Caraz, at the north end of the Callejón de Huaylas, is the valley’s best option for those who are looking for a peaceful, less touristy option to Huaraz. It is a pretty town with a graceful plaza and colonial air. A market comes alive each day with fresh food, colorful basketry, gourd bowls, votive candles, and woven hats. Around the town are the brilliant glaciers of Huandoy, where the Río Santo begins to tumble toward the Pacific.
Turn off Daniel Villar street, en route to Los Pinos Lodge, and you’ll come across La Taberna Tabasco (8 p.m.–close Thurs.–Sat.), the only nightlife spot in Caraz. The rustic disco-pub is good for drinking, dancing, or both.
Despite its small size, Caraz offers good hotels and well-equipped, knowledgeable climbing and trekking agencies. At 2,285 meters, Caraz is 800 meters lower than Huaraz and enjoys much warmer weather. Its nickname, Caraz Dulzura (Sweet Caraz), denotes its reputation as a land of manjar blanco, a rich caramel spread.
Caraz is well positioned for the valley’s major climbing and trekking endeavors. It is near a trailhead for the popular Santa Cruz trek and is close to Alpamayo. It is also the starting point for explorations into the rugged northern regions of the Cordillera Blanca. Carry cash since credit cards are not generally accepted in town.
Getting to Caraz
Combis leave frequently along the highway south toward Yungay and Huaraz. When full, cars leave from the corner of Ramón Castilla and Santa Cruz at 5 a.m. and 1 p.m. for the 90-minute drive to Pueblo Parón, a village nine kilometers from Lago Parón. Cars from Pueblo Parón return to Caraz at 6 a.m. and 2 p.m. From Ramón Castilla and Santa Cruz, cars also leave for Cashapampa, a trailhead for the Santa Cruz trek. Trekkers can use these cars to get to and from Caraz.
Several bus companies travel to Lima from Caraz, with a stop in Huaraz along the way. Movil Tours (Córdoba block 1, tel. 043/39-1922, 7 a.m.–noon and 2–8:30 p.m. daily) is the best among the Lima-bound bus companies. Yungay Express (Daniel Villar 316, tel. 043/39-1888, 7 a.m.–7 p.m. daily) has a daily bus down the Cañon del Pato (US$6, nine hours) to Chimbote; from there same-day buses can be taken to Trujillo.
© Ross Wehner and Renée del Gaudio from Moon Peru, 3rd Edition