Huaraz, a piece of Paradise way up high in Peru

After spending a few days in Lima, capital of Peru, we set off again on our way north toward Huaraz. Huaraz is a small paradise in the Andes mountain range. The city is famous mainly because from here you can begin several routes of hiking and trekking. It is also called “the little Switzerland of the Andes” because of its amazing surroundings. We decided to stay there for a few days to enjoy nature after a few days in Lima.

How to get to Huaraz

We took a bus with Oltursa for 35 soles per person (about €10). The journey takes 8 hours and there are buses both day and night. The bus is very comfortable, we got to eat and drink, and even had WiFi (which didn’t  always work), and the staff is friendly. We recommend this company for this journey.

Where to sleep in Huaraz

We chose an airbnb. Yes, after the crash in our hostel in Lima, we preferred to try our luck on an AirBnb and we had reason to do so! We slept in Luis’s house and the accommodation was very nice. Two large beds, a (hot) shower, a kitchen and a terrace with incredible views of the mountain range. We could not ask for more!

What to do in Huaraz

Day 1 in Huaraz: city tour

We had come to Huaraz because from here you can do several treks in the Andes and there are things to visit around. Since the city is 3052 meters above sea level, we decided that the first day we would take it easy to get used to the altitude and visit the city.

So we went for a walk around the Plaza de Armas, which is always lively. There we saw the local people with their llamas and their traditional costumes … we realised we were in Peru! Afterwards we headed towards the cathedral and the main shopping street (it is impossible not to see it, it is the largest in the city). The town is not huge, so we wanted to take our time and go slowly. Then we went to see the local market with all the fruits and vegetables of the country, a place with lots of colors and very lively!

We also wanted to book our next day’s trek. We hired the agency Sechin Tours as we wanted to see the Pastoruri Glacier at any price. The price of the excursion was 40 soles per person for the whole day, but we negotiated 35 (about 10 €). There are lots of different agencies. We liked ours but surely there are better ones (and worse!). Do not hesitate to share your experience with us in the comments section.

So that night we returned early to the apartment to make dinner and sleep early, to be in shape for the day that we were going to have the next morning!

Day 2 in Huaraz: Pastoruri Glacier

After a good night’s sleep (although a bit cool), we had an appointment at 9.30 am in the square from where all the buses leave. We had 70 kilometers of travel to get to the Pastoruri Glacier, but it would take 3 hours because we would make several stops along the way.

Before we started, the guide introduced himself and seemed very nice, plus everyone spoke Spanish on the bus, which was great. He gave us some pieces of advice regarding altitude sickness and precautions, as we were going to climb over 5000 meters above sea level (so much so that he even scared us a bit). But he was right to do so because altitude sickness can be really dangerous!

Our first stop was at a small local restaurant, where we got a mate de coca to help fight the altitude, and a pill against the sickness just in case. We had a small breakfast, as they recommended not to eat much before climbing in altitude (except if you want to vomit everything). Our guide also advised us to book the food we were going to have later, because on the way back we would stop at the same restaurant.

After this little break, we returned to the road crossing the Cordillera Blanca and the department of Ancash. We arrived at the entrance of Huascaran National Park, where we paid an entrance fee of 10 soles per person (3 €) to access (it was the only extra of the whole day). The park contains the highest tropical mountain chain in the world, and one of the largest biodiversity in Peru.

We made a first stop to see the gasified spring waters of the area. We stopped in the middle of a panorama so beautiful that it left us breathless, in the middle of the Puma Pampa, to discover a source of natural gasified water.

Around us we saw a lot of huge plants, some very special cacti. They were “puyas raimondi“, giant cacti that bloom once every 3 years. Their size is awesome!

We returned to the bus to cross this magnificent valley, and we stopped again to see a spring of water of different colors. Depending on the position of the sun, the color of the water changes, and it is possible to see up to 6 different colors depending on the time of the day and the weather. It was so beautiful!

And finally the bus came to the parking lot for the Pastoruri Glacier.

After listening to the recommendations of the guide, we started to walk very slowly to be sure to get all the way to the top. By itself, the path is not difficult, you just have to walk 1 hour to go up and the same to go back. But the complicated thing is the lack of oxygen! We felt that we were going to idle, that our legs did not work as we wanted, and that if we turned around fast, are head would start to spin around! So we walked really very slowly and made small breaks to drink water regularly.

The last meters of climb were really difficult, but when we started to see the visual show in front of us… wow, it was breathtaking!!

At the top, next to the feet of the Pastoruri Glacier, the wind was much colder that on the parking lot, but the scenery is beautiful! It was the first glacier we saw during our trip around the world, and it was magnificent! The glacier is at more than 5000 meters, but unfortunately climate change makes it melt by leaps and bounds, and within a few years there will be nothing left of the glacier.

On the way back to Huaraz we stopped at the restaurant to have lunch (and we needed it because it was already 4pm and we were hungry!). We ate a soup and a typical dish, the levantamuertos, based on cereals, chicken or lamb, and vegetables, very rich and tasty!

We had a great day, the path was not too difficult and the landscapes we saw left us totally amazed!

Day 3 in Huaraz: a failed solo trek

For our last day in the heights in Huaraz, we woke up a little later so we decided to try a solo trek. We had found a site on the internet where they recommended a walk to do in autonomy not far from the city, so we set off. But we started to climb… and the places we passed seemed increasingly dangerous (stray dogs, people who stared at us weirdly, neighborhoods that looked like ghettos …). So we turned around and went for a walk in the city because we didn’t feel very safe there!

Where to eat in Huaraz

We ate at Trivio Resto Bar, a fairly cool restaurant where the ingredients are organic. We ate for very little money and service was nice. The menu changes very often because the products are fresh and seasonal. And also the WiFi works quite well, which is a plus in Huaraz!

Conclusion of our stay in Huaraz

The days we spent in Huaraz felt so good. The panorama is simply beautiful, and although the city itself is nothing special, the possibilities around it make it a must-see! And now, we headed north in search of new adventures!