Altitude: 2250m (7,382 ft) Population: 13,300 Phone Code: 43
Located in the foothills of the San Juan range in Ancash, the city of Caraz is also known as Caraz Dulzura, or Sweet Caraz. This is perhaps due to the popularity of the local crop sugar cane, as well as the communityâ€™s love of ice cream and pastries (most notably the milk-and-sugar confection, manjar blanco) manifested in its many pastry shops.
Unlike the other cities in the Ancash region, Caraz suffered little structural damage during the 8.0, 1970 earthquake that devastated so much of Peru. Thus it offers more neocolonial and 19th century architecture than Carhuaz does, and is free of the prevalent eyesore of the exposed skeletal construction of buildings abandoned in mid-repair that you find in Huaraz. Historically, Caraz served as the last outpost for SimÃ³n BolÃvar and his regimen in the decisive battles at Ayacucho and JunÃn that saw the end of Spanish rule in South America.
With its year-round temperate climate, Caraz is a rich source of agricultural produce. Besides the aforementioned sugar, the area also produces rice, cotton, potatoes and corn. Additionally, Caraz raises cattle, llamas, alpaca, vicuÃ±as and sheep; the latter three provide the wool used in the many colorful and folkloric ponchos, scarves and hats sold in the area.
Carazâ€™s main festival, the celebration of the Virgin of ChiquinquirÃ¡, takes place in January and features processions, costumes, dancing and even bull fighting, and, of course, a lot of drinking. Apart from the modest cultural charms of the city itself, the main attraction is the access it provides to breathtaking scenery and adventure.