Private Journeys

Active Peru: The Santa Cruz Trek

10 days from £1,150pp

Peru

Itinerary

map marker Map

Day 1

Arrive in Lima and transfer to hotel in the Miraflores district.

You will be met at the airport and escorted to your hotel in the cliff-side Pacific residential and commercial district of Miraflores. The half-hour drive to the hotel through Lima’s outskirts encapsulates the invigorating buzz of a modern-day Latin American capital.

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Day 2

Transfer to the bus station, public coach to Caraz in the Andes.

Travel by bus for the 486km, 7-9-hour drive north and inland from Lima. Take the Pan-American Highway northwards following the coastal plain between the ocean and the Andean foothills. Just over 190km short of your final destination, Caraz, high in the Andes mountains, you turn inland along a paved road which climbs through increasingly fertile valleys speckled with rural settlements: then the snow-capped peaks loom ahead.
The Cordillera Blanca is known for its plunging valleys, dotted with glaciers and gemstone blue and minty green glacial lakes. Human activity is represented by tiny pockets of agriculture and isolated indian villages, dwarfed by the grandeur and scale of the scenery. This is a wild, uncompromising landscape, its harshness mitigated by the friendliness of its people.

Caraz (2,285m), famous for its bees and honey production, is a pretty little town of low whitewashed houses which has a colonial plaza peppered with palm trees and flowers. It is one of the main bases for trekking in the area.

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Day 3

Full-day trip to Lake Parón to acclimatise with some gentle walking.

This is the first of two days to acclimatise to altitude and stretch your legs in preparation for the trekking to come. Today you have a full day excursion to Lake Parón. It is the largest lake in Huascarán National Park, offering expansive views of the surrounding jagged snow-capped peaks of the Cordillera Blanca: an almost unbelievable electric turquoise standing in contrast to the more muted colours of the surrounding forested landscape. Drive for two hours from Caraz through a granite canyon. Relax at the lake, or take an optional hike along trails through primary forest along the north shore before returning in the afternoon.

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Day 4

Day at leisure to acclimatise.

Today you have a day at leisure acclimatising to the altitude in this delightful region. There's a range of walks and other activities which can be arranged for you locally.

Day 5

Santa Cruz Trek.

The Santa Cruz Trek is a full-service trek in the Cordillera Blanca. The four-day guided trek along the Santa Cruz Valley covers 40km of striking, ever-changing terrain. Be prepared to walk between 5km and 12km per day (5-7 hours walking): there’s a lot of ascending and descending over this relatively short distance. Lunches will be packed and evening meals will be cooked for you, while your luggage will be transported from camp to camp. In the evenings you camp in large tents. Bear in mind that you'll overnight at up to an altitude of 4,200m. This is a private service: just you and your guides and porters.

Depart Caraz in the morning and drive for an hour to reach Cashapampa where the trail begins. Meet up with the mule drivers and their animals to begin the ascent. Hike up the Santa Cruz gorge. After a steady climb, the track opens out into an area of meadow with views of the snow-capped peaks of Aguja and Caraz. It's a steady hot and dusty climb to reach the Paccharuri waterfall, then from here gently up to the campsite at Llamacorral (3,850m). Approximate trekking time 4-5 hours.

Huaraz

Day 6

Hiking the Santa Cruz Trek, camp.

Today is a full day of hiking and wonderful vistas. The day breaks with the day’s destination silhouetted in the distance, Mount Taulliraju. Climb steadily upwards as glaciated peaks tower above on both sides and the track passes two glittering emerald lakes: Ichiccocha and Jatuncocha. Camp at Taullipampa (4,200m) at the foot of the impressive Mount Taulliraju. 

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Day 7

Hiking the Santa Cruz Trek, camp.

he trail ascends towards Punta Union pass (about 2-3 hours' walk) the highest point on the trek at 4,750m. This old trail was heavily used in both pre-conquest and colonial times as a route for transporting goods from the eastern side of the Andes to the main valley. As you approach the pass you get amazing panoramic views down the Santa Cruz Valley to the west, and views of the Huaripampa Valley to the east. Descend for lunch, and continue along the green Huaripampa Valley. Camp in the vicinity of Paria or Tuctu, 3,750m, in the heart of Huascarán National Park. 

 

Day 8

Return to Caraz.

Descend to Colcabamba before the final ascent to the camp in the small village of Vaqueira (3,700m). Walk uphill towards Portachuelo Pass (4,767m), which enjoys splendid mountain views. There are also splendid vistas of the beautiful Llanganuco lakes. Road transport later picks you up and drives you to the lower valley and finally back to Caraz.

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Day 9

Public coach to Lima.

The 486km, 7-9-hour road journey south to Lima starts with a drive of around 190km through pretty rural mountain landscapes snaking down towards the coast. The public coach then follows the Pan-American Highway southwards following the coastal plain between the ocean and the Andean foothills.  

The thoroughfare carves a lonely path through unrelentingly bleak desert scenery and passing small coastal towns and villages. Eventually however you reach the outskirts of the massive conurbation which is present-day Lima.

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Day 10

Transfer to airport for international flight. UK clients arrive home the following day.

Inspired by this trip

Our exciting range of articles on Latin America explore everything from iconic destinations and lesser-known cultural gems to delicious traditional recipes. You’ll also find exclusive travel tips, first-hand client reviews and the chance to get your personal questions answered by our travel experts.

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Our exciting range of articles on Latin America explore everything from iconic destinations and lesser-known cultural gems to delicious traditional recipes. You’ll also find exclusive travel tips, first-hand client reviews and the chance to get your personal questions answered by our travel experts.

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Real Latin America Experts

  • Hannah Donaldson
    Hannah Donaldson - Travel Consultant

    Having spent part of her childhood in Colombia and worked in Brazil and Costa Rica, Hannah's ties to Latin America run deep. Hannah is an invaluable part of our Group Tours team.

  • Hannah Waterhouse
    Hannah Waterhouse - Travel Consultant

    Hannah had an early introduction to Latin America when her family moved to Ecuador and she returned to study in Buenos Aires for a year before backpacking across the continent.

  • Kathryn Rhodes
    Kathryn Rhodes - Travel Consultant

    Kathryn backpacked across Argentina, Chile, Bolivia and Peru before joining us. She has a degree in Philosophy and French and is a keen netball player.

  • Sophie Barber
    Sophie Barber - Travel Consultant

    Sophie lived in Chile before joining us and has travelled extensively across Latin America, from Mexico to the furthest tip of Patagonia.

  • Lina Fuller
    Lina Fuller - Travel Consultant

    Lina's passion for the continent where she was born really took off when she moved to Córdoba to study, spending the holidays travelling between Argentina and her native Colombia.

  • Paul Winrow Giffen
    Paul Winrow-Giffin - Travel Consultant

    After graduating in Computer Science, Paul spent seven months travelling from Colombia to Argentina and came home hooked on Latin America.

Meet the team