The central part of the northern Andes is guarded by the extensive Huascaran National Park, a place full of diversity, towering snow-capped mountains, hundreds of turquoise-water lagoons and the prevailing legacy of many pre-Inca civilizations.
If you’re into a more adventurous style for your trip to Peru, then you’ll surely have heard of this wonderful attraction. This region is recognized as the Trekking Capital of Peru, and it certainly holds the name with pride.
The Huascarán National Park is home to 27 mounts that surpasses the 6,000 meters of altitude, being the Huascaran Mount the highest peak in Peru, reaching up to 6,768 meters above sea level. For that reason, this national park is known as the highest tropical mountain range in the world.
The park includes the best trekking alternatives from medium to challenging levels of difficulty. However, if you’re up to this experience, you should be prepared to face not only the physically demanding activity but the altitude above everything else.
Therefore, we have prepared this guide to help you decide among the many attractions and things to do in this national park, but most importantly how to deal and prevent altitude sickness and even more recommendations. Keep reading and learn all about it!
As mentioned above, the Huascaran National Park covers a large area of the Cordillera Blanca in the central Andes of northern Peru, within the Ancash region. The entire park contains a great biodiversity, ranging from hundreds of plant species to thousands of animals, not to mention its natural wonders.
The national park extends over 340,000 hectares and covers a large part of the provinces of Huaylas, Yungay, Carhuaz, Huaraz, Recuay, Bolognesi, Huari, Asunción, Mariscal Luzuriaga and Pomabamba.
Therefore, the entire region offers the perfect setting for tourist activities, where adventure sports, traditional excursions and historical monuments complement the whole experience.
Its name comes from the highest peak of the Cordillera Blanca, the imposing Mount Huascarán, a compound word in Quechua that can be interpreted as Chain of Mountains.
Long before the Incas existed, the region was inhabited since 13,000 B.C. according to archaeological remains found in the area. There are pre-Columbian ruins which show human presence in places with an altitude above 3700 m.a.s.l.
On the flanks of the sierra and in several of its ravines, there are vestiges of large extensions of agricultural terraces and ancient corrals. The cultivation and grazing areas were supplied with water by ingenious systems of dams and canals.
Thirty-three archeological sites belonging to different cultures have been identified, mainly influenced by the Chavín culture and remains of Inca influence on the coast and eastern highlands, where there are systems of terraces, roads, chullpas, tombs, and fortifications scattered throughout the park's different ecological levels.
1. Lagoon 69
This is one of the most in-demand outdoor activities in the surroundings of Huaraz. This unique water body is nourished by a waterfall that originated during the thaw season, and it’s located at 4,504 meters above sea level.
The trek to this outstanding natural wonder takes about 5 hours roundtrip. However, the impressiveness of this turquoise-water lagoon will leave you breathless, without mentioning its visually striking scenery. A total pay off to all that hard work!
2. Llanganuco Lakes
Surrounded by the imposing Hauscarán, Pisco, Huandoy, Chacraraju, Yanapaccha, and Chopicalqui snow-capped mountains lie two twin water bodies called Orconcocha and Chinancocha. They share the same turquoise coloration as Laguna 69 and are nourished by a glacier.
Likewise, these twin lagoons are also recognized for the exuberant nature that grows in their outskirts. If visiting Huaraz, make sure to pay a visit to these natural wonders, you’ll surely won’t regret it!
3. Chavin de Huantar
This famous archeological site dates back to the 1500 B.C. and it’s one of Peru’s most significant ancient structures. It was built by the Chavin culture supposedly as a cult center, where different people from across the country came to make offerings and petitions to the gods.
The Chavin de Huantar Archeological Site consisted of two temples, but due to the instability of the land, part of its structure was damaged. Nowadays, you can visit these ancient temples from Huaraz, which is located 2 hours away from the city.
4. Nevado Pastoruri
It is one of the highest mountains within the Huascaran National Park since it sits at an altitude of 5,240 meters above sea level. This snow-capped mountain has been struck by global warming, just like the glacier that slides through its northern mountainside.
However, the Nevado Pastoruri remains as a tourist attraction and the ascend to the summit is easy since it’s not required a high physical level to complete this trek, but the companion of an official guide is mandatory.
5. Laguna Paron
This famous waterbody is considered the largest freshwater lagoon of the Cordillera Blanca and the Ancash region since it extends to 1,408,489 m2. It is located 32 km away from the city of Huaraz and has an altitude of 4,185 meters above sea level.
Laguna Paron was declared a National Heritage Site in 2010 to protect its authentic scenery. From this location, it is possible to visualize the imposing Artesonraju, Piramide, Huandoy, Pisco, Chacraraju, and Paria snow-capped mountains.
6. Callejón de Huaylas
It is a valley that follows the current of Rio Santa located in the Ancash region. Callejón de Huaylas is famous for its authentic scenery since it is flanked by the Cordillera Blanca and Cordillera Negra, this last one is recognized for comprehending mountains that reach up to 5,100 meters of elevation.
Adventure-oriented tourism is the main thing to do here, where activities like mountain biking, paragliding, rock climbing, canopy, and treks, attract most of its visitors.
Since Laguna Paron is located on a high elevation, it is usual to see travelers experiencing dizziness, tiredness, headaches, and shortness of breath upon arrival, particularly if coming from low-altitude destinations. Make sure to follow these recommendations that will surely help you avoid and deal with altitude sickness:
- Keep yourself hydrated. Water is the best ally to fight and prevent this condition.
- Avoid alcohol and smoking at all costs. Alcohol is dehydrating, and smoking can worsen or cause shortness of breath.
- Eat a light but high-calorie diet. High altitude increases the need for fuel since you get dehydrated and burn carbs faster.
- Drink Coca tea or chew Coca leaves. This is a medicinal plant of the Andes, known for helping to ease any altitude sickness symptoms and improving acclimatization.
- Take it easy. Don’t commit to a physically demanding activity on the first 2-3 days upon arrival.
There are some medicines that can help with any altitude sickness symptoms. You can find Diamox or Soroche Pills in almost any drugstore in Peru, nonetheless, we highly recommend consulting with a doctor before taking any of these medications.
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