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Huaraz. . . the Chamonix of Peru? May 27, 2007

Posted by Jason in culture, Peru, South America.
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The Cordillera Blanca from Huaraz 

We arrived in Huaraz at 6.30am Friday the 18th of May.  It was a chilly misty morning as we stepped off the night bus and were immediately accosted by a host of taxi drivers and agency representatives eager to “help us” find accommodation and “tours” of the area.

We managed to finally escape the crowd and allowed a taxi driver to find us accommodation.  After several attempts we found a guest house “Jacal” run by a very friendly family on Jose De Sucre.  The price was excellent for a double room with ensuite and hot water.

We had high hopes of Huaraz.  The publicity telling us that it was the “Chamonix of Peru”. Now we have heard this one before.  El Chalten and Bariloche in Argentina for instance.  Both wonderful places in their own right, but simply no need to compare with Chamonix.

Huaraz has a tragic history, with floods and earthquakes causing mass destruction and misery.   The last such event was on 31st May 1970 when an earthquake measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale destroyed most of the city of Huaraz and severely damaging other cities in the region and on the coast.  The result was a total of 70,000 s and 250,000 casualties.

The city was thus rebuilt.  The results we see today are of a rather drab sprawling city sat below the white peaks of the Cordillera Blanca, some of the most beautiful snow capped mountains in the world.

Our experience so far has been positive, with people being very friendly and the surrounding countryside beautiful.

However, is this the Chamonix of Peru?  Obviously, the people who have suggested such a thing have never been to Chamonix! 

Chamonix is a picturesque town nestled in the Alps with cool cafes, restauraunts and an atmosphere all of its own.  Whether in summer or winter it has something to offer and food to die for.

Huaraz,  however cannot live up to this reputation.  It´s postion below the Cordillera Blanca cannot be denied, and the people very friendly and helpful, however, it has neither the atmosphere or the picturesque nature of Chamonix.

Yes, there are cool places to hang out, eat or have a coffee when you find them.  Some of the best being Cafe Andino, Cafe California, Pachamama restaurant and cinema, El Encuentro and Chillie Heaven(beside the Casa de Guias).

However, in order to get to them you have to pass alleyways and streets stinking of and human excrement. The smell is sometimes so overwhelming that it is enough to make you want to vomit if you are caught unawares.

So the verdict. . . .Well, Huaraz is not a picturesque city, and it is certainly not a “Chamonix”,  but it is a place well worth visiting, and the countryside around is breathtaking. 

Huaraz, in short, is a place from where to launch yourself into the mountains and not necessarily to hang around and relax.

Come to Huaraz, but not for the city, but for the mountains.

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