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Huascarán National Park - National Park - Peru

Established in July 1975, the spectacular Parque Nacional Huascarán is a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve and part of the World Heritage Trust. This area of intense natural beauty is located in the Ancash region near Huaraz, 404 kilometers (251 mi) north-east of Lima.

The park—also referred to as the Huaraz Area, Cordillera Blanca or Callejón de Huaylas—is blessed with stunning mountain scenery that is comparable to the beauty of the Himalayas around Annapurna in Nepal. The Huaraz region is unique, however, in that it is home to Huascarán, Peru’s highest peak and the world’s highest tropical mountain. This 340,000-hectare (840,160-ac) garden of natural wonders encompasses all of the Cordillera Blanca above 4,000 meters (13,123 ft) with more than 50 peaks exceeding 5,700 meters (18,700 ft) and more than 300 lakes. Hulking mountains and massive glaciers dominate the terrain, which drops into a low valley where a variety of micro-climates thrive.

Inside the park, nearly 770 species of flora flourish, including the Puya raimondii, the largest bromeliad in the world. Meander through forests of endangered Polylepis—the world’s highest altitude trees—where you may encounter endangered mammals such as the Pampas Cat, Andean Cat, Spectacled Bear, and Hippocamelus. Birdwatchers can keep an eye out for more than 100 species of birds, among them the Torrent Duck and kula. The lucky few may spot Andean condors soaring high above herds of vicuña and white tailed deer.

The park is also home to the 3,000 year old Chavín culture. The road to the enigmatic ruins of Chavín de Huántar tunnels through the lowest pass at 4,450 meters (14,600 ft), exposing travelers to spectacular mountain views. In the Callejón de Conchucos (a valley on the far side of the range) there are a string of isolated villages whose inhabitants continue to follow traditional ways of life. These bastions of culture are linked only by dirt roads. Most of the inhabitants in this region live below the poverty line, subsisting on maize, quinoa and kiwicha grains, and a variety of potatoes and other tubers. The latest source of income in this region is providing donkeys to foreigners who are passing through.

One of the park’s aims is to raise the quality of life in the region by promoting sustainable tourism practices. Another corollary to the park’s foundation is preservation of its flora, fauna, geology and archaeological sites. The park charges a fee of $1.85 for a day visit (a small price to pay for a lifetime of natural beauty). For visits of up to seven days, a $25 permit is required. Permits can be purchased at the park office, located in the Ministry of Agriculture at the east end of Avenida Raymondi in Huaraz (Monday-Friday 8 a.m-1 p.m., 2.45-5.45 p.m. Tel: 422-024).

The roads winding through the Cordillera Blanca provide great access for day hikes. You can stay in any of the towns along Callejón de Huaylas, such as Huaraz, Carhuaz and Caraz. Agencies in Huaraz offer cheap day excursions to nearby sites, such as the Pastoruri Glacier and Lagunas Llanganuco, and in most cases can pick you up at any one of the nearby towns.


National Park

06 Jul 2012

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