Dotted with the snow-capped Cordillera Blanca mountains, milky blue lakes and jagged forests, Huaraz is an Eden for hikers. It's also home to the mighty Huascarán peak, the tallest in Peru at 6,768 metres high. While the high-altitude region is best known for its world-class, multi-day treks, there are also plenty of one-day bus tours and independent jaunts to give you a taste of the awe-inspiring nature.
Hostels in Huaraz tend to be rustic, homely spaces reflecting the laid-back Quechua culture of the town. For a modern take on traditional style, go for a newly renovated option offering colourful rooms and a retro-feel bar complete with velvet stools. Huaraz hostels with free breakfast do double duty, saving you money while getting you fuelled up for rewarding treks. Or, if you have extra energy to burn, you can opt for a Huaraz hostel with an indoor climbing wall.
Plaza de Armas is the busy central square in Huaraz, around 5 minutes' walk from the bustling and down-to-earth authentic Mercado Central. Slightly east, the neighbourhood of San Francisco, centred on the church of the same name, is a quaint spot with small international restaurants and alpine-goods shops. Districts like Palmira, on the edge of the city, have more of a village-like feel even though they're just a 10-minute minibus ride away.
Set aside a couple of days to acclimatise to the altitude and spend them wandering the markets in town or popping into one of the numerous tour agencies to arrange treks. The 1-day walk to Laguna 69, an almost neon-blue glacial lake framed by mountains, is one to add to the to-do list. If you head here on an organised tour you can book the trip to the imposing Pastoruri Glacier for the next day. For those keen to take on tougher challenges, the 12-day Cordillera Huayhuash circuit is considered to be among the world's most iconic alpine treks.
Most trips to Huaraz are made from Lima, on a long-distance overnight double-decker taking around 8 hours, or from Trujillo, taking 10 hours. On arrival, you'll be dropped off at the central bus station in town. You can stroll from here to your hostel or take one of the waiting taxis. Organised tours are usually the most convenient and best-value way to see the sights around Huaraz, but privately run minibuses do run on certain routes.