Discover the enchanting beauty of Huaraz in Peru, a hiking paradise in the breathtaking Andes. These are the best things to do in Huaraz.
Huaraz, located in the heart of the Andes in Peru, is a destination every hiking enthusiast should visit. With its breathtaking mountains, turquoise lakes, and picturesque valleys, Huaraz offers a wealth of natural beauty to explore. Moreover, the city itself has a rich history and vibrant culture that you can explore during your stay.
Huaraz lies at an altitude of 3,052 meters (10,013 feet) and is surrounded by the Cordillera Blanca and the Cordillera Negra. The Cordillera Blanca is a mountain range with more than 60 peaks over 6,000 meters high, including Peru’s highest mountain, Huascarán.
Huaraz was founded by the Spanish in 1574 as San Sebastián de Huaraz. The city was almost completely destroyed by an earthquake in 1970 but has since been rebuilt.
Altitude sickness in Huaraz
Huaraz is located at an altitude of more than 3,000 meters, therefore there is a chance that you may suffer from altitude sickness. Symptoms of altitude sickness include shortness of breath, dizziness, nausea, and headache. In the worst case scenario, you can actually die from this. So be careful!
Are you not used to the altitude (yet)? Then it is wise to acclimate first. Don’t plan anything on the first day (or maybe even two days) in Huaraz, don’t do any strenuous activities in even higher areas. Drink plenty of water and possibly coca tea, this helps against the symptoms.
I myself strolled a bit through the city on my first day in Huaraz, from coffee shop to cozy restaurant and back. That was hard enough! I was out of breath every time I went on a short walk. After that first day, I started building it up slowly so I was able to do some hikes in the higher areas.
Why do you want to visit Huaraz?
Although not the most beautiful city in Peru, Huaraz is definitely worth visiting. There is a friendly atmosphere and it is a true outdoor paradise. In the vicinity of the city, you there are many beautiful (multi-day) hikes, and you can do climbing, mountain biking, and even snowboarding.
The best things to do in Huaraz
Huaraz is not the most beautiful city in Peru, but you can certainly have some fun there. These are a few fun sights in the city itself.
Plaza de Armas
Plaza de Armas in Huaraz is the bustling heart of the city, surrounded by charming colonial buildings and atmospheric restaurants. Characterized by an imposing cathedral, the square is a meeting place for locals and travelers alike.
Enjoy the lively atmosphere, sometimes there are stalls where you can taste local food or buy souvenirs. Plaza de Armas is the perfect place to unwind after a day of adventure in the nearby mountains while experiencing local culture and hospitality.
Catedral de la diócesis de Huaraz
The Catedral de la diócesis de Huaraz is the most striking structure at Plaza de Armas and is an impressive example of religious architecture in the region. And it’s not even quite finished yet! This majestic Catholic church, built in neoclassical style, is notable for its imposing facade and tall columns. For a few years now, there has also been a distinctive gold door.
If you can take a peek inside, it’s really recommended. Then you can see the huge stained-glass windows, the shapes look a bit like colorful kites.
Museo Arqueológico de Áncash
The Museo Arqueológico de Áncash is located near Plaza de Armas and this is a regional museum where you can learn more about the rich history and archaeology of the Áncash region. In existence since 1935, the museum was one of the first regional museums in Peru.
This museum houses an impressive collection of pre-Inca and Inca artifacts, including pottery, textiles, and tools that bring to life the ancient cultures of this area. Next to the museum is Parque Monolitico, a small park full of ancient sculptures.
The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Entrance fee is 7 Peruvian Sol. More information about the museum can be found on this website (in Spanish).
Mercado Central de Huaraz
If you like to have a local experience, it is a must to check out Mercado Central de Huaraz. This is a lively and colorful market that is the beating heart of local gastronomy and culture.
Here you will find stalls full of fresh produce, exotic spices, artisan crafts, and local delicacies. Sample authentic Peruvian dishes at food stalls, enjoy the smells and tastes of the Andes, and connect with the friendly locals. The market offers a fascinating insight into the culinary traditions and daily life of Huaraz.
Mirador de Rataquenua
Mirador de Rataquenua is a viewpoint and is located just outside Huaraz. From here you have breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and picturesque countryside. Also, the whole city is at your feet!
At the viewpoint, there is also a restaurant called Cumbre. Here you can enjoy a nice meal with a magnificent view.
The best hikes near Huaraz
Most people visit Huaraz for all the outdoor activities and that was also the reason for me to travel to Huaraz. Indeed, Huaraz is a true hiking paradise!
Some hikes you can do by yourself, but it is sometimes smart to book a guided tour, especially if the starting point of the hike is difficult to reach. These are the best multi-day treks and day hikes near Huaraz.
The hike to Laguna Wilcacocha is the first one I did in Peru and what a one! Laguna Wilcacocha is a picturesque mountain lake and is located at an altitude of 3,725 meters (12,220 feet). It is a good hike to start with, as it is only 6.6 kilometers long (a little over 4 miles). Don’t underestimate it; because of the altitude, you’re out of breath quickly and that makes it really tough.
Once you reach the lake, you feel fulfilled and have a magnificent view of the surrounding mountain landscape. The hike to Laguna Wilcacho is a perfect hike if you are still acclimating. There is also a bus from Huaraz to the starting point of the hike, so you can very easily do it on your own.
A second good acclimation hike near Huaraz is the one to Laguna Churup. You can get here by taking a collectivo (minibus) to the village of Pitec. Like the hike to Laguna Wilcacocha, the hike to Laguna Churup is considered an “easy hike.” Well, I found the one to Laguan Wilcacochu quite tough because of the altitude and since Laguna Churup is at an altitude of 4,450 meters (14,750 feet), you definitely shouldn’t underestimate this one.
The hike to Laguna Churup starts from the village of Pitec and takes you through a picturesque mountain landscape with beautiful views. At the end of the trail, you have an extra challenge: you have to climb up a mountain wall using a rope.
Then you arrive at Laguna Churup, an enchanting azure mountain lake surrounded by snow-capped peaks. The hike takes about 5 to 6 hours and it is well worth the physical effort for the breathtaking views.
Laguna Paron is one of the most beautiful lakes I have ever seen. It is quite a bit north of Huaraz, so it is best to book a tour. Laguna Paron is one of the largest glacial lakes in the region and is surrounded by several high snow-capped peaks. One of those peaks (Artesonraju) is seen as the mountain on the Paramount logo. Consequently, the hike to Laguna Paron is often called the Paramount trek.
During the tour, you will be dropped off at the lakeshore. For the best view, however, you need to climb up. In the beginning, it is a path that goes uphill gradually. At some point, the trail is gone and you have to scramble over the rocks. It’s worth the effort because once you get to the viewpoint (4,500 meters or 14,763 feet) you’ll can’t believe your eyes. That a place can be this beautiful!
I did this hike on my second day in Huaraz and it turned out that it was a little too much for me. On the descent, I developed some altitude sickness symptoms, which was no fun. Fortunately, it was over quickly as we continued to descend, but keep this in mind if you are going to visit high places.
The hike to Laguna 69 at 4,600 meters (15,091 feet) is a breathtaking hike in the Cordillera Blanca Mountains. This challenging hike takes you through spectacular mountain scenery, past crystal-clear mountain streams, and under the shade of snow-capped peaks.
After a few hours of hiking, you’ll reach the ultimate reward: Laguna 69, a beautiful turquoise mountain lake surrounded by steep cliffs and glaciers. Because Laguna 69 is quite a bit outside Huaraz, it is convenient to book a tour for this hike.
Santa Cruz trek (4 days)
There are also a number of multi-day treks you can do from Huaraz and the Santa Cruz trek is the most popular. I didn’t have time for this myself, but did talk to a girl in my hostel who had done it and she said it was amazing. You can do this trek either by yourself or with a tour.
The Santa Cruz trek is one of the most iconic treks in the Cordillera Blanca. This multi-day trek takes you through a diverse landscape, from lush valleys to imposing mountain peaks. Along the way, you pass glistening glacial lakes (including Laguna 69) and impressive rock formations.
During the Santa Cruz trek, you usually camp at designated camping sites along the route, surrounded by breathtaking scenery. The trek usually takes 3 to 4 days, depending on the pace and route you choose, and requires good physical fitness because of the altitude.
Book an organized Santa Cruz trek (including camping gear).
Huayhuash trek (10 days)
Fancy an even longer adventure? Then the Huayhuash trek might be for you. The Huayhuash trek is a legendary multi-day trek through the remote and breathtaking Huayhuash mountain range, it is located south of Huaraz.
The trek begins in the village of Llamac and you will pass impressive mountain passes, spectacular glacial lakes, and picturesque Quechua villages. All the while you are surrounded by majestic snow-capped mountain peaks.
The Huayhuash trek usually lasts 10 days. It is an adventure trip that requires good physical fitness and experience in high-altitude hiking. But it is an unforgettable experience either way!
Watch the video below for an impression.
Good to know: you don’t need to bring all your hiking and backpacking gear to Peru. You can rent everything you need during a multi-day hike in Huaraz. You can also leave the rest of your luggage at various places. Usually, this can be done at your accommodation.
Other great tours of Huaraz
As I write this article, I find out that I missed a lot of fun things during my time in Huaraz. A good reason to return someday! Still, I want you to be well informed about all the possibilities in Huaraz, so here are some other cool tours you can do from Huaraz.
A natural wonder, the Pastoruri Glacier is located in Huascarán National Park. This glacier is known for its impressive ice formations and icy blue pools, which provide an incredible contrast to the surrounding mountains.
You can visit this glacier on a sightseeing tour. So you will stop in several towns and see a beautiful mountain lake.
The village of Chavín de Huantar is located about a hundred kilometers east of Huaraz. You will find an intriguing archaeological site that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site: the Chavin ruins.
These impressive stone structures come from the Chavín culture, which flourished between 1500 and 300 BC. Here you will gain insight into the advanced architecture and spiritual practices of an ancient civilization. It’s an amazing sight! The highlight is the Lanzón Monolith, a large stone column with complex relief sculptures that played a central role in the religious rituals of the time.
During the tour, you will also visit the Chavin Museum and the beautiful mountain lake Laguna Querococha.
Nice cafes and restaurants in Huaraz
The inner man also likes something after all that hiking and adventuring! Fortunately, there are several nice coffee shops and restaurants in Huaraz where you can have some drinks and food for a little money. These are some of my favorites:
- California Café: a nice little joint for breakfast and lunch.
- Mamma Mia: a coffee shop where you can get great food all day. They also have tasty juices and good breakfasts.
- Cafe Andino: trendy cafe/restaurant with good coffee, tea and sandwiches. You can also dine here.
- Mi Comedia – Pizzeria: for super tasty pizzas.
- Paulino’s Indian Cuisine: the perfect place for delicious Indian food.
Best travel time for Huaraz
The best travel time for Huaraz in Peru is during the dry season, between May and September. These months offer more stable weather conditions and are ideal for trekking and mountain climbing in the region.
The months of June, July, and August are particularly popular because of the clear weather, although it can still be cold during the day because of the high altitude. I visited Huaraz in early July and that was perfect. I had clear blue skies most of the time. However, I did have to put on a cardigan or sweater regularly as it cooled down quickly at night.
Lodging in Huaraz
Huaraz is a great base for many cool activities, so it’s smart to stay here for a few days. I myself stayed in Huaraz for a total of 4 days and as far as I am concerned, that is the minimum, especially if you also have to get used to the altitude. These are great places to stay in Huaraz:
- Akilpo Home – I myself stayed at Akilpo Hostel, but unfortunately that no longer exists. However, Akilpo Home is run by the same two brothers and they are great with helping you plan hikes. This B&B has a very high rating and the rooms are extremely comfortable.
- Aldos Guest House – If you have a small budget or enjoy meeting other travelers, this is a good hostel to stay in. The dormitories are not too big (4 or 5 beds) and there is a very nice rooftop terrace overlooking the beautiful mountains.
- Hotel & Bungalows Villa Valencia (3⭐) – This hotel has both regular rooms and bungalows. Perfect if you are traveling with a family or a larger group. It also has a beautiful, well-kept garden. A great place to unwind.
Check Booking.com for more options, availability, and prices.
How to get to Huaraz?
Huaraz is about 400 kilometers north of Lima, far from the well-known hotspots of southern Peru. The best way to get to Huaraz is to take a bus from Lima. The ride takes about 8 to 9 hours. Tickets can be booked through Busbud.
If you are coming from the north, you can also take a bus from Trujillo to Huaraz. Check Busbud for tickets and travel times. Peru’s long-distance buses are usually very luxurious. I myself traveled mostly with Cruz del Sur, which is one of the best rated bus companies in Peru.
Of course, you can also travel to Huaraz by rental car. Expect a challenging drive, especially in the Huaraz area. There are many narrow mountain roads full of curves and elevation changes.
Book a trip to Peru
Would you like to visit Huaraz during a wonderful tour of Peru? Use the websites below to book your trip.
✈️ Plane tickets – Lima has a major international airport. Check WayAway to find the best deals and get cashback on plane tickets.
🚍 Bus tickets – To get from A to B in Peru it is best to use long-distance buses. These are very comfortable and often include a meal. I often booked first class (which was not very expensive at all) and the seats were amazing! This is especially a good idea when traveling on night buses. You can book bus tickets via Busbud.
🚘 Rental Car – You can also discover Peru with a rental car. Then you are flexible and can stop wherever you want. Check Rental Cars to find the best deals.
📱E-SIM – Do you prefer having cell service during your trip? Get an e-SIM via Airalo, so you can use mobile internet to navigate and keep in touch with family and friends.
💊 Travel insurance – Don’t forget your travel insurance, as it will give you peace of mind during your trip. Check out Insubuy to find the travel insurance that fits your needs.
Read more about Peru
Would you like to read more about the most beautiful places in Peru? Get one of these great travel guides.
I traveled around Peru for a month, and that was an unforgettable trip! You can read a lot about Peru on this website. Check out one of these articles as well:
- The perfect 1 month Peru itinerary
- Everything you need to know about the Inca Trail
- The best things to do in Lima
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