Highlights from a mountain town
Huaraz is a delightful, bustling, touristy spot to chill out while you adjust to the altitude and to base yourself between hikes in the Huascaran National Park. We have been here over a week and love the brisk mountain air and coming home to our snuggly clean guesthouse (read my review here)! It’s currently the beginning of March so not the ideal time of year for trekking, we have been smashed with heavy rain and the storms tend to roll in between 2pm and 4pm each day. With this in mind we decided not to commit to any camping or 4 day treks, one of our amigo’s has also been hit bad with the altitude sickness so we have spent a fair bit of time enjoying Huaraz.
Tips and things to do:
- iPeru. Do this first. The information centre is just off the main square, behind the tourism police station. They speak English well and have loads of maps and advice on where to catch the collectivos from and which tours can be done without guides. This little visit saved us loads of money.
- Wander around the main streets and compare prices on the tours. We have taken 2 tours and we now understand that during the low season the tour companies all seem to sell tickets onto the same rented buses. So do compare prices and book the lowest one. Check out my other blogs Lake Churup, Patasoruri Glacier and Laguna 69 for the full experience and prices we paid.
- Check out the local market. We were really lucky at our accomodation (see my review here) and had an amazing clean kitchen to cook in, so we were down at the markets every second day! As a meat-eater teetering on the brink of vegetarianism this market was almost all I needed to push me over the edge.. If the BBQ chicken wasn’t so good. The dead heads of sheep, cows and pigs are displayed proudly and just outside they have live chickens, ducks and guinea pigs crying inside string bags. I started referring to the place as the market of death! Luckily for animal lovers, there is a back entrance up a ramp and straight into the 2nd floor vege section.
- Walk up the oldest street. Jose Olaya is the oldest street in Huaraz and the only one to survive the earthquake in 1970. It’s very charming and has a great food market all the way along on Sundays. When we heard about it we weren’t all that excited, but it far surpassed our expectations. The stalls are housed under makeshift gazebos with tables and chairs, and each one has it’s own selection of local dishes. I had the “caldo de gallina” or hen soup, and Steve had a portion of the pork ribs – straight off the BBQ. It was hearty and definitely tasted traditional!
- Eat Pachamanca. This seems to be everywhere on Sundays. It’s a traditional lunch cooked in an earthen pit with hot rocks. Red, white and yellow potatoes are topped with chicken and meat, then cooked wrapped up in large leaves on ashes and coals under the ground.
- Take a colectivo to a nearby town. We heard there was a great Sunday market on in the neighbouring town of Carhuaz which can be easily reached by flagging down a collectivo near the river. We had heard the Sunday markets were the place to buy local crafts but unfortunately they mainly consisted of cheap plastic wares made in China. There were a few spots with local women selling the beautiful local clothing, which I really like! Carhuaz does have a lovely square which is overlooked by a lovely old church, this is worth checking out. There is also a great helado (icecream) shop selling all sorts of flavours including cervesa (beer) and atun (tuna)… I stuck with maracuya and fresa (passionfruit and strawberry) which was only 2.50 soles and bloody yummy! In the other direction there is also a small town called Recuay which also escaped the earthquake, we only drove through on our way back from the glacier but it looked very pretty.
- Walk up one of the hills to get a view of the city. We walked up the hill near the fish farm and had a beautiful view out over Huaraz. It was a good thing to do while we were acclimatising and boy it takes a bit of puff when you first arrive.
- Check out the artisan markets. These are scattered all over the town but the ones I like best are next to the church on the main square. Don’t forget to haggle and don’t be afraid to walk away.
- Visit the local museum. It’s small but there are a few interesting bits and bobs here. There are some treasures discovered at the ruins near Wilchuain including pottery and four interesting skulls with varying evidence of past brain surgery’s. There is also a mummy and a beautifully tranquil statue garden out the back.
- Chat to the locals. Jump out of your comfort zone and chat to the locals, even if it’s just to say hola! You’ll be amazed at some of wonderful feelings that happen when chatting to a couple of hilarious women in a colectivo!