Slowly but surely making our way from north to south of Peru, Huaraz was on our list long before we looked into the high town, that sits neatly between the andes.
Originally, our planned stop was merely to break up the long trip to Lima. It wasn’t long after we stepped off the overnight bus from Huanchacho, hit by the icy cold and dark morning, did we find out that majority of backpackers run to Huaraz to seek some outdoor adventure.
Our tired eyes widened with interest, we landed in hikers heaven.
From one-day hikes to four-day trips across the Cordillera Blanca mountain range, we wanted to join the walking club and fixated on a day trip to Laguna 69.
Enjoy our quick guide on how we managed to stick to our strict budget and still enjoy such a buzzing location, that also included a day at Laguna 69.
From Huanchac to Huaraz:
After a few days in the beachside town of Huanchacho, we took an overnight bus leaving Trujillo at 9.30pm. Travelling with Linea bus company, it arrived bang on time into a chilly Huaraz at 5.30am, at the small cost of 50s (€14) per person.
For a more detailed guide on how to follow the same route, jump over to this post.
If you’re here for an informative guide (based on our experience) to hiking Laguna 69, click the button above or scroll on down.
Any questions, pop a comment at the end, we’re more than happy to help.
Accommodation in Huaraz:
It’s quite easy to find hostels and hotels alike in Huaraz but since tourists bounce by here, like a moth to a flame, prices vary. From one extreme to another, as does the quality of hostel.
We’re not fussy, all we ask for is some form of connected Wi-Fi (even the weak kind will do) and, considering the morning chill drenched our bones, a hot shower.
We found the above and more nestled in a small neighbourhood, no more than 10 minutes from Huaraz’s main plaza.
Share the home of a welcoming and friendly family, and enjoy their daily smiles, helpful information and accommodating attitudes.
We found Nery Lodging after chatting with a tour tout, outside the bus station on arrival. He had explained there was a convention in town that dragged engineering students from around Peru. In other words, we picked a busy week (of course we did!).
When he mentioned a private double room with bathroom for 35sol (€9.70) per night, we skipped our way to Avitental Manzana neighbourhood.
The minute we walked through the doors, we were made feel comfortable. It was 7am, the house was full of students and checkout wasn’t until noon. Yet the family woke us gently from our couch nap and had us in our spotless rooms by 10am.
Here we had full use of the kitchen and all facilities plus access to the rooftop terrace with a stove.
When connected, the Wi-Fi is excellent, the only downfall being it needs to be rebooted from time to time. A small effort on our part.
Nery is on HostelWorld but contact them directly and haggle a good price. They’ll be sure to look after you.
Budget Buying in Huaraz:
Home to an overwhelming amount of markets, if there’s anything you need, this is the place you need to shop in. Fantastic quality of goods; handmade clothes, unique gifts and quirky gadgets, the price is right in Huaraz.
The Lima markets may be on everyone’s tongues but those tongues clearly have yet to taste the fresh produce of Huaraz.
Honestly, better quality and half the prices, we were delighted we picked up our hand-knitted gloves and high knee socks for less than €5. Hand-knitted, as in there and then, on the spot, on the side of the street. Straight from the needle to our fingers and toes; our favourite purchase to date.
From our grocery shopping to some winter wear, head towards Antonio Raymondi street and find it full of fresh and homemade produce, street food included.
The street markets are way more cheaper than supermarkets, so head here for your weekly shop and put the coins straight into the hands of locals.
Please, always support local.
Our Guide to Laguna 69:
There is a hefty debate as to whether Laguna 69 is worth booking a tour, or venturing on your todd. We always opt in for doing things DIY, there is nothing that adds to the experience like starting a day on a busy public bus.
And as always, we do our research. What’s worth more, what costs more and is it at the expense of the added experience.
Emily and Andrew from Along Dusty Roads or, as we call them, our “Trusty Dustys” put together a nice compare and contrast blog. Public busses verses taxis and tours, it may help you make a suitable decision. In the end, for us, we went with a a tour, and here’s why.
First and foremost, the tour was cheaper than taking two public busses out there and back. It also cut out the morning effort of jumping a bus at 6am (we’re not morning people) aswell as the long walk from bus to the start of the Laguna 69 trail in Huasacran National Park.
We were told public busses don’t travel too far into the Huasacran, so you’ll spend your first hour getting to the trail.
This wouldn’t necessarily be a problem on the way in, but on the way out I think my legs would have caved in. Not to mention that you need to haul ass and catch the last public bus home. The one, and only one, that leaves at the early hours of 4pm.
But really, it all came down to cost. Sometimes that means we’ve to go against our DIY ethos but hey, budgets are there for a reason.
Which Tour Company?
The one thing we dread about booking tours is which company to book with. Streets flooded with tour agencies and touts constantly approaching, it can become such a headache. But to justify our decision to book a tour to Laguna 69, we knocked on so many doors. Too many doors.
The two cheapest tour companies are hidden in a small commercial square that sits between Jr San Martin and Avenida Mariscal Toribio de Luzuriaga (what a mouthful!).
Mony Tours has daily treks to Laguna 69 for 30s (€8) per person. And trust us when we say this is the cheapest. We even banged the doors of hostels in search for cheaper, to no success. But look, we rely on you guys to keep our info up to date so please do correct and inform us if you find a low price tour.
Not to seem scabby, as we think 30sol is a decent price for an all day tour, especially one that is so worth it. It was the best €16 we’ve spent, on a tour anyway!
The funniest part was our hosts son worked for Mony Tours, and was our guide on the day. Total coincidence but we respect that he didn’t try sell us a tour in the hostel. Having him there definitly added to our experience. We hiked with a friend and one that was extremely knowledgeable. It was a comfort.
What The Tour Includes:
No extra trimmings, the cost includes transport there and back, with a 5am pickup from your hostel.
And a guide, who provides lots of interesting information and some much needed motivation.
What The Tour Doesn’t Include:
Admission: Entry fee to the park itself. It costs 10sol (€2.60) per person and is paid on the day.
Breakfast: A short stop at a restaurant en route to Huascarán, we did read online that some companies and hostels (such as Carolines Lodging) included breakfast. This is no longer true folks. Again, we visited a number of places and were unsuccessful.
A Guided Hike: Contrary to the above, the guide is with you every step of the way but he doesn’t exactly “guide you”. You do this hike at your own pace, taking as much time as needed and stopping for regular breaks, very important. More on that below.
Instead the guide will fall back to ensure the group is all ahead of him, keeping on time and that everyone is OK. But he is there should you need him, for anything.
What We Prepared:
We are probably the most disorganised people you’ll meet but when it came to this trek, we made sure we were super prepared, kinda.
First of all, we hit the cheap markets and bought:
5 litre jug of water (5s)
We then poured 3 litres into smaller bottles that sat nicely in our backpacks.
A small bag of coca tea (1s)
This is a saviour against altitude sickness and tastes so good! For some, it might be an acquired taste but either way it definitly works! We made a flask ready to drink the morning of, and kept some loose leaves for chewing during the hike.
Bunch of bananas (2.50s)
What better superfood, rich in energy and an ideal snack. These little guys will keep you energy on fleek as you climb high to the Laguna.
Packet of crackers and some cream cheese (3s)
We’re obsessed with food and the very thought of running out physically hurts. We would rather have too much than too little, and sure isn’t it nice to have a choice in snacks. Bananas for our mini-stops, crackers and cheese for the breaks.
Don’t judge us but we also prepared a carb-rich lunch the night before (a habit of ours anyway!) of pasta, some veg and sardines, stored in Tupperware. This was our triumph lunch, a picnic to enjoy while breathing in the sights of Laguna 69.
Weehey! Look at us go! It felt good to be so organised.
What We Wore/Brought:
Making a list and checking it twice, we can’t rely on 4am Luke and Katie to think clearly so we packed and prepped the night before.
Comfortable Walking Shoes:
Just like any day on foot, wear boots or hiking shoes (in my case, my Doc Martins!) and make sure you’re comfortable. Some people wore converse so don’t fret too much. You don’t need to be a ‘Class A’ hiker to do this.
Layers of Clothes:
We did this hike in August, when Huaraz is hot during the day but bloody freezing at night. Sunny skies are guaranteed but at 5am, the sun is nowhere to be seen, and you will ache with the cold.
Leave wearing as much as you can, knowing you can strip off once the sun comes to hang out.
Like I said, it will be hot on the trek (double check the time of year you’re going) so shorts and a string top will be suitable attire, just maybe not from the hours of 5-8am.
I wore leggings, with my new hand-knitted thick high knee socks, a string-top hidden under a light jumper, tucked under my lama hoodie. Luke wore jeans (yes, shock horror!) Lots of people wore jeans on this hike, at the disgust of others I might add, with a loose tank top, a light shirt and his lama hoodie. Snug but ready for the heat.
Please for the love of God don’t forget your suncream. If the sneaky wind burn doesn’t prickle your skin, the sun itself will. Its a 6 hour hike across an open field, and you may have been preached to before but even with us lathered in factor 50, we left with hot blistering skin. Mine began to peel the following morning, and hurt like hell.
Lip balm or Moisturiser:
An odd one yes, but one we wish we had prepared. Never did we think of just how much the high altitude would soak all the moisture from our skin.
Like a leech, the further up we climbed, the dryer our skin and lips became. The suns cream helped slightly but it didnt save our lips. Constantly sucking and licking them (the worst thing you could do) we dipped head first into a handheld tub of vaseline when we got home.
The worst part was that my lips were burnt, and up pops blisters all across my bottom lip. So painful, so inconvenient and ugly to look at, I can guarantee you’ll want to hug us for this suggestion. Just be warned that vaseline can trap in heat so this probably isn’t the best solution while hiking. Without splurging, try pick up a lip balm with aloe vera or a SPF or mix and make homemade remedy. Touch of sun cream with some moisturiser should do nicely.
What To Expect:
An early morning start, one to cause goosebumps, after an hour and half on the road, the bus will stop for breakfast. A cute little outdoor “home” restaurant in Yungay, the best views of the Cordillera Blanca glacier mountains included.
If you can, keep costs down and bring your own breakfast. Make it a big one.
Here, large bekkies cost up to 12sol pp (€3.20). The budget-friendly option of bacon and scrambled egg comes on a small plate for 5sol pp (€1.30)
With filled tummies, it’s another hour ride up a winding cliff and through a number of neighbourhoods to Huasacran National Park.
Hand over your 10s to the guide and retrieve your entry ticket.
Onwards passed Laguna Chinancocha, a vibrant green lake sparkling so brightly in the sun, some tours stop here for 10 minutes to take pictures. Ours didn’t but you can ask on the way back. We were happy to just get on with the trek, I mean we did come here for a 69er.
We departed the bus and were sent on our merry way. The trail, signposted throughout, is easy to navigate. Or you could follow the long line of tourists.
The first hour or so of the trek is on flat land. Walking through large open fields, passed wild donkeys, cows, “wild stock” as I call it.
The air is thin, breaths are short but the flat surface makes the first hour fly by, not to mention the scenes. If the wild animals don’t grasp your attention, the colourful fauna that dance to the soundtrack of the many cascading waterfalls, might.
It’s a sunny day, and if you’re planning to do this trek between June and September, it should be blue for you too.
The sun is pounding our necks as we approach the first short incline. When I say incline I mean a path of loose gravel. Watch your step as you climb towards another flat path, one that runs decorates the spectacular mountains, all of which are topped with ice and snow.
It’s at this moment you realise it’s already going to be worth it. The air doesn’t change much here and the next 40 minutes flies by.
The important thing to note is to stop as much as possible to swig on water and regulate your breathing, but don’t stop for too long as you’ll be worn out again quite quickly.
We aimed to stop every couple of hundred metres or so, downing water, snacking and of course snapping photos. Honestly, there is absolutely no need to rush and anyone who powered on ahead, well, we felt sorry for them. Don’t they say it’s all about the journey, not the destination?
Well here, it’s both. So enjoy both. It’s not a race, so embrace.
We came up against another short incline that passed quickly, bringing us to more flat land, full of small streams and the colour of coffee. The trickles of rivers are heard over nature’s buzz accompanied by the cows, all grazing happily. Keep an eye out for the beautiful flora here. Giant daisys, bluebells and others (I’ve no idea the name) but they’re visual pleasures.
After a good 30 minutes walking (and resting) along the flat land, up ahead is a slight crest of hill, and on the other side lays a Laguna. We got a little too excited thinking we were close and this was it.
Nope. Too easy eh?!
Now I won’t lie to you, the next bit is a little tough. The toughest part for me. I felt a little defeated. We noticed those trekking ahead took a left at the end of this open field. And up they went. Yup, MORE up!!
The air is thinner here, and you’ll stop every few steps grovelling at any rock or stone willing to perch your bum. My legs became heavy and no breath was satisfying. I felt a little lightheaded at times, but it’s the kind that went away, like when you stand up too quickly.
Like I said, I struggled. But since this is the last hurdle, and we made it this far, the determination and the urge to see such beauty displayed across every postcard, poster and tour company in Huaraz. Laguna 69 was so close, we could smell it’s mineral rich waters.
I say it took us more than a half hour to get up the final hill and once you see a peak of the blue stuff, suddenly your legs float and your breath is back.
We bloody made it!! And feck me was it worth every huff puff, skip, slide, and step.
We read a few travel blogs the night before our trek and honestly, they scared us a little. So much so we walked the length and breadth of Huaraz to continue our mission to aclimatize, we drank as much coca tea as we could the night before, oh and a carb dinner was had.
Let me tell you, there is nothing to worry about. Don’t think for one second you cannot do this, if this is something you really want to do. Once you’re altitude aware, respect your body and have a healthy ticker or are in good general health. You’ll make it.
I’d hate to think anyone was turned off by other horror stories. And sure look, if we can do it. So can you. We promise.
Once you have spent at least two days in Huaraz to avoid any altitude sickness, pack smartly and on our recommendation bring a flask of coca tea or, if you like the aquired taste, just bring a bag and stuff your gob on the day. Obviously wear comfortable hiking shoes and dress appropriately, you’re golden.
Don’t feel intimidated by the pro hikers on your bus. They’ll be well equipped, they’ll shoot on ahead and make it look like, well, as the suitable expression goes; “a walk in the park”.
It is and it isn’t. We’re not super fit, we eat well, we walk everywhere and we don’t drink. So whatever that is on the fitness scale, yet we breezed through parts and struggled with others.
The ultimate thought to lead by is that it is so rewarding.
Although to ring home, we felt the coca tea was beneficial. Maybe it worked like a charm, maybe it was a placebo effect but either way we made it, and felt accomplished while doing so. We didn’t notice anyone suffering along the way, as majority took small breaks and kept hydrated.
In the end, us two lazy sods made it in 2hrs 45 mins, enjoyed and hour and half at the lake and returned in less than 2 hours.
Oh, the way back down is SO MUCH EASIER!
Just mind your step across the loose rocks and gravel. We didn’t need to stop or take any breaks on the way back, and really enjoyed the mission-less stroll. Noting we’d be sore tomorrow, but we’d also have some extra muscles for sure. And hopefully a better ass. Yes, I said better.
So just remember that as you climb that last hill, once you’re there, the hard bit is over and you’ve successfully completed one of Peru’s most beautiful, challenging and highest hikes.
You fecking legend ya, go you! Go us!
As always, let us know how you got on and if you have anything to add to our guide. Most importantly stay safe and enjoy.
Now, bring on Macchu Picchu.