The city of Huaraz is one of my favorites in the world, but not because of the city itself. While the city of Huaraz itself is nothing spectacular, the region surrounding it is among the most beautiful in the world. From the city, you can see some of South America’s tallest peaks, but you’ll need a day trip to truly explore these wonders. With Peru’s finest Cordilleras at your doorstep, Huaraz is a gateway to some of South America’s most incredible adventures. These are the best day trips that you can do in Huaraz, a city that I spent well over a month in just taking in everything the region had to offer.
Pastoruri Glacier is one of the more easily accessible glaciers of the nearly 400 glaciers that call Huascaran National Park home. Nevado Pastoruri stands at about 5,250 meters above sea level, and the glacier itself is around 5,000 meters. For travelers looking to do a lot of trekking while in Huaraz, the short trek to Pastoruri Glacier makes it a good acclimatization hike. The hike is only about a 90-minute round trip but it is a good way to gauge your reaction to the altitude and see something unique and beautiful.
Pastoruri Glacier is rapidly melting, though, and the local guides I’ve spoken to have worried that it might be gone as soon as ten years from now. It was my first time ever seeing a glacier, and it was truly awe-inspiring. Make sure you make the visit sooner rather than later, and always keep in mind the many ways you can travel sustainably so that glaciers like Pastoruri will be around for centuries to come.
It may be one of Northern Peru’s most iconic destinations, but just be warned that Laguna 69 is not for the faint of heart. As far as day trips go, Laguna 69 might be the most challenging one that Huaraz has to offer. The hike to the laguna requires a challenging six-hour trek at high altitudes. The early morning wake up call at around 3 AM also guarantees that you might not be as well-rested as you’d like for such a tasking hike. Despite all of the challenges, Laguna 69 is also one of the most rewarding views you can get in the world.
Chavin de Huantar
You might not have heard of Chavin de Huantar, but these 3,500 year old ruins make Machu Picchu seem like a prepubescent child. It is almost impossible to fathom such a civilization creating a vast and complex city like this thousands of years before the ones we look up to as the cradles of civilization. Along with the Chavin Museum, this makes for an eye-opening day trip from Huaraz.
Most tour operators will bundle it with Laguna Querecocha since it is on the way to Chavin de Huantar. That makes it a great, balanced option even for travelers who might not be as intrigued by history as they are by natural beauty.
Along with Laguna 69, Laguna Paron might be the most iconic view of Huascaran National Park. Tour operators will advertise it as the mountain that inspired the Paramount logo, and whether or not that is true doesn’t really matter. The only thing that matters is that Laguna Paron is absolutely breathtaking.
Speaking of breathtaking, Laguna Paron is also one of the best acclimatization hikes to start off with. This short hike was the first thing I did in Huaraz, doing it the first morning after arriving the night before. At 4,200 meters above sea level, it is at a pretty high altitude but the hike up to the viewpoint is not too difficult. It is steep but it only takes about 45 minutes to an hour. Laguna Paron is the longest laguna in the Cordillera Blanca, stretching out for about 3 kilometers. Being surrounded by stunning mountains on every side, including the famed Paramount Pictures mountain, it is quite the sight to see. For travelers that might not be into hiking, you can stick around at the laguna and even take a boat ride in the turquoise waters.
Nevado San Mateo
Nevado San Mateo is a doozy of a hike. Thanks to the punishing conditions, this might have been the most difficult day hike I’ve ever done in my life. The snowy summit requires crampons, ice axes, ropes, and a lot of perseverance. I fell about a hundred times along the way, and I wish that was an exaggeration. Nevado San Mateo is a popular destination for people who want to cross off ice climbing off their bucket list as well as a 5,000+ meter summit. It sits at 5,150 meters above sea level, which unfortunately means you are absolutely at the mercy of nature and her elements.
We weren’t lucky enough for a good day, although the view from the top is meant to be stunning. Nevado San Mateo is one of the most iconic peaks in the Cordillera Blanca. You’ve probably seen it on the San Mateo water bottles. Although this excursion is a bit pricier than your usual laguna trip, it is worth it. Most of the day trips in Huaraz can be done for under $15, and Nevado San Mateo runs closer to $80 per person, depending on how big your group is. It is unlike any of the other excursions though. You get to summit a snowy peak, see lots of glaciers, and cross ice climbing off of your bucket list.
Laguna Churup wasn’t very high on my priorities at first. In fact, I only did it as one last test of my fitness before taking on the 8-day Cordillera Huayhuash trek. It turned out to be an absolutely stunning hike, as well as one hell of a confidence boost.
Laguna Churup is one of the quicker day trips that you can take from Huaraz. The trip to Laguna Churup’s trailhead only takes about an hour. From there, it is about a 5 or 6 hour roundtrip to the laguna and back. It can be quite challenging for those who aren’t properly acclimatized since the laguna sits at around 4,450 meters above sea level. Many travelers consider it a good acclimatization trek, and a little easier than Laguna 69.
One of the best things about Huaraz is just how diverse the outdoors activities in the area are. You could do something new every single day, and I found myself trying a lot of activities just to spice things up from the usual laguna trek. Just a ten minute drive, one can go bouldering at an introductory park. At Los Olivos, one can go rock climbing. For the more hardcore climbers, Hatun Machay is a rock forest located about an hour outside of Huaraz. It is world-renowned amongst climbers and offers something for people of every skill level.
There are hundreds and hundreds of lagunas located in Huascaran National Park, and not all of them are named. Like Laguna 69, Laguna 513 didn’t have a name so it was assigned a number. Unlike Laguna 69, Laguna 513 is much more off the beaten path. Both are beautiful, but if you want to see something most travelers don’t, Laguna 513 is a must.
This is that laguna that I mentioned earlier that can be combined with the Chavin de Huantar day trip if you go with a tour. If you happen to have your own car and aren’t interested in going all the way to Chavin de Huantar for some ruins, then a trip to Laguna Querecocha might be the perfect spot to chill. Few travelers outside of the tour groups will be here on any given day, meaning you’ll likely have the entire area to yourself for most of the day. On a hot day, this might be the closest thing to a beach you’ll find in Huascaran National Park.
Laguna Wilcacocha is a popular day trip from Huaraz because it can cost you as little as $1 to do. It is free to enter and a colectivo to and from the trailhead will only be about $.30. You can split a taxi from Huaraz for about 15 soles ($4.50) total for added convenience. Although the Laguna itself isn’t much of a sight to see, a clear day will give you an unobstructed view of the mountains and the city.
You will pass the Llanganuco Lakes on your way to Laguna 69 but these stunning lakes are worth a trip in themselves. The color of the lake is difficult to believe, a turquoise so bright that it can almost seem fluorescent. Some tour agencies offer stand up paddleboarding trips to these lakes. Even if you aren’t up for that, it is a beautiful place to hang out for the day and doesn’t require hiking.
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Multi-Day Trips To Do in Huaraz
The 4-Day Santa Cruz Trek