Huaraz, a Jewel in the Peruvian Andes

There’s a lot to see when you travel to Peru and just a few hours by car you can find the amazing Callejon de Huaylas and its crown jewel: Huaraz.

Huaraz is a town situated in the Valley of Callejon de Huaylas around 8 hours from Lima by bus and is 3100 meters above sea level in the Andes mountain range, so when you arrive here, you may need a couple of days to acclimatize to the altitude. This town gives some of the most amazing views of the most impressive mountain ranges in the world, including the most notable mountain, Huascaran, which stands at 6,768 meters and is the highest mountain in Peru. Huaraz was nearly completely flattened by a huge earthquake in 1970, which unfortunately killed half the city’s population and the majority of buildings have been rebuilt using concrete, so it is not the most aesthetically pleasing town, but it offers character in many other ways.

During the high season, there are many backpackers and adventurers visiting here to trek along this path to view the peaks of the Andes. The region is a trekking and hiking paradise that has stunning views similar to that of the Inca Trail from Cusco to Machu Picchu. One of the most popular treks is El Cañon del Pato route (the Duck Canon), which begins in Santa, north of Chimbote and offers views of many of the great Andes’s peaks and reaches 4760 meters. It is roughly a 10 hour trek that takes you along the old highway, which was built by a mining company in the 1930’s along the Rio Santa. Another popular day trek is to the Pastouri Glacier. Before attempting the trek, it is best to spend a couple of days in Huaraz first to acclimatize, as the glacier is situated 5240 meters above sea level. You can go by foot or you can ride a horse or mule to get there. On the trek you can also see the Puya de Raimondii plants, which look like deformed cacti and are the largest member of the bromeliad family (related to the pineapple), and are considered to be one of the oldest in the world, which can only be found in some of the most isolated areas in the Andes.

If you really want to see how the people live in the region of Huaraz, then you can partake in a homestay in Vicos or Humacchuco. Vicos is located about an hour from Huaraz and is a truly authentic rural community that gives tourists the chance to learn about the Andean culture in this area. Visitors are able to do activities such as helping families cook, bake fresh local bread, fish, harvest honey and even help the farmers with their daily duties. There is also the opportunity to spend the day hiking to high altitude lakes and glaciers, and enjoy spectacular views of the Cordillera Blanca (White Mountain Range) in the background. In the community of Humacchuco, you can also learn about the culture and daily activities of the local families, and trek to the beautiful Lake Llanganuco and hike to the valley of Huaytapallana.

There are a number of parks and squares that you can visit including the Plaza de Armas and Plaza de Belen. The main park in the town is at the San Francisco Church (Iglesia San Francisco), which is a great place to sit and relax or just people watch. There are also a variety of lively markets and shops catering to all tourists and locals where you can put your bargaining skills to the test and pick up some great buys.

Other places of interest include the Wari ruin of Wilcawain (meaning ‘grandson’s house in Quechua) that dates all the way back to 600 to 900 AD. The temple there is virtually in its original state and provides the opportunity to see a complete pre-Columbian building in Peru. The Museo Regional de Ancash exhibits the biggest collection of ancient stone sculptures in South America and gives information about the cultures that lived in the Cordillera Blanca region.

When you travel to Peru, you will not be disappointed by Huaraz and its surroundings due to the variety of things to do and the history that it has to offer.

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