After our arrival by plane in Lima at 04:00pm, we directly took a night bus to Huaraz with the bus company Oltursa. If you like hiking, you came to the right place ! Huaraz is located at 3050m, in the middle of the mountains of the Cordillera Blanca – peaks with permanent white snowcaps – and the Cordillera Negra. On the main street close to the Plaza de Armas, you will find a lot of travel agencies offering treks from 1 to 12 days in the area as well as various day trips from Huaraz.
In 1975, more than 90% of the city was destroyed by a earthquake and the old colonial style disappeared for a more modern one. We didn’t find Huaraz beautiful, though it has some charm, especially by clear weather when you can see all the surrounding mountains. Somehow, most of the houses are left unfinished so that another floor can be added when needed! We liked spending some time on the market, the mangos and avocados there are just amazingly tasty and the women beautifully dressed.
After visiting several agencies, we decided to go for the following day-trip: the Laguna 69 and the Pastoruri Glacier. Almost all the excursions you can do around Huaraz are located in the Huascaran National Park, a nature world heritage site by UNESCO.
In order to access the park, you have to buy one of the following ticket:
- a ticket for one day that costs 10 soles
- a ticket for 21 days that costs 65 soles
If you plan to do a several days trek, you will need in any case the 21 days ticket, so buy it from the beginning to use it for the daily excursions as well. If you only plan day trips, you can buy the 10 soles ticket every time you enter the park. Be aware that you cannot buy the 21 days ticket when going to the Pastoruri Glacier!
For the beginning of our honeymoon, we decided to go for a presumably easy day trip in order to adjust to the high altitude and test our own fitness for the upcoming adventures. We decided to go for a trip towards Laguna 69, which was advertised as one of the most beautiful day trips to be done in Huaraz. We first thought about doing the hike by ourselves but soon discovered that the costs are the same if you book the excursion through a travel agency! So we just booked the trip at our hostel for 35 soles.
As there is a 3.5 hours drive from Huaraz to the starting point of the hike, we were picked up at 05:20 in the morning and arrived at the starting point at 10:10. There was a 30 minute breakfast break near the entrance of the valley where the hike is located: I can only recommend the chicken, tomato and salad sandwich for 5 soles 🙂
Following the breakfast we passed the national park entrance station, where we bought the 21 day valid pass for visiting the Huascaran national park for 65 Soles per person. From here on out the scenery went more magnificent by the minute with another set of two lakes where we stopped shortly for some pictures.
As our tracking device was having some typical malfunctions, meaning us being untrained users, we were sadly not able to track our positions ourselves. Luckily I have found a different source for the track done on the site we intend to use for our tracking as well.
For the first hour of the hike, the way is relatively flat and follows a small river. When the weather is good, you have a amazing view on the surrounding mountains.
After this flat part, you will encounter the first difficult part as the way starts going up. We managed this climb without too many difficulties, though Kai was starting to feel a little bit dizzy and my heart was beating way faster than it normally does! Afterwards, the way is again flat for about 20 minutes, which is quite nice to catch you breath and maybe put some sun cream – we forgot ours at the hostel and the sun started to shine at this point of the hike: I burned my skin so badly that I looked like a mummy for 10 days!
The last part of the hike is quite steep and long. Take it slow, make as many breaks as you need and think about the beautiful view which awaits you at the top to keep you going. We suffered a little bit through this part due to the altitude, but we walked slowly and we finally arrived at the Laguna 69 after 2 hours and 45 minutes. There we enjoyed a nice lunch break for about 1 hour before making our way down.
We really enjoyed this hike but we would not describe it as a “peace of cake” as the agencies might sell it in Huaraz. If you are well acclimated to the altitude, it should not be a problem for you – but is was our first hike AND the first time we went above 4000m and our bodies made us feel it 😉 I think if we had been on our own, we would have found easier because we would have done more breaks. But the guide who was with our group insisted on the fact that we had to climb in maximum 3 hours and he was pushing a little bit the speed of the group. Even when we arrived at the place where the bus was waiting for us, he rushed everyone in the bus so that we didn’t have time for a small break before the way back for Huaraz. I guess this is the downside of being in a group while hiking – on the positive side, we felt safer with a guide because it was our first hike this high in the mountains and we met some nice people in the group 🙂
After 3 hours and 30 minutes in the bus, we were back at Huaraz around 06:30pm with beautiful pictures in our minds and cameras and ready to eat at least a lama! And we can assure you that we slept well this night!
After a resting day we felt ready for starting a our next high altitude excursion in the region of Huaraz. Similarily to the daytrip to Laguna 69, we spent about 3.5 hours in a small bus to get from the Hostel to the Glacier. The bus ride went in the opposite direction than before, and the landscapes were really beautiful, so we didn’t really see the time passing by.
You only have to walk for 40 minutes to 1 hour to get to the glacier, so we were picked up around 9:00 am at our hostel. This excursion was easier compared to the Laguna 69 and I believe it would have been a better start as a first altitude experience despite the fact that the glacier is at 5200m and it is not possible to buy the 21 day ticket at the park entrance.
The first stop of the day was for a small breakfast break with similar sandwiches to similar price than for the Laguna 69. It was also possible to book a lunch for the return trip, but as we had prepared sandwiches for later we did not book anything. Be aware that the prices of the lunch are more expensive than in Huaraz if you want to eat there.
Then we stopped at the natural lake Pumapampa with carbon dioxide exhaustion – therefore the water from the lake was cold, sweet and sparkling like a freshly open bottle of soda (but we wouldn’t recommend you to drink it 😉 )! As this area is very rich on copper and other minerals, the color of the lake was an intensive orange with green/yellow ferns.
This was followed by a 15 min stop at a Puya Raimondi flower forest. These impressive flowers are native to Peru and Bolivia at altitudes between 3000 – 4600 meters. They only bloom once in their life and then die directly afterward! Afterwards we stopped at some some indigenous stone drawings of 3 fingered humanoids, which our guide insisted depicted extraterrestrial visitors! Do you see the UFO?!!
We finally arrived at the base camp for the glacier at 4950m. We declined the offered donkey rides as well as the other available supplies – it seems that tourists often come to this place without warm clothes so you can find vendors selling all kind of clothes from gloves to rain poncho – we headed out for a 45 minute hike which covered a distance of 2,5 km and a difference in height of 300m.
Due to the short distance from the base camp, but maybe also due to our previous high altitude experiences, it was a lot easier to reach our goal. The view from the glacier is impressive and we were lucky again with the sun coming out just when we arrived at the peak.
While going down, there was an overview board showing the recess of the glacier over the last years, explaining as well why we saw the different glacier lakes. For any future visits, it is likely that the hike will be longer as the glacier continues to recede.
Bus trip from Lima to Huaraz
In Peru, you can choose between different seat categories in buses:
– semi cama: seats that can be inclined up to 140° – there are situated on the top floor of the bus
– cama: seats that can be inclined up to 160° – there are located on the lower floor of the bus
We took cama seats as we had just arrived from a long plane trip and we wanted to be able to sleep well in the bus. We paid 80 soles per person – it takes between 7 to 8 hours. If you are at the airport, you will either have to take a taxi for approximately 50 soles or 2 different buses to get to the Norte bus terminal in Lima. You can get more precise information at the tourist office in the airport on the first floor.
Where to sleep
We slept at the Artesonraju hostel. It is quite cheap – 39 soles for a triple room or 48 soles for a double room including breakfast, the rooms are ok and there is hot water during the day from 8am to 5pm. Be careful if you give you clothes to be washed, some might “vanish”…
Best period to visit Huaraz
From Mai to September, you should have good weather. Note that July and August are the driest months – but it is also the period where you will find the most tourists in the city!
Prices of the excursions
Laguna 69: 35 soles per person
Pastoruri Glacier: 35 soles per person