1. Santa Cruz Trek – PERU
Highest point reached: 4,750 meters
Difficulty level: Moderate.
Duration: Four Days
Best time to go: April – September
The quirky mountain city of Huaraz is the starting point for this three-day trek in the Cordillera Blanca region of the Peruvian Andes, deemed the highest tropical mountain range in the world. You’ll drive out of the city by minibus to a small village (called Cashapampa) in the foothills of the Cordillera, where you’ll begin walking through a valley with 6,000-meter mountains all around you.
Most of the walking is done in the morning (five-six hours/day) before the weather closes in and you’ll make camp each day around 2 pm. The trek takes you past amazingly blue glacial lakes, through a strange sandy desert that feels like a mountain beach and on the last day (depending on which way round you do the trek) over the Punta Unión mountain pass of 4,750 meters with stunning views of the high peaks (Tauliraju, Rinrihirka and Paria) which feel so close you can touch them.
You’ll camp amidst incredible scenery every night, waking up at sunrise to 360-degree views of snowy peaks. Depending on what time of year you attempt the trek, it can be very cold at night so make sure you take plenty of warm clothes.
That alpaca sweater you bought in Cusco will be your saving grace! If you’re not too tired on the last day, you can tag on another day and attempt a side-trek to Laguna 69, a gorgeous turquoise glacial lake nestled in the mountains that is a photographer’s dream. On the way back in the minibus you’ll catch a glimpse of Huascaran – the highest mountain in the Andes at 6,768 meters.