Around 400km from the capital of Peru, is Huaraz. We arrived early in the morning on an overnight bus from Lima, taking around 9 hours. At an impressive 3052m above sea level, the temperature dropped a few degrees and the scenery transformed from coastline to a stunning mountain range. Home to Peru’s highest mountain, it’s no wonder Huaraz is a must visit tourist destination of Peru. The Cordillera Blanca mountain range circles the city and provides a remarkable outlook. Huascaràn (Spanish pronunciation: waskaˈɾanis) is the highest mountain in Peru and the fourth highest mountain in the Western Hemisphere and South America. The mountain has two distinct summits, the higher being the south one (Huascarán Sur) with an elevation of 6,768 meters.
Traditional clothing worn by the local women is exquisite. As you wonder through the streets, you get a real feel for the culture and community. Ladies from the surrounding farmlands are selling their produce on the streets of the city. There is no doubt the people here work extremely hard for their livelihoods and are thankful for the business you bring to them. We spent just two nights in Huaraz, however we met travellers who were planning on spending a month in the region. Hikers are spoilt for choice here. Some choose to complete the Huayhuash Trek, taking around 10 days, some the Santa Cruz trek, others select day hikes to various locations or some even climb Nevado Pisco at 5752m in around 4 days. With the picturesque backdrop, cheap accommodation and an abundance of natural activities, Huaraz was a definite highlight of Peru for us.
LAGUNA WILCACOCHA / For our first day, we decided to complete a short hike to Laguna Wilcacocha. Collectivos (mini vans operating like buses) run along the roads of Huaraz for just 1 Sole. We jumped into a collectivo and travelled about 25 minutes out of town to a little bridge in Chiwipampa at the foot of a smaller mountain. From here, we climbed for about 75 minutes and reached the laguna where we were greeted with a cracking panoramic view of the majority of the mountains and the valley where Huaraz is situated. The walk was extremely quiet, just passing rural communities and locals hard at work on the many farms along the trail. Then a short decline to return to the main road. A menu del dia for 10 soles ($4 dollars) back in the town was a great way to finish the day’s activities. We spent the afternoon wandering the streets, amazed by the outfits and faces of the local people.
LAGUNA 69 / An early morning 6am pick up from our B&B and a bumpy three hour drive through the mountains and we found ourselves at the beginning of the Laguna 69 hiking track in The Huarascán National Park. En route to the track, we stopped at the turquoise, amazing Lake Llanganuco. SO SO BLUE! Soon after we began our hike. Starting at 3800m, we had a steady incline to get to our 4600m destination. The hike itself wasn’t too difficult, just the air made the ascent more challenging. After just over two hours we reached Laguna 69 and what a breath-taking view. A jaw-dropping lagoon nestled between theCordillera Blanca mountain range. The setting screams Instagram, but the absence of Wi-Fi or any infrastructure and abundance of serenity suggest just switching off completely. I found myself a rock to perch on, munch on my peanut butter sandwich and absorb the grandeur and beauty of my lunchtime view. Grateful for being healthy and able to climb up, it really is times like these when you appreciate where you are and what you’re doing. Before visiting South America, I hadn’t done too much hiking. Yet, I think we are a little addicted to the simplicity and the restorative influences of being outdoors. When you find yourself perched in the western Andes on a Tuesday lunchtime, you can’t help but think about what used to be your reality and the new experiences, new places and new challenges you’ve undertaken. The descent from Laguna 69 was significantly easier than the uphill. Walking down the track you are gazing straight at Huascaràn, we returned back to our bus and departed the mountain region around 5:30pm. On a side note, our driver was a little bit loco, seems like the norm in lots of parts of South America. Definitely makes you take for granted safe roads and drivers back home! We returned to our cute little B&B just outside the town of Huaraz at about 8pm. Exhausted from the hike and the altitude, we had some papas, pollo, enslalada and arroz from across the street. The following day, clouds circled the city and we were very thankful that Pachamama had provided us with a day of sunshine. We had some breakfast and taxied to the bus terminal to make our long journey back to the coast and back to some pleasant breathing conditions.
It was a little detour out of our coastal route to the north of Peru but well worth the extra few night buses. Huaraz is a definite stop if you’re heading to the northern beaches of Peru or heading north-east to the Amazon. I will definitely miss the beauty of the mountain topped Andes!
Much love, Laura xx