Huaraz to Chavín

Olleros and around

The main road south to Pativilca passes the turn-off for
Olleros
at 3450 m, the starting point for the spectacular three-day hike to Chavín, along a pre-Columbian trail . Some basic meals and food supplies are available here. An alternative trek from Olleros is to
Quebrada Rurec
via
Huaripampa
, a small village with a few bodegas that will sell or prepare food. Public transport is available to Huaripampa. There are granite walls of up to 600 m at Rurec, the highest in the Cordillera Blanca, which are recommended for rock climbing. The trek itself is also worthwhile.

Further south on the main road (27 km, 30 minutes from Huaraz) is
Recuay
, one of the few provincial capitals to have survived the 1970 earthquake and retained its colonial features. There is a sizeable cave with stalagmites and stalagtites on the main road (entry free). On 11-16 September the town celebrates the
Festividad Señor de Burgos de Recuay
.

Southern Cordillera Blanca

Several kilometres south of Catac is
Pachacoto
from where a road goes to
Huallanca
(Huánuco) on the other side of the Cordillera Blanca (133 km, 4½ hours), not to be confused with the town of the same name by the Cañón del Pato. Buses to Huallanca no longer take this route but go on the paved road via Chiquián.

In this southern part of the
cordillera
there are few high, snow-covered peaks, but the glacier of
Pastoruri
is the only skiing area in Peru. It is nothing compared to other skiing areas in South America - there aren't even ski lifts - but it is a place to get in a little practice. Basic ice-climbing skills can also be learnt here. The glacier is receding rapidly and a famous ice cave has melted away to almost nothing. Daily tours from Huaraz to the Pastoruri valley were suspended in 2008 after the local indigenous community decided to close their lands to visitors, but normally tours run via the
Pumapampa valley
, a good place to see the impressive Puya Raimondi plants. You can hike up the 14-km gravel road from Pachacoto to the Huascarán National Park entrance at 4200 m, in 2½ hours. There's an office here and you can spend the night. Walking up the road beyond this point, you will see more gigantic Puya Raimondi plants. The glacier is a steep one-hour walk up from the car park. Take extra clothing.

Chavín de Huantar

The famous ruins of Chavín de Huantar lie just to the south of the town of Chavín. This fortress temple, built about 800 BC, is the only large structure remaining of the Chavín culture which, in its heyday, is thought to have held influence in a region between Cajamarca and Chiclayo in the north to Ayacucho and Ica in the south. In 1985, UNESCO designated Chavín a World Heritage Site.

The site is in good condition despite the effects of time and nature. The easternmost building was damaged in 1993, when the Río Mosna burst its banks, while, in 1945, a major landslide along the Río Huachecsa completely covered the site with mud. It took many years to remove the rubble and some structures remain hidden. Ongoing investigations suggest an extensive tunnel system beyond the boundaries of the current site, which has yet to be excavated. The Huaraz road, which cuts across this area, may have to be moved to the other side of the valley some time in the future in order for excavations to continue.

The main attractions are the marvellous carved stone heads, the designs in relief of symbolic figures and the many tunnels and culverts that form an extensive labyrinth throughout the interior of the structures. The carvings are in excellent condition, though many of the best sculptures are in Huaraz and Lima. The famous Lanzón dagger-shaped stone monolith of 800 BC is found inside one of the temple tunnels. Excavations in 2001 uncovered a collection of 20
pututos
(wind instruments) dating from the site's origins.

Chavín

The town of Chavín is the commercial centre for the nearby potato- and corn-growing area. The local
fiesta
takes place on 13-20 July. It has a pleasant plaza with palm and pine trees, and several good, simple hotels and restaurants. The shops are well stocked with basic supplies, and carved stone replicas are produced for the tourist trade. There is also a small market. Gasoline is available at the north end of town but there is nowhere to change money. The paved road from Huaraz is much damaged so the trip to Chavín takes about three hours, short enough for a day trip. Sadly, perhaps because it has been flooded by tour groups, Chavín has become increasingly uncomfortable for gringos, with overcharging, begging and hostile stares. The
Baños Termales de Chavín
 are hot sulphur baths, consisting of one small, quite cool pool and four individual baths in a pleasant setting by the Río Mosna. You may have to queue and clean the bath yourself. Camping is possible here.

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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