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Steve, Katherine, and Norah | profile | all galleries >> Peru 2018: The Alpamayo Circuit >> Day hikes and acclimatization >> Huaraz and Laguna Parón tree view | thumbnails | slideshow

Huaraz and Laguna Parón

Huaraz is the jumping off point for trekking in the Ancash region and we flew into the small airport located in Anta, about 45 minutes from Huaraz. Huaraz is the capital of Ancash and has a population of 120,000; it is a good place to start a trip as many tour organizers are based here, it is the main place to buy supplies or pick up any last minute items, and there are plenty of options for lodging and eating. While convenient and suitable for our needs, it is not the most scenic tourist town we’ve been to. Sadly, 95% of the city was destroyed in an earthquake and flooding in 1970 and very little remains of the historical architecture (the exception being José Olaya street, which we visited last time to eat at the food festival). But what it lacks in charm, it makes up for in location. Huaraz is located in the Callejón de Huaylas valley, a north-south valley bounded by the Cordillera Negra to the east and the Cordillera Blanca to the west. The tallest peak in Peru, Huascarán (6768 m/22,205 feet), resides in the Cordillera Blanca and greeted us when we arrived at the airport. We were excited to be back in the Andes!

We were met at the airport by a driver that took us to our room at Olaza’s Guest House. The room was basic (on the small side since we had three beds), but clean with hot showers and a nice open air courtyard, rooftop dining area, and lounge on the top floor. Also a convenient location to easily walk to the main street with everything we needed, which we did after meeting with Chris at Olaza’s to go over final details for our hikes and trek. We were familiar with Huaraz from our previous trip, so it was easy to get around. There is a side street by Plaza de Armas with multiple spots to change dollars into soles and we ate at one of the tourist restaurants (in what Steve likes to call “Gringo Square”). We remembered the great little bakeries that are common in Huaraz and we stopped at one to get some alfajores and other treats before heading back to our room for a nice siesta (even Norah who loudly proclaimed she was not tired was overcome by our lack of sleep the night before and took a nap). We woke refreshed and went back to the plaza to peruse the market for souvenirs and have a more authentic Peruvian meal at La Brasa Roja. It was a good day to start acclimating and getting back into the rhythm of Peru and we felt ready for our first hike.

The next day we were excited to do our first hike to Laguna Parón. We had breakfast on the rooftop and then met our driver at eight. We were going to make a quick stop to drop our bags at Apu EcoLodge just outside Caraz, then continue on to Laguna Parón. Caraz is 70 km north of Huaraz and it took us about an hour and a half to reach the lodge. Although less than half the distance, it took longer to drive from Caraz to Laguna Parón. It was only 32 km, but took nearly two hours on the gravel road, that was often bumpy and had many switchbacks to gain over 1940 m/6365 feet. The scenery was interesting; we first passed through farmland, which gave way to the alpine environment the higher we drove. The lake is in Huascarán National Park and we stopped at the gate to pay an entrance fee and also learned that the gate closed at 4 pm. We would need to leave the lake by 3 pm to make sure we got back through the gate in time.

The drive might have taken awhile, but the tradeoff was we arrived at the trailhead directly at the western end of the lake at 4200 m/13,780 ft. The trail skirted the northern side of the lake on a good trail that had minimal elevation gain/loss. At times there were drop offs on the lake side, but the trail was always wide enough for comfortable hiking. We had about 3.5 hours before we had to be back to the trailhead and set out to hike as far to the end as we could get before needing to turn around. This hike was perfect as a first hike to help us acclimate because it was easy and the scenery was absolutely gorgeous (and only a few people!). We were fortunate to have a sunny day, which really highlighted the beautiful turquoise hue of the lake. We ended up stopping about 85% of the way along the lake. We probably could have made it to the end, but decided to stop as there was a nice area for a break that provided great views of the lake in front of the mountains. We definitely will have to return for more hiking - especially the climb up to a viewpoint at the western end of the lake that we didn’t have time to do.

We reluctantly left Laguna Parón with promises to return some day and drove back down to Caraz. We got some recommendations from Erick on where to eat and decided to head into town. Apu EcoLodge is about 2.5 km from the center of the Caraz and at the intersection with the main road there are mototaxis (or tuk tuks) we could use to go into town (one sole/person). Norah thought it was an exciting ride and I was just holding tight after all the traffic shenanigans and near misses we had seen on the roads. We arrived to the Plaza de Armas without incident (except for kids chasing our mototaxi to look at us at a stoplight. Caraz is significantly smaller and quieter than Huaraz and we did not see any other tourists in town), but had poor timing. We had forgotten that many restaurants shut down in the late afternoon and didn’t open up until later in the evening for dinner. We wandered around and eventually found a chaufa for a basic chicken meal. Of course we also had to visit a bakery for goodies and we happened across a big market (later found it it happens on Sundays and Wednesdays). We enjoyed walking through the market and made some food purchases for our hike the next day. We had an early start the next morning for Laguna 69, so didn’t linger too long in Caraz. It was a nice, quiet night at Apu EcoLodge (compared to the constant honking and dogs barking in Huaraz) and we were again ready to hit the trail the next morning.
Our plane from Lima to Anta (Huaraz)
Our plane from Lima to Anta (Huaraz)
View of Huascaran at the airport
View of Huascaran at the airport
Norah and her love of garlic bread
Norah and her love of garlic bread
Courtyard at Olaza's Bed and Breakfast
Courtyard at Olaza's Bed and Breakfast
View from the rooftop
View from the rooftop
A rooftop dog
A rooftop dog
Steve and Norah at Plaza de Armas
Steve and Norah at Plaza de Armas
Norah at Plaza de Armas
Norah at Plaza de Armas
Alpaca. *squeal*
Alpaca. *squeal*
Photo op in Plaza de Armas
Photo op in Plaza de Armas
Dinner at La Brasa Roja
Dinner at La Brasa Roja
Pollo a la brasa
Pollo a la brasa
Alfajore
Alfajore
Rooftop breakfast
Rooftop breakfast
Laguna Parón
Laguna Parón
Laguna Parón
Laguna Parón
Laguna Parón
Laguna Parón
Laguna Parón
Laguna Parón
Laguna Parón
Laguna Parón
Laguna Parón
Laguna Parón
Laguna Parón
Laguna Parón
Laguna Parón
Laguna Parón
Laguna Parón
Laguna Parón
Laguna Parón
Laguna Parón
Huandoy
Huandoy
View on the way back to Caraz
View on the way back to Caraz
Mototaxi in Caraz
Mototaxi in Caraz
Giving Inca Cola a try
Giving Inca Cola a try