Peru: Stunning Cordillera Huayhuash Photo Trek – 13 days

In this world, there are a few places that stand Head and Shoulders above others – even with the outstanding choices people already know about in other ranges across the world.

The Cordillera Huayhuash in Central Peru (just south of the Cordillera Blanca) is one of those places that will leave you breathless, not only due to the altitude but because the scenery is so grand, so imposing, so…unbelieveably raw and beautiful!  This is powerful nature in all its splendor.

If the Lord of the Rings wasn’t filmed in New Zealand (which it rightly deserves), it could have been filmed here. Every day on the trek is another example of nature’s power to create beauty with a rugged exterior and alluring features. The peaks are tall, they are steep, they are covered with a layer of frosting made of hanging glaciers and the alpine lakes at their feet are a rainbow of complimentary puddles of colors….blues, green, grey, brown. Just amazing.

The Cordillera Huayhuash, situated to the south of the more popular Cordillera Blanca in central Peru, stands as a remote and formidable range, characterized by its snowcapped peaks. Among these giants are Yerupaja, Jirishanca, Siula Grande, Sarapo, and Rasac, each offering some of the continent’s most challenging and perilous alpine routes. Climbing endeavors in this region are known for their commitment, difficulty, and the presence of numerous inherent risks.

With limited options for accessible, easy-to-moderate climbs in the area, most travelers to Peru tend to focus on the comparatively hospitable peaks closer to Huaraz in the Cordillera Blanca. However, there’s a growing trend of climbers and trekkers heading to the Huayhuash, drawn by the allure of world-class trekking and climbing opportunities in a remote and relatively untouched landscape.

The Cordillera Huayhuash stretches approximately 30 kilometers from north to south, featuring seven peaks exceeding an altitude of 6,000 meters. Among these, Yerupajá stands out as the second-highest peak in Peru, soaring to an impressive 6,617 meters (21,709 feet). Additionally, Siula Grande, reaching 6,344 meters in height, gained fame through mountaineer Joe Simpson’s gripping account in his book “Touching the Void.”

In contrast to its neighboring Cordillera Blanca, the Huayhuash range boasts narrower valleys and higher mountain passes. It encompasses numerous lesser peaks, often shrouded in ice, as well as several passes exceeding 5,000 meters in elevation. Remarkably, one must venture quite a distance further away from the central range to encounter terrain lower than 3,000 meters, even in the valleys. This expansive area is often considered part of the Cordillera Huayhuash.

The region is sparsely populated, with small settlements typically situated below 4,000 meters, while the snowline begins at approximately 4,800 meters. The closest villages are Chiquián, located at 3,400 meters, and Cajatambo, at 3,375 meters. Some mining activities occur in the vicinity, particularly to the north of the mountains, where an unpaved road ascends to heights as great as 4,750 meters.  In 2002, recognizing its ecological importance, the Peruvian Ministry of Agriculture designated the Huayhuash mountain range as a “reserved zone.” This protective measure prohibits certain economic activities, including any future mining endeavors, to safeguard this pristine natural environment.

Trekking in the Cordillera Huayhuash typically occurs during the dry winter months, from May to September.  Most of the trekking and camping experiences take place above the 4,000-meter tree line, offering a rugged and mountainous landscape with sweeping vistas over expansive areas. The region is celebrated for its breathtaking glacial lakes, adding to its natural allure. Additionally, there are hot springs, notably at the Viconga Campsite.  Throughout the region, you’ll encounter several stunning lakes, including Solteracoha (or Solterococha), Siula, Jahuacocha, Carhuacocha, and Sarapococha, each adding to the breathtaking natural beauty of the region.  While trekking, it’s common to encounter a diverse range of wildlife, including the giant conebill, the tit-like dacnis, the torrent duck, the elusive Andean mountain cat, the taruca (a type of deer), the majestic Andean condor, the peregrine falcon, and the impressive giant coot, among others.  Found in abundance are the domesticated llamas and alpacas, that are owned by the locals and are an integral part of their income source.

The Cordillera Huayhuash region is a sanctuary for high-elevation Andean grasslands interspersed with pockets of forest. Within this unique ecosystem, you’ll encounter native tree species like the Andean alder and various trees belonging to the Polylepis genus.  This rich biodiversity contributes to the region’s ecological significance and provides ample opportunities for nature enthusiasts and photographers to observe and capture these remarkable creatures in their natural habitat.

Tour Length
13 Days
12 Nights
Start / End City
Arrival: Lima, Peru
Departure: Lima, Peru
Best Season

May to September

Group Size Limit

10 Guests

Transportation

bus and van

Accommodations

Hotels, hostel and tent camping

Challenge Level

Level 4 – Challenging

Highlights

  • Lima, Peru, capital of Peru and port city and the center of gastronomic excellence in Peru
  • Meet and greet in Lima upon arrival and first-class bus service from Lima to Huaraz and back
  • The Center of the Andes Mountains – the world’s largest concentration and tallest tropical mountains with eternal snow and ice-covered summits
  • Very remote region of the Andes Mountains, south of Huaraz, with very few foreigners
  • Huaraz – the capital of Peruvian mountaineering, next to Huascaran National Park
  • Unique flora and fauna of the central Andes; condors, peregrine falcons, puma, Andean fox
  • Private vehicle and professional driver who knows the region intimately
  • Stunning and breathtaking landscapes of the formidable Cordillera Huayhuash
  • While trekking we use the best camp locations for easier access to iconic viewpoints
  • Transport of all personal and group gear and food via burros, llamas, horses, or porters
  • Certified bi-lingual guides with first-aid training

Prices

Our tour prices are based on a tiered pricing modelMore guests = lower price, per person.  That means the prices go down on a per-person basis as more people book onto a specific tour departure.  Prices are based on double occupancy / twin share basis.  All prices are in U$ Dollars.  

Contact us for guidance on a quote for your group or private trip.

Lowest Price7-10 travelers$2,985
Average Price4-6 travelers$ 3,775
Optimum Price2-3 travelers$ 4,665
Highest Price1 solo traveler$ 7,855
Single Supplement FeePer Person / Per Tour$ 935 / for a single room / single tent for the whole tour
  • Single Supplement Fees are quoted per tour.  Contact us for details.
  • Deposit: $ 700.00/per person (non-refundable administrative fee, included in the final price).
  • International airfare is NOT included in price.
  • For airline tickets, contact Geo Travel at 210-225-7903

Daily Itinerary

Tall desert mountains rise along the coast of the northern Atacama desert in Chile.

Day 1: Arrival in Lima, Peru - transfer IN to hotel

 

Upon arrival to Lima, Peru (sea level), you will pass immigration and customs and be met by our representative just outside the international arrival gate.  They will take care of your luggage and help you board your shuttle to your hotel.  Depending on your arrival time, you may go on a city tour or participate in a gastronomy tour of Lima to savor the fantastic Peruvian cuisine (neither are included, but can be arranged ahead of time). No meals are included this day, but you have great options in Lima!  Overnight at Hotel Antigua (4*) in the neighborhood of Miraflores.

Hotel: Antigua (3*)

Meals included: none

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Day 2: Lima to Huaraz

 

After breakfast, you will be picked-up at 8:00 AM for a private shuttle service to the bus station in Lima, which is approximately a 30-minute ride.  You board a comfy bus for the overland trip to Huaraz, departing at 9:30 AM and arriving at 6:30 PM.   We will provide a box lunch for your journey to Huaraz.  There is an onboard bathroom on the bus, as it rarely stops en-route.  Upon arrival in Huaraz (10,000’/3,050 m) you will check-in to Zarela’s Guest House and settle in. It’s very likely you will feel the altitude once you get to the highlands so we highly recommend drinking water to help your body acclimatize properly. Avoid alcohol for the first couple of days. We highly recommend drinking mate de coca (coca tea) which is an infusion of coca leaves (not to be confused with Cocoa, which is chocolate) as it works wonders for the effects of altitude. Rest and water are key as well as some mild activity and eating lightly so your body has time to adjust to the altitude.  Great dinner options in Huaraz (not included). Overnight at Zarela’s Guest House.

Hotel: Zarela’s Guest House (3*)

Meals included:  B

Chopicalqui

Day 3: Huaraz – gain altitude - overnight at Lazy Dog Inn

 

After breakfast we depart from our hotel in Huaraz and head a little higher in elevation to the Lazy Dog Inn (12,040 ‘/3,670 m). A great location with plenty of walks and hikes nearby and stunning views of the Andes!  At an appointed hour, we will have an orientation meeting to dial in all the details of the upcoming trip and answer any questions.  Lunch at Lazy Dog Inn.  The rest of the afternoon is free for you to relax and continue with your acclimatization.  Stay hydrated and rest when you feel tired.  You body is adjusting to the altitude, so help it along.  Dinner and overnight at Lazy Dog Inn.

Hotel: Lazy Dog Inn (3*)

Meals included: B, L, D

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Day 4: Lazy Dog Inn – Day hike to Laguna Churup or Llaca – Huaraz

 

As we continue to acclimatize, we head out to the Cordillera Blanca and hike up to Laguna Churup (challenging hike) or Laguna Llaca (mellow hike) – both at similar altitudes  (14,760′/4,500 m).  These alpine lakes offer spectacular and up-close views of glaciers, moraines and rugged Andean peaks. Churup is a more difficult hike, but ends at a stunning turquoise mountain lake tucked underneath its namesake’s glacier. Llaca is a less physically challenging hike in a rock-walled valley with a clear mountain stream running down the middle.  Once at the lake you can see it has been dammed to control aluviones (mud/rock slides) risks.  Picnic lunch.  At an appointed time we return to Huaraz and to Zarela’s Guest House to prep for the upcoming trek that begins tomorrow.  If you need anything you may have left behind, today is the day to see if we can get it in Huaraz.  It is very important to drink plenty of water and rest as necessary in order to give your body the time required to acclimatize, as well as to see how you are handling the local flora and fauna in your system. Dinner on your own as there are plenty of great options in Huaraz. Overnight at Zarela’s Guest House.

Hotel: Zarela’s Guest House (3*)

Meals included: B, L

Views of Peru's Cordillera Blanca from the Portachuelo Pass near

Day 5: Huaraz to Llanganuco Lakes & Portachuelo Pass - Huaraz

 

Our final day of gradual acclimatization before the Huayhuash Range tomorrow.  We head north from Huaraz to Llanganuco Lakes (12,630’/3,850 m) and Portachuelo Pass (15,640’/4,767 m.).  This is mostly a vehicle-based day, but we will have time for some walks, especially high up on the pass to see how you’re doing.  You will have incredible views of various spectacular mountains; Huascaran, Chopicalqui, Huandoy, Pisco,  Chacraraju and others.  Way at the bottom of the Llanganuco valley are the two lakes we passed by earlier on our way to Portachuelo Pass.

From Huaraz it’s approximately a 2 ½ hour drive to the lakes then another hour to the top of the pass.  We will have a picnic lunch with jaw-dropping views today!  We have a nice option to hike the Maria Josefa trail o the way down which takes about an hour to where we meet our vehicle.  We return to Huaraz for a nice shower before dinner.  Overnight in Huaraz.

Hotel: Zarela’s Guest House (3*)

Meals included: B, L

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Day 6: Huaraz – drive to Cord. Huayhuash & town of Queropalca

 

We leave early in the AM for the day-long drive (approx. 8 hours) to the northern end of the Cordillera Huayhuash.  We head south from Huaraz, then east across the southern end of the Cordillera Blanca, crossing a couple of high passes of 14,000’/4,268 m & 15,350’/4,680 m respectively, then dropping into the lower slopes below the Cordillera Huayhuash. We will see the jagged glacier-covered summits of Rondoy (19,255’/5,870 m) and Ninashanka (18,390’/5,607 m) at the northern end of the Cordillera Huayhuash and this will set the tone for the rest of the trip. These are spectacular and imposing peaks! We will have lunch at Huanuco Viejo ruins and stretch our legs a bit before continuing onto the town of Queropalca (12,464’/3,800 m), a typical Andean village where we will spend the night in a rustic mountain village.

Tent Camping

Meals Included: B,L,D

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Day 7: Queropalca – Laguna Carhuacocha

 

This is our first day of the trek and it’s a slow and gradual climb that is about 5 hours at a calm pace from the village of Queropalca to Laguna Carhuacocha which is located at the foot of a massive cirque of peaks – some of the most impressive on the trek. The mirror reflections on the lake are truly spectacular!  This is the first of many up-close and personal interactions with the rock spires of the Huayhuash range. Many of the biggest peaks rise from 17,860’/5446 m to over 21,700’/6634 m and create a massive wall of impenetrable rock and ice cut by obvious avalanche paths, waterfalls and extensive moraine and talus fields. Below this spectacle of white summits and multi-colored rock lies the mint-green frigid waters of Laguna Carhuacocha surrounded on three sides by the yellow puna grass that covers the rolling hills that creates a spectacle that is crying out to be photographed.  You will have plenty of time to make stunning images at sunset and sunrise here – dress warmly!  There are families that live in the valley and we will hopefully meet them to share stories and make new friends.  The opportunities to make compelling images of the locals that live here year-round are everywhere as they tend to their high-altitude crops and animals like alpacas and sheep – all hardy enough to endure this weather and altitude . This is one of the most stunning places on the trek so make sure to take advantage of your time while here. We will set up camp at (13,715’/4,180 m) and settle in before heading out for the sunset light. Dinner and overnight camping.

tent Camping

Meals included: B,L,D

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Day 8: Laguna Carhuacocha - 3 Lagos - Huayhuash Camp

 

The sun lights up the summits of these peaks so an early riser will get the most out of it. Breakfast will be available early enough but if you want to get up before dawn to get the shots, we will have hot drinks for you before the main meals are prepared. As the sun rises, the peaks get more illuminated and the photo ops keep coming so there are plenty of nearby vantage points where different perspectives will provide a varied palette of colors, shapes and scenes to fill your frame with. We will break down camp early today and have a very short trek to the 3 Lakes – Qanrajancacocha, Siulacocha and Quesillococha  – a couple of hours up the valley. The complete trek today to Huayhuash camp can be from 5 to 8 hours, depending on your pace and whether you choose the steep and beautiful route next to the 3 lakes or the one the donkeys have to use because they can travel easier and is similar in time and distance.   I would highly recommend you choose the 3 lakes trail…it’s absolutely stunning!  Yes, it will be steep and you will be working for your views….but they are worth it!  Lunch en route.  We continue down the trail and drop elevation quickly.  Arrival at camp is in the late afternoon with plenty of time before sunset.  Our elevation for camp tonight is 14,200’/4,330 m.  Dinner and overnight camping.

Tent Camping

Meals included: B,L,D

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Day 9: Huayhuash - Trapecio Pass - Guanacpatay (Elefante)

 

The early risers should take advantage of sunrise before breakfast. Today will be a longer day than yesterday.  We will work our way up the trail to Trapecio Pass (16,500’/5,040 m)…one of the highest in the region for trekkers.  We will get real close to the Trapecio glacier before we drop down a ways to Elefante (elephant) camp.  En-route we will pass by a few high alpine lakes on this rarely traveled route, which makes it even more special as the chances of running into some other group of trekkers is pretty slim.  Our day will be about 6-8 hours of actual trekking time, depending on how you are feeling and how the altitude is affecting you. But, by the time we are on this part of the trek you should be very well acclimatized.  We recommend you take your time and enjoy the raw beauty surrounding you, that’s what we are all here for.  A few hours later we should be at our camp at 14,600’/4,450 m.  Dinner and overnight camping.

Tent Camping

Meals included: B,L,D

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Day 10: Guanacpatay - Viconga Pass - Viconga Hot Springs

 

After breakfast we begin the slow climb over Cuyoc Pass at 16,405’/5,000 m, the highest pass in the Huayhuash trail system and literally just a stones’ throw from the Puscanturpa Sur glacier.  After some stellar views of the rugged peaks surrounding us, we drop down into the valley below.  Soon we’ll see the glaciers and summits of the Cordillera Raura in the distance to the southeast, a rarely visited range that offers skiing, climbing and solitude. There are a lot of alpacas in the region as the people raise them for wool, meat and transport. A large man-made lake will be on our left (Lago Viconga 14,455’/4,407 m) as we continue up a small pass, next to a small hamlet, then into another valley where the lake drains into Rio Pumarinri which we will follow until we reach our campsite for the day. The river takes us via a circuitous route among typical puna meadows where there is good fishing here for native trout. This is our camp for the night, Viconga Hot Springs (14,320’/4,365m), where you will soak your muscles in a large man-made pool that is nice and hot and comfy to sit in with new water constantly flowing in. There is cold beer and sodas available for those that want to indulge and an area where you can wash some clothes in natural hot-water that flows right out of the ground. You can soak as long as you want and can make photos right from the pool if you feel like it! Dinner and overnight camping.

*You can soak early in the morning too..if you like!

Tent Camping

Meals included: B,L,D

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Day 11: Viconga to Cajatambo - drive to Huaraz

 

If you want the ultimate wake-up….go soak in the hot springs before breakfast!  It will be chilly!  We depart early and head down to finish our spectacular trek in the small mountain village of Cajatambo (13,450’/4,100 m), in about 4 hours.  Here we meet our vehicle, load up our gear and tuck ourselves into a nice seat for the ride back to Huaraz.   This is a long travel day and we will be on the road for a little over 6 hours.  Keep in mind we began our trek in the northern terminus of the Huayhuash and finished in the southern end.  Huaraz is to the north so that’s our destination for the day.  Upon arrival in Huaraz, we will check in, a quick refresh then have dinner.  We will have time to celebrate an amazing journey in a stunning mountain range with drinks and awesome food!  Overnight in Huaraz.

Hotel: Zarela’s Guest House (3*)

Meals included: B,L,D

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Day 12: Huaraz - Andes Pachamanca Feast - Huaraz to Lima

 

Today is an easy day.  We have a few options to choose from; go to the Cordillera Blanca to meet a family, possibly a local school and volunteer for a bit or go for a walk or hike.  Add-ons (not included) are: light mountaineering or mountain biking.  All these extra activities are “add-ons” and not part of the package, but are a small out-of-pocket expense.  We can decide what we want to do while on the trek, then upon arrival in Huaraz we will make a decision.  For those “chillaxing”…not heading out too far, we will have a traditional meal today.  It’s called a “pachamanca” and is cooked with hot stones from a fire and buried underground for a few hours.  The food comes out melting in your mouth!  This is classic Andean food that is delicious and nutricios.  In the afternoon, you have time top re-pack, have nice shower, catch up with friends and family or just chill.  We will have an early dinner (not included) so you have time to digest before heading back to Lima.  The  late-night bus departs Huaraz around 10 PM for the overnight trip to Lima.  The ride is about 7-8 hours long but since these are sleeper buses and the seats recline 180 degrees (fully reclining), you basically have a bed for the night.  While the driver navigates the windy roads from Huaraz to Lima you can sleep in comfort and arrive in Lima fairly well rested.  There are bathrooms in the bus.  You will arrive around 6 AM in Lima the next day..  The bus will arrive at the bus station.  From those catching flights soon, a shuttle to the airport will be waiting and others can get transferred to a hotel in Lima if you are staying longer  You have lots of options in Lima; culinary tours, world class museums, historical tours, surfing, etc.

Hotel: sleeper bus to Lima

Meals: B, L

Mt. Ocshapalca (5,888m) in the Cordillera Blanca of the central

Day 13: Arrival in Lima (early AM) - flight home / Hotel in Lima

 

Upon arrival in Lima you will be dropped-off at a hotel of your choice (previous reservations are required). If you have an international flight out of Lima today, you will get a shuttle to the airport.  Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner are not included today as you arrive very early to Lima and are dropped off at a hotel or at the airport.

We will be happy to make hotel reservations for you if you plan to spend the night and fly out the next morning.  Your hotel can arrange a proper shuttle service to the airport the next day for you and is the best way to go.

End of our services.

Included

  • airport Transfers IN and OUT of your arrival city (Lima, Peru)
  • bus transfer from Lima to Huaraz and back to Lima (round trip)
  • private vehicle and driver
  • bi-lingual photographer guide
  • all hotel / hostel / estancia accommodations for all nights (based on double occupancy)
  • all tent camping equipment when trekking (tent, pad, sleeping bag)
  • all daily meals as denoted on the itinerary as ‘B, L, D’ (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
  • all entry fees and permits to protected areas, national parks and museums
  • bottled water
  • snacks during the whole trip
  • more than 25 years of tourism experience

Not Included

  • international airfare to destination country
  • domestic airfare from Lima to Huaraz (will quote current round-trip price – IF available!)
  • visa requirement and fees
  • personal expenses of any kind (liquor, laundry, personal purchases, etc.)
  • telephone, email, mobile phone, Wi-Fi services
  • emergency evacuation expenses
  • personal travel or health insurance, doctor visits
  • personal equipment and clothing

 

We, of course, would do whatever is necessary in case of medical emergency and evacuate to the closest hospital or clinic to make sure you receive medical care.