Top 5 Things To Do In Huaraz, Peru (Other Than Trekking)

4 Jul

The beautiful Cordillera Blanca is what pulls people toward the city of Huaraz, Peru.

Trekking, climbing, basically anything to do with seeing this gigantic mountain range is what appeals to a lot of adventurous travellers.

The Cordillera Blanca

Huaraz was a last minute trip planned for a weekend during the period I spent working on an archaeological dig so I didn’t get a chance to book any treks. I also was only able to go for 3 nights and it seemed as if there were no treks offered that were for less than 4 full days. Then there were the factors of acclimatizing and not being in great shape. So I was content with just exploring the city for a few days.

I ended up LOVING Huaraz.

I found that there were so many things to do other than trekking.

Here are what I believe are the top 5 things to do in Huaraz (other than trekking):

1) Market Hopping

You can find markets everywhere in South America. In Peru, Cuzco definitely takes the cake with its markets. Any backpacker who has been to Peru can recognize other backpackers based off of items specific to the markets (i.e. winter hats with llamas on it, comfy drawstring pyjama pants in various colours, loose shoulder bags with llamas on it,…). Cuzco has it all. But so does Huaraz. Not only does Huaraz have the exact same Peruvian souvenirs and such as Cuzco does, but it is WAY cheaper and it is WAY easier to haggle prices. I got all of my souvenirs in Huaraz for half the price I would have paid in Cuzco.

Modelling my market purchases while I take a nap

2) Eating

Huaraz is home to many really great restaurants. I didn’t have a singe meal there that didn’t fully satisfy me in every way. My recommendations? I’ll narrow it down to two, both of which you can find in pretty much any guide book. Cafe Andino. It had such a cool feel to it. Classic rock decor covered the walls. It had a comforting feel to it, almost as if I were back home. It also serves as an adventure travel company, which can be convenient. Cafe Andino is located on an upper level, which means that they had a balcony overlooking the Cordillera Blanca which was amazing! The quesadillas with guacamole was unreal. Surprisingly, I didn’t love the breakfast or desserts. Stick to the lunch and dinner items. All-in-all though, I enjoyed this place. I think I ate there 2 or 3 times in 3 days.

View of Huaraz from Cafe Andino

California Cafe. This place was awesome. It was such a chill backpacker hang out. The food was great. They had a book exchange. They even put together activities like frisbee games which was cool. Plus: All day breakfast!

Coca tea from California Cafe. The cure for altitude sickness.

There were so many other great restaurants in Huaraz, many of which had real authentic Peruvian dishes, if only I could remember the names…

3) Hot Springs

Hot springs are essential to Huaraz with all the trekking and hiking going on. I went to two. One of them I didn’t like at all while I did like the second one. The Thermal Baths of Chancos, was more for locals. Part of the problem could’ve been that we went on a weekend and so there were tons of pushy families fighting to use the baths. It was crowded and kind of gross to be honest. We ended up leaving before we even got a chance to test out the baths. The worst part was that it was impossible to find a taxi or collectivo and we spent a good hour trying to find a way back into town.

Walking up to Monterrey hot springs. As you can see, the altitude was absolutely killer!

The Monterrey hot springs was much better. It was not nearly as crowded. There was a great view of the mountains. You had the option to pay for the public hot springs that were filled with iron which made the bath appear brown or you could pay for a room where you had a private tub. We chose the former. The bath wasn’t very hot at all, but it was a relaxing and unique experience. If we had trekked for a week or so we probably would have chosen the latter option. How to get there: taxi or collectivo. We took a taxi there which was expensive. The collectivo back was 3 soles which is about a dollar US.

Iron baths at Monterrey

4) Carhuaz, Caraz, and Yungay

There are many tours that run to places outside Huaraz. The two most popular run to Chavín de Huantar and Huascarán National Park. Due to limited time, we could only do one and chose the latter. I usually don’t do tours, but since Huascarán National Park wasn’t super close to Huaraz I thought that booking a tour would be my best option. My friends and I found a random place on the main street in Huaraz and booked a tour that would take us through Carhuaz, Caraz, Yungay as well as Huascarán National Park. I was a little skeptical because it was only around 30 soles which is super cheap for a full day of touring, but it turned out to be completely legit (aside from the fact that the tour was only in Spanish which was probably why it was so cheap!). Carhuaz, Caraz and Yungay were really unique little places. Carhuaz was small, but it some great little shops including an ice cream place that was good, cheap, and served beer flavoured ice cream (!!!).

Nom nom nom

Yungay — made famous by the landslide that wiped out the town in the 70s — is home to Mount Huascarán! We stopped at Campo Santo Yungay where we could see a lot of the damage the landslide did to the town. I loved Yungay the most of the three cities.

The remnants of a bus that was hit by the landslide

On our way back to Huaraz we stopped in Caraz where we got to try manjar blanco (almost exactly like dulce de leche, nom nom nom) which is like caramel, milky, buttery goodness which I HAD to buy. These pitstops on the way to Huascarán are really what made the day so great. I got to see a lot more of Huaraz and the surrounding area than I thought I would and I was sure glad I got the chance to.

5) Huascarán National Park

I don’t even know what to say about Huascarán National Park other than that you HAVE TO GO! This UNESCO World Heritage Site was just breathtaking, particularly the Lagunas Llanganuco. The water was so incredibly blue and the snow-capped Mount Huascarán in the background was amazing. Seeing the lakes was one of those moments in life where I was truly speechless. It’s hard to describe the beauty of the lakes. The weather was perfect that day too which made it even better.

Nuff said

Honourable Mention: Region of Ancash festival. This was awesome. Definitely one of my favourite things to experience in Huaraz. The reason why it’s not included in the top 5 is because it just so happened that the festival was occurring during the weekend I was there. If I went the next weekend or the previous weekend then I wouldn’t have seen it, so it isn’t something that you can experience any day of the year. I’ll probably write about this fully in another post.

Huaraz was one of my favourite cities in Peru. It was fun, adventure-filled, relaxing, and just a place where I could feel comfortable. I wish I could have stayed longer.

Do you agree with my list? Any better suggestions?

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