Huaraz has no shortage of day trips. With hundreds of mountains, lagunas, and little villages to visit, it is hard to narrow down which ones to do with such little time. Nevado Pastoruri is among the best day trips to take from Huaraz. It is popular because it is one of the more easily accessible glaciers to visit in Huaraz’s Cordillera Blanca. The mountain range was once home to over 700 glaciers, but climate change has cut that in half. Even the remaining glaciers have lost a significant amount of their volume.
With Pastoruri’s glacier being predicted to disappear entirely within the next ten years, many travelers flock to it to see it before it goes. It is appealing because it only takes about 45 minutes to walk to the glacier from the trailhead.
Should You Book A Tour For Pastoruri?
Unfortunately, like most of the best things to do in Huascaran National Park, it is best to go with a tour unless you have your own vehicle. It is possible to visit Pastoruri on your own, but since public transportation doesn’t run there regularly anymore, it has become much tougher to do it without a tour.
My tour with Pastoruri was actually one of my favorites that I did in Huaraz. Where other tours felt pointless to have a guide, our tour guide for Pastoruri was extremely knowledgeable and passionate. It always makes the experience significantly better when you can feel the energy and excitement from someone who does this day in and day out.
The guided tour costs 40 soles and then the entrance fee for Huascaran National Park. For foreigners looking to enter just for the day, this will be 30 soles. If you want to pay for a longer pass, then you can pay 60 soles for up to 3 days or 150 soles for the entire month. Peruvian citizens only have to pay 10 soles to enter for the day.
How Difficult Is The Hike To Pastoruri Glacier?
The length is only about a kilometer. The toughest thing about the hike would be the altitude. The incline is only about 150 meters but you start close to 5000 meters above sea level. By the time you get to Pastoruri, you will have hit 5,000 meters. For those of you who have not properly acclimatized yet, this could be extremely difficult. I had struggled with Laguna 69 two days prior and despite my initial worries about struggling with Pastoruri (which is about 400 meters higher than Laguna 69), I found myself to be much more well-adjusted to the altitude. I finished the short hike in about 30-35 minutes, although if you are struggling with the altitude, it could take closer to an hour.
Unlike Laguna 69, Pastoruri also offers the option to ride a horse halfway to the top and then finish the rest of the way up on foot. It costs 10 soles per person, which many of the older people took advantage of.
What To Bring On The Trip To Pastoruri
You really don’t need to bring much. One liter of water should be enough and maybe a few snacks if you don’t feel like paying for an overpriced breakfast or lunch at the mandatory food stops that usually come with booking a guided tour.
The weather can be quite cold so bring weather-appropriate clothing. I actually brought gloves this time which came in… handy. Ha, get it? It snowed a little bit while we were up there so bring a warm coat, as well. However, you aren’t up there for too long to worry about suffering too much from being exposed to the elements.
What Do You See On The Pastoruri Tour?
Since the Pastoruri stretch of the tour only takes up about two hours, the tour also makes a couple of quick stops. The first is to a lagoon that is small but unique thanks to its various colors. On a cloudy day, you won’t get the full effect of the beauty of this place. It was cloudy when we went, so I was personally not impressed. The other stop will be through a field of these tall plants, called Puya Raimondii but also referred to as Queen of the Andes. They are pretty majestic to see, especially when they are all grouped beauifully together on a lush, sloping field.
Finally, the main attraction. The Pastoruri Glacier, or what’s left of it. The bus or van drives through beautiful scenery through the winding mountain roads. Eventually, you’ll make it to the trailhead of the short paved path up to the glacier. Behind you, a stunning stretch of the Cordillera Blanca. About a kilometer ahead lies Pastoruri Glacier.
After the short hike, you’ll see what is left of this beautiful tropical glacier. It has lost a lot of its volume over the past few decades, so unfortunately, it may not be as impressive as it once was. However, it was my first time ever seeing a glacier and I couldn’t help but gape in awe at the beauty.
Is Pastoruri Glacier Worth Visiting?
It really depends on how much time you have in Huaraz. For most people, the priorities in Huaraz will be Laguna 69 and Laguna Paron, followed by either Pastoruri, Laguna Churup, or Chavin de Huantar. If you’ve got time to kill, do them all. They have all been worth it to me, and each offers something unique. Pastoruri is also important to visit because it opens your eyes a bit to the climate change happening in the area.
When I was in Peru three years ago, I heard a little bit about how Rainbow Mountain had only been discovered recently due to climate change melting the snow and revealing its cascading colors. So in that case, an optimist could say the results of climate change revealed something beautiful. In this case, climate change is destroying not only Pastoruri, but many of the once plentiful glaciers in the area. There were over 700 at one point, but that is steadily dwindling, down to 400 at the most recent count in 2003. Even the remaining glaciers are losing glacier classification because they aren’t compiling ice in the winters. They are all slowly dwindling in size until they are no longer there.
I think it is important to visit Pastoruri and learn about this, but oftentimes, you’re already preaching to the choir when it comes to climate change knowledge. Most people visit it just for the photos without truly caring. Pastoruri is due to disappear within the next ten years. Visit it now, while you can, but keep in mind that we need to not just do more, but do everything we can to curb our climate impact so we can even try to begin to reverse the damage we’ve done.