallunaraju, Ocshapalca, Ranrapalca, Palcaraju, Pucaraju, Huapi, Tocllaraju and many more. Arriving here is simply amazing and the highlight of our expedition! 

After having taken as many pictures as you want and with regained strength, we’ll start our descent back to Moraine Camp. On the way, we’ll make a short detour to a very impressive panoramic spot called “El Collado”, situated right in between the Ishinca and Ranrapalca mountains and overlooking the Cojup Valley.

From the moraine camp, we’ll have to carefully cross the Ishinca Moraine first (our porters and guide will assist), before continuing downhill to Lake Palcacocha where we’ll set up our last camp (with fresh provisions from town, including wine to make hot wine and celebrate our adventure!) This will be the last evening to share with our guide, cook, porters, and muleteers. 

 

Today’s hiking time: 8 to 9 hours, from 4.850 to 5530 and down to 4.450 masl.

(15.900 – 18.150 – 14.600 feet) 

Day 7 Lake Palcacocha - Lazy Dog Inn (3.650 m / 12.000 feet)

Everything comes to an end, and so does our adventure today. After breakfast we’ll hike back down through the Cojup Valley, marked by steep side walls making up the Huapi and Rima Rima mountains. The river is crystalline, the number of birds uncountable, and who knows: the Andean Condor might visit us!

After several hours hiking down, we’ll reach the Cojup Valley’s entrance where a driver will be waiting for us to load all the gear and take us to the Lazy Dog Inn for a well-deserved hot shower, rest and dinner. Unfortunately, our guide will not accompany us anymore: he will go back to Huaraz to be with his family. 

The Lazy Dog Inn is a mountain lodge that is built and operated under strict sustainability criteria. It’s beautiful, comfortable, and ideally located, right at the foot of the highest mountains of Peru. Rooms all have private bathrooms: there are some rooms in the main house and some bungalows (distribution according to availability and preferences). Some have a private chimney, too: however, most probably you will share the evening with the other guests in the main dining and living room. 

 

Today’s hiking time: 4 to 5 hours, from 4.450 to 3.650 masl. (14.600 – 12.000 feet)

Day 8 Free Day at Lazy Dog Inn

After several days of hiking, all you will want is to relax in a comfortable place with beautiful nature around you, where you can enjoy peace and silence to process your experience. The Lazy Dog Inn is the perfect place to do that, so you will have a completely free day here to give yourself a break. You can get delicious and healthy food here as well. 

The communal living room is especially great for lazy evenings: all together on the couch around the fireplace. So enjoyable.

In case you need a little less time to relax before becoming active again, there are many options available for you as well. Inform yourself on the spot about what you want to do: horseback riding with the Peruvian Caballos de Paso, hiking in one of the valleys, taking a look at the community projects, or even rolling up your sleeves and helping out with something or renting a mountain bike. 

If you want, you can also arrange lunch on the spot: either lunch at the lodge, or a packed lunch if you will be out and about. It’s not included, so you have all the flexibility to do that as you like. 

Day 9Departure from Lazy Dog Inn

Today, you will have to say goodbye to the Lazy Dog Inn, but the great part is that you can choose when you want to do that!

Depending on your schedule, you can have a free morning or another whole free day in the Lazy Dog Inn to rest, ride a horse or bike, hike, or assist with excellent social projects. At your chosen moment, a taxi (included)  will pick you up and take you down to Huaraz to a hotel or the bus station for a night bus to Lima or Trujillo. 

Thank you so very much for participating in this RESPONSible trekking adventure with us! We hope you will keep the memories of this unique experience for a long time. 

Small version of transparent round logo of RESPONSible Travel Peru

Why is this experience RESPONSible?

This trekking ticks many RESPONSible boxes! Of course, the overnight stays in two different homestays in Vicos brings income to two local families, plus the experiences in the community benefits several other villagers. It will give you valuable insights in the local culture and their connection with the mountains that you’ll experience during the hike. 

We collaborate since many years with a local agency that has proved to be very responsible with the operation of their treks, takes all their garbage, takes good care of their personnel, etc. This family-run agency supports many local families with their work. 

Not to forget, a few words about the Lazy Dog Inn; this place is a great example of how sustainable a mountain lodge can be. And not only environmentally speaking. You’d be surprised about how profound their positive social and economic impacts are on the surrounding community! 

And finally, this 9-day experience is also a true Slow-Tourism experience, as you will be traveling on foot and spending various nights in the community and the Lazy dog Inn. We encourage travelers to move more slowly because it can reduce emissions and possibly increase positive impacts on communities. By the way, it also gives a more profound experience to the traveler, as you will get deeper insights to a specific destination like, in this case, the Cordillera Blanca. 

Details

Price Includes

  • Pick-up and drop-off at your hotel or the busstation of Huaraz
  • All overnight stays 2 nights in Vicos, 4 nights camping, 2 nights Lazy Dog Inn
  • Bilingual guide (English/Spanish) for the first 7 daysUntil arriving at Lazy Dog Inn
  • Another guide at the Vicos communityOnly Spanish speaking
  • All meals until arrival at Lazy Dog Inn Including snacks, hot chocolate, hot wine at last campsite
  • Two breakfasts and two (three-course) dinners, organic tea, coffee, filtered water at Lazy Dog Inn
  • Trekking and mountain guide, cook, muleteer and mules;
  • Full climbing gearHelmet, ice axe/pickel, carabiners, harness, crampons and gaiters.
  • Full camping gearKitchen tent, toilet tent, triple sleeping tents per two persons, 2 mattresses (a classic one + an inflatable one), table, chairs, kitchen, gas, all necessary kitchen utensils.
  • Warm water to wash up
  • Basic first aid kit

Price Excludes

  • Transportation to and from HuarazWe recommend the bus company Movil Bus and especially their Premier service: the best way to travel by night with 180 degrees chairs with additional privacy!
  • Public transportation from Huaraz to Vicos Pay about 5 soles on the spot
  • Lunch at Lazy Dog InnYou can arrange lunch or lunch boxes yourself at the lodge, please bring cash for this.
  • Filtered waterYour hostfamilies and cook on the trek can provide boiled water. However, we recommend you also bring a filter bottle.
  • Tips, snacks
  • Huascarán National Park Entrance FeeS/. 150.00 p.p. (Price may change. Please bring cash.)
  • Sleeping bagYou can rent one if you want. The coldest nights it could get down to -15°C. We recommend bringing thermal clothes for the evenings and nights.
  • 18% sales taxesThis will be exonerated (if applicable) by sending us a passport copy of every tour participant. You can learn more about this by clicking on this text.
  • Read more about what's generally not included in our Terms and Conditions (click here). https://responsibletravelperu.com/terms-and-conditions/

What to Bring

  • Suncream
  • Sunglasses
  • Hat or cap
  • Head torch
  • Gloves
  • Thermal underwear
  • Filter bottle
  • Solid hiking boots (protecting the ankles)Please bring good ones that support crampons (we have flexible or fixed models)
  • Rain jacket or poncho
  • A book (for example) for resting time
  • First aid kitThe guide only has a basic one
  • In case you have no sunglasses, headlight or hat, we can lend it to you, but it won't be any fancy model...
  • For our excellent general packing tips, please read this article (click here) and leave well prepared!
Frequently Asked Questions

About the tour itself

Do I really need to have trekking experience?

Yes. This trekking is not for anyone. It takes an unusual route that involves some parts that change due to movements in the mountains and might require good skills and experience hiking on rough, unpaved terrain. The altitudes are very high, as well, and on the day of summiting the Ishinca and crossing over into the Cojup Valley, some glacier crossings are included. Of course, your guide will teach you how to use the crampons and ice axe; but previous experience is always good. Most of all, you need to have good endurance and be very fit, and know what it means to hike long days in the mountains.

Are the accommodations in Vicos comfortable?

The homestays in Vicos are basic but clean. The beds have clean sheets and blankets (no duvets) so you don’t need your sleeping bag here. Mattresses are generally good but depending on the group size some might be slightly old. Each room has a private bathroom (first night) or shared  bathroom (second night). Hot water is available (first night) but limited; you might not have enough water for a hot shower for everyone. The rooms have no heating.

Do the local families of Vicos speak English?

No, they don’t. So far however, most of our travelers have never had a problem with staying at any of our host families that don’t speak Spanish. You can always communicate with gestures and if you take your time, you will understand each other. It’s part of the experience 😉

Of course, learning Spanish beforehand is always a good idea! Use an app like Duolingo to learn the basics before leaving and enhance your experience whilst traveling. 

Is this a private excursion or will I share the experience with other travelers?

You might be put together with another group if we have two bookings starting on the same day (which would reduce the cost a little bit for every participant)

However, this is a very alternative trekking route that does not have hordes of tourists starting every week. So, chances are high that you will be trekking only with your group. 

Do I have to pay any entrance fees?

Yes, you have to pay the entrance fee to the Huascarán National Park, which is 150 soles per person. The price may change from time to time, so please bring enough cash. 

Please consider that you might want to give tips to the guide and porters, as well. 

What is the highest point during this route?

On day 6, you will get to the summit of Ishinca, at an altitude of 5.530 meters / 18.150 feet. 

On the days before, you will gradually get higher and higher, thus acclimatizing more and more to the altitude. Nevertheless, you should not underestimade the summit. Sleep enough, drink a lot (water, coca tea) and reach out to your guide, should you not be feeling well. 

What kind of weather should we expect during this route?

Prepare for the typical Andean climate; when it’s sunny, it’s warm, when it’s cloudy, it’s cold. The rainy season is from December to April but occasional rains can occur anytime throughout the year. It can also get windy up there. From May to August night temperatures might go below freezing point. 

Find more info about climates in Peru in our blog “Best Time to Travel to Peru“. 

General questions

For questions about booking a tour, prices, preparation for your trip, health and safety or other themes, please check our Frequently Asked Questions page. If you can’t find your question & answer, email us and we’ll add it!

Reviews
Your Travel Designer
Guido from RESPONSible Travel Peru with his goddaughter Andrea in the community of Vicos

Guido van Es

As you might have already read elsewhere, Guido has lived in the Huaraz area for over seven years. His local friends would call him “el holandés huaracino” because he had adapted so well and felt so at home in the place. When he lived there, he hiked a lot of the valleys and did some of the summits.

He has always been dreaming about combining a challenging high mountain trek with a true authentic experience in the communities. He had ideas of using shepherd’s huts as the hikers’ accommodation, of spiritual hiking experiences or high mountain summits done with local community guides only: the creativity was always there but nothing really worked out in the past. 

But now, Guido finally managed to offer one of his dream routes to you on the platform of RESPONSible Tours! “This is so exciting! The first night, you’ll stay at Pablo’s house, my compadre and co-founder of RESPONS. Here you’ll see with your own eyes why I wanted to help this community to become successful in tourism. It’s just so pure, so real, so peaceful. From then on, you’ll enter the magical world of the Andes and hopefully connect with it in a different way than you would have done on a normal trekking.”

Who knows, Guido might even join you on this hike! Would you be up for it? 

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