The gateway to the spectacular Cordillera Blanca, Huaraz has become northern Peru's epicentre for adrenaline fuelled activities and outdoor lovers' dreams. In fact, what was not so long ago a sleepy town unknown to many on the backpacker circuit is quickly becoming a must-do stop on the way to or from Ecuador. And with some of Peru's most beautiful hikes beginning just outside the city, it's unlikely to lose its popularity anytime soon!
Here's our guide on things to do in and around Huaraz, plus transport and accommodation recommendations.
THINGS TO DO in huaraz
For avid hikers, this place simply has to be on your Peru itinerary. Whether you fancy a one day hike to Laguna 69, or a multi-day trek through the Cordillera Blanca, all can be arranged or started from here.
Huascarán National Park, covering nearly 340,000 hectares, is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site home to some of South America's most breathtaking scenery and glaciers with 25 trekking routes and 102 mountaineering spots available to visitors. Thankfully, it remains extremely good value to enter with a 10 sole entry fee (£2.4 / $3) for one day visitors (let us know in the comments if this changes!) or a 21-day pass for 65 soles (£16 / $19) . It is not possible to buy multiple day passes, so if you are doing the 4-day Santa Cruz trek for example, you will need to buy the 21-day pass. Trust us, this is excellent value, particularly when compared to the costs associated with hiking in Chile's Torres Del Paine.
There are a large number of day hikes and trips available, which you can do on your own or with a tour, and many of these are achievable for anyone with a decent level of fitness. Easier hikes whilst acclimatising include Rajucolta Valley and Llaca Valley whilst Laguna Churup, Laguna Paron and the unforgettable Laguna 69 are more challenging.
For the truly adventurous, consider then hikes through the stunning Cordillera Huayhuash, the Santa Cruz Trek or the Quilcayhuanca & Cojup Valleys are the most popular. For details of reputable trekking companies based in Huaraz, see this link. These hikes last anywhere from 5-14 days so do your research, take precautions and find a good guide or tour provider (seriously, get a guide and, if not, make 100% sure your travel insurance is up to scratch!)
If you'd rather explore the area on two wheels, there are various outfitters in town that can rent you a bike - either for a single day cruise or a 12-day cycling marathon through villages and over mountains. Prices start at around 160 soles for a days experience including bike rental and drop-off.
EXPLORE THE TOWN
Huaraz sits at more than 3000m, so if you've just crossed the border from Ecuador or have been sunning yourself on the beaches of northern Peru, you're going to let yourself acclimate to the altitude and take it easy for the first day or two. So, take the opportunity to explore this traditional little town. Visit the local market, hang in out in one of the many small parks, practice your Spanish or go have authentic Thai food from Siam de los Andes!
PICK UP SOME SOUVENIRS
So, we wouldn't normally have this in our things to do - we're honestly not huge fans of dragging around useless bits of tat for months on end. However, most of you aren't going to leave Peru without at least one llama themed jumper, a ridiculous hat or some extra thick socks.
Instead of buying them in Cusco, where the prices are a fair bit higher, get them from one of the many street sellers in Huaraz. Exactly the same products - cheaper price. Simples!
Where to stay in Huaraz
Okay, first things first. The hostels on offer in Huaraz are not fancy. Think of them more as a local's house with lots of rooms that you happen to be staying in. In true Along Dusty Roads style, we visited quite a number in our effort to find the very best our budget could allow and can happily recommend the following:
LA CASA DE ZARELA Located just a 10 minute walk from Plaza de las Armas, this wonderful little hostel has all the facilities you'd require, plus several wonderful terraces from which to enjoy the spectacular views over the Cordillera Blanca. Dorm beds from £10 a night.
LA CASA DE MARUJA B&B Free breakfast and the most helpful of hosts make this hostel a top pick for anybody visiting Huaraz. Dorm beds from £9 per night.
HOSTEL AKILPO Free breakfast, dorm beds outfitted with their own little lights and power points, helpful staff - all for just £5 a night. Easy to understand why this is one of the most popular hostels in town.
How to get to Huaraz
Depending on whether you're heading north or south, the most common destinations before or after Huaraz are Trujillo and Lima.
Lima to Huaraz costs around 25 soles in an economy bus and takes 8 hours; there are frequent departures throughout the day.
Trujillo to Huaraz is a little more tricky in that there are far fewer daily buses, especially if you choose to take the bus overnight like we did (we booked our ticket early afternoon the day before but even then we were in the last two available seats!). The bus takes around 9 hours and tickets can be bought for as little as 30 soles. From Trujillo, we advise you to make your way straight to Huanchaco.
There is no one bus station in Huaraz, instead each company has their own pick up/drop off point but all the major companies have ticket offices and departures from the same street 'Jiron Simón Bolívar'.
You can find the collectivos running to Yungay or Caraz on the same street, a block or so past the bus long distance bus companies - just ask a local to point you in the right direction. There are regular departures, leaving when full, costing 5 soles (£1.2 / $1.5).