Things to do in Huaraz
The main places of interest in and around Huaraz are:
Llanganuco Lakes (Lagunas Llanganuco)
These dazzling glacier-fed lakes lie about 55 km north of Huaraz. Many tour companies in Huaraz offer this day trip for $ 20-25 per person.
From the lakes you'll get incredible views of the beautiful peaks of the Cordillera Blanca including Chopicalqui (6,354m), Huandoy (6,395m) and the twin peaks of Huascaran (6,768m and 6,655m). It's best to choose a clear day for the trip. Visitors most often visit the lower lake called Laguna Chinacocha where tours from Huaraz stop for about an hour or so, leaving you long enoufgh to relax and enjoy the view or even hire out rowboats (S./4 for 20 minutes).
Alternatively you can catch a bus to Yungay and, from the Plaza de Armas, take a bus or truck up to the lakes (about $6 both ways).
Pastoruri Glacier and Puya Raimondii plants.
This day tour offers a great opportunity to visit and walk on a glacier. The glacier is fairly flat and you don't need any special equipment but, at 5240m in altitude, you need to be well acclimatized before going (best to spend 3 days in Huaraz first). The trek up to the glacier takes about 45 minutes, although horses and mules are usually available to help the weary.
Puya Raimondii plantsMany Peruvians even bring their skis and snowboards along, although it's nothing compared to other skiing areas in South America. Remember to bring along a spare pair of shoes as yours will probably get wet on the glacier.
This trip is usually combined with a visit to the valley of Pachacoto, 57km to the south of Huaraz, where you can see the Puya de Raimondii plants. These strange plants, looking more like mutated cacti, are actually the largest member of the bromeliad family (relative of the pineapple). This species is considered to be one of the oldest in the world, and can be found in only a few isolated areas of the Andes.
The low bushy base of the Puya Raimondii forms a large rosette of spiky, long leaves, about 1.5m across.
The plant flowers just once in its life which can be up to 100 years. This usually takes place in the month of May, when a huge central stem is pushed up to 12 meters into the sky, covered in many thousands of blooming flowers. The plant dies shortly after it blooms. If you are lucky enough to witness this event, it's an unbelievable sight set against a spectacular snowy mountain back-drop.
Chavin de Huantar
The ruins of Chavin de Huantar are located to the east of the Cordillera Blanca, about 110km from Huaraz, and at an altitude of 3250m. This fortress-temple was constructed between 1200 and 300 BC and is the only large structure remaining from the Chavin culture. It is thought to have been a major ceremonial centre. In 1985 UNESCO designated it a World Heritage Trust Site.