As a volunteer with Seeds of Hope, most of your weekends will be free, in the hopes that you will explore the surrounding areas and delve into authentic Peruvian culture. Many travelers know Huaráz to be the nature capital of Perú; they are not wrong! Huaráz is a great home base for many day treks, and is a convenient starting point for many multi-day treks. However, Huaráz offers many opportunities for cultural immersion, as well.
Many of the previous volunteers at Seeds of Hope have frequented all (or most) of these beautiful locations: Lagunas de Llanganuco, Laguna 69 (and Laguna 68), Laguna Churup, Laguna Shallap, Glacier Pastoruri, and Laguna Parón. These glacial lakes can all be reached in a day’s trek, and the scenery is absolutely gorgeous!
The Lagunas de Llanganuco are two gorgeous mountain lakes that sit near the base of Mount Huascarán, and can be visited year-round (note that the lake changes colors based on the time of year and the sun’s positioning); you can also visit these lakes as a stop before hiking to the famed Laguna 69. Laguna 69 is the most popular day-trek in the Andes mountains, due to its almost unbelievable turquoise color and spectacular backdrop; you will also pass by Laguna 68 during your trek to Laguna 69.
The trek to Laguna Churup is slightly technical (as you must climb several steep rock faces and cross a river in order to reach the laguna), but it is well-worth the effort expended! Laguna Parón is easier (it is considered a great accommodation hike) and many believe it to be the most beautiful lake in the Cordillera Blanca, as it is surrounded by glaciers on three sides. The walk to Glacier Pastoruri (the largest tropical glacier and an international symbol of climate change) can be accomplished in thirty minutes. Lastly, while it is possible to reach Laguna Shallap in a day-trek, many volunteers opt to bring sleeping bags and sleep at the campsite, then return to Huaráz the following day.
|Santa Cruz trek|
Sometimes, volunteers have free time either before or after their placement. During that time, several previous volunteers have decided to complete a multi-day trek. Some of the most popular multi-day treks include Huayhuash circuit, Santa Cruz trek, Ishinca trek, Quilcayhuanca trek, and the Cayesh trek. The first two hikes are the most well-known; depending on your fitness level, the Huayhuash circuit can take between seven to twelve days, while the Santa Cruz trek can be accomplished in two to four days. For most participants, we recommend that you hire a guide for the trek; however, if you have wilderness experience, it is possible to complete the hike without a guide, as the trails are well-marked (during the dry season). For more information about a volunteer’s experience with the self-supported Huayhuash trek, read this: https://travelngsouthamerica.wordpress.com/2018/02/15/huayhuash-circuit
Lastly, as Huaráz is surrounded by the Cordillera Blanca, there are many nevados to climb! Some of the most popular peaks to conquer are Pisco, Urus, Alpamayo, and Huascarán. If you elect to climb a mountain during your free time, it is imperative that you hire a guide, as the snow/ice conditions can – and do – change frequently.
If outdoors-y stuff really isn’t your thing, there is still plenty to do in Huaráz! For instance, there are many outdoor markets (such as the mercado central), with vendors selling anything that you could ever imagine. Some vendors offer live guinea pigs, while others try to convince you that you need to purchase their cow intestines. Others are selling peeled garlic, while others hawk clothing with misspelled English words.
|Produce stand at Mercado Central|
Right outside of Huaráz, you can visit the Templo de Wilkawain, and soak in natural hot springs at the baños termales de Monterrey. You could also take a day trip to view the strange-looking puya raymondi plant. Additionally, there is a cool pottery market in nearby Taricá, and the pre-Incan ruins at Chavín de Huantar are only a day trip away. Or you could just hop on a random combi, and explore the pueblito where you end up!
|Chavín de Huantar - cabeza clava|
|Dirt roads outside of Huaráz|