The town of Huaraz has become synonymous with adventure travel in the Cordillera Blanca and in Huascarán National Park in the Andes of Peru. However, the nearby town of Caraz offers a slower pace and closer proximity to much of the outdoor action. Use our adventure town travel guide to make the most of your time in and around Caraz.
Welcome to Caraz, Peru
About 45 miles (70 km) north of Huaraz and actually closer to some of the most popular areas of Huascarán National Park, Caraz, at 7,402 feet (2,256 meters) makes a great adventure travel basecamp for travelers looking to explore the stunning Cordillera Blanca area of the Peruvian Andes.
We stayed in Huaraz and in Caraz. Compared to Huaraz, Caraz is a smaller, slower place with fewer tourists. Another bonus: Caraz is closer to many of the area’s tops outdoor destinations and activities. Most tour operators are based out of Huaraz, so it might be tricky to get to and from area attractions from Caraz if you don’t have a vehicle, as we do.
What to do in (and around) Caraz, Peru
The first priority of travelers who visit Caraz is to explore the natural beauty all around this town. We clocked many miles on trails and scenic dirt roads in the area and here are our posts about top adventure travel activities in the Cordillera Blanca and Huascarán National Park around Caraz:
Santa Cruz Trek: here’s our day-by-day trail guide for the Santa Cruz trek
Day hike to Laguna 69: here’s our post about the day hike to Laguna 69
Hiking around Laguna Parón: here’s our post about hiking around Laguna Parón
Driving the Cañon del Pato: here’s our post about the epic drive through the Cañon del Pato
Visiting the Pastoruri Glacier: here’s our post about visiting the Pastoruri Glacier
Andean vistas from Punta Winchus: here’s our photo essay from scenic Punta Winchus
Every Wednesday morning, a weekly flower market takes place a few blocks from the main plaza in Caraz. The market is packed with vendors (mostly women) selling fresh cut flowers including carnations, gladioli, roses, lilies, calla lilies, baby’s breath, sunflowers, and lots of beauties we couldn’t identify.
The vendors themselves are equally lovely in their colorful clothing and dramatic hats (some adorned with fresh flowers).
There are also vendors selling tamales and some fresh vegetables, but this market is mostly about flowers grown by local farmers and, primarily, snatched up in huge quantities by buyers who send the blooms on to the cities of Lima and Trujillo in big trucks.
If you want to enjoy the flower market in Caraz you’ll have to get up early. The whole thing is over by about 7 am.
On May 31, 1970, a 7.9 earthquake occurred in the ocean off the coast of Peru and its effects were felt throughout the country. In the mountainous province of Ancash, home to Caraz and Huaraz and other towns, the quake, which has been dubbed the 1970 Ancash Earthquake or the Great Peruvian Earthquake, triggered landslides filled with rock and ice as lakes, glaciers, and mountainsides collapsed.
Near Caraz, the slide came from the flanks of Huascaran, the tallest mountain in Peru, which looms directly above Yungay (as seen in the photo above). The fast-moving slide completely destroyed Yunay and killed tens of thousands of people. A place called Campo Santo (Holy Field in English) was created as a memorial where the original Yungay town once thrived.
Throughout the country, May 31 is National Disaster Education and Reflection Day, and the Peruvian government decided to leave the community of Yungay buried and preserved as a monument to those lost.
The Campo Santo memorial at the slide site in Yungay (2.5 soles or about US$0.60 to enter) is at once peaceful and disturbing. Up to 40 feet (12 meters) of debris still covers the landscape. What’s left of a church belltower struggles upward through the grim rubble. A bus remains buried. Plaques memorialize the names of some of the estimated 25,000 people who died here. A statue of Christ keeps watch over the scene, which is now punctuated with a sea of rose bushes. Campo Santo can be visited from Huaraz as well, but the memorial is much closer to Caraz.
Where to sleep in Caraz, Peru
There are a number of budget-friendly hostels and hospedajes in Caraz. However, the most peaceful place to stay in Caraz is Casona Lara (formerly known as Los Pinos Lodge). The 8,600 square foot (800 square meter) family home where Luis Rojas Lara grew up was built by his grandfather in 1945. In 1987, it was converted into a place for backpackers to stay. Over time, it’s evolved into a polished and stylish hotel with much to recommend it. For example, when we arrived the whole place smelled like fresh cake and we were quickly handed a delicious slice.
Today, Casona Lara offers four loft-like jr. suites with mini-fridges, patios, and mountain views (the shot of Huandoy at the top of this post was taken from the hotel). There are also five standard rooms (from 160 soles or about US$38 double occupancy). Room #12 is the largest standard accommodation with a nice front sitting area with a sofa and a table. We stayed in room #8 which is a jr. suite with a living room and two small patios, wood floors, plenty of space and light, a great bed and bedding, two TVs, and mountain views.
The house, surrounded by a 13,000 square foot (1,200 square meter) garden, is full of art created by Luis’ mom. Antiques throughout and a working fireplace in the communal living room add to the homey charms.
Breakfast (included in room rates) is a full spread including eggs to order, tamales, rolls, butter, jam, juice, yogurt, cereal, and great coffee. The hotel also has a large parking area, an outdoor bar-b-que area, good WiFi, and plenty of fresh flowers sourced from the town’s weekly flower market. Luis is trained in tourism management and is a certified trekking guide who also owns the Apu Aventura tour company, so you can count on sound adventure advice and assistance.
Another noteworthy place to stay is Casa Pukayaku 10 minutes by car or 20 minutes on foot from central Caraz. Here a handful of private rooms are on offer on the banks of the Llullán River. The property is peaceful (it’s often described as an “oasis”) with a large garden and small pool, rooms are sun-drenched and stylish (embedded river stones, hardwood floors), a bountiful breakfast is included and other home-cooked meals are available as well.
While you’re there, don’t miss the chance to try the excellent craft beer being made by owners Belissa and Jorge.
Continue planning your trip to the Cordillera Blanca and Huascarán National Park in Peru with our day-by-day trail guide for the iconic Santa Cruz trek, our post about the day hike to Laguna 69, our post about hiking around Laguna Parón, our post about the epic drive through the Cañon del Pato, our post about visiting the Pastoruri Glacier, our photo essay from scenic Punta Winchus, and our adventure town travel guide to Huaraz, the self-proclaimed Adventure Capital of Peru.
Here’s more about travel in Peru
Here’s more about Adventure Travel in the Americas