Huaraz is fast becoming Peru’s trekking mecca for adventure treks to Yungay, Llanganuco Lakes, and the famous Lake 69 in exceptional Huascarán National Park.
Leaving Lima, the comfortable bus to Huaraz travels through flat terrain until venturing on winding roads snaking around soaring mountainous terrain. Sporadic tiny villages pop up along the highway until reaching Conochonca at 4,100 metres high.
Enveloped by Pachacoto’s sunburnt arid plains splaying down to the highway, villages along the road become built up towards Huaraz some 8 hours and 420-kilometres later.
This short video by Roberto Daniel Hartmann Perez is a taste of what you can expect on this bus trip.
Huaraz – what to see?
As a base for serious mountaineers, climbers, hikers, and anyone into outdoor activities, it’s wise to first acclimatise before setting out on any hike.
Huaraz offers many fantastic day adventure trips as well as longer ones, but be prepared to do some miles in a minibus as most sites and activities are a distance from the city.
Tip: Check out the markets in the city, especially if you need camping or trekking gear.
Day Trip 1: Huascarán National Park
Covering a rugged 340,000-hectare expanse containing more than 400 lakes, this incredible park boasts Mount Huascarán and the Cordillera Blanca – world’s highest tropical mountain range.
Situated in the central Andes, the dramatic panoramic vistas dance around you as you explore the park.
Organising today’s tour through our B&B, the minibus arrives early at 6am.
Stopping first at Yungay, this allows a stroll through the original Yungay, which was hit by the Ancash earthquake in 1970.
The earthquake triggered an ice, mud, and debris avalanche of around ‘50 million cubic meters, which slid approximately 15 kilometres downhill’ enveloping the whole town.
It’s estimated that the avalanche reached speeds between 340 mph to 620 mph.
The town is a national cemetery as only 92 of its 20,000 people survived the tragedy and still today, the Peruvian government forbids excavation of the town.
From Yungay, we continue to the mountains then the lakes on the very bumpy road.
Around 25-kilometres north-east of Yungay along an uncomfortable road that sees your head bouncing off the top of the minibus, we finally arrive at the gorgeous turquoise waters of Chinancocha (“female lagoon”).
A particular type of algae gives the lake its vibrant and dynamic colour.
As the most popular of the lakes, today sees only a few tourists vying for the perfect shot without an intrusive head. The weather is keeping people away.
Queñual trees and the reedy Totora plant encompass the lake, and wild ducks frolic in its pristine waters.
Visiting Laguna Orconcocha (“male lagoon”) at the end of the valley is just as breathtaking…
…you can easily lose yourself whilst becoming absorbed within these surrounds.
Every angle is stunning.
Day Trip 2: Lake Querococha
At 4,069 metres and around 53 kilometres from Huaraz but still in the Huascarán National park, the cramped minibus arrives at magnificent wind-swept Lake Querococha. This lake is quite different to the Llanganuco Lakes.
This is a popular spot and touts work the tourists for a photoshoot with their Llama.
Locals fish this lake for trout as this is one of the few lakes where fishing is permitted.
Chavín de Huantar and Chavín National Museum
On the Lake Querococha day trip, you also stop off at the pre-Incan Chavín de Huantar archaeological site and Chavín National Museum – both are included in the tour’s price.
Two plazas, ruins of an irrigation system and several structures are all that remains of Chavin, one of the oldest cities and cultures of Peru.
Enter one of the aged cold structures where an intriguing labyrinth made of massive stone blocks awaits and explore the galleries.
Indigenous shamans engaged in psychedelic Ayahuasca (hallucinogenic plant) ceremonies in these dark underground chambers.
The Chavin’s holy shrine The Lanzon – a splendid carved rock – stands at an impressive 5-metres in the centre of the chambers.
Once outside of Chavín de Huantar, meander the one-kilometre to the Chavín National Museum.
The museum’s lighting adds to the mood of fragments from the Chavín culture, which stemmed between 1200 BC and 400 BC.
Unusual sculptures adorn the museum as you move through its educational information.
Intricate designs paint a story of Gods and local life…
…such beauty and artistic skill.
Desolate surrounds in this isolated region of Huaraz.
Expect a long day as the minibus returns to Huaraz early in the evening.
Day Trip 3: Laguna 69
Organising a taxi for the day through our B&B, just under 100-kilometres from Huaraz along impressive scenery, we arrive at the drop-off point Cebollapampa – start of the 3-hour ascent to spectacular Laguna (Lake) 69. This trek is classed as moderate to difficult.
Lake 69 promises superb scenery back-dropped by the Cordillera Blanca as we trek from 3,800 metres to 4,600 metres.
Deciding to to this hike independently, we quickly discover it’s not a well-signed trek on this 7-kilometre ‘walk in the park’.
Arriving at the first incredibly beautiful lagoon, it’s a good spot to rest, have a couple of snacks, and some water.
Make sure you layer up as the temperature drops quickly at this altitude but also becomes warm again as you start to ascend along this long trek.
Remarkable snow-capped Mount Huascaran await the lens…
Bumping into only one other hiker during the whole day, on checking his map and assuring us that we’re on the right path, we bid farewell and continue on in opposite directions.
No, this is not a photo of Lake 69 but another smaller lagoon along the trail.
The weather closes in very quickly at this altitude, which is a dramatic backdrop for the slither of aquamarine water in the smaller lake.
As it’s getting late and somehow we missed the illusive but magnificent Lake 69, it’s time to turn around for the hike back as there’s still several hours to hike. You can do a several-day trek to Lake 69, but need to carry all of your own camping gear.
The chance to absorb traditional but ancient farming methods still in use today may present itself once back from the trek.
The ever-changing canvas is a feast for one’s eyes, especially when the weather clears…
Breathing a sigh of great relief on seeing the taxi and driver still waiting at the drop-off point as I honestly thought we’d be stranded. Exhausted, we settle into the taxi for the return trip to Huaraz, arriving around dinner time.
Huaraz street scenes
Streets of Huaraz reveal their own stories…
…everyday local life is intriguing.
Traditional clothing, especially the hats across Peru seem to change with each new city or village encountered.
Mannerisms also change.
Characteristics of hats worn in Peru are quite different to the hats in Bolivia, although still very stylish.
Where to sleep
La Casa de Maruja BB is a home away from home with lovely and accommodating staff in great ambience. Organise your treks, day trips, or taxi runs through La Casa.
The price of the clean cosy private room and bathroom also includes a good hot breakfast, which is always appreciated. Free wi-fi is also provided.
You can easily stay a week in Huaraz as this city does offer tremendous and diverse day trips to the memorable Huascarán National Park.
A 9-hour overnight Movil Tour bus from Huaraz takes us to our next destination of Trujillo hopefully. I hear the pre-Colombian city and archaeological Chan Chan ruins around Trujillo are definitely worth a visit.