Huaraz isn’t the most popular destination in Peru. In fact, many people haven’t heard of the small city that lies several hours north of Lima. But, that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be on your list. Huaraz, Peru provides access to some of the most incredible views of the Andes, beautiful treks, rich culture, tasty food, and more. If you love hiking, climbing, camping, fishing, and other outdoor activities, you will definitely want to make a stop here.
Getting There and Away
The best way to reach Huaraz, Peru is by bus or car from Lima. We recommend taking an overnight bus that arrives in Huaraz in the early morning. This provides the whole day to explore the city and some of the surrounding mountains and saves a night on a hotel. Cruz Del Sur is a popular and reputable company that we took to Huaraz, but others include Civa, Movil, and Oltursa.
Leaving Huaraz is also best by bus. Some of the larger companies generally do the route back to Lima and Trujillo. But, if you have another destination in mind, your best bet will be to ask smaller, local companies. The bus companies have their own offices and stations around town where you can ask for routes and prices and book tickets. You can also do it online beforehand with the more established bus companies.
When to Go
Huaraz, Peru lies at 3,052 meters (about 10,000 feet) up in the Andes. The altitude is no joke, so when you do go, make sure you give yourself a day or two to acclimate. The temperature here can fluctuate greatly during the year and even over the course of a day. In the warmer months, temperatures reach an average of 15°C (almost 57°F) and can drop several degrees below freezing in the cooler months. The warmest months are generally January through March, and the coolest days fall in July through September.
Perhaps the best time to visit Huaraz is during the dry season, which falls between May and September. Though this time of year is colder, rain is less likely, providing better trail conditions and clear skies for optimal views. We visited Huaraz in December, and though it did rain daily, we still experienced plenty of sunshine and beautiful views. It even snowed on us when we visited Pastoruri Glacier! The more rainy times of year provide the opportunity to explore with less tourists.
Where to Stay
Huaraz, Peru mainly hosts backpackers and outdoorsmen, and there are plenty of affordable options for accommodation. The city is pretty small, so most things are within walking distance. If you want to be right near the nightlife, restaurants, and tour companies, it is best to stay on the Av. Mariscal Toribio de Luzuriaga. This is the main street running through town past the Plaza de Armas.
The best deal is on dorm rooms at hostels, but there are plenty of great deals on private rooms as well. We stayed at Alojamiento Huaraz, a quiet and lesser-known hostel just outside the city center. Following are great options along the price-range spectrum. Check out Hostel World and Booking.com for more options.
- Alojamiento Huaraz – around $11 for a double room and shared bathroom
- Kame House – about $4.50 per person for a dorm bed
- Hotel & Bungalos Villa Valencia – private bungalow for two between $50 and $60
- Maimara Hotel – between $85 and $100 for a double room
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Where to Eat
For being a smaller city, there is definitely no shortage of places to eat in Huaraz, Peru. For breakfast, there are pastelerias and local places that offer continental breakfasts. The California Café is a popular tourist breakfast spot that offers great coffee and American-style meals.
If you plan on doing tours and treks around Huaraz, most days, you will leave before restaurants open. If this is the case, tours often stop on the way to grab breakfast, but you can also pick up some quick eats the day before. We grabbed some bananas from street vendors and some bread from the Panadería Salazar on the main street south of the Plaza de Armas.
Tours typically stop for lunch or ask you to bring your own, so we didn’t eat in town often. If you are in the city for lunch, the options are similar to those for dinner. A great place to grab local bites, like tallarín saltado and aji de gallina, is Restaurante Elis on Jirón Julián de Morales street. Another great local option is the reasonably-priced set menu offered at Rinconcito Mineiro.
Parque Periodista is a small courtyard that has a bar and restaurant known for its craft beer, a pizza place, local food options, and more. For a relaxed atmosphere, good drinks, tasty food, and great WiFi, head to Café Andino. It is a little more on the pricy end, but the atmosphere is worth it.
Tours in Huaraz, Peru
Why a Tour?
Some of the stunning areas around Huaraz, such as Laguna Wilcacocha and Laguna Churup, can be reached on your own. But, some worthwhile locations are hard to reach with public transport and a guide is (technically) required for hiking in Huascarán National Park. This makes taking a tour worth it in many situations. Some of the best hikes, including Laguna 69, Pastoruri Glacier, and the Santa Cruz Trek, are most easily and safely reached with a guide. If you have plenty of mountaineering experience, it is possible to do some of the activities in the area on your own. But, if you aren’t familiar with the area, are prone to altitude sickness, or simply want convenience, a tour is a great option.
Finding a Tour
There are plenty of tour operators in Huaraz, many of which you can visit and book a tour last minute. Most tour companies lie along the main street that runs by the Plaza de Armas. Most tours offer the same itineraries and locations and even work together to fill spots. Be sure to ask for prices and what is included to make sure you aren’t getting ripped off. We went with Lalo Tours to Laguna 69 and Pastoruri Glacier, paying S/.35 and S/.45 per person respectively.
Payment in cash before going on the tour is required by most companies. Try to go in a group of more than two as you may be able to bargain down the price a bit. The tours generally include a guide and transportation. Some companies include lunch on some hikes, while others make stops for breakfast and lunch that are not included. Many tours also do not cover the S/.10 entry into the national park.
As with many places in Peru, many smaller restaurants, hostels, and supermarkets do not accept cards as a form of payment. When paying cash, it is best to have small change and bills smaller than S/.100 to pay. There are a few hostels, hotels, tour companies, and popular restaurants and cafes that take card. If you pay with card, you may be asked to show a passport, so take it with you for these cases.
There are several banks and ATMs in Huaraz, most of which are located around the Plaza de Armas, but beware of the high fees. In Huaraz, there are no money changers in the street as there are in other Peruvian cities, so you can change dollars from the ATMs into soles at the banks. Make sure you get bills that are in good shape, otherwise they may be rejected when you try to pay for things afterwards.
Would you put Huaraz on your travel list?