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Huaraz, a Charming Destination in The Heart of Peru

If you are planning your trip to Peru and you love adventure, hiking and active holidays, you must visit Huaraz, an enchanting village in the heart of Peruvian mountains, located in Ancash region in the north-central area of Peru at an altitude of more than 3,000 metres above the sea level (approximately 10,000 ft). So, pay attention to altitude sickness and bring your “soroche” pills, and coca candies with you. There is a reason why Huaraz is also called the “Switzerland of the South”, that’s because of its high snow peaks of the Cordillera Blanca mountain chain.

One of Huaraz main attractions is the Laguna 69, the path to the lagoon is only for the brave people…J… I mean, it is for people who are really motivated to visit the lagoon. Be aware that the hike to the lagoon is quite strong, but once you are there you will be very proud of you and enjoy a stunning view. Before starting the hike is extremely important to do the following (these are my personal tips!):

* Stay at least a day in Huaraz city, just to take it easy on your first day and that your body can adjust to the altitude;

* Bring light clothes with you if you are going during summertime. If you are going during winter it is recommended to bring a weatherproof coat for the wind and the rain;

* Bring your sunblock. This is actually mandatory in any season! Never forget that you are at more that 3,000 metres above the sea level, and the sun can be too bright.

* Before your hike to the lagoon have a light meal and bring with you some healthy snacks, perhaps energy bars that you can eat once you reach the lagoon to restore your energy. Also do not forget to bring a bottle of water or mate de coca, that can help you fighting the altitude sickness and can give you plenty of energy for the way back;

* Do not forget to put in your backpack soroche pills, lemon candies, coca candies or coca leaves. These are all remedies against altitude sickness;

* As for your backpack, try to pack light. You do not want to do the hike with a heavy backpack;

* Bring a camara with you, you will need it!

* It is highly recommended to do the hike with a local guide, or a lisenced travel operator, that can guide you along the path and avoid any inconvenience.

And now let me share my experience hiking the path to the Laguna 69. My pick-up was scheduled at 5:00 am, the guy was there perfectly on time, we first stopped to have breakfast at a little rural restaurant nearby Llanganuco Lagoon. Do not exceed with food at breakfast, perhaps just have a plain toast and a coffee or tea or a mate de coca (even better!). If you forgot to pack snacks, here you can buy some for your long excursion. In the way to the hiking starting point we made our second stop at the Llanganuco Lagoon, where you can enjoy an unforgettable view, with the beautiful flowers which is hard to find somewhere else.

After this stop, the transportation will bring you to the hiking starting point. The hike lasts approximately 3 hours, and it is quite strong. At the end you will reach the lagoon, which is located at an altitude of 4,600 metres above the sea level. During the hike do not loose your patience adn control if you get tired, just go at your own pace and enjoy the landscape. Do not run, you will regret it once you get there! During the hike you will enjoy beautiful snow peaks, mountains, waterfalls, colourful flowers and a clear blue sky, you will feel merged and connected with the nature. That’s a great feeling that you cannot miss!

At the beginning of the hike the path is quite plain, so that you can walk quietly, without wasting too many energies. While you go deep, you will notice that the intensity of the path increases and you have to climb in some part of the road. Here just walk at your own pace, and breath deeply; this will help you.

Before reaching Lagoon 69, you can stop at the Lagoon 68, which is a little lake rounded by mountains. Take your time to enjoy the landscapes and use this time to relax a bit. You need to restore your energy for the last stretch of the hike.

Finally, after the last part of the hike, which is very heavy (believe me!), you reach the Lagoon 69, a beautiful lake of blue cristal water rounded by snow peaks. Here you will have the time to take amazing pictures, relax and enjoy the nature.

However, if you suffer from altitude sickness and you do not want to take the risk to get sick during the hike to the Lagoon 69, you can choose to visit only the Llanganuco Lagoon, which is also a charming place. You will feel connected to nature there as well. In my opinion this is the best option if you are in Huaraz and you do not feel like climbing high peaks above but you still want to visit a lagoon. You can reach the lagoon by bus or private car.

There you can be engaged in several activities, you can jump on a boat to explore the lake and take beautiful pictures from inside the turquoise water of the lake rounded by the mountain peaks. Be careful and wear a lifejacket considering that the water is extremely cold. You can also do a little and easy hike around the lake, you can actually do it on your own since the path is easily recognizable.

This is a nice stroll along the lake’s shores where you will enjoy nature and its colors. Finally you can also eat in the area, enjoying traditional dishes from the Ancash region, such as the “Cuchi Canca”, a roasted pork served with baked potatoes and steamed rice or the“Patasca” a meat soap with corn.

In case you have more question just drop me a comment below, and I will be happy to share with you more tips on Huaraz

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Top Things to do While in Puno

Puno is located in the south-east region of Peru, located on the shores of the beautiful and mysterious Titicaca Lake, the highest navigable lake in the world. Once you get to Puno, the first thing you should do is to relax and get some rest, since the altitude could make you feel sick. The “soroche” is very common for tourists in this area. Also have a hot coca tea that is very effective to deal with altitude sickness in local people’s opinion. I can swear it actually helps!

Here some sights you should definitely visit:

Jiron Lima: This is Puno’s main street, where you can find restaurants, pubs and several shops. You should not miss a walk along this vibrant street to have an idea of how local people live. This is a pedestrian street which will bring you to Puno’s main square where you can find the Cathedral, Saint John Church and more.

Sillustani: It is an ancient burial ground near Lake Titicaca. The tombs are built above the ground, and filled with symbolism. The inside of the tombs are shaped like a woman’s uterus. The ancient people in Peru believed in a mother earth that created and regulated life. So, when a person died, they were mummified in the fetal position, just like they came into the world. The doors of the tombs face east, because it is believed that is where the sun is born from the mother earth each and every day.

Uros Island: The residents of Uros Island are the Aimaras who have inherited the way of life of the long-gone Uros. Their livelihood is based on the benefits of a unique plant: the “totora” reed. They use it to build their homes, boats and even the floating islands they live on, periodically adding new layers of reeds.

Amantani Island: This Island has lovely landscapes and a community organized like in the ancient time. It is less visited, making it attractive to those seeking peace, quiet and eager to get in touch with local people ad learn their charming traditions. Here you can also opt to spend the night with the villagers in one of their houses; this is a very nice experience that will allow you to fully get in touch with the local community.

Taquile Island: Thirty minutes away from Amantani Island there is Taquile Island, which inhabitants speak only Quechua. Farmers, fishermen and weavers, they wear distinctive outfits, which are usually very colorful. Taquile has several beautiful hills and many archeological sites; from there you will enjoy stunning views of the Titicaca Lake and its beautiful blue sky.

Week-end Market: if you happen to be in Puno on a Saturday you can also visit the local market, located in the city center. There you can find fruit, vegetables, grains, the majority of the varieties of Peruvian potatoes and much more. This is one of the best way to get in contact with local culture.

Also, do not forget that Puno is one of the richest regions when it comes to folklore and traditions; it is actually known as the folklore capital of Peru. You can often see street parades and other kind of celebration during the week-ends or in November, which is the month of the city’s founding and there are many celebrations going on. If you have more tips on Puno, do not hesitate to share it with me in the comments below.