Treks and Tours in the Cordillera Blanca
Peru's Central Andes around the town of Huaraz are where you find the country's most dramatic and beautiful mountain scenery. In fact, if you don't mind strapping on your hiking boots, the mountain ranges of the Cordillera Blanca and Cordillera Huayhuash offer some of the most beautiful landscapes in South America...
Huaraz itself is an unassuming little town, but as Peru's trekking and climbing capital, it's well-equipped as a base for exploring the surrounding countryside, and also offers you a decent choice of hotels, restaurants and other facilities.
The Cordillera Blanca
To the north and east of Huaraz, the Huascaran National Park is named for the beautiful snow-covered cone of Mount Huascaran. Peru's highest mountain, at 6746m above sea level, it's a magnet for climbers from around the world, but you can also visit some of the most beautiful sights in the national park by road from Huaraz.
However, even a short trek from Huaraz, such as the superb Santa Cruz trek can take you deeper into the sub-range of the Andes known as the Cordillera Blanca, and this is where things start to get really interesting. This Andean range is packed with crystal-clear lakes, breathtaking mountains and, because it's off the beaten track, it has remained remarkably unspoiled. A visit to the Llanganuco lagoon or a trek part-way up the Nevado Pastouri give you not just beauty but a real sense of tranquility. As well as Huascaran, the Cordillera Blanca also has another thirty-odd peaks above 6000m and many of them can be attempted even by novices...
The Cordillera Huayhuash
Meanwhile, to the south-east of Huaraz, you find the much wilder and arguably even more beautiful Cordillera Huayhuash. It's no exaggeration to say that this landscape of snow-capped peaks, glacial lakes and wildflower meadows offers some of the best high-altitude trekking in the world and although its isolation and altitude make it a challenging destination, if you're serious about your trekking there is simply nowhere in South America to compete...
Weather in the Cordillera Blanca
Temperatures throughout the year remain remarkably constant, although night-time temperatures in the Peruvian winter (June-September) do drop sharply, particularly once you are up at altitude. On a trek in either the Cordillera Blanca or the Cordillera Huayhuash at this time you can expect temperatures below zero at night.
However, this is the best time for trekking in the Cordillera Blanca as it is usually entirely dry. In spring and autumn trekking is certainly possible so long as you are properly equipped, but in winter (November-March) heavy snowfalls at altitude make trekking inadvisable.
Getting to and from Huaraz
There is a single scheduled daily flight to and from Lima, but this is certainly the easiest way of getting to Huaraz. Alternatively, regular coaches link the city to Lima and also to Trujillo on the coast.
Once you are in the Central Andes, public transport is limited to small and irregular combi buses, so organised trekking trips or tours to places such as Chavin de Huantar are usually the best way to proceed.