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Ancash Travel Guide
Everything you need to know about traveling to Ancash, Peru.
The Ancash region of Peru offers a captivating blend of breathtaking landscapes, rich history, and vibrant culture. Nestled between the Pacific Ocean and the towering peaks of the Cordillera Blanca mountain range, this area is a haven for adventure enthusiasts and history buffs alike. Travelers can explore the ancient ruins of Chavín de Huántar, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, hike through the stunning Huascarán National Park, or take in the beautiful vistas from the vibrant city of Huaraz. With its diverse array of activities and scenery, the Ancash region provides an unforgettable experience for visitors eager to immerse themselves in the unique beauty of Peru.
It boasts a multitude of natural wonders, archaeological sites, and cultural experiences that cater to a wide range of interests. Outdoor adventurers can take on the challenging yet rewarding treks in the Cordillera Blanca, while history aficionados can delve into the mysteries of ancient civilizations at Chavín de Huántar. The region is also home to traditional Andean villages, where visitors can experience the warmth of local hospitality and gain insights into their way of life. Overall, the Ancash region of Peru offers a unique and enriching experience that leaves a lasting impression on those who venture to explore its many treasures.
🗺️ Ancash Peru Map
✨ Ancash Travel Tips
- Acclimatize to the altitude: The Ancash region, especially Huaraz, is at a high altitude, so it’s essential to give yourself time to adjust. Spend the first couple of days acclimating to the altitude by taking it easy and staying hydrated.
- Learn some basic Spanish: While many people in the region speak Quechua, Spanish is the most widely spoken language. Learning a few essential phrases will help you communicate with locals and make your trip more enjoyable.
- Sample local cuisine: Don’t miss out on the region’s delicious culinary offerings, such as cuy (guinea pig), caldo de gallina (chicken soup), and pachamanca (a traditional dish cooked in an underground oven).
- Visit traditional markets: Experience the vibrant local culture by visiting markets like the Mercado Central in Huaraz, where you can find fresh produce, traditional crafts, and souvenirs.
- Hire a reputable guide: For treks and excursions, especially in the Cordillera Blanca, hiring a knowledgeable and experienced guide is highly recommended. They can help ensure your safety and enhance your understanding of the region’s natural and cultural attractions.
- Respect local customs: When visiting traditional Andean communities, be respectful of their customs and beliefs. Ask permission before taking photos, and dress modestly.
- Pack layers and rain gear: Weather in the Ancash region can be unpredictable, with sudden rain showers and chilly temperatures, especially at higher altitudes. Pack layers, including a waterproof jacket and warm clothing, to stay comfortable.
- Visit lesser-known archaeological sites: While Chavín de Huántar is a must-see, consider exploring lesser-known sites like the ruins of Sechín or the stone forest of Hatun Machay for a unique experience.
- Support local artisans: The Ancash region is home to skilled artisans who produce beautiful textiles, pottery, and other crafts. Purchasing their handmade products not only makes for great souvenirs but also supports the local economy.
- Be prepared for transportation delays: Roads in the Ancash region can be affected by landslides or weather conditions, so allow extra time for travel and be prepared for potential delays. It’s also a good idea to carry some snacks and water with you during long journeys.
🚦 Getting around Ancash
There are several ways to get around the Ancash region of Peru, each with its own advantages and limitations. Here is a list of transportation options available to explore the area:
- Bus: Buses are the most common and affordable means of transportation in the Ancash region. There are several companies that operate long-distance buses between Lima and Huaraz, as well as local buses that connect Huaraz to nearby towns and villages. The bus network is extensive, but it can be slow due to the winding mountain roads and frequent stops.
- Colectivos/shared taxis: Colectivos are shared taxis or minivans that follow fixed routes, providing a faster and slightly more expensive alternative to buses. They are a popular choice for short to medium-distance travel within the region, as they often depart more frequently and offer a quicker journey time.
- Private taxis: For a more comfortable and convenient mode of transportation, private taxis can be hired for short trips or full-day excursions. Negotiating the fare in advance is advisable, and keep in mind that prices will be higher than buses or colectivos.
- Car rental: Renting a car provides the most flexibility and freedom to explore the Ancash region at your own pace. However, be prepared for challenging driving conditions, including winding mountain roads and variable weather. Make sure you have a reliable map or GPS and are familiar with local driving laws and customs.
- Motorcycle rental: For the more adventurous traveler, renting a motorcycle or scooter can be an exhilarating way to explore the region. It offers greater mobility and access to remote areas, but requires experience with handling mountainous terrain and awareness of potential hazards, such as landslides and poor road conditions.
- Trekking/hiking: The Ancash region is renowned for its incredible trekking opportunities, especially in the Cordillera Blanca. Many travelers choose to explore the region on foot, either independently or as part of a guided group, to fully immerse themselves in the stunning landscapes.
- Horse riding: Some local tour operators offer horseback riding excursions in the region, which can be a unique and enjoyable way to explore the countryside and visit remote villages.
- Bicycles: Renting a bicycle in Huaraz or other towns can be a fun way to explore the local area at a leisurely pace. Remember that the region’s terrain can be challenging, so ensure you are comfortable cycling in mountainous areas before embarking on any long rides.
Remember that the availability and reliability of each transportation option may vary depending on the specific location within the Ancash region. It’s always a good idea to consult local advice, such as your accommodation or tour operators, to determine the best way to get around during your visit.
📍 Places to visit in Ancash
- Huascarán National Park: A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this park is home to the highest peak in Peru, Huascarán (6,768 meters), as well as stunning glaciers, alpine lakes, and diverse wildlife. It is a haven for hikers, trekkers, and nature lovers.
- Laguna 69: Located in Huascarán National Park, this breathtaking turquoise lake is surrounded by snow-capped peaks and offers a popular day hike for visitors.
- Chavín de Huántar: A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Chavín de Huántar is an ancient archaeological complex dating back to 1200 BC. Visitors can explore the site’s intricate stone carvings, underground chambers, and on-site museum.
- Santa Cruz Trek: One of the most popular treks in the Cordillera Blanca, the Santa Cruz Trail takes hikers through picturesque valleys, past turquoise lakes, and under snow-capped peaks.
- Pastoruri Glacier: A popular day trip from Huaraz, the Pastoruri Glacier offers a short hike to the base of the glacier, where visitors can marvel at the striking ice formations and surrounding landscapes.
- Llanganuco Lakes: These two stunning glacial lakes, Chinancocha and Orconcocha, are nestled in the Cordillera Blanca and offer breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains, as well as opportunities for hiking, picnicking, and birdwatching.
- Hatun Machay Rock Forest: A unique climbing destination, Hatun Machay offers over 200 rock climbing routes amidst towering rock formations, making it an ideal spot for both beginners and experienced climbers.
- Sechín Archaeological Site: This lesser-known pre-Inca site features unique stone carvings dating back to 1600 BC, with an on-site museum offering insights into the history and culture of the ancient inhabitants.
- Cordillera Huayhuash: This remote and stunning mountain range offers some of the most challenging and rewarding multi-day treks in Peru, including the Huayhuash Circuit, which typically takes 8 to 14 days to complete.
- Caraz: A charming town in the Callejón de Huaylas valley, Caraz is known for its colonial architecture, vibrant markets, and traditional Andean culture.
- Puya Raimondii Forest: This unique forest, located in the Cordillera Blanca, is home to the rare and endangered Puya Raimondii plant, which can grow up to 10 meters tall and live for over 100 years.
- Recuay Archaeological Site: This ancient site features pre-Inca ruins, stone carvings, and tombs, offering a glimpse into the lives of the region’s early inhabitants.
- Cañón del Pato: This dramatic canyon features steep cliffs, a roaring river, and a series of narrow tunnels carved into the rock. It is a popular destination for adventure sports such as white-water rafting and mountain biking.
- Yungay: This town, located in the Callejón de Huaylas valley, is a poignant reminder of the devastating 1970 earthquake and subsequent landslide that buried the original town, claiming thousands of lives. The site, now known as “Campo Santo,” serves as a memorial to the victims.
- Monterrey Hot Springs: Situated just outside Huaraz, these hot springs offer mineral-rich thermal pools and stunning mountain views, providing a relaxing retreat after a day of adventure.
🏖️ Top things to do in Ancash
- Trek the Santa Cruz Trail: One of the most popular treks in the Cordillera Blanca, the Santa Cruz Trail takes you through breathtaking Andean landscapes, including turquoise lakes, snow-capped peaks, and picturesque valleys. The trek typically takes 3 to 4 days and is suitable for moderately experienced hikers.
- Visit Chavín de Huántar: This UNESCO World Heritage Site is an impressive archaeological complex dating back to 1200 BC. The ruins were once the ceremonial center of the Chavín culture and feature intricate stone carvings, underground chambers, and a fascinating museum displaying artifacts found at the site.
- Explore Huascarán National Park: Home to the highest peak in Peru, Huascarán (6,768 meters), this national park boasts spectacular scenery, including glaciers, alpine lakes, and diverse wildlife. Enjoy a day hike to Laguna 69, a stunning turquoise lake surrounded by snow-capped mountains, or tackle the challenging Huascarán summit.
- Discover the Pastoruri Glacier: Located in Huascarán National Park, the Pastoruri Glacier is a popular destination for a day trip from Huaraz. Visitors can take a short hike to the base of the glacier, marveling at the striking ice formations and surrounding landscapes.
- Visit the pre-Inca ruins of Sechín: This lesser-known archaeological site features unique stone carvings dating back to 1600 BC. The Sechín museum showcases a collection of artifacts and provides insights into the history and culture of the site’s ancient inhabitants.
- Experience traditional Andean life in Caraz: This charming town located in the Callejón de Huaylas valley is known for its colonial architecture, vibrant market, and warm hospitality. Take a stroll through the streets, sample local delicacies, and interact with the friendly locals.
- Rock climb in Hatun Machay: Often referred to as the “Stone Forest,” Hatun Machay offers a unique climbing experience with its towering rock formations and stunning views. With over 200 routes for climbers of all levels, it’s an ideal destination for both beginners and experienced climbers.
- Take a mountain biking adventure: The Ancash region has numerous mountain biking trails for varying skill levels, offering an exhilarating way to explore the beautiful landscapes. Popular routes include the Llanganuco to Yungay downhill ride and the challenging singletracks around Huaraz.
- Birdwatching in the Cordillera Blanca: Home to a diverse array of bird species, the Ancash region is a paradise for birdwatching enthusiasts. Keep an eye out for the Andean condor, the giant hummingbird, and the Andean hillstar as you explore the region’s diverse habitats.
- Relax in the Monterrey Hot Springs: Located just outside Huaraz, the Monterrey Hot Springs offer a relaxing retreat after a long day of adventure. Soak in the mineral-rich thermal pools and enjoy the stunning views of the surrounding mountains.
🍲 Food from Ancash: what to eat
- Pachamanca: This traditional Andean dish consists of meat (usually lamb, chicken, or pork), potatoes, corn, and fava beans, which are marinated with local herbs and cooked underground on hot stones. The slow cooking process imparts a unique smoky flavor to the dish.
- Cuy (guinea pig): A delicacy in the Ancash region and throughout the Andes, cuy is often served roasted or fried, accompanied by potatoes and a spicy sauce called aji. The meat is tender and flavorful, with a taste often compared to rabbit or dark chicken meat.
- Caldo de Gallina: This comforting chicken soup is made with a flavorful broth, shredded chicken, potatoes, and noodles. It is often served with a hard-boiled egg and garnished with fresh herbs like cilantro or parsley.
- Llunca Kashi: A hearty soup from the Ancash region, Llunca Kashi is made with wheat, cheese, milk, potatoes, and a variety of spices. It is typically served during special occasions and festivals.
- Ceviche de Chocho: A variation of the classic Peruvian ceviche, this dish features chocho (lupini beans) instead of fish. The beans are marinated in lime juice, aji pepper, and onions, and served with toasted corn and sweet potato.
- Humitas: These savory corn cakes are made from a mixture of fresh ground corn, cheese, eggs, and spices. They are wrapped in corn husks and steamed until cooked. Humitas can be enjoyed as a side dish or a snack.
- Chicharrón de Chancho: A popular dish throughout Peru, this crispy fried pork is typically served with boiled potatoes, mote (large kernel corn), and a zesty salsa criolla made from onions, tomatoes, and aji pepper.
- Locro de Gallina: This creamy chicken stew is made with a base of corn, potatoes, and aji amarillo (yellow chili pepper), and is often served with rice. The dish is characterized by its rich and savory flavor.
- Picante de Cuy: In this dish, guinea pig is cooked in a spicy sauce made from aji panca (red chili pepper), garlic, onions, and tomatoes. The dish is typically served with boiled potatoes and rice.
- Api con Helado: This unique dessert combines api, a warm purple corn drink flavored with cinnamon and cloves, with a scoop of ice cream. The contrasting temperatures and flavors make for an intriguing and delicious treat.
🛏️ Ancash Hotels & Accommodations
In the Ancash region of Peru, travelers can find a variety of accommodation types catering to different preferences and budgets. Here is a list of some common accommodation options available in the region:
- Hostels: Hostels are budget-friendly options for travelers, offering shared dormitory-style rooms or private rooms at lower prices. They often provide communal spaces like kitchens and lounges for guests to socialize. Prices for a bed in a shared dorm room can range from $5 to $15 per night, while private rooms may cost between $15 and $40 per night.
- Guesthouses: Guesthouses, also known as hospedajes, offer a more intimate and local experience. These family-run accommodations usually provide private rooms with basic amenities, sometimes including a private bathroom. Prices for guesthouses in the Ancash region typically range from $10 to $30 per night.
- Budget hotels: Budget hotels in the Ancash region offer a variety of rooms with private bathrooms and basic amenities like Wi-Fi, daily housekeeping, and sometimes breakfast. Prices for budget hotels can vary from $20 to $50 per night, depending on the location and facilities.
- Mid-range hotels: These hotels offer more comfortable rooms with additional amenities like air conditioning, cable TV, and sometimes a restaurant or bar on-site. Prices for mid-range hotels in the Ancash region can range from $50 to $100 per night.
- Luxury hotels and lodges: Luxury accommodations in the Ancash region provide a higher level of comfort, service, and amenities, such as swimming pools, spas, and fine dining options. Prices for luxury hotels and lodges can range from $100 to $300 or more per night.
- Ecolodges: Ecolodges are accommodations that focus on sustainable practices and offer guests an immersive experience in the natural environment of the region. Prices for ecolodges can vary widely, from $50 to $200 per night, depending on the level of comfort and services provided.
- Vacation home rentals: Renting a private home, apartment, or room through platforms like Airbnb can offer a more personalized and comfortable experience for travelers. Prices for vacation rentals in the Ancash region can range from $20 to $150 or more per night, depending on the size, location, and amenities.
- Camping and trekking lodges: For outdoor enthusiasts, camping is a popular option in the Ancash region, especially in Huascarán National Park and along popular trekking routes. Camping fees can vary depending on the location, but generally range from $5 to $15 per night. Some trekking routes also feature basic trekking lodges or refugios, where travelers can find simple accommodations, meals, and a warm place to rest. Prices for trekking lodges can range from $20 to $50 per night.
💵 Cost of travel to Ancash
Accommodation prices in Ancash
Accommodation prices in the Ancash region of Peru can vary greatly depending on the type of accommodation chosen. Budget travelers can find hostels or guesthouses with prices ranging from $5 to $30 per night. Mid-range hotels offer more amenities and can cost between $50 and $100 per night. Luxury hotels, lodges, and ecolodges provide higher levels of comfort and service, ranging from $100 to $300 per night. Camping and trekking lodges are also available for outdoor enthusiasts, with prices between $5 and $50 per night.
Food prices in Ancash
Food prices in the Ancash region can be quite affordable, particularly for those who choose to eat at local markets and smaller eateries. A typical meal at a local restaurant, known as a “menu del día,” can cost between $2 and $5, including a soup or appetizer, main course, and a drink. Mid-range restaurants offer a wider variety of dishes and can cost between $10 and $20 per person. High-end restaurants, particularly in Huaraz and other larger towns, can charge upwards of $25 to $50 per person for a meal. Street food and snacks can be found for less than $1 to $3.
Tour prices in Ancash
Tour prices in the Ancash region vary depending on the type of tour, duration, and level of service provided. Guided day tours, such as visits to archaeological sites or day hikes, can range from $20 to $50 per person. Multi-day trekking tours, like the Santa Cruz Trek, can cost between $150 and $400 per person, depending on the group size, the level of service, and the inclusion of equipment and meals. Prices for specialized adventure activities like mountain biking, rock climbing, or mountaineering can vary widely but typically start at around $50 per day for guided experiences.
Transportation costs in Ancash
Transportation costs in the Ancash region are generally affordable. Local buses, known as colectivos or combis, can cost less than $1 for short trips within cities and towns, while longer-distance bus rides can range from $2 to $10, depending on the distance and level of comfort. Taxis and mototaxis (motorcycle taxis) are also available for getting around urban areas and can cost between $1 and $5, depending on the distance. For those looking to rent a car, prices can start at around $40 per day, although keep in mind that driving in the region can be challenging due to mountainous terrain and variable road conditions.
🏧 ATMs, credit cards, and more!
ATMs in Ancash
ATM withdrawals are a convenient way to access cash in the Ancash region of Peru. Major cities and towns, such as Huaraz, typically have ATMs from various Peruvian banks like Banco de Crédito del Perú (BCP), Interbank, Scotiabank, and BBVA. These ATMs usually allow withdrawals in both Peruvian soles (PEN) and US dollars (USD). It’s advisable to use ATMs located inside bank branches or in well-lit, secure areas to minimize the risk of theft or card fraud. Keep in mind that there may be withdrawal fees and daily withdrawal limits associated with your home bank.
Using credit cards in Ancash
Credit cards are widely accepted in Ancash, particularly in larger towns, tourist areas, and more upscale establishments. Visa and Mastercard are the most commonly accepted credit cards, followed by American Express and Diners Club. However, smaller businesses, local markets, and rural areas may only accept cash, so it’s always a good idea to carry some local currency with you. Also, be sure to inform your bank of your travel plans to avoid any unexpected card freezes due to suspected fraudulent activity.
Currency exchange in Ancash
Currency exchange can be done at banks, exchange bureaus (casas de cambio), or hotels in major towns and cities in the Ancash region. However, banks and exchange bureaus usually offer more competitive rates than hotels. It’s generally recommended to exchange money in larger cities, like Lima, before heading to the Ancash region, as rates may be less favorable in smaller towns. When exchanging money, make sure to bring clean, unmarked bills, as damaged or marked notes may not be accepted. Keep in mind that US dollars are widely accepted in Peru, particularly in tourist areas, but it’s always useful to have local currency for smaller purchases and in more remote areas.
Tipping culture in Ancash
Tipping in the Ancash region of Peru is similar to that of the rest of the country. In restaurants, a tip of 10% of the total bill is standard for good service, although tipping is not obligatory. For guided tours and treks, it’s customary to tip guides and support staff (porters, cooks, etc.) according to the length and difficulty of the tour. A general guideline is to tip guides between $5 and $10 per day and support staff between $3 and $5 per day, although this can vary depending on the group size and individual preferences. Tipping is not expected for services like taxis, but rounding up to the nearest sol or giving a small tip for exceptional service is appreciated.
🤑 Ancash Money-Saving Tips
- Eat at local markets and eateries: Enjoy authentic Peruvian cuisine at local markets and small eateries, known as “huariques.” These establishments often offer delicious food at a fraction of the price of tourist-oriented restaurants. Look for “menu del día” options, which provide a multi-course meal for just a few dollars.
- Use public transportation: Opt for public transportation like colectivos (shared minivans) and local buses for getting around. These are significantly cheaper than taxis or private transfers and provide a more authentic travel experience.
- Travel during the off-peak season: Plan your visit during the shoulder or off-peak seasons (October to April) to take advantage of lower accommodation and tour prices. While some trekking routes may be less accessible due to weather conditions, many attractions remain open and less crowded during this time.
- Book accommodations in advance: Research and book accommodations in advance, especially during the high season (May to September), to secure the best rates and options. Booking online or directly with the property can often result in discounts.
- Bargain at markets and souvenir shops: Don’t be afraid to haggle over prices when shopping for souvenirs or artisanal goods at local markets. Bargaining is a common practice in Peru, and you may be able to secure a better deal with a bit of friendly negotiation.
- Travel in a group: Joining a group tour or traveling with friends can help lower the costs of guided activities, transportation, and accommodations. Many tour operators and hotels offer group discounts, so the more people you travel with, the more you can save.
- Choose budget accommodations: Consider staying in hostels, guesthouses, or budget hotels to save money on accommodations. These options can offer comfortable stays at a fraction of the cost of luxury hotels or lodges.
- Utilize free activities and attractions: Take advantage of free or low-cost attractions, such as exploring the city of Huaraz, visiting local markets, or hiking on trails that do not require guides or entrance fees. Research free cultural events or festivals that may be taking place during your visit.
- Carry a reusable water bottle and snacks: Purchasing bottled water and snacks throughout your trip can add up. Bring a reusable water bottle and refill it with tap water (treated with water purification tablets or a portable water filter) to save money and reduce plastic waste. Pack your own snacks for day trips and hikes to avoid buying overpriced options on the go.
- Exchange currency wisely: Exchange money at banks or reputable exchange bureaus (casas de cambio) for the best rates. Avoid exchanging currency at hotels or airports, where rates are often less favorable. Additionally, withdraw larger amounts of cash at ATMs to minimize fees, and try to use ATMs from major Peruvian banks to ensure a reliable and secure transaction.