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Active Peru: The Santa Cruz Trek

10 days from £1040pp

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Active Peru: The Santa Cruz Trek:
Trip Dossier

This is an awe-inspiring  holiday designed for experienced mountain or hill walkers who want to experience the beauty and solitude of the landscapes covered by one of Peru’s many and various Andean treks. You travel inland from the desert coast north of Lima to a dazzling white, snow-crested range of jagged mountains: the Cordillera Blanca.

The region is defined by 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.

You start with a couple of days to acclimatise among ice-blue lakes in the deeply glaciated scenery around the attractive little town of Caraz before setting off on the Santa Cruz Trek, which takes you through some of the most spectacular scenery in the Cordillera Blanca, Peru's premier trekking region.

Short itinerary

Holiday itinerary

Day 1

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

Day 2

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

Day 3

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

Day 4

Day at leisure to acclimatise.

Day 5

Santa Cruz Trek.

Day 6

Hiking the Santa Cruz Trek, camp.

Day 7

Hiking the Santa Cruz Trek, camp.

Day 8

Return to Caraz.

Day 9

Public coach to Lima.

Day 10

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

Detailed itinerary

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.

Day 2

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


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.

Laguna Paron

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 (3,850m). Approximate trekking time 4-5 hours.

Santa Cruz trek

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. 
santa cruz trek peru

Day 7

Hiking the Santa Cruz Trek, camp.
The 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. 

santa cruz trek

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.

Llanganuco Lakes

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.


Day 10

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

Essential information


2 scenic road journeys (9 hours each). 


On this tour we use good value budget hotels, they are small, friendly establishments, colonial or modern in style with well-equipped rooms, private bathroom and heating. Key camping equipment for the trek - tents and cooking equipment, toilet tent (enclosing a hole in the ground), mess tent and foam mattresses are provided; you can bring your own or hire your sleeping bag, thermarest and walking poles.   


Breakfast daily, full board days 5-7. 


We carefully select our local partners, some of whom we have worked with for over 25 years. Their English-speaking guides understand the expectations of our clients very well, and are consistently singled out for praise by the latter on their return.

Included excursions

• Caraz: Guided excursion to Lake Parón.

Summary of nights

10 days, 9 nights: Lima 1; Caraz 3; Santa Cruz Trek 3; Caraz 1; Lima 1. 

Included in the journey price

• Services of our team of experts in our London office.
• Services of Journey Latin America local representatives and guides.
• All land transport within Latin America.
• Accommodation as specified.
• Meals as specified.
• Excursions as specified, including entrance fees.

Not included in the journey price

• Tips and gratuities
• Meals other than specified.
• International flights to Latin America.
• Airport taxes, when not included in the ticket
• Optional excursions.
• Sleeping bag, Thermarest & walking poles (available locally).


The unit of currency in Peru is the sol.

Daily spend

It is very difficult to give a guideline for essential expenses but a budget of around US$35 per day should cover the cost of the few meals not included in the holiday itinerary, drinks and the odd souvenir. Eat at the best restaurants and you will pay considerably more.

How to take it

Cash machines are available in all major cities and towns including Lima and Caraz so taking a debit or credit card with a PIN number is the most convenient way of withdrawing money while on your trip, and in most shops and restaurants you can also pay by card. However, since cards can get lost, damaged, withheld or blocked, you should not rely exclusively on a card to access funds.

We recommend that additionally you take a reasonable quantity of US dollars cash (no more than is covered by your insurance), which you can exchange into local currency. Dollar bills should be in good condition, soiled or torn bills may be refused. You are not advised to take sterling: the exchange rate is not always competitive or even available. 

When you are on the treks you will not be spending money but you might carry a reasonable amount of cash for tips, ad hoc or local purchases.


Tips are expected and local guides often rely on their tip as a significant proportion of their income. 

Most service industry workers will expect a tip of some kind and so it is useful to have spare change for hotel porters, taxi drivers and the like. It is common to leave 10 - 12% in restaurants.

Tipping guidelines can be found in our Briefing Dossier


Travel insurance is essential. Details of our recommended policy can be found on our Travel Insurance page.

Airport taxes

If you have purchased your flights through Journey Latin America, the international departure tax and taxes on internal flights are usually included in the ticket.

Journey grade

This holiday is suitable for all able-bodied, fit visitors with hiking or hill-walking experience. The trek is at high altitude (parts at over 4,000m) which will affect breathing and pace. You should be able to walk over undulating rocky terrain for several hours. 


The rainy season in the Andes runs between November and April. The dry season is in June, July and August when the sun is strong during the day, but at night the temperature drops dramatically. May, September and October are less predictable, with both rainy and sunny spells.

Lima is covered in a dull grey mist for much of the year. It almost never rains in Lima, and temperatures are moderate. 


Your treks are at high altitude (some sections over 4,000m).  You have two days for preparation near Caraz (2,240m) but on the first day of walking you gain 950m of height. The walk then undulates between 3,850m and 4,767m. Most people are only mildly affected and if you drink plenty of water and allow your body to acclimatise (don’t exert yourself or drink alcohol for the first couple of days at altitude), you’ll probably be OK. Symptoms vary: most common are mild headaches, slight nausea and breathlessness. If you don’t recover in a day or two speak to our representatives; in very rare instances it is necessary to descend to lower altitudes.

Upon booking you will receive a detailed trek information sheet. Please refer to our Briefing Dossier for further information.

Clothing and special equipment

For day-to-day wear in town or on day trips you should go prepared to encounter all seasons. Both warm clothing and a sun hat are essential at altitude; a light fleece jacket and a waterproof/breathable outer shell makes a good combination. Trousers, shorts or even a skirt made from light, quick-drying synthetic materials work well. 

For the trekking you should have a small back pack to carry the personal effects you will need while walking. Bring comfortable and adequate clothing to protect you from cold (and possibly wet) weather. We recommend you layer with synthetic fabric clothing as theses are the most effective barriers against the cold.  We discourage the use of cotton garments in cold or wet mountain conditions.  The innermost layer should be long underwear. The middle layer can be a synthetic turtleneck or woollen shirt, and shorts or trousers.  The outermost layer should be a synthetic or down jacket, and/or a good quality Gore-Tex wind/rain parka and over-trousers. You will also need a bag in which to store the gear you aren’t taking on the trek. Strong, comfortable hiking boots are essential as is a hat to protect you from the strong sun, and sun glasses. 

For the camping on the Santa Cruz Trail you will need a minimum 3-season sleeping bag and a Thermarest-type mat.  You can bring your own or hire one locally. 

Trekking poles are an excellent aid, again you can hire them locally but they may not be very high tech.

You should ensure that you have sufficient sun block and insect repellant. 

Please get in touch with the office before departure if you have any doubts. Good equipment is very important and hard to come by in South America.


Preventative vaccinations are recommended against the following: typhoid; polio; tetanus; hepatitis A. You should consult your GP for specific requirements.

You can also find helpful information on the Masta Travel Health website. 


Holders of a full British passport do not require a visa, although passports must be valid for at least 6 months after the trip begins.  Anyone with a different nationality should enquire with us or check with the relevant consulate.

APIS and ESTA - important flight information:

ESTA - if flying to the US, or via the US you will need to fill in your application to ESTA online.

This costs $14 per person, and  must be applied for by you personally.

Passports must also be e-passports with a readable chip. Avoid locking suitcases if transiting the USA, as their customs authorities retain the right to break into them.

APIS - Many countries now oblige airlines to provide additional information about passengers prior to the flight departure. This Advance Passenger Information (APIS) must be supplied to us promptly in order to issue tickets and avoid fare increases. We will provide the airlines with the relevant details if we are booking your international flights. If the information is not provided you may be denied boarding.

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