Cordillera Blanca, which means ‘white range’ in Spanish, is a mountain range in Peru. Easily the country’s or even the continent’s most underrated destination, the Cordillera Blanca is a magical wonder that is defined by its towering snow-capped peaks and turquoise blue lakes.
A major part of the mountain range lies within the premises of the Huascarán National Park, and you might have to pay entry fees to visit the attractions here. Booking with a tour operator will allow you to easily cover the highlights of the park.
The towns of Huaraz, Caraz and Yungay serve as bases to explore the region. The mountains offer outdoor activities that include trekking, hiking, climbing and mountain biking. From one-day trips to multi-day expeditions, there are numerous routes available for you to explore.
You can access the Cordillera Blanca from the town of Huaraz which is located 8 hours away from Peru’s capital Lima. You can reach here from Lima either by air or an overnight bus journey.
The dry season between May and October is the ideal time to visit the mountains. Note that you need to get properly acclimated to the high altitude before embarking on hikes and treks.
Chinancocha and Orconcocha are the two lakes located in the Llanganuco Valley, around 25 km away from Yungay. Chinancocha is named after a legendary princess and Orconcocha after a prince who fell in love with her. The waters here seem to change colours according to the sun’s position, weather conditions and seasons. You can also go boating on the lakes or stop by the food stalls for a bite.
These lakes are also located near the starting point of the hike to lake 69.
A hike to the lovely lake 69 is extremely popular owing to its short duration and easier access compared to other lakes. The lake sits at an altitude of 4,600 meters and is surrounded by glaciers and mountain peaks. It will take around 3 hours to reach the lake from Huaraz and you will cross the Llanganuco lakes and a lovely waterfall on the way.
This is a popular multi-day trek that takes 3-4 days to complete and it takes you along a scenic route marked by snow-capped peaks, enchanting blue lakes, waterfalls and valleys. The highlight of the trek is crossing a towering mountain at the Punta Union Pass, which is extremely challenging and rewarding as well with beautiful views.
Located around 25 km away from the town of Caraz, lake Paron can be easily reached by a 2-3 hour car or bus journey. It is the largest lake in the Cordillera Blanca and is often hailed as the most beautiful too. The gorgeous blue waters of the lake are ringed by snow-capped peaks that offer excellent hiking trails. The 45-minute climb to a mirador and the Torre de Parón, a challenging rock climbing wall, are popular options. You will also find lovely picnic spots around the lake and scenic views of Caraz and the valley.
The Pastoruri glacier is one of the last standing glaciers in tropical South America and is located at an altitude of over 5000 metres. Though the glacier is fast retreating and it has been predicted that it would diminish by the end of the decade, it is still a massive structure that is worth a visit. The glacier can be easily accessed by a scenic drive from Huaraz, followed by a short hike. Activities here include horseback riding, visiting ice caves and the tall, needle-like Puya Raimondi plants.
Also known as Fuente de Juventud (Fountain of Youth), these thermal baths are located 30 km away from Huaraz. They are a group of natural saunas with pools of gushing hot water, located inside caves. After a day of strenuous hiking, a dip in these pools will prove very relaxing.
The Cordillera Blanca is located in the tropical zone and has become a victim of global warming. Over the past few decades, it has been observed that the glaciers have lost more than 15 percent of their size, as the earth’s temperatures have shot up drastically.
The Cordillera Blanca is simply breathtaking – both literally and figuratively! And it is only right that you experience and appreciate this mesmerising wonderland in its true glory while you still can.
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