Sitting at an altitude of 10,013 feet, Huaraz is nestled among some of the highest mountains in the Western hemisphere. You may notice your dreams are slightly more vivid, you get winded more easily and beer seems to have more of a kick than it did at sea level. If you get a headache or other symptoms of altitude sickness, you may find yourself trying a cup of coca tea. Although coca leaves contain alkaloids which can be chemically extracted to make cocaine, tea made from coca leaves is only a mild stimulant. The tea has effects similar to those of coffee, but without any of the jumpy jitteriness.
When to go to Huaraz, Peru
Most people visit Huaraz during the dry season, from May to September. You have a better chance of catching the lakes at their brightest blue in the sunlight. We went in January, during the peak of the rainy season. Although there were a few moments of light rain and hail on our hikes, the weather was mostly just a bit cloudy.
Things to Do in Huaraz, Peru
Hike to Laguna Churup
The hike to Laguna Churup is a good way to acclimate to the high altitude. But that’s not to say it’s easy. The hike is steep from the beginning, winding up past a series of sheltered huts. As you ascend into the hills, you’ll cross a crystal clear stream and begin to hear the crashing of the waterfall.
At 12,000 feet, the trailhead is about a 50 minute drive from Huaraz. From the trailhead, the ascent to the lake took us just under 2 hours. The hike requires two sections of scrambling, with steel-bolted tubes to help you through the trickiest sections.
Time. 2 hours to the lake.
Cost. 10 soles per person for entrance.
Hike to Laguna 69
Most tourists know two hikes in Huaraz – Laguna 69 and Laguna Churup. Although these hikes are popular, I can’t say they’re overrated. The turquoise hue of Laguna 69 is worth the strenuous ascent and crowded trail.
If you’re staying in Huaraz, Laguna 69 will be an all-day adventure. The drive to the trailhead from town takes two and a half hours. From the trailhead, the ascent to took us about two hours. Reaching the Laguna is a bit tedious with it’s endless high-altitude switchbacks, but even on a cloudy day the water’s color is absolutely electric. Feel free to take a dip if you’re a masochist; it’s real damn cold.
Time. 2 to 3.5 hours to the lake.
Cost. 10 soles per person for entrance.
Trailhead GPS coordinates: -9.046857, -77.610093
We followed this google route. Once you get to the park, you’ll have to stop at a gate and pay a fee. Then drive about 20 minutes into the park, passing two incredible lagos, to reach a large, grassy lot with a parking attendant. Drive another mile past that lot and you’ll spot a turnout for the trailhead. There’s no designated parking spaces, but you can pull over enough to be out of the way of traffic.
Try Sierra Andina beers at TRIVIO
We were surprised by this local brewery. The Shaman IPA was the first full-bodied beer I’d had in a while.
Cost. 15 soles for a bottled craft beer.
Where to Eat in Huaraz, Peru
This place has some real spice! They have a great selection of Thai and Indian Curries, with vegetarian options too. It’s a good place for a hearty, healthy meal after trekking all day in the cold.
Where to Stay in Huaraz, Peru
I’m going to go out on a limb and say this is the nicest hostel I’ve ever stayed in. The beds have real duvets and extra wool blankies. The complimentary self-serve breakfast is incredible. I already miss the quinoa oatmeal with homemade peach jam, the coffee cakes and coca tea. At night, cuddle up by the fireplace or watch a movie in the comfy TV room. (They have every Star Wars on DVD.) The wifi is great if you’re looking to catch up on work – there’s a separate network for each floor.
Cost. 40 soles per person for a dorm room bed. Our dorm room only had three beds in it.
Parking. The hostel can give you directions to a parking lot a few blocks away. They didn’t recommend leaving our car on the street at night. Parking for the night costs 10 soles.