A brilliant blue sky arches over colossal ice-encrusted peaks of the Andean mountain range, forming an idyllic contrast to the aquamarine lakes and green tapestry of endless slopes and terrain below. This is the backdrop to Huaraz, Peru – the gateway to the Peruvian Andes. Here, the towering mountains inspire one’s imagination, just as the dream of El Dorado once did for the Spanish explorers.
Sitting between the majestic Cordillera Blanca and Cordillera Huayhuash mountain ranges, at an altitude of over 3,000m, Huaraz is a city which blends Latin charm with surrounding natural wonders. Huaraz is also a magnet for travellers seeking the great outdoors. The town buzzes with a lively vibe as a perfect base for trekkers, hikers and backpackers from all around the world to embark on adventures of a lifetime.
Despite its popularity as a regional hub, Huaraz enjoys a quieter and more relaxed atmosphere compared to its bigger and more famous cousins such as Lima and Cusco. So while you’ll definitely want to soak up the Latin vibe, there is a sense of peace that is energising – the perfect recharge for the best hiking you’ll ever do.
Key Activities: Cultural Sights, Trekking, Camping, Mountaineering, Fishing, Farm Stays and Local Immersion
Virtually cinematic and dazzling in its vast expanse, the Cordillera Blanca is one of the most awe-inspiring peaks in the world at 180km long and 28km wide. This “White Range” (translated from Spanish) has several accolades under its belt, including Mount Huascarán (6,768m) – the world’s highest tropical mountain – and Mount Alpamayo (5,947m), once heralded as the world’s most beautiful.
On the mountain, explorers will come face-to-face with a dynamic natural world, with hundreds of species of birds and plants thriving amongst just as many tropical glaciers and turquoise lakes.
This gorgeous dreamscape is also home to the Huascarán National Park, with some 660 glaciers and 330 lagoons sparkling with clear, turquoise waters to explore. There’s Laguna 69, in particular, which is an otherworldly cerulean pool that, if you dare, allows for freezing cold dips. While wandering the park, marvel at the bewitching geological formations and array of wildlife like the spectacled bear, white-tailed deer and the revered Andean condor.
Another must-see landmark en route is Chavín de Huántar, a UNESCO World Heritage archaeological site dating back almost 4,000 years, making it one of the oldest known pre-Columbian sites in existence.
Located in the Peruvian Andes, the Cordillera Huayhuash is the more compact and remote cousin of the Cordillera Blanca. With landscapes wild, unspoiled and waiting to be explored, those who seek the solitude of big mountains can truly get off the beaten path here.
Taking you through blue glacier peaks, braided valleys, thin-air passes and azure lakes, the classic Cordillera Huayhuash circuit – known as the second most beautiful trek in the world, according to the National Geographic Society – takes 12 days to complete (but there are shorter versions too). Legendary for both its stunning surroundings and trekking difficulty, the climb to the summit is incredibly steep to an almost vertical gradient; with icy overhangs and delicate snow flutings all the way up.
But it will cost a small fee for the right to pass through or set up camp. That is because each mountain is home to its own local communities who know the area like the back of their hand. On that note, mingling with locals will allow you to learn more about the wildlife and discover pre-Inca local legends.
Along the way, camp alongside rushing rivers and glittering turquoise lakes in the shadow of Mount Yerupajá, Peru’s second highest mountain, which looms in the distance at 6,617m. You can also stop by worthy landmarks such as Lake Carhuacocha or climb the Llaucha Pass. Just be mindful of taking it slow as there’s a good chance of getting altitude sickness and sun burns here.