It’s only natural that when you think about Peru, the spectacular Inca citadel of Machu Picchu pops into your head. Although numerous alternative trails also go to the top of the historical fortress, the Inca Trail is the most popular among Peru hikers. Of course, one of the most underrated destinations in Peru is the Cordillera Blanca. Still, you might only hear about it if you ask around with locals or other travellers who are familiar with the area.
One of the subranges of the Andes, the Cordillera Blanca, is a spectacular mountain range. It is home to Huascaran, Peru’s tallest peak, a snow-covered monster that stands at an astounding 6,768 meters above sea level. The Cordillera Blanca is one of Peru’s best-kept hiking secrets, with its river valleys, hot springs, and more than 700 glaciers.
The Cordillera Blanca is a stunning mountain range that no outdoor enthusiast should pass up on visiting. If you’re considering a vacation to the Cordillera Blanca, this guide should answer your questions about hiking.
Cordillera Blanca Information
Trekking Fitness Ratings
Grades and estimated walking durations for treks are merely general guidelines for those who a generally healthy and acclimatized to the altitude. While some people will breeze through it quickly, others will struggle and move much slower. Time estimates have been derived from our past experiences with similar groups. How fast you can cover ground on the trail will be influenced by factors such as your fitness level and how well you have adapted to the higher altitude. Altitude makes trekking considerably more complicated than at sea level, and people take varying amounts of time to acclimate to the thinner air.
To enjoy these treks, you need to be somewhat fit, able to hike uphill for two to three hours without becoming too tired and handle the long descents from the passes. You should also be ready to spend several nights in a tent in subfreezing temperatures to succeed.
Treks that fall into the “easy” or “moderate” category involve a combination of flatter, more accessible walking and more moderate hill trekking or mountain pass climbing.
It will involve some valley hiking and a steady ascent to at least one high mountain pass (up to 4800m) with a correspondingly higher descent back down. There may be long days (often approximately 6 hours of trekking) and short days.
Some treks are categorized as “Hard,” usually because they involve several days of strenuous hiking. High mountain crossings (up to 4,800 meters) will need to be crossed numerous times, and on particular treks, you’ll have to cross a pass virtually every day. Some less popular paths may be less-than-ideal because of their infrequent use. For these hikes, you’ll need above-average fitness, endurance, and the ability to hike for 8-10 hours per day (taking your time and enjoying the views)
Keep in mind that the Cordillera Blanca’s high altitude (you’ll be walking at or above 4000 meters for the length of your treks) and rugged topography make most of the region’s hiking options strenuous. Trails are generally steep — both rising or descending. Uneven, slick, and rocky terrain is standard on the tracks because they are not paved walkways. As a result, clients frequently remark that the hike was more challenging than anticipated.
There is a strong correlation between altitude and fatigue. Thus it stands to reason that hikers at high elevations will feel less energized than those at lower altitudes undertaking the same route. Please let us know if you have any doubts about your ability to enjoy this trekking style, and we would be happy to offer alternatives.
There is a risk of altitude sickness if you don’t acclimate appropriately before beginning your Cordillera Blanca climb.
Depending on your high level, you may get mild to severe headaches, nausea or vomiting, shortness of breath, loss of appetite, stomach troubles, significant tiredness and lack of energy, and inability to sleep. Edema of the lungs or brain can occur in severe cases.
It would help if you planned to arrive in Huaraz at least two full days (3 nights) before the walk begins so that you can acclimate to the altitude. In addition, you should give yourself at least two full days in Huaraz to rest from your journey and adjust to the altitude with day treks.
We will recommend hikes that will help you acclimate to the altitude, and we can set up guided day treks for you if you choose. Alternatively, you can go alone, and we will help you get to and from your hikes.
Options for day hikes in the Cordillera Blanca can be found on our Day Hikes page.
All hikes in the Cordillera Blanca are easily accessible via a winding, high-altitude roads. These roads are mostly dirt roads (not paved).
Ideal Visit Dates
From May through September, you have the best chance of pleasant hiking weather and more consistent temperatures.
June, July, and August are the most popular times for trekking in Peru because they are also the driest. However, there is still a chance of pleasant weather and fewer people on the trails in the “shoulder” months of May and September.
May marks the wet season’s conclusion and the dry season’s beginning; while spring showers are still possible, the weather is generally improving, with the bright sky on many days. Even though September marks the end of the “dry” season and the beginning of the rainy season, there may still be periods of decent weather for trekking, and you may find the crowds more manageable.