If you like nature (and hiking), Huaraz is not to be missed when you’re travelling in Peru. People also call it ‘the Switzerland of Peru’, and we can totally see why. The Cordillera Blanca and Cordillera Negra have a ton of beautiful lakes, amazing viewpoints, and impressive glaciers. Besides this, many people come to do lots of hiking, from day hikes, to multi-day hikes that can go as long as 15 days!
To be honest, we weren’t per se in the hiking mood, but also didn’t want to skip Huaraz because of that, as we had heard so many good things about it. So, we went, but took it easy and did most of our trips with a tour agency. The tours here are very affordable at 40/45 soles per person (≈€10/11), and basically cover all your transport and the guide. Lunch and entry fees were not included.
Our first trip was to Laguna Llanganuco, a beautiful and super easy accessible lake. The van can get all the way to the edge of the lake. You can walk around it for a bit (not sure you can go all the way around) or take a little boat ride (for a fee). We opted to walk a bit, and see the lake from the other side as well.
Included in the tour is a stop at a small town that’s famous for it’s ice cream (it was pretty good!), and another stop at Yungay. On the 31st of May, 1970, there was a big earthquake in front of the coast of Peru, which triggered a massive landslide. A gigantic sheet of ice came loose on Huascarán mountain, which wiped the whole town (except for a big statue of Christ) away and 70,000 people were killed. The town of Yungay has been rebuilt next to the original location, which became a monument.
During our stop here, we were explained what had happened and shown around the monument that sits now where the original town of Yungay once was. I personally wasn’t aware of this ever happening, so to learn about it, while being right there, was very impressive.
Another popular lake in the Huaraz region is Laguna Paron, a beautiful blue lake surrounded by tall mountains. It’s fairly easy to get here, but it’s quite a drive. Once you’re at the lake, you can hike up to the mirador, the view from the top is amazing! However, it does require a hike uphill (logically), and at some point it’s VERY rocky.
With a little bit of luck, you arrived at a less busy moment in the day and you can have the mirador all to yourself. There’s quite some space up there of course, but there are not a ton of nice spaces on the left side from where you can see the lake, and take some pictures from.
We only had a specific amount of time to climb up, stay at the mirador, and walk down again, before we had to leave again (minor downside of going with a tour). But, we felt we had plenty of time to go up and walk(/climb, lol) around a bit, before we headed down again.
Once we made it down from the mirador again, we still had some time to walk around the lake for a little bit, seeing everything from a different angle. It’s truly an amazing lake, with the brightest color blue I think I’ve ever seen in water. One of the most beautiful lakes Huaraz has to offer, for sure.
Our last tour in Huaraz, went to the Pastoruri Glacier. After a quick stop at a roadside restaurant, where we could buy some drinks and snacks, and reserve our food for lunch, we drove in the direction of the Glacier. On the way we stopped at a viewpoint, before finally driving to the starting point of the trail.
The walk to the glacier is short with only 2 kilometers. But, the fact that you are at 4800 meters altitude, walking to about 5000 meters altitude, makes it difficult. Seriously, don’t go too fast and take your time, or you will definitely develop a headache, and maybe even worse! At this point in our trip, we were very well adjusted to the altitude, with over 2 months in Argentina, Bolivia and Peru, and we could really feel the lack of oxygen in the air at this altitude.
After walking for 45 minutes, taking it extremely slow, we made it to the glacier. Such an impressive sight! Unfortunately, it is receding. In fact, those 2 lakes you see weren’t there before. Over the years, as the glacier receeded and melted, those 2 lakes were created with the melting water. Years ago, the glacer reached as far as the parking lot, roughly 2 kilometers away!
Huaraz is amazing and you shouldn’t miss it, even if you’re not in to hiking!