Huaraz stands high at 3090m, travelers coming from sea level need a day or two to acclimatize to the change in atmosphere.
A mountain city of 150,000 inhabitants, it blends a mix of modern and native culture. The town has many markets and shops catering to tourist needs and local needs. The food markets are especially interesting and are a great starting point for getting supplies for expeditions. The town has a big post office and some banks. Huaraz also has a mix of old and new restaurants offering a variety of dishes. There are a few night clubs and many bars open late.
During the dry season which goes from May to September, days are warm and sunny while nights are clear and can be cold. During the wet season which starts in October and goes through April, days are cooler with rain typically in the afternoons and extending anywhere from a few brief minutes to several hours. Nights are warmer than the dry season with the clouds trapping the day's warmth. It is usually quite foggy in the hills above town at night.
In Huaraz, taxis are cheap and fast for getting around the town. Also if you need to rent a car to go out of the city, there are a variety of companies that make this service.
Archeological Sites Within walking distance of Huaraz is the Wari ruin of Wilcahuaín, it is a small Wari ruin that dates back to 600 to 900 AD. This temple complex is virtually undamaged, providing a unique opportunity to see a complete pre-Columbian building in Peru. It is an imitation of the temple at Chavín, in the Tiahuanaco style. Wilcahuaín is a Quechua word which means 'grandson's house'. The ruin was originally filled with mummies who were kept dry by using a sophisticated ventilation system. It is not only interesting in itself but can be visited on a great acclimatization hike that leaves right from town.
Huaraz is also the departure point for tours to see the Ruins of Chavin de Huantar, the center of a cultural and artistic revolution in Peru that took place between 600 and 300 B.C. Museums in Huaraz contain many fine examples of Chavin sculpture and older Cupinisque pottery.
The Museo Regional de Ancash, houses the largest collection of ancient stone sculptures in South America. It gives information about all the cultures that have inhabited the Cordillera Blanca area. It is small but interesting, it has a few mummies, some trepanned skulls (an ancient form of surgery involving cutting into the skull) and a garden of stone monoliths from the Recuay culture (400 BC to AD 600) and the Wari culture (AD 600 to 1000). A pottery collection, textiles, and metal works cover the Wari, Chimú, and Inca cultures.
At the Plaza de Armas there is an Artesania Market with a broad offer of nice souvenirs, bags, jewelry and clothing. Definitely worth a visit. Furthermore there are some nice shops on the Av. Luzuriaga as well. The big market with food and a lot of small shops selling everything you can think of is situated at a street which goes parallel to the Av. Luzuriaga.
Jirón José de Olaya, is the only street that remained intact through Huaraz various earthquakes. It gives a good indication of what the town once looked like. On Sundays there is a street market where the local population sells regional foods. Sit down at one of the little “restaurants” and enjoy your Picante de Cuy or Pachamanca.
Puya Raimondi is the biggest pineapple plants of the world. They bloom once every 50-75 years for 9 months with 8.000-10.000 niches and flower heights of up to 10m, then they die. They grow at altitudes between 3500 and 4700m.
Trekking - The region is a trekker's paradise; it features breathtaking views and an escape from the hive of people seen in other famed trekking locations like the Inca trail. Although one could do it on one's own, it's advisable to get a guide / run it through a specialist company. There are many companies offering these services. The House of Guides (Casa de Guías) offers professional free information, and maps for a price. They have a ´check in/check out´ book which it´s advisable to sign, especially if traveling without a guide.
The Santa Cruz Trek takes 3 to 4 days and can be done independently or with a guide. This trek goes from Vaqueria to Cashapampa or in the reverse direction, through Quebrada Santa Cruz Valley. There are numerous places in Huaraz where one can rent equipment if needed. The trek has a moderate difficulty, with a high pass Punta Union at 4750m. The trek offers amazing views of many of the great peaks in the Cordillera Blanca. A landslide in March 2012 changed the Santa Cruz valley significantly, making it more of a rocky desert-like plain as opposed to the green meadow it was before.
Visit parks and squares, when the weather is good visit one of the nice squares (Plaza de Armas, Plaza de Belen) or parks (Park at Iglesia San Francisco). Just sit down, enjoy the nice weather with a good book or just to watch people.
Hot springs, there are two hot springs nearby. The first one is called Monterrey which is about 10km north of the center of Huaraz and accessible by public transport. The Monterrey Hot Springs tend to be more public in nature and due to their close proximity to Huaraz sometimes can be very crowded. You can choose the pool or private bath. The other one, Chancos Hot Springs is 27km north of the center of town and can be accessible by public transport.
Be careful as to what you eat as it is almost certain that you will get food poisoning and/or diarrhea at some point during your travels in Peru. Being pro-active can limit your exposure: Avoid drinking un-clean water Be picky about what food you eat and ensure that it has been cooked properly. What might appear to be well established restaurants can be just as bad as street traders when it comes to food hygiene. Consider buying food at a grocery store and cooking yourself to avoid food poisoning the day before you leave for a trek.
Sunscreen, Since Huaraz is physically and visually far from the Pacific Coast beaches, it may not occur to casual visitors to buy and use sunscreen. For those people who are planning on trekking into the mountains, or doing mountain climbing, sunscreen is a vital resource. The thin air and high altitudes increase the effects of UV penetration.
The Cordillera Blanca is a mountain range extending almost 120kms from north to south and is about 20km wide. Most of the Cordillera Blanca falls within the boundaries of the Huascaran National Park and offers a huge variety of unique plant life, flowers and wildlife which come under the protection of the national park.
The Cordillera Blanca includes more than 50 peaks of altitude more than 5500m and a multitude of lakes and mountain streams.
There are countless trekking and hiking trails passing through beautiful valleys with lakes and impressive waterfalls and vertical rock faces, and crossing passes that reach 4850m in altitude. Among the many trekking options is the famous 4 or 5 day Santa Cruz Llanganuco trek, one of the most highly rated short treks anywhere in the world.
There are also countless climbing peaks – from peaks suitable for first time climbers through to technically difficult peaks for experienced climbers.
For those not so keen to do multi day trekking trips, there are options for easy hiking and camping, day tours by vehicle to see beautiful lakes or glaciers and cultural tours to visit pre-Inca ruins. Cordillera Huayhuash Situated 50 km to the south east of the Cordillera Blanca and 4 hours by car from Huaraz, the Cordillera Huayhuash is a smaller, more rugged and more remote mountain range. With 7 peaks above 6,000m and many more above 5500m, it is one of the most spectacular mountain trekking & hiking circuits in the world.
The Huayhuash peaks include Peru´s second highest peak - Yerupaja and also Siula Grande made famous by Joe Simpson`s book "Touching the Void".
The landscape surrounding the Huayhuash range tends to be open with rolling grassland and beautiful trout–filled turquoise lakes lie at the foot of many of the glaciers. The trekking circuits in the Huayhuash pass very close to the majestic rugged peaks and glaciers, and every day hikers are treated to awe inspiring mountain views.
The trekking circuits cross up to 8 passes, the highest at 5000m. Often campsites are at one of the beautiful trout filled lakes situated at the foot of rugged peaks and glaciers.