Huaraz is a city off the beaten path for many tourists to Peru, but has become an increasingly popular destination for adventure seekers and lovers of the great outdoors.
The city itself is not the main draw. By far the main attraction to this area is the twin mountain range, the Cordillera Blanca and Cordillera Negra, a colossal corridor of rock which dominates the city and offers a tantalising escape into the Peruvian wilderness.
People flock to this part of Peru to trek on and around Huascarán, the highest mountain in Peru and the third highest in the Western Hemisphere.
But there are many lesser known secrets in the Huaraz area that offer a number of genuine adventures.
The Pitec Trail to Laguna Churup is a true gem and costs next to nothing. It is best to haggle with a taxi driver to take you to Pitec and start from there.
The trailhead can be easily found just before the village. After a steady and demanding climb you will eventually reach a glacier-fed lake. Your efforts on the trail are rewarded with panoramic vistas at every turn along the way.
The climb can be tough, due to the altitude and the last 200 metres are a scramble up steep rock face – steel cables have been bolted into the mountain to help you clamber up. The hike will take the best part of a day, so take plenty of food and water.
If scrambling up steep mountains at altitude isn’t your idea of fun, instead take a day trip to Chavín.
Despite having the honour of UNESCO World Heritage status, the ruins of Chavín de Huantar receive far fewer visitors than most of Peru’s other major ancient monuments – largely thanks to the 4 hour, bumpy bus ride from Huaraz to the site itself.
These ashlar ruins were said to have been constructed from 1200 to 300 BC by the Chavín culture and are the first indications of sophisticated stone masonry in South America.
The mazes of underground chambers are a unique feature, as is the Lanzón, a 15 foot high carved rock depicting the deities of the Chavin culture.
Before setting out on any adventure in this part of Peru, take into account the extreme altitude and treat it with respect. At over 3,000 metres above sea level, you will feel the effects of altitude upon arrival.
Make sure you’re properly acclimatized before trying anything demanding and spend a day exploring Huaraz itself.
Although the town is particularly ugly, it is home to a number of interesting markets, called paraditas. The mountains surrounding Huaraz have been used as mineral mines since colonial times, many of which are still in use today.
At the markets you will find locals selling a myriad of goods handcrafted from the silver, copper and tin found only miles away. While you wander, it is also a good idea to try the local delectables; including cuarteados (a dessert), manjarblanco and local jerky.