One Dollar Huaraz Day Trip to Wilcacocha Lake

 

Hey, we’ve all been on a budget before, especially during long term travel. If you’re a backpacker trying to save a few bucks, this is definitely the post for you. Our Huaraz day trip this weekend to Wilcacocha lake only set us back one dollar for two people. Which means we got to spend the day checking out some amazing mountain scenery, and had money to spare to enjoy a nice dinner and some craft beers in the city afterwards. If you’re interested in doing the same, check out my guide below for a one dollar Huaraz day trip to Wilcacocha lake 🙂

 

Step 1: Breakfast

The first thing we did this Saturday to prepare for our Huaraz day trip was fuel up with a filling breakfast at Trivio. We slept in then walked to Trivio to enjoy a late meal for only $5 each. Fresh orange juice, coffee, eggs, bacon and pancakes sitting outside in the sun… yes please. After we we’re full, we set out on our trek to Wilcacocha lake (PS skip this step if you’re really super broke, and pack a meal to enjoy on the hike instead!)

 

 

Step 2: Transportation

Ok, the next step on your Huaraz day trip is to get on a collectivo to take you to the start of the trail. You can grab one of these vans at the corner of Raymondi and Hualcan streets, near the central market and easy walking distance from the Plaza de Armas. Stand on the corner and wave down any passing collectivo van marked for route 10 or route E. Squeeze in (it will probably be packed) and pay one sole (25 cents) each for the ride. Just make sure to tell the driver you want to get off at Wilcacocha and he’ll let you know when he stops at the trailhead. The ride out is about 15 to 20 minutes, and the marked trail were you get dropped off is clear… it’s actually just a dirt road to the top.

 

Step 3: The Climb

So, we climbed most of the way up on the dirt road, but there is a trail you can take for a faster hike. Walk along the road and you’ll (maybe?) see a trail lined with greenery on the right side of the road. We missed this one though. There is also a trail that winds up on the left side of the road. If you get to a school, you’ve gone too far, the trail should be on your left before it (we also missed this one though!) Finally, if you’re dumb like us and walk most of the way up the road, you’ll find a final trail on the right side after about an hour and a half or two hours. Don’t miss it! It’s fairly large and obvious and leads to the lake in about five minutes.

 

 

Step 4: The View

The lake is small and just… ok. The real draw to this climb is the mountain view. From the lake you can see the Cordillera Blanca range including eight or nine snowy mountain peaks, and the city of Huaraz laid out in the distance. It was absolutely stunning. We packed a lunch to enjoy at the top, and were promptly joined by plenty of stray dogs looking for (and getting) a bite of the action.

 

 

Step 5: The Descent

It is much easier to see the trail on the descent. Follow it about halfway down the mountainside, where it meets back up with the road. Return along the road to the main street, when you can cross and wave down one of the many collectivos heading back to Huaraz (we waited about one minute before one passed us). The collectivo back again costs one sole each, and will return to the city in about 20 minutes.

 

 

All in all, the Huaraz day trip to Wilcacocha lake takes about four to five hours from start to finish… and only costs a dollar! Its a great easy hike to acclimate to the high altitude before the Santa Cruz or Laguna 69 treks, and has a beautiful view from the top. Definitely worth adding to your bucket list in Peru!

All my love,

Di

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Colombia vs. Peru: Which Should You Visit?

South America.

It’s one of the most diverse continents in the world and a great destination for travelers of all types.

Two of the most popular destinations on the continent are Colombia and Peru. To give you a bit of background about my experience with the countries, we spent six months in Colombia in the first half of 2017 and will have spent over four months in Peru by the time we return home in November.

And I’ve loved both.

However, when people are deciding to visit South America, Colombia vs. Peru is one of the most common comparisons. While I definitely recommend that you visit both if time allows, that just isn’t an option for a lot of people. Let’s take a look at which one might be for you.

 

Tourist Attractions

If you’re a backpacker on a long-term trip, this one might not matter as much to you as it might for someone on a shorter trip. However, tourist attractions are fun for everyone, no matter what type of traveler you are.

During our time in Colombia, I found that tourist attractions weren’t really that big of a thing. Some of the most popular are:

  • The Walled City of Cartagena
  • Anything Pablo Escobar
  • Tayrona National Park
  • Monserrate in Bogota
  • Salt Cathedral of Zipaquira
  • Medellin Cable Car

While there are certainly others, these are just some of the most common that tourists tend to visit. We spent most of our time in Medellin, though, where there is very little in the way of tourist attractions.

Read: What to do in Medellin

After spending six-months in Colombia, landing in Peru was like landing in a tourist wonderland. It seems like everywhere you go there are a ton of different options for tourists. I could list tourist attractions in Peru for days, but some of the most popular are:

And the list goes on.

There’s really no question about who has the better tourist attractions since Machu Picchu alone blows away everything that Colombia has.

Colombia vs. Peru Tourism Winner: Peru

 

Infrastructure

Infrastructure is particularly relevant for those traveling long-term.

I’ll start by saying that Colombia has a metro. That alone is something special in South America. They also have nice shopping malls, high-quality medical care, modern highways, a range of grocery stores, and easy access to cheap flights ($45 USD round trip between Medellin and Bogota).

Peru isn’t quite on that level.

While I love Peru, the infrastructure just isn’t there yet. Although there are some cheap flights available, busses are the most common mode of transportation for most people, including tourists. From what I’ve seen, the roads, malls, and grocery stores are all a little bit lower quality in Peru as compared to Colombia.

Colombia vs. Peru Infrastructure Winner: Colombia

 

 

Ease of Tourism

Like I said about Colombia, there just isn’t a whole lot in the way of tourism. I think a lot of that is due in part to the fact that they are still coming out of one of the longest civil wars in modern history.

Having spent six months based out of Medellin, I can tell you that there aren’t many options for people looking for tours. There are very few tourist agencies, and those that do exist are usually expensive. Most of the tourist stuff that you do in Colombia is stuff that you just do on your own.

In Peru, the tours never end. We spent two months in Cusco and didn’t even get to all the tours that we wanted to do. You have several options for treks to Machu Picchu, Rainbow Mountain, the boleto touristico that gets you into multiple ruins and museums, the Sacred Valley, Huchuy Qosqo, and more.

That’s not even getting into everything else in the country, like climbing mountains in Huaraz, visiting Lake Titicaca, and more. There’s no question on this one.

Colombia vs. Peru Ease of Tourism Winner: Peru

 

Nightlife

One of the most attractive aspects of Colombia for many is the thriving nightlife. After spending time in Medellin, Bogota, and Cartagena, I can say that the reputation is well-deserving. Tourist hotspot Poblado in Medellin has the most active nightlife that I’ve seen all year, with bar crawls, craft beer, and plenty of nightclubs.

In Peru, I’ve found the nightlife to be lacking a little bit. Although there are a lot of great bars, night clubs, and breweries, I just haven’t seen anything yet that even comes close to a Friday or Saturday in Poblado or Zona Rosa in Colombia. Drinks are also generally more expensive in Peru than they are in Colombia.

Colombia vs. Peru Nightlife Winner: Colombia

 

Nature and Hiking

Before I went to Colombia, I thought that I was going to have easy access to all kinds of beautiful nature. Unfortunately, that just wasn’t the case in Medellin. Although it’s a beautiful city, the only real option to escape city life is Parque Arvi. Of course, there are other amazing parks and hiking in Medellin, but I just didn’t find it all to be as accessible as in Peru.

In Peru, going on anything from a day hike to an extended trek is super simple. There are countless agencies willing to take you out and provide all the gear, and most of them are reasonably priced. We’ve gone on a trip just about every weekend that we’ve been in the country. From walking through easily accessible ruins to scaling 19,000 ft. volcanos, there’s something for everyone in Peru.

Colombia vs. Peru Nature and Hiking Winner: Peru

 

Food

Much of my opinion about food in Colombia is colored around our stay in Medellin. There’s a lot of good Colombian food (especially the Bandeja Paisa), but there are a ton of really good international restaurants in Medellin as well. We could find everything from Vietnamese food to pizza to charcuterie to typical American fast food in Medellin. There was always something really great to eat no matter where you were in the city.

In Peru, I don’t think the food has been as good. Although I haven’t spent much time in Lima yet (one of the food capitals of the world), I think that there were just a few more good options in Colombia.

Colombia vs. Peru Food Winner: Colombia

 

Overall Winner in Colombia vs. Peru…

Although we end up at a 3-3 tie, I weigh some of these categories a bit heavier than others. For me, the outdoors and ease of access categories weigh heavily, and for that reason I choose Peru over Colombia.

If you’re someone who wants to have a wide range of activities at a very reasonable cost, there’s no question that Peru has more to offer than Colombia at this time.

 

If you’ve had the opportunity to visit Colombia and Peru, let us know what you think about this comparison in the comments section below!

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14 Photos of Laguna 69 You Have to See to Believe

Laguna 69 is located outside of Huaraz, Peru. The hike to Laguna 69 is in the Huascaran National Park, set in the Cordillera Blanca mountain range. On our way we enjoyed turquoise glacial lakes, stunning white capped mountain peaks, sweeping rock walls, glaciers, and water falls. These photos of Laguna 69 could never do it justice, but I’ll certainly try my best!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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11 Things You Need to Know Before You Travel to Peru

I’ve spent the last three months in Peru, and I feel like I got to know the country pretty well. I spent extended stays in Cusco, Arequipa, and Huaraz, and will spend another four weeks in Lima before I leave. Along the way, I learned a lot of new things about the country. Some big, some small. Some surprising, and some just downright confusing. If you’re planning to visit the country soon (or just want to know more about it than the fact that it has Machu Picchu) here’s a list of the 11 things you need to know before you travel to Peru.

 

1. Public bathrooms never have toilet seats

Why is this a thing? If you’re Peruvian, please message me to explain this phenomenon because honestly, it blows my mind. For some reason, almost every bathroom I’ve used in Peru has had its toilet seat removed. Why?! Is it easier to clean? Do toilet seats cost extra in this country? Is there some giant landfill in the outskirts of town filled to the brim with discarded toilet seats? Where are they all? If you’re planning to travel to Peru, toughen up your leg muscles because you are gonna be doing lots of squatting in the bathrooms down here.

 

2. The ancient Incan language of Quechua is still alive and well

This was such a surprise for me! A lot of Peruvians we interact with are speaking Spanish as a second language just like us. Many communities in Peru still speak the Incan language of Quechua. In fact, over 11 million people in South America still speak it today, making it the most widely spoken Indian language in the Americas. You even know some Quechua words yourself, like llama and jerky. The craziest part of all, though? It is not even a written language, and it has still survived the centuries. Amazing.

 

3. Your shower might kill you

For some reason, the water heater of choice in Peru is electric shower heads. A tell tale sign that you’re using a suicide shower will be low water pressure, strange noises, and an array of exposed wires sticking out of the shower head. Yeah, using these has been my least favorite part of traveling in Peru.

I deal with suicide showers by trying to shower less, jumping in and out as fast as possible, and getting right with God before every shower so I can die with peace of mind when they inevitably fry me. Electricity and water should never mix, but for some reason they do here. Be prepared to risk your life in suicide showers when you travel to Peru.

 

4. The bus movies are… interesting

Peru is a large country, and flights between cities aren’t very cheap. Because of that, I’ve taken many longer bus rides. On every ride, they always play a movie. The best part about them is that they’re always english movies, dubbed into Spanish, then have english subtitles on top of it… kind of feels like they added an extra step in there. Additionally, it seems the only prereq for a movie to be chosen for the bus ride is that it’s filled with violence, gore, or nudity (but preferably all three.) Every one so far has had war, guns, explosions, and some even had topless women. Who cares about the innocent children riding these buses right?

Another important thing to keep in mind when making plans to travel to Peru is that ticket prices for busses can vary… a lot. It took me awhile to learn from my mistakes, and I ended up paying almost $100 extra for our busses through the country before I figured this out: never buy bus tickets anywhere except the bus station!

Every agency or person you deal with will upcharge you. Most likely, you’re moving from one popular tourist destination to another, which means there are plenty of different bus companies selling tons of different departures there every day. They usually don’t sell out, so it’s easy to get a ticket for the next bus out rather than buying one in advance. Cruz del Sur is a popular line (because it’s super nice) and easy to buy online, but the tickets usually cost two or three times more than what other busses are charging. Always wait and buy your tickets directly from the companies at the bus station to save money.

 

5.The water is not drinkable

Living in Peru is the first time I’ve had an extended stay in a country where the water is not drinkable. It’s not potable in any of the cities here (including Lima) and that’s had some consequences I didn’t expect.

First off, even though large 2.5 liter bottles of water are only about a dollar here, the costs add up. If we drink one a day, thats $30 a month of extra expenses to add into the budget. To put that into perspective, its the same price as my international phone and data plan with Sprint. Nothing to sneeze at. It also adds up because whenever we’re on a trek or out at dinner, we buy water at upcharged prices. My whole life was spent drinking free water when going out to eat at restaurants, but now purchasing a drink with every meal is necessary.

The second affect it’s had on my life is the strange feeling of being thirsty and having no water to drink. Waking up with a hangover and realizing you forgot to buy more water bottles the night before is honestly the worst feeling. In that case I either have to boil water and wait hours for it to cool, or leave the apartment to buy more. Not being able to turn on the tap whenever I’m thirsty has been a big adjustment.

 

6. The taxis don’t have meters

Taking a taxi as a foreign traveler can be a daunting task on its own, and when you remove meters from the equation it only gets worse. For some reason, in Peru, none of the taxis have meters. It doesn’t seem to be a very regulated business and the taxis never have a special car or color. At times we’ve found ourselves sitting in “taxis” wondering if we had just gotten into a random man’s car who saw an opportunity to make a few bucks. The best way to deal with taxis when they don’t have meters is to always, always agree on a price before hand. If you get in and they start driving, they can tell you literally any inflated price they want and you’ll be stuck paying it.

I also found taxis to be much more expensive in Peru than they were in Colombia, and the reason for that is the extremely high price of gas. It’s currently $3.50 a gallon here, which when factoring in the low cost of living would be more like paying $7 a gallon in the US. And it used to be even higher!

 

7. “Easy” and “difficult” have very different meanings here

The tour agencies in Peru will do anything to make a buck. Pretty much every one we’ve worked with so far has lied or been dishonest in some aspect of their sales pitch. Every trek we went on was a combined group from many different agencies, with people paying huge ranges of different prices for the exact same trip. Yikes.

The worst, though, was the agency who sold us a tour to climb Misti Volcano. We had almost no experience and it turned out to be an extremely difficult and dangerous trek, one that we never would have been allowed to hike in the US. My tip? Don’t ever sign a waiver for a tour in Peru! If they’re asking for that, it’s going to be unsafe even by their standards. Definitely make sure you research everything online and never rely on what the tour agencies tell (or don’t tell) you about a trip.

 

8. Stray dogs. Stray dogs everywhere

Oh man. The stray dog situation in Peru is really out of hand. It’s not uncommon to see packs of 5 or more dogs trotting down the streets together. While I love dogs as much as the next guy, I’ve really seen way more dog “love-making” during my time in Peru than anyone should ever have to see in their lifetime. They also get into the trash and get it everywhere in the streets. Gross.

However, one unique thing about the stray dogs in Cusco is that a lot of them wear shirts and jackets when the weather starts to get cold. They don’t have owners, just kind citizens looking out for them. It’s pretty cute. Just a fair warning, if you are going to travel to Peru, be prepared to want to pat all the stray doggos all the time. You’ll either need to exhibit serious self restraint, or invest in a lot of hand sanitizer!

 

9. The weather is unbeatable

Peru is a perfect destination for a summer vacation because the summer months have absolutely phenomenal weather. During the months of July and August, we got rained on… once. Every single other day was stunningly blue without a cloud in the sky. Peru is in the southern hemisphere so these summer months are their winter months. The days are warm, dry, sunny, and breezy, and the nights are cool and cozy. Travel to Peru in the summer and you’ll enjoy amazing hiking and vacation weather!

 

10. The craft beer scene is better than you think

One of the things I miss most while traveling is easy access to good craft beer. However, in Peru the craft beer scene is definitely on the rise. Even the small town of Huaraz, with a population of only 100,000 people, has the Sierra Andina brewery which boasts some of the best (and strongest) IPA’s I’ve ever had. (Oh and they pronounce IPA as a word here, calling them “eepas” haha.) Arequipa has a cider brewery and the restaurants had different craft beers to try, like a barley wine brew and a coconut beer. Cusco also had multiple different craft beer bars. My favorite was the Nuevo Mundo brewery in Plaza de Armas which had taster flights and different fresh brewed beers on tap (the chocolate beer was amazing!) If you’re a beer lover, drinking your way through Peru definitely won’t disappoint.

 

11. There’s so much more to see than just Machu Picchu when you travel to Peru

Visiting Machu Picchu is definitely a highlight of every trip to Peru, but it shouldn’t be the only destination. There is so much more to do and see in this country, like the Salkantay Trek and Rainbow Mountain in Cusco, Lake Titicaca (the highest navigable lake in the world) and Colca Canyon (the second deepest canyon in the world) in Arequipa, the Santa Cruz Trek and Laguna 69 in Huaraz, and even the Huacachina Oasis and Islas Ballestas in Lima. Four months here will barely be enough to scratch the surface of all this amazing country has to offer. If you plan to travel to Peru and only see Machu Picchu, you’ll be doing yourself a serious disservice.

 

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How to Hike to Laguna 69

If you want to hike to Laguna 69 in Peru, the city of Huaraz is the perfect jumping off point. Huaraz is an eight hour bus ride north of Lima. Busses cost around $10 to $30 each way, making Huaraz an easily accessible city on your travels through Peru. The city is small, with only about 100,000 people, but authentic. I’m living here for a month, and it doesn’t even have a full sized grocery store because everyone still shops at the giant market in the middle of town!

There are many reasons to visit Huaraz, like the stunning mountain views from the city and the 4 day Santa Cruz trek: one of National Geographic’s World’s Best Hikes. If you don’t have the time for the Santa Cruz trek but still want to see the beauty of the Cordillera Blanca mountain range, then a hike to Laguna 69 is the perfect day trip. Read about it below!

 

 

Book a Tour

Booking a tour to hike to Laguna 69 is easy. Multiple busses leave from Huaraz every day, and there were at least 100 people or more making the climb with us. The tours cost $10 but they don’t include a lot. Pretty much it is just the price for transportation out to the trailhead and back. Breakfast and lunch are not included, and the guide was more there only to keep an eye on things. She didn’t keep us together as a group or stop to give us any information on the trail.

The trail is very easy to hike on your own, but paying for easy transport with a tour is definitely worth saving yourself the hassle of getting out there by yourself. The day started with a 5:30 am pick up and a two hour drive out to Yungay. We stopped for breakfast at a restaurant here, then drove another 20 minutes to the park.

Enter the Park

The entrance to hike to Laguna 69 is in the Huascaran National Park. You can either pay $3 for a day pass into the park when you arrive at the gate, or you can pay $8 for a three week pass. If you want to camp in the park this pass will be necessary, and if you plan to do the Santa Cruz Trek later (which is in the same park) it’s better to save money and purchase the three week pass now.

Once we entered the park, we stopped at the first lake in the series of three we were going to see that day. The first two lakes are next to each other. The Llanganuco lakes are an absolutely stunning turquoise color. We stopped for 10 minutes to take pictures, then drove another 20 minutes to the trail head.

 

 

Hike to Laguna 69

The hike to Laguna 69 takes almost three hours exactly. The lake lies at an altitude of 14,700 ft, and the trek is about 5 miles roundtrip. It’s moderately difficult due to the two hours of uphill climbing and the affects of high altitude.

 

 

We started to the hike at 9am with a one hour walk through a beautiful, flat, green valley, enjoying the sound of the rushing river and views of multiple small waterfalls. Next, the trail began to go up. We climbed for about an hour, and when we reached the top of the mountainside, I thought for sure we had reached the lake. Nope. Just another grassy field with a large climb ahead of it. We walked by rivers and past rock walls, glaciers, and stunning white capped peaks, then began the second climb of the day. This one was 45 minutes, and the toughest part of the hike.

 

 

Finally, we reached the top and the trail flattened out and opened up to a stunning view of Laguna 69. Wow. The pale blue water, giant mountains, and shining sun made for a view I will never forget. We snapped a few pictures, then sat down on the rocks by the river for a picnic. Make sure you pack a lunch, because we were far from any vendors and starving from the climb. We spent over an hour at the lake laying in the sun, and I even fell asleep on the rocks for a few minutes. It was just that relaxing. Finally, the guides began to round up the groups to begin the descent.

 

 

Back to the Bus

We walked back down the same trail we used to hike to Laguna 69, and it took two hours to descend. The cloudy morning had cleared up, and we got views of glaciers and many different snow topped mountain peaks along the way. So beautiful! Finally, we arrived back to the clearing where we began our hike. The groups spread out a lot during the descent, so we had 20 minutes to just relax in the sun by the flowing streams before everyone arrived and we boarded the bus back home. The bus left around 4pm and we arrive back in Huaraz at 7pm. It was a quick and easy trek, but also one of the most beautiful I have ever done! If you are coming to Peru, don’t miss a visit to stunning Huaraz and the hike to Laguna 69!

 

 

I’ve spent over 3 months in Peru, and the hike to Laguna 69 is one of my favorite treks so far. It’s just unreal with the amazing pale blue colors and the stunning mountain backdrop, and definitely shouldn’t be missed!

All my love,

Di

 

 

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Lake Titicaca Photo Diary

We spent a weekend visiting the Peruvian Islands in Lake Titicaca, and as usual in Peru, the photos were too good not to share. During our two days on the lake, the landscape changed dramatically from a cloudy and gray climate over Puno’s city to a green and sunny escape on the the Amantani and Taquile islands. See it all in our Lake Titicaca photo diary and explore more of the landscapes, people, and culture we found on the high altitude lake!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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