On arrival in Huaraz we checked into the Akilpo hostel which had come highly recommended and the reviews didn’t lie. The hostel doubles up as a family run travel agency so the staff could not have been more helpful in organizing the tours for the days to come. Huaraz is located just over 3,000m above sea level and is known as the Switzerland of Peru because of the snow-capped peaks of the Cordillera Blanca mountain range dominating its eastern landscape. The highest mountain in Peru, Huascarán, is located in the Cordillera Blanca, and hiking is the main attraction for visitors here.
Huaraz itself is a completely chaotic town with street vendors and travel agents making it difficult to walk along the streets and traffic to make you absolutely dizzy! We observed a lot of poverty in Huaraz, many local people from the mountains come to Huaraz to sell there produce and filled the street with their offerings – including live guinea pigs and chickens, fresh fruit and vegetables, cheese and honey, bread and knitted clothing.
There is a popular multi-day hike, the Santa Cruz trek, which many travellers take on in Huaraz but after talking to the staff at our hostel we changed our minds on this one as it is currently rainy season in Peru and there were better options available to us. We instead opted for three separate day trips, each of which spoiled us completely with stunning views. Our lights out time averaged at about 9pm and a daily morning alarm for 4.30am as most hikes begin at 5am! It was an amazing couple of days but we were wrecked after it!
Our first trek was to Laguna Paron, home to the Paramount Mountain – the one from the movies! Our hostel organised the trek and there was 9 of us with a super guide from the hostel. It was a very uncomfortable bumpy mountain journey for three hours before we could begin but on arrival we couldn’t believe our luck with the weather, we were spoiled with visibility of the main paramount mountain along with many of the surrounding ones.
We hiked uphill to viewing points for about 2hours and enjoyed lunch with a view as a reward! Our guide had flasks of coco tea for us. It is made with the coco leaf here and the locals also swear by chewing the actual leaves to assist with altitude sickness and suppress hunger on long hikes. Yes, this is the same leaves that are used to eventually make cocaine! We learned that Laguna Paron is the highest lake in the Cordilla Blanca mountain range and the altitude during our climb reached 4,200m above sea level. The terrain of the hike made it difficult as there was no path and just huge rocks to battle over in order to make it to the viewpoints.
The views were stunning and the colour of the water is exactly how it appears, no filter. It was the brightest blue we have ever seen!
We eventually trudged downwards to the lake in a ski like fashion that reminded me of trying to stay upwards when descending from Croagh Patrick at home…the lake was even more stunning up close!
The food in Huaraz was top notch and there are a couple of western style restaurants which are highly rated and we rotated between these during our time there. As if designed for hungry hikers the three top rated places specialized in pizza, pasta, and Thai/curries respectively- we did a lot of carb loading and post hike rewards here.