This post is about how to do the famous Santa Cruz trek in the Huaraz region of Peru. Search for the best hikes in the world, this hike will show up. It is a perfect hike for travelers because it is short and packed with incredible sights.
Let’s start in Lima. You just flew into the airport and you have 2 options: go straight to the bus station, stay somewhere overnight then go to the bus station.
Where do stay? Miraflores is the nicest neighborhood in Lima and is still affordable at around 14 bucks a night for a hostel. Most backpackers go there (I stayed at Hostel 511). It is about a mile to the bus stop as well. Barranco is the coolest neighborhood and little cheaper, but is a little farther. There are also places to stay near the airport but the neighborhood isn’t as great. Taxi from the airport to Miraflores costs about 60-70 soles. The bus should cost you about 100 soles and it takes about 8 hours. Night buses are great and overall the bus quality is pretty good. You get seats that recline to almost a bed. It should be noted that the roads are crazy so if that freaks you out then a day might be safer for the driver. Might also be more scary for you because you can see the road!
Once you arrive in Huaraz, you should spend a day or two acclimating to the altitude. Huaraz sits at about 13,000 feet, which might make your head spin right there. DO NOT, begin your hike within 48 hours of landing in Huaraz, I saw first hand the terrible effects of altitude sickness while hiking at elevation.
Side story, a couple from Canada was on my hike and began the hike a day after landing and we’re confident because they lived at 5,000 ft back home. They got rocked and by the first night were in the fetal position chugging coca tea. Second night was 2,000 ft higher and even worse.
First thing to do would be to find housing if you have already done so to drop your bags. Hostels and pensions are available, but during the high season it can be a little tough to find good housing so be careful.
Once settled, book your trip. Guides are said to be required for the trek. This is not necessarily legally true, but definitely recommended, even from me who typically avoids guides at all times. the guides are really sherpas who will cook for you, sent up camp, carry your food, and a light bag of yours. They come equipped with burros, which are donkeys or mules who will perform the labor. Cost should be about 400 Soles.
Get that done on the first day so the second day you can do your acclimation hike. I highly recommend Laguna Charup because it climbs to about 14,500 ft and there is a great view. It’s quick and easy to get to and should give you just the right about of dizziness so that you are prepared. Here is a guide on how to find the bus to the trailhead.
Do either one more hike the next day, or if you are time constrained and are in good shape, go for the Santa Cruz trek the next day.
You will hop on the bus early and go for a pretty long drive, maybe 5 hours. This drive is insane. You are in a van and the roads are cliff climbing dirt roads that should be one way….but of course are not.
You will start the hike and from there on enjoy it. Below are photos from my hike. It is absolutely incredible.
Last tips for the hike: 1) it will drop below freezing at night so bring warm clothes. If you have your own sleeping bag, bring it. The sleeping bags the tour company provide are terrible. I wore, no joke, 3 leg layers, 5 top layers, and a beanie. 2) If you are getting tired, take a break, the elevation will make your legs sloppy and injury risk much greater. The Cordillera Blanca is not a good place to sprain an ankle. 3) If offered to eat a Guinea Pig, do it. It is the national delicacy. But don’t expect it to be that good.