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Travel Guide to Huaraz & The Cordillera Blanca

Introduction to Huaraz and its surroundings

RESPONSible Travel Peru was founded in Huaraz back in 2009 so we’ll always have a special connection to it. In 2019, when we celebrated our tenth anniversary, Guido and Alejandro took the whole team (generally from Cusco) to Huaraz and Pablo’s house in Vicos, to take everyone back to the source of inspiration for our wonderful company. Read our blog about RESPONSible Travel Peru´s 10th Anniversary if you want to read about our adventure over there. It was such an emotional bonding experience celebrating ten years of success for sustainable tourism in Peru. No one can take that experience away from us; so close before the Covid-19 pandemic hit the world and devastated tourism in Peru.

But back to Huaraz. The city itself is not very beautiful; it was destroyed by an earthquake in 1970 after which a quick reconstruction was necessary. The atmosphere in Huaraz is very nice though; there are many backpackers and climbers in town that together with volunteers and residents from around the country and the world make for cozy restaurants, an amazing nightlife and many activities to be undertaken during the day.

The surroundings, however, are what draws people from all over to this place. Huaraz is in the middle of the Callejón de Huaylas; a valley carved by the Río Santa with the Cordillera Blanca on its eastern slopes, and the Cordillera Negra on the west. On the other side of the Cordillera Negra you’ll find the coast (desert), whilst further to the east you’ll find green mountain valleys slowly changing into the upper jungle and then the Amazon.

The city of Huaraz with its ever-impressive backdrop of the Cordillera Blanca mountain range. The Huascarán is the highest mountain of Peru. Visit this region with RESPONSible Travel Peru!
The city of Huaraz with its ever-impressive backdrop of the Cordillera Blanca mountain range. The Huascarán is the highest mountain of Peru. Visit this region with RESPONSible Travel Peru!

What we recommend for you when traveling in Huaraz

The number one reason to come to Huaraz is because of the amazing outdoor activities that can be done in the Cordillera Blanca. It´s a huge mountain range, which is 180 kilometers long and displays amazing snowcapped peaks, 30 of which reach over 6.000 meters of altitude (19,685 feet). Climbing, bouldering, mountain biking, day hikes and multi-day trekkings; against the impressive backdrop of the Cordillera Blanca every activity becomes spectacular.

Our favourite day hikes are Lake 69 and Lake Churup: quite popular to be honest but for a good reason, they are simply beautiful and incomparable. The lesser-visited lake Awaq will give you a more intimate nature experience, just like the Quilcayhuanca valley (more for a two-day camping trip because it’s huge) or any valley south from there.

The most famous trekking in the Cordillera Blanca is the Santa Cruz trekking, although we’d recommend alternative routes like the Rajucolta where there are no visible negative impacts from mass tourism. We have also developed a multi-day trekking adventure that starts in our dear community of Vicos, passing through the Ishinca Valley and Cojup and finishing at the amazing Lazy Dog Inn! It’s not yet on our platform but please contact our Custom Itineraries Service if you’re interested!

How to acclimatize before going on a trekking in the Cordillera

Before anything else, you need to think about your acclimatization. And since you’re reading us; you probably have some interest in Community-Based Tourism in Peru… Good! Because a stay in Vicos would be a fantastic way to allow your body to get used to the altitude, while you learn about the cultural and spiritual aspects of the mountains and enjoy the hospitality of the people. You’ll go on some hikes, of course, but also participate in the community´s daily activities if you wish, and learn about their culture, language, local myths and legends. If you want to be prepared for the altitude that awaits you here, we invite you to read our blog on How To Stay Safe And Healthy When Traveling In Peru, where we talk about this subject and others.

Another way to start (or rather finish) your time in the area is by visiting any of the sustainable mountain lodges. They offer a luxury alternative to the community of Vicos and are more focused on outdoor activities and relaxing in the beautiful nature. Our favourite lodges are the Lazy Dog Inn and the Copacabaña Lodge. Both offer very high standards of sustainability combined with excellent rooms, comfort, services and amenities.

How to travel from Huaraz to other destinations

Huaraz is rather well connected, but don’t trust the flight connection. In the past years, the flights have been cancelled a lot and you’ll end up having to change your itinerary. Therefore (and also because of the much lower CO2 emissions) we recommend you travel by bus to and from Huaraz.

The best connections are with Lima and Trujillo; destinations where you can choose from several bus companies. If you come from Lima, you can choose the option of a 180-degree sleeping bus, which is a very comfortable option. But to and from Lima, you can also take comfortable day buses that we consider a good option (especially to travel up to Huaraz). Take the bus as early as you can to enjoy the views of the mountains!

Other destinations you can reach from Huaraz are smaller towns in the Ancash department; generally with less comfortable buses.

Which transportation can I find within the area of Huaraz?

To travel from Huaraz to destinations within the region, you’ll generally use the (in)famous colectivos. Those minibuses run throughout the whole Callejón de Huaylas (the long valley between the Cordillera Blanca and Negra, where Huaraz is also located). They leave when they’re full, are inexpensive, and quite an experience to travel with. They will be packed with people and their belongings, even though recent rules have improved the situation a lot.

In every town along the main road of the valley, you can get out and use other colectivos to travel into the mountains, for example when you go to Vicos or to the Llanganuco lakes (and Lake 69).

Cordillera Blanca, on the way to Huaraz | RESPONSible Travel Peru
Cordillera Blanca, on the way to Huaraz

What should I pack for a trip to the mountain area around Huaraz?

If you’re visiting Huaraz, you’re most probably going to be hiking in the mountains, so all our tips for trekking activities would apply. Find them in our blog on What To Pack For Your Trip To Peru. You can also download our complete packing list on that page.

How much time should I spend in the Huaraz area?

Obviously, it depends on what you want to do. But a visit of less than three days is hardly worth the long bus rides. From five days onwards, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to undertake your favourite activities and enjoy the area how it deserves it. From there, you can stay as long as you want: Guido arrived in January 2002 for just half a year but ended up living in Huaraz for seven years, loving it! 😉

More info on weather and best time to travel to Huaraz

Even though climate change has caused you to have wet days in the dry season, and dry days in the wet season, it is still generally advised to avoid the months of January, February and March because of the rain. If you’re traveling on a budget, you’ll have the best chances of joining a group between May and September. July and August are the busiest months. These are our tips on the Best Time To Travel To Peru.

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ABOUT RESPONSIBLE TRAVEL PERU

RESPONS’ mission is to improve living conditions in Peru through developing and promoting sustainable tourism. We’ve implemented a business model in which all areas of human relations are respected, and - equally important - respect for the planet is incorporated.

Following this business model, we practice fair trade, foster cultural identity, promote equal opportunities, and we preserve the environment that surrounds us and other species.

Together with you we improve, day by day, on the always-demanding path towards sustainability.

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