Cordilleras Blanca and Huayhuash

Shutterstock/16217965/Niv KorenThe Cordillera Blanca is a region of jewelled lakes and sparkling white mountain peaks that attracts mountaineers, hikers, cyclists and rafters in their thousands. Here stand the highest mountains in South America, with some 30 snow-crested peaks of over 6000 m, including Huascarán, the highest mountain in Peru at 6768 m. From the region's main centre, Huaraz, several of these giants can be seen. This area contains the largest concentration of glaciers found in the world's tropical zone: a source of both beauty and danger.

The turquoise-coloured lakes (
cochas
) that form in the terminal moraines are the jewels of the Andes and you should hike up to at least one during your stay. Laguna Churup is a day's walk from Huaraz, Lago Parón is close to Caraz, while the beautiful twin lakes of Llanganuco are within easy reach of Yungay and are on the route of the long-distance Santa Cruz trek. The tranquility of these glacial lakes masks a frightening history. They have caused much death and destruction when dykes have broken, sending tons of water hurtling down the canyons, wiping out everything in their path. The levels of some have been artificially lowered for flood control and to feed the huge Cañón del Pato dam. Earthquakes, too, have scarred the high valleys and the mass grave that was once the old town of Yungay is a very humbling place. 

Shutterstock/15634423/Lev A.Southeast of Huaraz, the Cordillera Huayhuash is an area that more than equals the Cordillera Blanca in beauty and majesty. It is rapidly gaining a reputation among long-distance trekkers and climbers. Even the archaeologist is catered for here in the shape of the ruins of Chavín de Huantar. This fortress-temple belonged to one of the earliest and most influential cultures in pre-Inca Peru and it has some fine carvings and stonework.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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