It had been a long time since we’d seen snow. From the tropics of Central America all the way through Colombia and Ecuador, that magic white powder was the one thing lacking on this trip through Latin America (although we could have easily gotten our hands on some white powder of a different kind in Colombia). We recently went on a day trip to Huascarán National Park, near Huaraz, which took us to some amazing snow-capped mountain scenery and allowed us to get up close to the melting Pastoruri Glacer. If you’re travelling in Peru make sure you do this tour. Here are the details:
First stop – loading up on coca
After about half an hour in a cramped van we got out to stretch our legs and buy some coca tea/coca candy. Don’t worry, I’m not about to end up like late 90s/early 2000s Robert Downey JR, you’d have to drink a lot of coca tea to get high! It does help with the altitude though, and we’d eventually have to walk at just over 5000 metres above sea level.
The bumpy road to the mountains
The van eventually left the smooth tarmac and bounded over bumpy gravel roads for the next hour or so. The scenery got better with each passing mile; the barren, golden hills were eventually towered over by massive mountain peaks. We stopped to take some photos at a bubbling hot spring and then moved on to the “7 Coloured Lakes” – a collection of fluorescent ponds nestled in a golden valley. That valley is also home to a cactus-like plant called puya raimondii – they are giants, often growing up to 10 metres tall. Not long after that we stopped to check out some ancient cave paintings – our tour guide said they were over 10,000 years old.
We eventually arrived at a car park which signalled the start of the short ascent to Pastoruri Glacier. This would ordinarily be an easy walk but the altitude makes your lungs work overtime. Gia struggled but I had a secret weapon – an old lady in Ecuador sold us what looked like Russian fudge but tasted more like sugar mixed with some kind of root vegetable. She said it would help with altitude issues, and it seemed to do the trick (I should probably give credit to the coca as well). The walk was incredibly scenic – the Cordillera Blanca mountain range made for a stunning backdrop to the track.
After a slow 40 minute ascent we made it to a lookout point. A lake filled with small pieces of ice spread out before us and beyond that was a huge mass of white ice with a blue tinge. The glacier and lake were towered over by rocky peaks – it’s one of those breathtaking views that you remember forever. We walked up to another viewpoint and then down to the side of the lake – we even got to stand on one of the pieces of ice! I’ve seen glaciers before but nothing like this, I’m even more excited for our upcoming trip to Patagonia now.
The Pastoruri Glacier tour from Huaraz
Pastoruri glacier is a long way from the main road and we didn’t see/ hear about any public transport options. Your best bet is to organise a tour in Huaraz. We paid 35 soles each for the tour and entry to Huascarán National Park is 10 soles. For a day spent with some amazing scenery you’ll have to part with 45 soles, or just under $15 USD – a bargain in anyone’s book. The one downside to the tour was the fact we stopped at about 4 pm for a very late lunch. We were only about half an hour from Huaraz, but I guess the tour companies get money from the restaurant. It was an annoying 30 minute wait while the Peruvian tourists in our group ate their very overpriced meal but it wasn’t too much of a problem.
Have you seen a glacier before? Are you going to add the glaciers and mountains near Huaraz to your Peru travel list? Let me know!
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