Huaraz, Peru is a high altitude hiking destination just a bus ride away from Lima. If you’re interested in climbing glaciers, hiking to bright turquoise lakes, or some high-altitude training to prepare you for tackling Machu Picchu, then you must visit Huaraz while you’re in Peru. Read on for our Huaraz, Peru guide, including tips on hikes, things to do, where to stay, where to eat, and plans for after Huaraz.
Huaraz, Peru in a Nutshell
Huaraz, Peru is a small city that sits a mere 3052 meters above sea level. That’s almost 2 miles up for our American friends! It is nestled in the Andean mountain range, just west of Peru’s Cordillera Blanca, which makes it an access point to many peaks surpassing 6000m. Many of the hikes around Huaraz are in Huascaran National Park, and require a park pass. (You can purchase your park pass at the trailhead of any of the hikes that require it.)
Getting to Huaraz takes an 8 hour overnight bus ride from Lima. Once there, most hikes also require several hours by car to reach the trailhead. Luckily, many tour companies provide economic transportation so you don’t have to rent your own car to explore the peaks. It’s not hard, just be prepared for transportation logistics to take up a good chunk of brainspace. When it comes to Huaraz, it’s not just getting to the city, but also sorting through the multitude of options once you’re there, that will require planning and thought, but we’ll get into those details later.
Aside from hiking, Huaraz offers all sorts of mountaineering activities including ice climbing glaciers. We only cover trekking in this post; for other activities, ask your hostel or one of the several tour companies in town.
Aside from the outdoor activities surrounding Huaraz, the city itself is nothing to write home about. That is, unless your fam gets all jazzed about a town that smells like raw chicken and where your best dining options are anything NOT Peruvian. If this is your first small town in Peru, you’ll note that the local dress, especially for women, is very distinctive. People-watching can be highly entertaining… You’ll just have to balance your curiosity with your tolerance of the smell of raw chicken. At least I think it’s raw chicken… I’m not sure.
Keep reading our Huaraz Peru Travel Guide for practical tips like which hikes to do self-guided, tips for acclimatizing, and the one restaurant you should not miss while in Huaraz.
Things to Do in Huaraz Peru
Hiking or trekking is THE reason people come to Huaraz. To organize this post, it will be helpful to sort hikes into the following categories:
- Acclimatization hikes (self-guided)
- Laguna Churup
- Day hikes (requiring transportation organized by a tour company)
- Laguna 69
- Pastoruri Glacier
- Laguna Paron
- Multi-day hikes (may be self-guided or organized by a tour company)
- Santa Cruz Trek
We did not do a multi day trek while in Huaraz. If you’re interested in learning more about Santa Cruz, check out this blog. If you’re interested in learning more about Huayhuash, check out this blog.
Huascaran National Park Entrance Pass
In order to do a few of the hikes in Huaraz, you will need to purchase a Huascaran National Park entrance pass. When purchasing you have a couple options:
- 1 Day Pass: S/30 per person ($9 USD)
- 3 Day Pass: S/60 per person ($18 USD). This pass is for 3 consecutive days. You don’t get to pick and choose.
- 30 Day Pass: S/150 per person ($45 USD). This pass is for 30 consecutive days. You don’t get to pick and choose.
The pass can be purchased at the trailhead to any hike that requires it. The following hikes require a park pass:
- Laguna Churup
- Laguna 69
- Pastoruri Glacier
Acclimatization Hikes (self-guided)
Your options for self-guided hikes are limited by distance. At a certain distance away from Huaraz, it just makes sense to pay to be part of a group tour, as tours will offer transportation to and from, and options for transporting yourself are limited. In this post, we’ll cover Wilcacocha and Churup, which are two half-day hikes that are easy to get to on your own.
Be sure to download Maps.Me for Huaraz as it is much better than GoogleMaps for help getting around the town. Maps.me has the colectivo stops clearly marked on it and the paths for the 2 self-guided hikes were accurate. Plus, Maps.Me is free!
Laguna Wilcacocha sits at 3745 meters above sea level about 15min away from the center of Huaraz. To get there, take a colectivo just across from the main market (on the northwest corner of Hualcan & Raymondi). The colectivo pick up location is called “Bus to Wilcacocha Laguna” on Maps.me. It shouldn’t cost more that S/2 (<$1 USD) per person. Confirm with the driver or driver’s assistant that the colectivo goes to Wilcacocha, before getting on. The driver’s assistant will tell you which stop to get off on. This is no entrance fee required for this hike.
The trail climbs for about 90min and is mostly dirt until the last 5min. The hike up give you a glimpse into the rural Peru countryside and the view at the top captures the town of Huaraz and seemingly endless mountain ranges around you. At the top, you may find a lady weaving hats and scarves and offering to sell you some. You may also get offered beverages for sale along the way. To return, take the same path down. Then cross the road and catch a colectivo heading back to town (S/2 per person). Your total roundtrip will be 3-4 hours.
Note: Maps.Me is super helpful for this hike as the path forward is not always obvious. If you ever get turned around, you can ask locals the way, just ask, “Wilcacocha?”
- What to bring: cash for the colectivo, 1-2L of water, snack for the top
- How to dress: layers; unless it’s dry season, dress for rain
This hike is super useful for acclimatization since the summit is 700 meters lower than Laguna Churup. It is a great choice if you’re feeling up to a hike on day 1. If you’re short on time, we recommend skipping this hike and experiencing Laguna Churup!
Laguna Churup is a glacier-fed lake that sits at 4450 meters above sea level, about 40min away from the town center. To get there, take a colectivo on the northwest corner of Agustin Gamarra & Raymondi. This stop is clearly labeled on Maps.Me as “Combi to Llupa, Pitec”. Supposedly, the colectivo leaves twice in the morning, around 7am and shortly after that, but really, it leaves whenever it gets full, so get there early. We got there at 6:50am and left before 7am. A one-way costs S/10 ($3USD). Churup requires a Huascaran National Park entrance pass.
The hike up to is challenging and fun, but the difficulty may be compounded by foul weather. Dress in plenty of layers, as the weather can be fickle, and do not forget the poncho or water-proof gloves. The trail is clearly marked and there are 4 or 5 parts where you scramble using a cable to help/guide you.
**About two thirds of the way through, there’s a fork in the trail where you can choose to go left to the mirador or right to the lake. Both options ultimately lead to the same point, but we highly recommend you go RIGHT, as this will mean going through the parts where you scramble/boulder on the way UP, rather than on the way down. Once at the lake, you can loop around to the left and come back down the other side (there is still 1 scramble on that side).
You’ll take the colectivo back to town (another S/10 per person), and I believe the last one leaves at 2:30pm. Your driver there will tell you what time it leaves. There were no vendors when we hiked so be sure to bring plenty of water and snacks. Don’t skimp on the water, the lake is about 4,450 meters up (2.7 miles) so you’ll need more than you think.
- What to bring: cash for the colectivo, 1-2L of water, park entrance ticket or S/30 for a park pass (more if you want to buy a multiday pass), snacks for the top
- How to dress: layers; unless it’s dry season, dress for rain
Day Hikes (Organized)
The most popular day hikes around Huaraz are Laguna 69, Pastoruri Glacier, and Laguna Paron, but there are MANY MANY more. All require many hours on a bus to get to the trailhead, which just means that unless you have a car (which we would not recommend), you will want to go with group organized by a tour company. As always in Peru, it is cheaper to book these tours in person than online.
Of these day hikes, we only did Laguna 69. We wanted to do Laguna Paron, but it didn’t end up fitting into our schedule. Pastoruri Glacier and Laguna Paron are mostly bus tours – you spend most of your time on a bus with maybe a hour of hiking.
For Laguna 69, it seems that there is one tour company that picks up from all the hostels daily so just sign up through at your hostel front desk. For all other hikes, I would recommend going through the links above to see if they peak your interest. Get it, “peak”…
Akilpo Hostel has been around Huaraz for a long time and also has a travel agency. They offer day treks with more hiking than the typical day tour for exploring the Pastoruri Glacier and Laguna Paron. Although we did not have an opportunity to take a guided tour with Akilpo, they received rave review from every traveler we met who took one. Akilpo’s offers one guided tour per day. Be sure to stop by their hostel (or even stay there) to see what is coming up!
Laguna 69 is even higher than Churup, sitting at 4600 meters (2.9 miles) above sea level. Due to the elevation, it is not recommended to do this hike on your first day in Huaraz. Take a day or two to acclimatize before conquering this challenge.
The Laguna 69 tour costs S/32-40 ($10-12 USD) and only includes transportation. You will be picked up from your hostel at like 4:30AM but thankfully the bus is comfortable enough to sleep on. There will be a stop for breakfast but you don’t have to buy anything. Breakfast is about S/10 per person. The bus will drop you off at the trailhead and you’ll follow the clearly marked path to the top. The only formal bathroom is at the start of hike. Expect the hike to take 5-6 hours total and your bus driver will tell you when you need to be back at the bus. There is no lunch stop on the way back. The bus ride is about 3 hours each way so don’t expect to be back to Huaraz until around 6PM.
The hike itself has varied landscapes. You’ll pass ruins, freaking cute cows, and paper trees to ultimately arrive to the turquoise glacier-fed lake. We won’t spoil anymore for you. You must do this hike while you’re here.
- What to bring: cash for the breakfast, 2L of water, park entrance ticket or S/30 for a park pass (more if you want to buy a multiday pass), food for lunch
- How to dress: layers; unless it’s dry season, dress for rain
Akilpo offers an alternative trek to the standard Laguna 69 trek called Panorma. Although we have heard good things about it, we would recommend doing the standard Laguna 69 trek. There is a reason that it is so popular. The views the entire way are absolutely breaktaking. Don’t miss it.
The Pastoruri Glacier is one of the few glacier in Peru. Due to climate change, it is expected that this glacier will disappear in about a decade. A tour consists of a 3 hour drive to the glacier along with a 30-45 hike from the parking lot to the glacier itself. The glacier is at 5000 meters above sea level (3.1 miles!) so be sure to acclimatize before taking this tour. You can book the standard tour at the front desk of most hostels.
The Akilpo trek alternative to the Pastoruri Glacier is called the Ice Forest trek. Akilpo does not offer this tour everyday so stop by the hostel to see when they are offering it. If you’re interested in going, we would recommend doing Akilpo’s Ice Forest trek over the bus tour.
Laguna Paron is another high altitude lake that your can visit around Huaraz. The bus tour is very similar to the Pastoruri Glacier. A long bus ride with a short hike and some time to take pictures. The lake sits at 4200 meters above sea level and it’s recommend that you spend a day acclimatizing before during this tour. You can book the standard tour at the front desk of most hostels.
The Akilpo trek alternative to the Pastoruri Glacier is called the Paramont trek. The highlight of this trek is that you get to see the mountain that supposed inspired the Paramount Studio logo! Akilpo does not offer this tour everyday so stop by the hostel to see when they are offering it. If you’re interested in going, we would recommend doing Akilpo’s Paramount trek over the bus tour.
The most popular multi-day treks are the Santa Cruz and the Huayhuash, of which, Santa Cruz is much more popular as it’s a manageable 4 days. Huayhuash is usually done over 8 days, stopping in one village mid-way. We didn’t do either due to the time of year we visited. You can be sure of good weather from May through mid-September, outside of that, be prepared for rain, snow, and cloudy skies.
You do not need to book this tour in advance. If interested, talk to one of the many outfitters in town that rent hiking equipment for tips specific to the time of year you will be hiking.
Outside of hiking, the best thing to do is probably to relax, in preparation for your next hike. Huaraz is not a particularly charming city, but with clear skies, you can marvel at the surrounding peaks.
A visit to the markets is also a must even if it’s just a walkthrough. (Just be prepared, the smell is strong.) Make sure to pick up trail mix for your upcoming hikes and any other snacks you’re craving (oreos anyone?).
For extra adventure, look for pachamanca on a Sunday for lunch. It’s a cooking method that involves cooking in an earthen pit and it’s meat and potato heavy (perfect for refueling). We found out about it immediately after Sunday lunch, so we didn’t get a chance to try it.
Below is a sample itinerary based on our opinions and experiences in Huaraz!
- Day 1: Arrive in the morning and head to your hostel to drop your bags off (maybe shower if you were on an overnight bus). Take the morning to relax and adjust to the altitude. Go for a stroll in the afternoon to familiarize yourself with the town. Include a stop at the main market to purchase trail food and any other hostels or travel agencies you wanted to check out.
- Day 2: Hike Laguna Wilcacocha (self-guided). You can take a semi-leisurely morning as the hike shouldn’t take you more than 3-4 hrs.
- Day 3: Hike Laguna Churup (self-guided). Aim to arrive to the colectivo stop by 6:50am. The hike itself should take about 4 hours, but you’ll have to wait on the colectivo for your ride back home. Expect to be back to town by 3PM.
- Day 4: Hike Laguna 69 (group tour). You’ll get picked up from your hostel between 4:30-5am and won’t be back until 5-6pm, so bring plenty of water and snacks.
- Day 5: Rest. Bonus points if you can pair your rest day with a Sunday. Go find some pachamanca and tell us how it is!
- Day 6 & on: Do another day hike (we recommend Akilpo’s Paramount or Ice Forest) or perhaps a multi-day hike.
If you’re short on time, I’d recommend combining Days 1 & 2, hiking to Laguna Wilcacocha on your first day. It’s a short hike and easy to get to, and will help you acclimatize for your next hikes.
How to Get There
Most people arrive to Huaraz via an overnight bus from Lima. Don’t dread the night bus – ours was surprisingly comfortable. As American travelers (who in general don’t have a clue about bus transportation), we dreaded the night bus; but we’ve been pleasantly surprised by just how much we’ve been able to sleep on them. Alternately, you can fly from Lima to Alta and take a taxi to Huaraz. A night bus will cost you around S/60 per person.
Where to Stay
For luxury, cleanliness, amazing showers, coziness, and extra amenities, stay at Selina. It’s about a 10-minute walk from the town square. True to the hostel chain, it is beautiful, clean, comfortable and has incredible amenities like a movie room and library – all things you will highly appreciate after a long day’s hike. A nice space to lounge and relax between hiking in the mountains is essential to recharge to do so again.
I recommend heading there upon your arrival to Huaraz, as you’ll likely need a day to acclimate before hitting your first hike. It’s pricey (though not as pricey as many other Selinas we’ve seen), but it’s worth it at least for your first day or two.
If you’re looking for something more economical, there is no shortage of backpacker hostels in Huaraz. Most notably, Akilpo seems to be a fan-fave. Their spacious 3rd floor common room is great for being social and meeting other travelers. They also have a travel agency and can give great advice on hikes. If you stay at the hostel, they offer the best price we saw for the Laguna 69 tour. You do not need to stay at the hostel to do the Ice Forest or Paramount treks nor is there a discount rate on these treks for their hostel guests.
Outside of these positives, the hostel has some room for improvement. I could not get over the moldy bathroom in our room or the numerous leaks in the common room when it started raining. It is also located right next to the main market, which is AN EXPERIENCE you should definitely try. Just be prepared to smell the raw meat about as soon as you step out of the hostel.
If you’re looking to save some money, check it out upon arrival to Huaraz. Perhaps pair your visit with a trip to the market to buy some trail mix for your hikes. Look into making a reservation in advance as it tends to fill up.
Three locations come up when you search Akilpo on Google – Hostel, Travel Agency, and Guesthouse. The only one you need to go to is Akilpo Hostel located here on Antonio Raymondi. The front desk of the hostel has members of the travel agency working there so you can book your tours from the hostel itself.
Where to Eat
The food in Huaraz seriously leaves something to be desired, save the ONE restaurant you must go to. Krishna Bhog is an all-you-can-eat family-run restaurant that serves vegetarian Indian-inspired food right out of someone’s home. It’s S/20 per person and everything my heart desires after a long day of hiking. If you love soup and chili and fresh naan and seasoned rice, come here. If you’d rather animal protein or to order from a menu, there’s another Indian restaurant around the corner, Paulino’s. We didn’t go, but other friends really enjoyed it!
Outside of Krishna Bhog, we can recommend Trivio for some quality chicken sandwiches, good ole American cuisine and the most expensive beer you’ll find in Peru. These two places aside, we found that in general our food options were either (1) cheap, local yet abismal or (2) expensive, touristy, small portions.
Where to Go Next
If you’re short on time, it might be appealing to head straight to Cusco from Huaraz. The hikes around Huaraz will take you above 4000 meters above sea level, meaning you’ll be ready for just about anything like the 2-day Inca Trail or the intrepid 5 day Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu. To get to Machu Picchu quickly from Huaraz, take the overnight bus to Lima and fly to Cusco. This should shave a few days off of needing to re-acclimatize in Cusco prior to your trek to Machu Picchu.
Otherwise, take your time getting to Machu Picchu by taking an epic bus trip through southern Peru. From Lima, head south to the beach town of Paracas, then to Ica/Huacachina for a little sandboarding, Peru’s second largest city Arequipa, and finally to Cusco. We recommend devoting at least 5 days to this adventure!
If you are looking for something different, you can also take an overnight bus to the coastal town of Huanchaco. There, you can surf or hang on the beach, and then head north towards Mancora and Ecuador!
There you have it, our favorite things to do in Huaraz, Peru! From us to you, happy adventuring!
- All price are current as of October 2019.