HUARAZ, The city of the snow-capped peaks
Huaraz is in the heart of the Callejón de Huaylas Valley. It is the capital of the Department of Ancash, and the city which is the starting point for a marvelous trip through traditional Andean towns, crystal clear lakes and lagoons, imposing snow-capped mountains, important archaeological monuments and, of course, ideal places to practice adventure sports. Those who love mountain climbing, trekking, high mountain skiing and other sports, gather here to begin the adventure of getting to know some of the most magnificent natural scenery in the Americas and, indeed, in the world.
The mighty Santa River divides the Andes Mountain Range into two spectacular chains which enclose the Callejón de Huaylas: the White Mountain Range, so named because of its eternal snowy peaks, and the snow-less Black Mountain Range. Almost the entire White Mountain Range is part of the Huascarán National Park, created to protect the flora and fauna, the archaeological heritage and scenic beauty of the Region.
Despite being an old settlement, the City of Huaraz has a relatively new face, as it was totally rebuilt after it was destroyed by a devastating earthquake in 1970. Today, Huaraz is a center for the region’s commercial and tourist activity, turning it into a hub for the concentration of people from other towns in Callejón de Huaylas, such as Recuay, Carhuaz, Yungay and Caraz. Huaraz has the best hotels and restaurants in the valley.
Several centuries before the Tahuantinsuyo, important cultural centers developed in the Region, such as Chavín, Recuay and Sechín. In Ancash there is remote evidence of Peruvian man’s presence, such as the Guitarreros cave, where traces have been found of the first horticulturists of Peru (9000 B.C.).
The Chavín Culture, which dates from 1000 to 300 B.C., represents a summary of the initial development of Andean culture. This was a highly hierarchical population with a well–developed agriculture and handicraft industry. The end of the Chavín Culture coincides with the appearance of a new cultural expression, characterized by a predominantly white and red type of ceramic, identified with the Recuay Culture (100 – 600 A.C). In the middle of the 15th century the Region was under the rule of the Incas. Nevertheless, the Huaylas and Conchucos, the biggest ethnic groups in the area, tried to preserve their identity, and this is why they were quickly identified by the Spaniards as being groups which were different from the Incas.
Hispanic chronicle tell of a beautiful princess from the Kingdom of Huaylas, by the name of Quispe Sisa, who captured the heart of the Conquistador Francisco Pizarro, and when she was baptized as Inés Yupanqui, an important alliance was sealed for the Hispanic colonizers. Towards the mid 16th century some Spaniards had settled in the valley to take advantage of its fertile soil. By the 17th century, Huaraz was already a settlement with straight streets, going to and from the Main Square, where the main church was located, as well as the town hall and the jail. The inhabitants of the Region confronted the Spanish authorities many times regarding ill-treatment. The same fighting spirit persevered throughout the independence wars and during the early years of the Republic.
Central Sierra (Andean part)
10,013 feet (3,052 m) above sea level
Population in Huaraz
Distances from Huaraz
248.5 miles (400 km) from Lima.
298 miles (480 km) from Trujillo, Pativilca route.
The Weather in Huaraz
A dry and pleasant climate and impressive blue skies are typical of the days in Huaraz, which is located at an altitude of 3,091m.a.s.l. The region has two well-defined seasons: from May to October is the dry season, an ideal time for tourism; while November marks the beginning of the rainy season which lasts until April. The average temperature during the day is 18°C, with a tendency to cool off at night, when the temperatures drop to 9°C. It is advisable to wear sun glasses and skin protection from the Andean sun, as well as to wear warm clothes against the cold at night.
How to arrive to Huaraz
One usually reaches Huaraz by road, leaving Lima by the North Pan-American Highway; until reaching the Pativilca turn (202 km from Lima) where the climb to Huaraz begins. The trip takes nearly 7 hr (408 km) on a paved road. There are two alternative routes: Lima-Casma-Huaraz (524 km an 8 hr trip) and Lima-Santa-Huallanca-Huaraz (720 km, a 9 hr trip) but the road is not in the best condition, although it may be worth while for the beautiful scenery upon crossing the Black Mountain Range and meeting the White Mountain Range. In spite of there being an airport in the locality of Anta, 25 km north of Huaraz, service is restricted for the time being, and there are no regular flights.
From this friendly region, is said that you can have very good food, and maybe there is nothing better than a delicious soup, after a day of walks and trips; of their variety and extensive kitchen we describe shortly a very small list:
“Picante de Cuy al Estilo Huaracino” (Guinea Pig Hot Stew Huaraz Style)
Delicious pottage, elaborated with fried guinea pig pieces, then garnished with onion, yellow hot pepper and garlic. It is served with boiled potatoes cut in slices. Varieties of regional potatoes are used.
It is a kind of soup that is used to have during the breakfast. Elaborated with chopped potatoes, coriander, parsley, mint, huacatay (herbs of the region), beaten eggs are added just before serving. This soup does not have fat neither oil.
“Humitas de chochona”
The chochoca, is a very tender corn. Delicious dish made with dough prepared with chochoca, eggs, butter, sugar, cheese and raisins. They wrap it up in “pancas” (corn leaves) and tied. They are steamed cooked.
This plate is prepared almost in the same way as the guinea pig stew, described previously, but it is served as soup.
It is a very tasty soup, garnished with garlic and onions that are added to the potatoes, chopped coriander, mint, fresh cheese, eggs and milk.
Strong broth of lamb head, there can also be added other meats, it is garnished with coriander, parsley, mint, yellow hot pepper and toasted corn.
Natillas and manjarblanco (sweets made with milk), outstanding the ones prepared in Caraz, besides their delicious flavor, they are packed in peculiar wooden recipients.
Attractions in Huaraz
Atracctions surrounding areas
Huascaran National Park – Huaraz
In order to protect the natural wealth and bio-diversity of the Region, the Huascarán bio-diversity of the Region, the Huascarán National Park was created in 1975. Its 340,000 ha cover almost the entire White Mountain Range. Its attractions include glaciers, lagoons and springs. There is a great variety of plant species, like the Puya of Raimondi and the quenouille, which are typical of this park. This is one of the favorite habitats for condors, white-tailed deer, guemals, vicuñas, pumas, vizcachas, Andean cats and foxes. The Park has been declared National Heritage of Mankind by UNESCO.
To gain access to the Park one can follow several unpaved roads leaving different towns in the valley, going east. The most popular ones are the road leaving Yungay, which is the route to the Llanganuco Lagoons, and the Pachacoto road, which leads to the snow- capped Pastoruri Mountain.
The Pastoruri Glacier (4,950m.a.s.l.) which is 70 km or 3 hr south of Huaraz, is one of the most beautiful and frequently visited places in the Huascarán National Park. The route to Pastoruri is an attraction in itself. Reaching the Town of Pachacoto there is a detour leading to the protected area, which first passes the Patacocha Lagoon and, the, the forest of the Puyas of Raimondi, plants which can grow as high as 10 m. Continuing along the route, there is a spring of carbonated water called Pumapampa, and the Pumapashimi lake, the main attraction of which is the great variety of shades and hues reflected by its waters. Finally, some 35 km along an unpaved road, Pastoruri is reached. On this mountain one can practice skiing, or simply enjoy oneself sliding on the snow. Horse rides are also offered, to climb the snow-capped mountain.
Monterrey – Huaraz
It is estimated that in Callejón de Huaylas there are approximately 20 hot springs, the most popular being Monterrey, only 7 km north of Huaraz, or 5 minutes by car. The Monterrey waters, the temperature of which border 50°C, are recommended by the locals to treat rheumatic and nervous disorders. The place has an adequate infrastructure comprised of swimming pools and baths for families and individuals.
Carhuaz – Huaraz
It is located only 34 km north of Huaraz, a 30 min trip, Carhuaz (2,645m.a.s.l.) is characterized by the abundance of yellow broom flowers, which gave it its name, since the Quechua word “carhuash” actually means yellow. This city still maintains the Colonial style of its old houses. From the Main Square one can see the beautiful snow-capped peak of Hualcán (6,150m.a.s.l.).
Yungay – Huaraz
At the foot of the impressive Huascarán, 55 km north of Huaraz, is Yungay, at an altitude of 2,458m.a.s.l. The name of this town comes from the Quechua word Yunga, which means “warm land”. When reaching Yungay the scene is startling; only four palm trees remain up from the old town, which was completely buried by rocks and mud, carried by a landslide following the earthquake of 1970. Opposite the Huascarán Mountain is the cemetery, with a huge image of Christ, whose open arms appear to welcome some of the inhabitants who survived the tragedy because they sought shelter there.
The new town was built one and a half kilometers away from the original site, and on Sundays it is host to a popular peasant fair. From the new Yungay there is a road leading to the Llanganuco Lagoon.
Llanganuco lagoons – Huaraz
Following a scenic road flanked by Huascarán (6,768m.a.s.l.) and Huandoy (6,428m.a.s.l.) one travels from Yungay to the Llanganuco Lagoons, about 25 km by car in approximately 45 min. The first lagoon, known as Chinancocha or “female lagoon” is surrounded by quenouille trees and its waters are of a beautiful turquoise color. This is the most popular lagoon, and the residents offer boats rides and some typical dishes of the area.
If one enjoys walking, one can continue towards the second lagoon, Orconocha, “male lagoon”. The path begins at Chinancocha and the walk takes approximately one hour.
Huayhuash Mountain Range – Huaraz
The town of Chiquián (3,374m.a.s.l.), located 110 km south of Huaraz, is the starting point of the journey to the Huayhuash Mountain Range. With an area of 30 m, this mountain range is considered to be one of the most beautiful in the world. It features snow-capped mountains such as Yerupajá (6,634m.a.s.l.) dozens of amazingly beautiful lagoons and a varied wildlife. This chain is ideal for expert mountain climbers or walkers. The only way to get there from Chiquián is on foot; the entire circuit is 165 km long, and on average, it can be completed in 12 days. The ascent of the mountains is difficult and requires much training.
Huaraz Festivities Calendar
FEBRUARY IN HUARAZ
Festivities which include lively marches, street parades, the entry of the Ño Carnavalón figure and the tree cutting ritual or yunza practiced in all neighborhoods.
MARCH – APRIL IN HUARAZ
Easter (dates subject to change)
This is a religious festival which is very traditional in the area. It includes several processions, the most important being the one of Christ with the Cross, the Good Friday Procession, and that of the Resurrection of Christ on Easter Sunday.
MAY IN HUARAZ
3rd Feast of the Lord of Solitude
Many people from the different villages and communities nearby go to Huaraz to celebrate the feast of the Lord of Solitude. The pilgrims are accompanied by bands of musicians playing quenas (reed flutes) and drums as they lead the way.
MAY – JUNE IN HUARAZ
Andinism Week (dates subject to change)
This is the time of the year when there is a lot of tourist activity, as there are competitions in several adventure tourism categories, such as: mountain skiing, river rafting, hand gliding, delta wings and mountain cycling. Cultural and social activities are also held.
SEPTEMBER IN HUARAZ
11-15 Patronal Feast of Our Lord of Burgos
In the Town of Recuay various activities are organized to celebrate the feast in honor of its Patron Saint. The traditional Dance of the Black People stands out.
23-27 Patronal Feast of Our Lady of Las Mercedes
In Carhuaz celebrations are held in honor of the virgin, with traditional processions, bands of musicians, bullfights and fireworks.