Peru: The Cordillera Huayhuash Photo Trek (13 Days)
In this world there are a few places that stand head and shoulders above others – even with the outstanding choices people already know about in other ranges across the world.
The Cordillera Huayhuash in Central Peru (just south of the Cordillera Blanca) is one of those places that will leave you breathless, not only due to the altitude but because the scenery is so grand, so imposing, so…unbelieveable.
If the Lord of the Rings wasn’t filmed in New Zealand (which it rightly deserves), it could have been filmed here. Every day on the trek is another example of nature’s power to create beauty with a rugged exterior and alluring features. The peaks are tall, they are steep, they are covered with a layer of frosting made of hanging glaciers and the alpine lakes at their feet are a rainbow of complimentary puddles of color. Just amazing.
This is a high altitude trek and it can be rigorous at times but the effort is worth the grunts and sweat you pay with in order to see what nature has in store for you. Perfect reflections abound in blue and green lakes and clouds know when to reveal the peaks above your head and let the light in so you can make amazing photos. This is the range where Joe Simpson had his epic near-death adventure on Mt. Siula Grande where he barely survived. He wrote the book Touching the Void which was also later made into a movie.
The location is intimidating when you get up close and it’s also stunningly beautiful in a very rugged way. The campsites are broad and level and offer easy access to numerous vantage points to get the photo you have been dreaming of since you first laid eyes on those pointy summits.
Every day of this spectacular journey will provide countless photo ops, so keep your eyes open.
We will get properly acclimatized based out of Huaraz (the Chamonix of Peru) by doing a day hike to a nearby alpine lake and taking in the sights and sounds of this alpine city with superb scenery that surrounds it. Once acclimatized, we will head south to the Cordillera Huayhuash and spend our first night in basic accommodations in the town of Queropalca then begin our journey around this most spectacular of ranges for the next ten days.
All you need to carry with you are your camera, a few lenses, foul weather clothing, snacks and water as the burros or horses will carry everything else we need to the next camp each day. We usually have lunch en route before arriving to the next camp.
As an added bonus we will provide a place so people can have a central place to gather and download their images to their laptops or digital wallets at the end of the day.
The trek has been modified to allow for plenty of time to enjoy a stunning location and really get the most out of it, so we spend a couple days in a couple of locations so there is time for sunset and sunrise shooting at a place that offers lots of potential for extra special photography.
Trust us, you will be shooting a lot, so plan on bringing quite a bit more storage and media cards than you would anticipate using.
Along the route you will be stunned by the grand vista and hopefully meet some of the locals and share a smile and a photo.
Tour Dates: July 17-29, 2017
Tour length: 13-days
Difficulty level: moderate to strenuous – due to the altitude
Group Size Limit: 10
Tour Highlights: cordillera Huayhuash, green alpine lakes, hanging glaciers, Indigenous Quechua people, Andes, Peru
Prices are in $ US Dollars:
7-10 people: $ 3,575.00/per person
4-6 people: $ 3,835.00/per person
2-3 people: $ 4,550.00/per person
1 person: $ 5,525.00/per person
*International airfare is not included in price.
Deposit:$ 500.00/per person (non-refundable administrative fee)
Inclusions: as per the itinerary: hotels, meals (B,L,D), private transport, professional photographer guide, local bi-lingual guides, airport transfers, high-end telephoto and zoom lenses, decades of experience
Anyone can book a single spot on any tour at any time. These prices reflect the cost for one person, based on the total number of fully-paid people booked on a trip. If you have more people in your group and/or if the total number of people rises, the cost per person goes down. These prices are NOT based on a person or complete group bringing in a set amount of people on a tour. As more people book a spot on a tour the lower price is spread among all the participants. Thus we encourage you to include friends and family to join you so everyone gets a lower price.
*Please note: We can run this trip on different dates, so please let us know your date preferences and we will create a custom departure date for you and your group.
International airfare is NOT included in this itinerary.
For airline tickets, please contact our ticketing agent GEO Travel 1-800-938-7285.
– ITINERARY –
Home – Lima, Peru
Today you depart your home and fly to Lima, Peru. Depending on your airline you may arrive in the afternoon or late evening into Lima. Please make sure that you have given us exact flight information as we will arrange for you to be picked-up at the airport and transferred to the hotel upon arrival on day 1 of this itinerary. If your plans change, you need to let us know immediately so we can adjust our schedules accordingly.
Day 1: Arrival in Lima, Peru – City Tour
Upon arrival to Lima, you will pass immigration and customs and met by our representative in Lima. They will take care of your luggage and have a private vehicle take you directly to the hotel for your convenience and security. Depending on your arrival time, you may participate in a gastronomy tour of Lima in order to get acquainted with the fantastic Peruvian cuisine (not included). Overnight at Hotel Second Home (4*) in the neighborhood of Barranco, the artists district of Lima.
Day 2: Lima – Huaraz
After breakfast, you will be picked-up at 9 AM for a private shuttle service that will go overland to Huaraz, arriving at 4 PM. Upon arrival in Huaraz (3,052m/10,010′) you will check-in to San Sebastian Hotel and settle in. It’s very likely you will feel the altitude once you get to the highlands so we highly recommend drinking water constantly in order to help your body acclimatize properly. We highly recommend drinking mate de coca (coca tea) as it works wonders. Rest and water are key as well as some mild activity and eating lightly so your body has time to adjust to the altitude. We will have a short excursion to Puka Ventana for the sunset, a great viewpoint of the Peruvian Andes, so try to get some rest before our initial outing. Dinner on your own. Overnight at San Sebastian Hotel (3*). (B,L)
Day 3: Huaraz – Cordillera Negra – Huaraz
As we continue the acclimatization period we will head over to the Cordillera Negra, across the valley from the Cordillera Blanca, to get some stunning views of the region. The views to the east can be quite spectacular at sunrise so depending on how you are doing we may do the sunrise trip or do a sunset tip instead as the setting sun will illuminate the Cordillera Blanca with warm light and the show show could be a photographers dream-come-true. We hope the weather will cooperate and adjust accordingly in any case. Lunch in Huaraz. The afternoon or morning could be free for you to rest and acclimatize, depending on the weather patterns. Dinner on your own. Overnight at San Sebastian Hotel (3*). (B,L)
Day 4: Huaraz – Laguna Churup – Huaraz
As we continue to acclimatize today we head out to the Cordillera Blanca and hike up to Laguna Churup (4,500m/14,760′) for some spectacular and up-close views of glaciers, alpine lakes, moraine and rugged peaks. Lunch en route. We will return in the afternoon to the hotel for more rest and preparation for the upcoming trek. It is very important to drink plenty of water and rest as necessary in order to give your body the time required to acclimatize, as well as to see how you are handling the local flora and fauna in your system. Dinner on your own. Overnight at San Sebastian Hotel (3*). (B,L)
Day 5: Huaraz – Queropalca
We leave early in the AM for the day-long drive (approx. 8 hours) which will head south from Huaraz, then east across the southern end of the Cordillera Blanca, crossing a couple of high passes of 14,000’/4268m & 15,350’/4680m respectively, then dropping into the lower slopes below the Cordillera Huayhuash. We will see the jagged glacier-covered summits of Rondoy (19,255’/5870m) and Ninashanka (18,390’/5607m) at the northern end of the Cordillera Huayhuash and this will set the tone for the rest of the trip. These are spectacular and imposing peaks! We will have lunch at Huanuco Viejo ruins and stretch our legs a bit before continuing onto the town of Queropalca (12,464’/3800m), a typical Andean village where we will spend the night in basic accommodations. (B,L,D)
Day 6: Queropalca – Laguna Carhuacocha
This is our first day of the trek and it’s a slow and gradual climb that is about 5 hours at a calm pace from Queropalca to Laguna Carhuacocha (13,710’/4180m) which is located at the foot of a massive cirque of peaks – some of the most impressive on the trek. This is the first of many up-close and personal interactions with the rock spires of the Huayhuash range which leaves you panting for air. Many of the biggest peaks rise from 17,860’/5446m to over 21,700’/6634m and create a massive wall of impenetrable rock and ice cut by obvious avalanche paths, waterfalls and extensive moraine and talus fields. Below this spectacle of white summits and multi-colored rock lies the mint-green frigid waters of Laguna Carhuacocha surrounded on three sides by the yellow puna grass that covers the rolling hills that creates a spectacle that is crying out to be photographed. We will spend 2 nights here so you will have plenty of time to make stunning images! There are families that live in the valley and we will make sure to meet them and share stories and make images of the locals as they tend to their high-altitude crops and animals like alpacas and sheep – all hardy enough to live here year-round. This is one of the most stunning places on the trek so make sure to maximize your opportunities while here. We will set up camp and settle in before heading out for the sunset light. Dinner and overnight camping. (B,L,D)
Day 7: Laguna Carhuacocha – 3 Lakes
The sun lights up the summits of these peaks so an early riser will get the most out of it. Breakfast will be available early enough but if you want to get up before dawn to get the shots, we will have hot drinks for you before the main meals are prepared. As the sun rises the peaks get more illuminated and the photo ops keep coming so there are plenty of nearby vantage points where different perspectives will provide a varied palette of colors, shapes and scenes to fill your frame with. We will break camp today and have a very short trek to the 3 Lakes region a couple of hours up the valley so that we are prepared for the sunset today and the sunrise in the morning. There will be time to relax as well as hike in the area to scout out locations for sunset and to get closer to the peaks that are above our heads and dominate the valley views with their reflections in the three inter-connected alpine lakes. Lunch at camp. This is a stunning location and we will make sure to extract the most out of it. We will choose a perfect location for the sunset before dinner. Dinner and overnight camping. (B,L,D)
Day 8: 3 Lakes – Carnicero
The early risers should take advantage of sunrise before breakfast. Today could be a long day, due to the altitude gain, so we need to depart soon after breakfast. We will take what we need with us for the remainder of the day as the burros and horses cannot climb up this trail, and will take a different trail to camp (circumnavigating this small ‘hill’ we’re walking up. We will not see them until we reach camp in the late afternoon. Our trail heads directly to the peaks themselves and slowly rises through rolling hills of yellow ichu grass and puna bogs as we walk next to these lakes, reflecting the snow-capped summits of some of the biggest peaks in the Cordillera Huayhuash. We will be just below Jirishanca, Yerupaja Chico, Yerupaja, Siula, Sarapo and Carnicero all of which range from 17,860’/5446m to over 21,700’/6634m above sea level. They are jagged, steep and imposing. It’s a spectacular sight! We will be working hard to get across the pass at 15,744’/4800m but will take a break partway up the trail to take in a view from a lateral moraine and further up the hill by some house-sized boulders next to a crystal-clear stream before we have lunch at the pass. The views of the peaks reflected in the trout-filled lakes is a photographer’s nirvana. There are ample opportunities for making great images during the trek on this side of the pass. After lunch we drop into eastern side of the cordillera and head down into a wide and long valley. Loosing altitude quickly, we will pass some very photogenic bogs with green and yellow ‘puffy’ formations that reflect a few more huge peaks – Carnicero, Jurau & Trapecio – that form the perfect natural frames for outstanding photos. The trail heads down more and more until we come to a couple of lakes where local Quechua people have their homes and tend to their alpacas, sheep and pigs. They often catch trout with rudimentary tools and we may luck out and have fresh trout for dinner. Our campsite is located near these lakes and is called Carnicero (13,700’/4,177m) and be surrounded by tall, rugged snow-capped peaks on one side, steep limestone rock walls on another and ichu-covered peaks on the other. There is a creek near our camp to freshen-up before dinner. Sunsets can be very interesting here especially when there are clouds. Dinner and overnight camping. (B,L,D)
Day 9: Carnicero – Viconga Hot Springs
After breakfast we drop down into Huayhuash and then begin the slow climb over Portachuelo Pass at 15,580’/4750m and we will soon see the glaciers and summits of the Cordillera Raura in the distance, a rarely visited range that offers skiing, climbing and solitude. There are a lot of alpacas in the region as the people raise them for wool, meat and transport. A large man-made lake will be on our left (Lago Viconga-14,455’/4407m) as we continue up a small pass, next to a small hamlet, then into another valley where the lake drains into Rio Pumarinri which we will follow until we reach our campsite for the day. The river takes us via a circuitous route among typical puna meadows where there is good fishing here for native trout. This is Viconga Hot Springs (14,268’/4350m), where you will soak your muscles in a large man-made pool that is nice and hot and comfy to sit in with new water constantly flowing in. There is cold beer and sodas available for those that want to indulge and an area where you can wash some clothes in natural hot-water that flows right out of the ground. You can soak as long as you want and can make photos right from the pool if you feel like it! Dinner and overnight camping. (B,L,D)
Day 10: Viconga – Cuyoc Pass – Viconga – Alpayacu
We spend the morning going to Cuyoc Pass (one of the highest in the area at 5,000m/16,400′) and a stunning location right at the foot of Mt. Cuyoc and Mt. Pumarinri – both over 17,700’/5400m and will be right above our heads. There are condors in the area so keep an eye out in the sky as you trek through the region. We take our time as the views are fantastic. We’ll have lunch en route. We return to Viconga hot springs for one last soak, then depart down valley to Alpayacu where we will camp for the night. We need some time tomorrow to get out of the mountains and we’re going to cut the walking time as much as possible. Dinner and overnight camping at Alpayacu. (B,L,D)
Day 11: Alpayacu – Cajatambo
Today is pretty much a walking day but there will be great views of the mountain valleys and we’ll take time to make photos if we see something interesting, which there usually is, so keep an eye out. As we descend out the Cordillera Huayhuash and finish our trek in the hamlet of Cajatambo we get to relish the solitude and stunning landscapes that few get to see. Lunch en route. We finish the day in Cajatambo, have dinner and overnight in basic accommodations. (B,L,D)
Day 12: Cajatambo – Huaraz
After an early breakfast we get picked-up in private transport and begin the long drive back to Huaraz, approximately 8-9 hours, but the scenery should be gorgeous and enjoyable. We will have lunch en route and arrive in Huaraz in the late afternoon. After a nice hot shower and some clean clothes we will get together and have dinner. We’ll enjoy our last night together after a great photographic trek. Overnight at San Sebastian Hotel (3*). (B,L,D)
Day 13: Huaraz – Lima
After breakfast you will board a private shuttle for the overland return trip to Lima (approx. 6-7 hours). Upon arrival in Lima you will be dropped-off at a hotel of your choice or at the airport for your international flight. Normally, if you have an international flight they leave in the AM, so you may want to fly from Huaraz to Lima in the AM. We can help arrange that but is not included in the itinerary and there are limits to the amount of weight allowed per passenger. Lunch en route. Dinner and hotel are on your own in Lima. We will be happy to make hotel reservations for you if you plan to spend the night and fly out the next morning. Your hotel can arrange a shuttle service to the airport the next day for you.
– End of our Services –
Day 14: Lima – Home
Your hotel can arrange a shuttle service to the airport for your scheduled flight back home.
Feel free to contact us if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.