Huaraz: Complete Travel Guide For Peru’s Hiking Capital
Travelers often say they’re going to Huaraz but the city is more often used as a stopover point before journeying into the Cordillera Blanca – where the real action is.
The Cordillera Blanca is touted as the mountaineering capital of Peru. Its name means White Range which hints at the wonderland of picturesque glacier lagoons and less trodden trails that are amid these snow capped mountains. Here, trekkers, rock climbers, runners, and mountain bikers have access to world-class experiences without mass crowds. Even folks who visit Huaraz and prefer a lighter agenda of day excursions by car with minimal walking are easily overwhelmed by the region’s beauty.
Huascarán National Park
Declared a protected natural area by UNESCO in 1985, Huascaran National Park safeguards 340,000 hectares of the Cordillera Blanca. It’s home to more than 27 mountains above 6,000 meters but none surpass the soaring 6,768 meter (22,205 feet) summit of Mount Huascaran – Peru’s highest peak. Alongside rugged mountains are turquoise lakes, deep ravines, glaciers, and a diversity of vegetation types. With some luck you may spot local wildlife favorites like vicunas or Andean condors.
Santa Cruz Trek
Glaciers clinging to jagged mountaintops, piercing turquoise lagoons, and grazing herds of alpacas amid river ravines are around every bend of the Santa Cruz Trek. These striking landscapes are no doubt why this trek is the most popular option in the Cordillera Blanca. Typically organized on a 4-day/3-night itinerary, the daily walking distances and uphill climbs paired with the high altitudes make the Santa Cruz Trek best suited for people in good physical condition.
Laguna 69 is one of the most recognized day hikes within Huascaran National Park. The uphill journey to Laguna 69’s blue waters backed by snow covered peaks is your picture perfect reward. It takes about 3 hours to arrive to the lagoon, and 2 hours to return.
Sandwiched between towering cliff faces, these iconic lakes in the national park sit at the bottom of the Huascaran Peaks. On a sunny day their waters are a dazzling shade of turquoise. Driving into the park, the first Llanganuco Lake of Chinancocha is often dotted with rowboats filled with passengers. The other lake is Orconcocha. Along the lakes’ shores you’ll come across trees with unusually flakey red trunks known as queñua trees that grow in high Andean regions.