The Cordilleras of Peru – landscapes that stay in your heart

The Cordilleras of Peru – landscapes that stay in your heart

People come to Cordillera Negra or Cordillera Blanca in the Andes in western central Peru, in the Ancash region, to see amazing natural scenery and tune in for peace and tranquility in the three mountain towns of Huaraz, Carhuas and Caras. The entire area is punctuated by turquoise blue lagoons whose water is drinkable, and the geniality of the area is highlighted by breathtaking mountain vistas that combine green forests with pure white peaks, giving the impression of an omnipresence of mountain spirit.

The Cordillera Negra consists of rocky peaks with very little snowfall in the winter. Most of the streams in the area have dried up or have little water flow. The Rio Santa River separates Cordillera Negra from Cordillera Blanca, whose snow-capped ridges rise to 6,768 meters.

In the Cordilleras, the spirit of the mountains speaks…

The Cordilleras of Peru - landscapes which stay in your heart

In the Cordilleras, the spirit of the mountains speaks…

There is so much to see in this area, much of which is part of Huascaran National Park, that if you only have a week or two, it’s hard to choose from all the hikes and other activities on offer. There are mountains over 4,500 meters high, several hundred glaciers, the highest mountain in Peru, Huascarán (6,768 meters), opportunities to do bouldering in amazingly scenic places and dozens of hikes to try.

Hike to Santa Cruz, Laguna 69 and Lake Churup

Prepared adventurers come here for the Santa Cruz hike, which usually takes four days from Cachapampa to Wakeria , including a hike to Laguna 69 (near the end of the hike), which can be visited as part of a day hike. If the icy water doesn’t scare you, you can take a dip in this crystal-blue lagoon, which is located in front of snow-capped Pisco Peak, to enjoy a refreshing dip.

The Cordilleras of Peru - landscapes which stay in your heart

Hike to Santa Cruz, Laguna 69 and Lake Churup

The hike to Santa Cruz is challenging but popular, with two high mountain passes that offer spectacular views of twelve peaks such as Alpamayo, Huascaran, Chopikalqui and Taulliraju. Incredibly varied trails reach an altitude of 4,700 m, from where you can appreciate the spectacular snow-capped peaks, the great variety of flora and fauna and, in addition to the many lakes, numerous waterfalls and rivers.

Keeper of the mountains

Birds are given great importance by the people of the Andes as well as the Amazon jungle; they are believed to represent ancestors who appear at just the right moment.

There are many agencies in Huaraz that offer the full service of organizing this trek. If you want a recommendation, use the services of the well-established company Peru Expedition (in business since 1978), a sophisticated and reliable firm that also works in other parts of Peru and other South American countries.

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The Cordilleras of Peru - landscapes which stay in your heart

Keeper of the Mountains

If you prefer to hike in less visited places, try, for example, Lake Churup , where you can go on your own without resorting to any agency. You can do this hike in one day, but you will need to catch a colectivo cab from Huaraz around 7 am to return after the hike around 3 pm, when the last minibuses return to town. You will need about three hours for the climb, and two to two and a half hours for the more difficult and steeper route. About seven kilometers from where the climb to the lake begins is a romantic scenic lodge called Churup Mountain Lodge, which is recommended if you don’t want to stay in town and prefer a real mountain atmosphere of romantic solitude near the pine groves.

Pastoruri Glacier.

Glacier lovers most often go to Alpamayo and Mateo , but if the views of the glaciers are more interesting to you than climbing, Pastoruri is recommended. If you want to go on your own, you will have to arrange transportation, as the glacier is about 70 km from Huaraz. The queen of the Andes, the Puya Raymonda, the largest species of the bromeliad family (and now quite rare), recognizable by its height and top, can be seen in several places on the way to the glacier, as well as the family of the wild llama species, the vicuña llama.

The Cordilleras of Peru - landscapes which stay in your heart

Pastoruri Glacier

Pastoruri Glacier is a gigantic beauty (area: 8 sq. km, length: 4 km) is a testament to the reality of global warming; in less than 30 years it has lost more than 30% of its volume. Tourists are advised to drink mate de coca (coca tea) before (and on the spot) if you don’t want to chew the leaves, which taste not as pleasant as leachate, since the glacier reaches an altitude of 5,240 meters and you may experience symptoms of altitude sickness.

The queen of the Andes, Puya raymonda, grows in the Andes of Peru and Bolivia and can reach 15 meters in height. The tree lives from 80 to 100 years. At the end of its life, it produces 8 to 20,000 flowers in 3 months. Then the queen dies by falling from her throne.

Paron Lagoon.

Most tourists to Peru choose the Sacred Valley over Huascaran National Park. This area, little visited by tourists in low season, is a real gem and more pleasant than the crowded Sacred Valley.

A place that will totally captivate is the Laguna Parón, about which many have heard legends and no doubt will meet all your expectations. Honestly, it is one of the most beautiful lakes in Peru (some of you might argue that Laguna 69 is more beautiful) and the largest lake in the Cordillera Blanca.

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The Cordilleras of Peru - landscapes which stay in your heart

Laguna Paron.

Once you arrive at the lake (about four hours from Huaraz, even with an ice cream stop in Carhuas; only an hour and a half from Caraz), paying only 5 soles to enter Huascaran National Park along the way, your eyes will immediately be opened to stunning scenery. It is beautiful as it is. From the shores of the lake you can admire the peaks of the surrounding mountains with their snowy roofs, but one in particular stands out. It is Artesonraju, the mountain supposedly depicted on the Paramount Pictures logo. From a height of 4,200 m at lake level, you can take a short but in places steep (and a little rocky at the end) hike to the lake lookout, which is at about 4,600 m . Since this lake is not as frequently visited as Laguna 69, you can easily find your spot, especially in the off-season for photography or meditation.

Bathing is allowed in all the lakes in the area, and in the Paron Lagoon the local community also allows people to take a ferry ride.

Huaraz is better than Cusco

Most travelers who come to Peru and want to connect with the spirit of the mountains go to Cusco rather than Huaraz. Cusco boasts beautiful colonial architecture and all sorts of interesting hikes from here, but it is crowded with tourists, there are more Western-style bars and restaurants, and the locals who live in Cusco are in the minority compared to the expats who come here looking for “something special” . Locals live in Cusco mostly only because they work there as guides or in other areas of tourism. Otherwise, they tend to move to Sacred Valley villages like Pisac, Ollantaytambo, Calca or Urubamba, which have better preserved their authenticity and where real estate is much cheaper.

The Cordilleras of Peru - landscapes which stay in your heart

Huaraz is better than Cusco

As in Cusco, in Huaraz you will find a huge Central Market where you can buy everything from meat, vegetables, fruits and herbs to clothes and shoes. However, if you want to buy traditional clothing such as alpaca or llama wool (or other traditional handicrafts), the Central Market is not your place. This is because locals, unless they work in tourist stores, do not wear such clothes; they prefer the usual jeans and synthetic winter jackets or street trekking jackets that are sold at Central Market. Handicrafts (artesanal) goods can be found in the main Plaza de Armas, at the top of which is the Handicrafts Market.

There are several local bistros and bars as well as western restaurants and pubs in Huaraz (at 3,052 m). Tourists prefer to choose purely local alternatives, trying unassuming bistros with a menu of Peruvian cuisine (usually a soup or other appetizer and a main course with a small salad), which costs about 15 soles, or various street food such as papa rellenas (stuffed, fried mashed potatoes).

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Instead of Western bars, choose stalls or mini-malls with traditional chuchuhuasi drinks, which you pay for and then drink on the street. This hot alcoholic wonder is an aphrodisiac from the Peruvian jungle and is relatively strong, so you’ll be sold a maximum of three glasses in a row. After a full day of hiking and eating mostly nuts and energy bars, the effects of this drink will be noticeable after the first cup.

Wilcacocha Pond

If you want to visit places that are rarely visited by tourists, we recommend villages on the outskirts of Huaraz, such as Uncus or Vilcahuaín, where you can meet indigenous people in their traditional costumes and buy honey or herbs from them, where you can swim in the streams and play with local children. Lake Vilcacocha does not compare to the turquoise lagoon of Churup, Lake Paron, or the lagoons of Llanganuco, but it offers spectacular views of the Cordilleras Negra and Blanca, and along the way you can soak up the peaceful atmosphere of the local villages.

The Cordilleras of Peru - landscapes which stay in your heart

Vilcacocha Pond

One way up to the pond is via a much longer but less steep dirt road that was created to supply the local villages. The road is rocky and muddy in the rainy season. Another option is to walk up from the bridge crossing Rio Santa on the dirt road, but within the first five minutes or so of walking turn left onto a trail that climbs steeply to the first village, where you must turn right and continue on the trail that crosses the dirt road. This hike is ideal for those who want to acclimatize to the altitude, as the lake is at an altitude of 3725 meters.

They recommend enjoying a beautiful sunset on the lake. The moment when the sun falls on the snow-capped mountain peaks in the distance is stunning. Don’t forget to wear windproof clothing, however, because you really will be “on a windy mountain.”

Again, this place is not the best choice for those expecting to see a turquoise lagoon to swim in or drink from. Rather, Vilkakocha is a pond with a few ducks and a reed growing in the middle. What makes it unique, however, is the view of the surrounding mountains, fields of barley waving in the wind, traditional burnt-brick houses and terraced fields.

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Peru – 9 days in the Cordilleras (trekking Huayhuash)

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Peru – 9 days in the Cordilleras (trekking Huayhuash)

Julia69 ” 07 Sep 2018, 10:12

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I do not know why, but I will start the story of our trip to Peru from the end, or rather from its final part – from the seven-day trekking in the Cordilleras Huayhaush (Huayhaush). Maybe because it was the most extreme trekking route for us – overnighting in tents in subzero temperatures, no showers, no hot water, questionable food and bad weather. Despite all that, the impressions are very bright and mostly positive. In general, a real adventure!

The trek in the Cordilleras was the highlight and driving force of the whole trip from the very beginning. Of course, we were definitely going to Peru and Bolivia, but this year we went exclusively because of the planned trip to Nepal in the fall. I wanted to get a feel for how we would feel at high altitudes and whether we could move in such conditions. In this sense the experience was definitely positive – we took the signs of mountain sickness very well. Restless sleep during the first days and several attacks of severe headache easily relieved by pentalgin. My husband did without any pills. We went through all this back in Cusco at the beginning of the trip, and later in Bolivia and in the Cordilleras we felt fine. The altitude affected only in a much greater effort than usual to overcome the passes. I moved very slowly, not even like a turtle, but like a snail. Every time I went up there was shortness of breath, I felt that somebody cared too much about my legs and put one or two bricks in my backpack. By the end of the trek it was a little easier to breathe, but I still hadn’t gotten up to speed. But, nevertheless, we climbed EVERYTHING! 5 passes (the highest – 4755m) and 70 km of difficult mountain trails! My health didn’t allow me to carry heavy backpacks with the equipment, so we tried to minimize everyday problems as much as possible, and our guide, cook and mahout with the donkeys were with us. Nevertheless, I consider our trek as absolutely independent, because the route was studied beforehand and in fact we needed only a porter. The opportunity not to bother with heating food turned out to be a nice bonus. We were happy with the escort, except for one organizational screw-up, everything was fine. And we went privado, that is, not with a group, but only the two of us. The price for such a tour is of course far from budget, but to move in the company of vigorous foreign pensioners, we are not ready.

So, the Cordilleras is the longest mountain system in the world. They stretched across both Americas – from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego. And although the Cordilleras of South America are more often called the Andes, the mountain ranges in Peru remain the Cordilleras. The most famous of them is Cordillera Blanca with the largest mountain, Huascaran (6768m), at the foot of which lies the small town of Huaraz, the center of active tourism in the region. From Huaraz available a huge number of hiking trails, from one-day hikes to numerous lakes, to the serious tracks of 5 to 15 days.

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One of the most popular, though not the most accessible, is the trek around the Huayhuash Cordillera. (on the right side of the photo).

Peru - 9 days in the Cordilleras (trekking Huayhuash)

You can see from the diagram that it is the most distant from Huayhuash and the transfer to the beginning of the track takes four to ten hours. But we stopped on this particular route, primarily because of the story serebr. Already later, reading the masterpiece Sur America inspired, and the report IraF gave confidence (Irina, thanks a lot for the tips!). Plus, the Huayhuash track is one of the top 10 most beautiful hiking trails in the world.

In about 10 days you can get around a full circle around this compact mountain range with the central magnificent Yarupaja Mountain (6634m) (the third largest mountain in Peru). But we weren’t ready for such a long hike and opted for the so-called mini Huayhuash, which is passed in five days. Adding two days to the standard program we ended up with a nice seven-day trek:

(1 day) June 2, 2018 – Huaraz- Chiquian-Llamac – Pampa Liamac pass (4300) – Jahuacocha lake 14 km, ascent 820m; min 3250m, max 4070m

(2 day) June 3, 2018 – Jahuacocha – Huacrish – Rasac view point – Jahuacocha

(3 day) June 4, 2018 – Jahuacocha – Sambuya&Rondoy pasess(4750) – Rondoy 13.6km, ascent 950m, descent 600m, min 4070m, max 4755m

(4 day) June 5, 2018 – Rondoy – Cacananpunta pass(4685) (alternative route) – Mitucocha lake 9 km, ascent 755m, descent 650m, min 4170m, max 4690m

(5 day) June 6, 2018 – Mitucocha lake – Carhuac pass (4650) – Carhuacocha lake 11.8 km, ascent 625m, descent 520m, min 4200m, max 4670m

(6 day) June 7, 2018 – Carhuacocha lake – Siula pass (4800) – Carhuacocha lake 13.5 km (round trip), ascent/descent 560m, min 4150m, max 4560m

(7 day) June 8, 2018 – Carhuacocha lake – Queropalca – private transfer to Huaraz overnight in Huaraz 10.4 km, 350m descent, min 3860m, max 4200m

The data for the kilometers traveled and the drops from the navigator, on which I recorded the daily crossings.

For a complete picture I give a profile of the routes on the days:

Peru - 9 days in the Cordilleras (trekking Huayhuash)

It’s not what happens to you that matters, but how you feel about it (c) Walking in the Elbrus region Along the mountain trails of Dombai

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