Huaraz, Peru is the capital of the Ancash region and stands in its glory at 10,000 feet above sea level. This is the gateway town to some of the most phenomenal hiking on the planet. Huaraz is actually noted as the hiking capital of Peru. The Cordillera Blanca is the second highest mountain range in the world and hikers of all levels and desires will find dozens of accessible trails. This city of 140,000 people has plenty of amenities for backpackers. They also has more to offer than just single and multi-day hikes.
Whether you are planning on hiking or not, it is important to allow your body to acclimate to the extreme altitude. Locals and tourists alike chew cocoa leaves to help alleviate the symptoms associated with high elevation. However, once you have adjusted, this beautiful part of the world is filled with amazing sites to enjoy. Huaraz is a city in Peru that you definitely want to include on your backpacking adventure!
The Laguna Churup day-hike is widely recommended as “an acclamation hike” before you attempt the famous Laguna 69 hike. However, don’t be fooled, this hike is no walk in the park! But, if you can complete this strenuous scenic hike, you might be ready to tackle the prize hike of Huaraz, Peru. This hike can be easily and very affordably arranged in Huaraz. You will trek from 12,631 feet above sea level to 14,600 feet up into the sky, which is an elevation higher than most people jump out of a plane when skydiving.
On this magical six-hour round trip hike, you will be treated to jaw-droppingly gorgeous views of Mount Churup, Huaraz. You’ll also appreciate Laguna Churup, which is famed for its crystal-clear water. You can opt to do this hike with or without a guide, but it is best to at least have one hiking buddy with you. Make sure you bring plenty of water, high protein, and high carb snacks, and of course, a camera.
The Laguna 69 day-hike is one of the most sought-after hikes in Huaraz. Aside from the spectacular scenery, it is the lake that is the main attraction. In fact, backpackers and hikers from around the world travel to Huaraz with the sole drive to see and photograph the mystical alpine lake, which is an otherworldly icy blue color. The lake has been referred to as the most beautiful lake in the world.
While this hike is not technically challenging, it does require a great deal of mental and physical strength, as the peak elevation is only 2,000 feet lower than the base camp at Everest. The hike begins at the base of a giant glacier and takes you up to nearly 15,000 feet above sea level. While you don’t necessarily need a guide, it is actually cheaper and safer to book a guided tour.
Santa Cruz Trek
The Santa Cruz Trek is considered one of the best hiking routes on the planet. Peru’s Cordillera Blanca is home to 33 high-altitude peaks. This makes it home to the highest concentration of big peaks in the Western Hemisphere. The highest peak reaches a staggering 18,000 feet above sea level! This is the hike of all hikes. To complete the entire trail, you will hike 31 miles through vast valleys, snow-capped mountains, and along the shores of brilliantly colored lagoons.
Completing the Santa Cruz Trek offers you the opportunity to witness some of the best sights in Peru. If you have time to spare on your backpacking trip, you definitely want to dedicate three to four days to have this glorious adventure.
Huascarán National Park
The Huascarán National Park protects the world’s highest tropical mountain range in the central Peruvian Andes. Within this national park, you will find 600 glaciers. You’ll also find 300 lakes and 41 tributaries of three important rivers: the Santa, Pativilca, and the Maranon. This is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
This protected land is home to the rare spectacled bear. In there are also the vicuña, the puma, the giant hummingbird, and the Andean condor, among many other species of animals. Aside from the world-class hiking and diverse flora and fauna, the Huascarán National Park is also renowned for its archeological artifacts from bygone cultures.
If you are backpacking in Huaraz, you will certainly find a way to spend time in the Huascarán National Park. Even if you don’t trek any of the 25 walking trails and 125 climbing paths, you’ll see it’s beauty. Other popular activities include paragliding, boating, mountain biking, and visiting archeological sites.
Museo Archaeologica De Huaraz
The Museo Archaeologica de Huaraz is a fascinating museum to visit if you are interested in the people and cultures that thrived in this part of Peru in the past. You will learn about how people survived and dealt with the hardships of the altitude and climate. You will also have the chance to observe artifacts found in the area, and especially in the Huascarán National Park. It is conveniently located in downtown Huaraz.
The museum is full of pottery, weapons, sculptures, and literature that was unearthed by archeologists. This is an informative and inexpensive way to spend an afternoon while you acclimate to the altitude in Huaraz. The museum is located directly across from the Plaza de Armas. It is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9 AM to 5:15 PM and Sunday from 9 AM to 2:15 PM.
Backpackers travel from around the globe to admire the vast collection of ancient ruins that are part of Peru’s incredible landscape and history. There are several iconic pre-Incan archeological sites around Huaraz. It includes Chavin de Huantar, Wilcahuain, and Honcopampa. You can easily and affordably book a tour to explore any of these ruins from Huaraz.
Baños Termales Monterrey
There is no better way to rest and revitalize your body after days of hiking some of the best trails in Peru than to take a long hot soak in a natural hot spring. Baños Termales Monterrey is free to those staying at the Real Hotel, otherwise, you can pay a small fee to access them. There are two natural swimming pools and several individual and family bathing rooms.
The natural thermal baths can reach temperatures upwards of 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Don’t be turned off by the brown coloring of some of the baths. They are this color because of minerals, not because of the dirt. From the hot springs, you can also walk ten minutes behind the baths to get to a spectacular waterfall.
Sierra Andina Brewery
According to many, the Sierra Andina Brewery is famed for having some of the best craft beer in all of Peru. Located in the heart of Huaraz, this environmentally friendly and community-conscious brewery is the place to go after a long day of hiking in the high Andes. They professionally craft nine different beers in-house. You can enjoy their Inti golden ale, Huacachina pale ale, and Alpamayo amber ale. There are also other choices like Don Juan porter, Pachacutec imperial ale, Shaman IPA, ginger pale ale, or their red Chachapoyana.
What better way to kick back and unwind with new and old friends than to share a couple of craft brews? You can also enjoy some tasty bites here that pair perfectly with any of the nine beers on tap.
California Café is a favorite amongst visitors to Huaraz, Peru. You can get North American-style breakfasts here all day! Many reviews state that this café, which is run by a woman from California, has the best breakfast in the whole town. They are also well-known for their fresh roasted coffee. It will be important for you to really fuel your body properly in order to have sufficient energy for all the hiking you will be doing in Huaraz, and this is the place to get it. They also have an amazing internationally-inspired lunch and dinner.
California Café is also a popular hangout spot. They have games, a great music collection, a library, and a book exchange. The employees are also super nice and very knowledge about Huaraz. The staff here is a valuable and free resource to learn about the various hiking options and activities in the area. Of course, they are always more than happy to share their local knowledge. California Café is open from Monday through Saturday from 7 AM to 10 PM and Sunday from 7 AM to 2 PM.
Mercado Central De Huaraz
The Mercado Central de Huaraz is the best place to buy fruits and vegetables in town and also a wonderful way to experience the local culture. You can find almost anything you need to cook a tasty and nutritious meal from your hostel’s communal kitchen.
If you are looking to eat cheap and well, this is the place to make your food purchases. You will find the Mercado Central on Calle Jiron Juan de la Cruz Romero, but it expands out onto several streets. This is definitely a sight worth seeing in Huaraz, even if you aren’t looking to purchase anything.