A top choice for travelers arriving in Lima is to set out for Peru's outstanding mountain hiking and outdoor activities center, Huaraz. The trekking trails here have photogenic scenery that can eclipse much of what the Sacred Valley can offer. On a journey like this, be prepared for the stark altitude change between Lima, at sea level, and Huaraz, which is over 10,100 feet (3080m) above sea level.
The variety and consistency of departures and the reasonable prices mean taking a bus is probably the most popular means of approach. The most convenient option would be to catch a flight from Lima to Huaraz: the snag with this is that airlines serving the route are notoriously fickle and departures are thin on the ground. Taking a private transfer is a less-common option but gives you more flexibility to enjoy the stunning scenery en route.
See this 5-day itinerary starting in Lima and taking in the best of Huaraz and its surrounding mountains.
Duration: 8 hours
Traveling from Lima to Huaraz by bus has long been the most popular option, even when flights are operational (see below for more information on flights from Lima to Huaraz). By Peruvian standards, this is not a particularly long bus journey and is made easier by the fact that there are luxury buses with reclining seats. There are a variety of operators, and frequent departures.
Buses almost all run north up the coast via Barranca on Hwy 1N then run inland to Huaraz on Hwy 3N. The journey is, however, often made overnight. Cruz del Sur is the operator with the best reputation for comfort, and a fully reclining VIP seat on one of these buses is more comfortable than a lot of planes. Movil Tours also has frequent departures.
In Lima there is no "main" bus terminal: you will need to go to the relevant terminal for the bus operator you are using.
By Plane and Private Transfer
Duration: 1.75 hours
As with most major tourist destinations in Peru, Huaraz has an airport with connections to Lima. The airport at Huaraz is 14 miles (23k m) out of the city itself, so you'll need to take a private transfer from the Huaraz airport (Comandante FAP Germán Arias Graziani Airport, which is at Anta), to Huaraz itself.
The main problem with this option is the airlines serving the route. LC Peru formerly offered the only service but is no longer operational; Star Peru (at the time of writing) was due to begin a service running several times weekly to Huaraz in August 2019.
When you arrive at the airport in Anta, it is a one hour journey by taxi or private transfer to Huaraz.
By Private Transfer
Duration: 7 hours (via Barranca), 16 hours (via Huánuco)
While this option gives you great flexibility as to where you stop en route, the regularity and competitive prices of bus travel keep this means of transport less commonly used. The great advantage of this option is that you can plan to see the best of what the landscapes offer along the way.
The most direct route heads north up the coast via Barranca, an interesting coastal city near ruins of two important early civilizations, on Hwy 1N. It then runs inland to Huaraz on Hwy 3N. Between Barranca and Huaraz the scenery becomes fantastic as the road ascends into the mountains.
A longer route, and one certainly requiring an overnight stop, is to run via the interesting Central Andean route via Cerro de Pasco, Huánuco and La Unión. It's much longer (16 hours rather than seven), but it is also full of fascinating stops that offer insights into local culture (there are important ancient ruins at Huánuco and La Unión, and beautiful rock formations near Cerro de Pasco).