The highest tropical mountain range in the world, the Cordillera Blanca is part of the spectacular Andes that form the spine of South America. A mecca for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts, the region boasts over 50 peaks that exceed 15,000 feet, 700 glaciers and 300 lakes.

Overview

Adrenaline junkies and seasoned hikers will find challenging multi-day trekking routes with access to some of the most spectacular and remote mountain scenery. Moderate multi-day and day hikes afford less exerting opportunities to swim in glacial lakes and admire the snowy peaks of this impressive mountain range, considered by many as second only to Annapurna in the Himalaya.

Base yourself in one of the best mountain lodges in the Cordillera Blanca to explore the nearby top attractions and day hikes, or just put your feet up and enjoy the mountain air without leaving the comforts of your lodge. At least a couple of day’s acclimatization is recommended before taking on a more challenging height at altitude.

What to see & do

There is so much to do in the region that your itinerary will completely depend on your interests and fitness levels. Here are some of the highlights that we recommend that can be built into a bespoke trip to the Cordillera Blanca.

Day trips

Many of the region’s highlights are easily accessible as day trips from best lodges in the area. From these comfortable bases, here are some suggested day-trips, returning to the creature comforts of your mountain lodge each night.

Laguna 69

Laguna 69
The turquoise waters of Laguna 69  (© Danielle de Bruin)

One of the more popular day trips in the region is the hike to Laguna 69, the jewel in the Cordillera crown. The stunning turquoise lake is fed by the impressive glaciers above, via a stunning waterfall, creating a postcard perfect backdrop. Easily achievable as a day-trip, a visit to Laguna 69 can also be included in a one day, two-day or multi-day hiking trip. The final climb to the Laguna is relatively challenging for non-regular hikers, with a short steep incline, compounded by the effects of the altitude. If you’re a regular hiker, and have fully acclimatised, it should be relatively easy.

Llanganuco Lake

Located en route to the day trek start point for Laguna 69, this is an easy-to-access lake that attracts day trippers and non-hikers. Small row boats can be rented to take you out on the lake.

Chavin de Huantar

For the non-hikers, or hikers taking a day off to soak up some culture, the impressive archaeological complex Chavin de Hantar is a must. The archaeological site, a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, contains ruins and artifacts from the Chavin, a pre-Inca civilisation. The complex includes temples, plazas and underground corridors with visitors can explore.

Pastoruri Glacier

Pastoruri Glacier
Hike or go by horseback to Pastoruri Glacier (© Caroline Major)

One of the last glaciers in the tropical zone of South America, Pastoruri is fast retreating, having lost 22% of its size over the last 30 years. It’s easily accessible via a scenic drive up into the mountains, followed by a short but steep 45 minute hike. Even with a short stretch the altitude can take its toll, and there are horses for rent for anyone wanting a ride to the top.

Icefalls of Huandoy

In the Rajururi valley, you’ll find the incredible glacier at the base of Huandoy. The trail takes you through valleys with agricultural fields, the Kueshu ruins and a beautiful turquoise lake. Due to its lower altitude, it’s a good warm up hike before taking on higher adventures.

Churup Lake

A hard hike - more challenging than Laguna 69 - this turquoise lake is east of Huaraz city. For serious trekkers, it makes for a good option to help acclimatize before something even tougher.

Mountain biking

Outdoor pursuits are in no means limited to hiking. Another exhilarating way to enjoy the mountains is on a bike. There are many exciting single track routes through the mountains which combine the stunning scenery with adrenaline pumping descents. Options range from day trips to longer multi day excursions with camping, mule train and a support team.

Multi-day treks & expeditions

There are some spectacular sites that can only be accessed via multiday treks. With a good operator you’ll be accompanied by a knowledgeable local guide, horses or mules to carry your belongings, a team of porters to set up camp each night and a chef to ensure you have an inviting meal waiting for you at the end of each day building up an appetite. There are many routes to choose from, whether you want a short two day trek, or an epic 12 day odyssey.

Cordillera Blanca
Cordillera Blanca
Cordillera Blanca
Cordillera Blanca

Santa Cruz Multi-Day Camping Trek

The Santa Cruz route is considered by many to be one of the best hiking routes in the world. With a maximum altitude of 15,583 feet, this moderate circuit is usually done in 4 days/3 nights, or a quicker 3 days/2 nights, and takes in views of almost all the major peaks in the region. You’ll get up close to the majestic snow-capped peaks as you pass through the Punta Union Pass which will get your heart racing (and I don’t mean the views!) and enjoy ultramarine lakes surrounded by granite walls and wispy waterfalls.  As you meander through the valleys take in the beautiful Andean vegetation and fauna along the way.

Mt Pisco Trek

Mt Pisco is an impressive peak in the Cordillera Blanca mountain range. This three day, two night trek is attainable for fit climbers and is also a good acclimatisation trek for those going on to tackler higher altitudes. Known for its spectacular views of the surrounding peaks, including the highest peak in Peru and the tropics – Huascaran which stands tall and proud at an impressive 22,200 feet. The ascent is moderate, and you’ll enjoy views of bright blue glacier lakes and a 365 degree view of the mountains.

Where to stay

For many people the regional hub city of Huaraz, with its nearby airport, serves as a base to explore the Cordillera Blanca. However, the best accommodation options are all outside of the urban city, where mountain lodges will enable you to wake up to fresh mountain air, ready to hit the trails each day. These are perfectly located in the footfills of the mountains, at a lower altitude than the peaks, and therefore good for acclimatising. For the more adventurous taking on multi-day treks, these lodges are great for your post-trek relaxation.

Llanganuco Lodge

At an altitude of 3,503 metres (12,500 feet) above sea level, this owner-operated lodge is situated on the slopes of the Cordillera Blanca, the highest tropical mountain range in the world and one of the most spectacular mountain locations in all of Peru. Nestled within the foothills of Huascaran, the lodge is about as close to Peru’s highest mountain (6,858 metres/22,500 feet) as you can stay and is half an hour’s walk from the boundary of the Huascaran National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Cuesta Serena

Cuesta Serena
Beautiful mountain views from the rooms at Cuesta Serena

Located on mountain slopes twenty minutes’ drive from Huaraz, this small boutique hotel with seven colourful suites is set in beautiful rose gardens with stunning views of the nearby mountains. With a swimming pool, inviting hammocks and private yoga classes, it’s the perfect spot to relax and enjoy the mountain air.

Lazy Dog Inn

Located 8 kilometres east of Huaraz (approximately twenty minutes’ drive), The Lazy Dog Inn is an environmentally friendly Bed and Breakfast at a staggering 3,650 metres (12,000 feet). This beautiful mountain lodge is situated in the Cordillera Blanca mountain range at the base of the Quebrada Llaca, of which the property provides an unparalleled view.

When to go

During the dry season from May to October is the best time to enjoy the Cordillera Blanca. The rainy season can bring heavy downpours.

Getting there & away

From Lima there is a daily morning flight operated by LC Peru that takes just over an hour. The airport is located in Anta, 14 miles from Huaraz, and easily accessible from the hotels we recommend via a private transfer. 

Map

Map of Highlights of the Cordillera Blanca
Map of Highlights of the Cordillera Blanca