Pastoruri Glacier: Touring Through Huascarán National Park

If you want to sit amongst the tallest peaks in Peru and admire the beauty of the Andes Mountains, Huaraz is the place for you. There is no shortage of outdoor activities in the area, and each hike, ski or climbing trip, and drive through the mountains will take your breath away. Pastoruri Glacier was one of the few beautiful sights we set out to see, and every second was worth it.

Pastoruri Glacier sits at 5,250 meters (17,225 feet) above sea level in Huascarán National Park. Despite the chilly weather and remote location, global warming and tourism have taken their toll on the glacier. It used to be the case that tourists could walk on the glacier, but it is now prohibited due to its deterioration. This large chunk of ice is melting rapidly, and it is estimated that the glacier will be essentially gone in 2043. Tours to the glacier will most likely end in 2025. So, go see this beauty while you still can!

All smiles at Pastoruri Glacier
All smiles at Pastoruri Glacier

 

Getting To and From Pastoruri Glacier

Pastoruri sits in a very remote location and there is no public transportation to get there, so the best way to reach the glacier is by tour. There are abundant tour operators to choose from, many offering quality services at a very reasonable price. You will find most of the tour operators located on the main street that runs by the Plaza de Armas. We went with Lalo Tours and paid 45 soles (about 14USD) per person for the day. This price included transport and a guide. For more information on tours, see our Huaraz city guide.

Rugged peaks surround Pastoruri Glacier
Rugged peaks surround Pastoruri Glacier

 

The tour and hike are not particularly strenuous, but due to the high elevation, it is common for individuals to experience altitude sickness. Spending a day in Huaraz before going on harder hikes,  like Laguna 69, is a good idea. Check out our acclimation hike to Laguna Wilcacocha.

It's a wonder that any plant could grow in this harsh climate
It’s a wonder that any plant could grow in this harsh climate




The Pastoruri Glacier Tour

We took the tour to the glacier on our last day, which was perfect because this involved more driving, a shorter hike, and we were tired from the previous days’ hikes. Our van set out at about 9 a.m. and headed out of Huaraz. In a small town on the way to the park, we stopped to place orders for lunch and had the opportunity to buy coca tea. We didn’t order lunch because this isn’t included in the tour price.

One of the beautiful valleys we stopped in on the way to the glacier
One of the beautiful valleys we stopped in on the way to the glacier

 

After the short stop, everybody paid the S/.10 park entrance fee and headed into the park. The scenery was stunning as we drove through a grassy valley with jagged peaks and cows grazing along the road. Our first stop was a natural spring bubbling up from the valley, leaving a vibrant orange color surrounding the water. We then drove a short distance down the dirt road where we stopped to see the bizarre Puya Raimondii plants, which are the world’s largest bromeliad. It was pretty magnificent to stand next to these giant spiky plants.

Matt amongst the Puya Raimondii plants
Matt amongst the Puya Raimondii plants

 

We waited for everybody to get their picture with the stylish llamas at the stop, then the van climbed steeply into the rugged mountains. This is where the short hike to the glacier began.

The Hike to Pastoruri Glacier

We started at a large parking lot where there are restrooms and a series of shops selling alpaca clothing, chocolate, coca tea, and other goodies. The hike to the glacier is about 2.4 kilometers (just under a mile and a half), steadily uphill on a paved stone pathway the entire way. It took us about 30 minutes to reach the glacier, but the guides give about an hour to make it to the top. If the hike seems a little too daunting, there are horses available to take you up for about S/.30.

Taking in the views near the top of the hike
Taking in the views near the top of the hike

 

Pastoruri was absolutely stunning. The cracks in the glacier were lined with blue, which contrasted beautifully against the black and deep orange rocks. No vegetation grows up there, but the ruggedness is breathtaking. It was sunny upon arriving to the glacier, but the clouds rolled in quickly, surrounding the cliffs above the lake. After eating a snack and admiring the glacier, we headed back down the trail, making it to the van just in time to beat the heavy blizzard.

These mountains were only visible for a while until the fog rolled in
These mountains were only visible for a while until the fog rolled in

 

Everybody huddled in the van, and we made our way back to town. The group stopped for lunch, and those who ordered earlier ate their soups and other Peruvian dishes. The tour was excellent, and we were really happy to have the opportunity to see Pastoruri Glacier while in Huaraz.

You feel quite small when standing next to the large chunk of ice
You feel quite small when standing next to the large chunk of ice




Pastoruri Glacier Tour Overview

Tour Cost: S/. 45 per person + S/. 10 park entrance fee

Tour Duration: 8 hours

Hike Distance: 3 miles/4.8 kilometers round trip

Hike Duration: 2 hours total + 1 hour at the glacier (you also walk around for about 20 minutes when stopping at the view points before the glacier)

What to Bring: Rain jacket, warm jacket, first aid kit, comfortable hiking shoes, plenty of water, sunscreen, sunglasses, snacks, camera, money for entrance and horse or lunch if desired

Have you ever visited a glacier? If so, Where?

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Pastoruri Glacier

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