- 4 Days / 3 Nights
Aracari offers private luxury teks on a private basis only, not as a group tour. We offer guided hikes only as part of a tailormade trip, including all guided excursions and hotels, not as a standalone service.
The Santa Cruz trek is one of the most popular trekking routes in the Cordillera Blanca – offering spectacular views of almost every important peak in a few days, turquoise lakes and fertile valleys filled with flowers along the way. The Santa Cruz trek is a camping trip and arranged by Aracari on a private basis only, not as a group tour. Aracari offers this trek as part of a wider tailormade trip to Peru, not as a standalone service. Keep in mind this trek is at altitude, requiring acclimitaztion prior – a perfect excuse to stay in one of the remote moutain lodges in the area!
The classic 4D/3N Santa Cruz trek can be shortened to 3D/2N, with more walking each day. Donkeys can also be hired for part of the trek if you’d prefer less walking. Once fully acclimatized, it’s an easy to moderate trek, great for families and hikers of all abilities. If you don’t want to camp when visiting the Cordillera Blanca, we recommend basing yourself at one of the cosy mountain lodges and taking day hikes – such as this recommended five-day Cordillera blanca trekking itinerary, staying at Llanganuco Mountain Lodge. Laguna 69 can be added as a one-day extension to the Santa Cruz trek, which is a highlight of the Cordillera Blanca.
Santa Cruz Trek Itinerary
The Santa Cruz trek can begin or end in one of two towns, Vaquería and Cashapampa. Traditionally it begins in Cashapampa and ends in Vaquería (as outlined below), but for those doing the trek in three days, beginning in Cashapampa is a rewarding but more strenuous option, as more of the route is uphill.
Cashapampa - Llamacoral
At 7am you’ll be collected from your hotel for a private transfer to the trailhead at Cashapampa (3000m). The drive is approximately 3.5 hours from Huaraz. Stop to take photos of the stunning mountain scenery and visit the remains of the village of Yungay, which was buried by a landslide in 1970. After arriving to Cashapampa, you will meet the donkey drivers who will start loading their donkeys with the trek supplies and your belongings, while you prepare to start the trek. Today’s hike is approximately 4-5 hours, through the Santa Cruz valley among red quenuales – high-altitude Andean trees with orange flaky bark and twisted limbs. On arrival at the campsite, the donkey drivers and porters who would have overtaken you earlier will greet you with tea, snacks and a fully prepared campsite. Later you’ll enjoy a tasty hot dinner, and enjoy star-gazing before retiring to your tent for the night.
Llamacoral - Laullipampa
You’ll be awoken with a mate de coca – herbal tea made with coca leaves which helps with the altitude. After a hearty breakfast and packing up personal belongings, you set off for the second day of hiking. Almost immediately after leaving camp you will walk past beautiful glacier lakes Ichi Cocha and Jatun Cocha (Quechua for ‘big’ and ‘small’ lakes, respectively). Following the lakeside trail, you’ll see the distant trail winding up through the Arhuaycocha Valley – today’s side trek offering stunning views of Mount Alpamayo – once voted as the world’s most beautiful mountain, with its near perfect pyramid made of four smooth faces of glistening ice. You’ll then continue on to Taullipampa campsite, on mostly flat ground after the earlier uphill climb, arriving at around 3 or 4pm.
Taullipampa - Cachinapampa
Setting out from Taullipampa after breakfast, you hike for 2 to 3 hours to the highest point of the whole trek – Punta Union at 4,750m, a personal altitude record for many hikers. Worth the effort, you’ll be rewarded with the spectacular panoramic views looking back down into the valleys and the majestic surrounding peaks – Paria, Taulliraju, Artesonraju and Huaripampa mountains. Enjoy the photo opportunity before crossing over from the Santa Cruz Valley to the Paria Valley, starting the descent to Cachinapampa campsite, arriving at around 2 or 3pm, for some well-deserved relaxation before dinner.
Cachinapampa - Vaqueria
The fourth and last day begins with a descent through the valley to a small rural settlement called Vaqueria with traditional abode homes, agricultural land and farming animals, where you’ll see and interact with the local children who are usually playing outside and like to greet visitors. At about 11am you will finish the trek and be met by a private vehicle to take you back to Huaraz. Once again there are opportunities to stop for photos, particularly as you cross the Portachuelo de Llanganuco pass at 4,760m. The views are incredible overlooking the Llanganuco Valley with its turquoise lakes and surrounding snow-capped peaks.
Please keep in mind that distances, altitudes and chosen campsites are subject to minor variations as the route undertaken may vary slightly. In addition, trekking time can vary for each hiker and any times detailed in the description below are averages.