Huaraz, Peru is the gateway to the Cordilleras Blanca and Negra of the central highlands of Peru. Once a fairly isolated town tucked away in the Peruvian Andes, Huaraz has quite suddenly begun to thrive on the influx of visitors who flock to the region for its many outdoor adventures. The town itself is certainly rough around the edges. There is a monotonous grey tone to the buildings, the streets are noisy and dirty, and the buildings always seem to be “under construction”. Still, there is something very charming about Huaraz. It is lively, it is raw, and the views of the great mountains from nearly anywhere in the town make even the most well travelled of people stop and take notice. Whether you come to Huaraz for the outdoor experience or you just want to wander the streets checking out all the strange trinkets sold on the streets, this little town tends to capture the heart of those who visit.
Things to do in Huaraz
For the great outdoors there is no place like Huaraz. Yes, the south of the country may have Machu Picchu, but the adventure here is much more raw, and you’re not likely to find yourself struggling with crowds of other hikers either. For outdoor activities get a hold of Paulino at Huascaran Tours (www.huascaran-peru.com / firstname.lastname@example.org) as their prices are great and the service is very good as well.
- Hiking: The hiking options are as varied as the Peruvian landscapes. There are easy one day strolls all the way to rigorous multi-day treks. You don’t usually need to book to far in advance, so I recommend you just show up and talk to a guide to sort things out.
- Mountain Biking: One of my favourite things to do in Huaraz is go for a mountain bike. In many cases you can have you and a bike hauled up the mountain and then ride down through little indigenous villages and beautiful landscapes without having to turn the peddles. Obviously, if you would like to, there are also very intense rides that require much more physical effort as well.
- Rock Climbing: There are some great spots to go rock climbing, and options are available for both beginners and pros.
- Ice Climbing: Ice climbing used to be more readily available in Huaraz, and although it may still be available seasonally, the ice in the area has retreated so much in recent years it’s becoming more and more rare to do so. Email ahead to check on the conditions.
- Horseback Riding: There are some really nice trails for horses out in the Cordillera Negra that pass through indigenous villages and along some impressive landscapes.
Where to Eat in Huarez
Most of the restaurants in town are located along the main street in town. However, possibly the best quality places are found in Parque del Periodista. I have listed a few below:
- Creperia Patrick: One of the best places in town (located on the main drive), they have really good local fare as well as really nice (and massive) crepes. However, if you are wanting to try guinea pig, this is not the place to try it. Meals $5-11.
- El Encuentro: This restaurant actually has 3 different locations, 2 of which are in Parque del Periodista. The food is borders on fast food but the price is right if you’re on a budget. Meals $4-10. Burgers/Sandwiches $2-4.
- Siam de los Andes: A nice variety of different types of foods on their menu, but the specialty is authentic Thai food prepared by the Thai owner (who is also an avid trekker). This place is only open during the high season but is a treat if you can get in. Meals $5-12.
Where to Stay in Huarez
I have stayed in Huaraz on 6 different occasions and I have stayed in 3 different places. I have my preference, but there are lots of other options available in town.
- La Casa de Zarela: This hotel/hostel might be a little bit out of the center but it is my favourite spot. The staff is unbelievably helpful, the rooms are huge and spotless, and the breakfasts at the bar (which aren’t included, but are cheap) are amazing. They also have about 100 different types of tea and coffee available. Dorms = $12. Private rooms $15-20 per person. It is also just around the corner for Huascaran Tours making it easy to organize trekking and other activities.
- Alpes Huaraz: This place tends to be a favourite among the real budget travellers. The place is comfortable and fairly well available. Information on trekking is also available. Dorms = $8. Privates start at $8 per person.
Getting out of Town
Movil Tours is the bus company of choice up here, and are by far the most comfortable. There are options with Movil tours for semi-cama (seats that lean well back), cama (very comfortable seats that lean nearly all the way back) and even cama 180 (seats that lay flat). Most trips out of town are over 8 hours meaning that an overnight bus is a good option. It is also wise to book in advance as all the good seats get scooped up by locals and tour groups quite early on.
- Lima: There are about 10 buses to Lima per day with Movil Tours most of which leave right around 10pm. I would book the last bus possible as the trip is about 8 hours and leaving too early means you get into Lima very early in the morning.
- Trujillo: The bus to Trujillo is about 8-10 hours depending on the conditions of the road leading out of Huaraz. There are much fewer buses heading here than Lima, but there are still at least 4 a day.
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