Cordillera Blanca
Length: 180 km
Highest Peak: Huascaran South 6768m
Main Mountains: Huandoy, Chopicalqui, Pisco, Chacraraju, Huantsan, Ranrapalca, Alpamayo, Artesonraju, Quitaraju, Santa Cruz, Tocllaraju, Ishinca, Vallunaraju, Mururaju, Tuco
Highest Pass: Huapi pass 5050m
Lakes: Llanganuco, Paron, 69, Churup, Querococha, Arhuaycocha, Cullicocha, Aguac, Perolcocha
The 180km long and 20km wide Cordillera Blanca, or ‘White Range’ is so called because of its numerous perennially ice-capped peaks and glaciers. It is the world’s highest tropical mountain range and has the greatest number of summits over 6000m outside the Himalayas, including Peru’s highest peak, Mount Huascaran (6768m).
The experience of the Cordillera Blanca is one of dramatic mountain panoramas, with countless breathtaking views of towering glaciered white peaks, including the stunning Mount Alpamayo (5947m), Chopicalqui (6354m) and Huandoy (6395m). Add to these wonders pristine glacial lakes in an astonishing variety of colour and size, and deep green valleys rich with exotic tropical plants, and you have one of the most magnificent parts of South America.
The Huascaran National Park covers an area of 3400 sq km and encompasses almost the entire Cordillera Blanca above 4000m. Within its perimeters are 663 glaciers, 269 lakes, 41 rivers, more than 50 glaciated summits over 5500m and 25 over 6000m.
The park was established in 1975 to protect the unique and diverse flora and fauna found in the mountain range. It was declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1977, on account of the extraordinary native plants and animals, including such exotic and endangered species as the giant Puya Raimondi plant, queñual tree, ichu grass, spectacled bear, viscacha, vicuña, grey deer, puma, Andean fox, mountain caracara, several species of hummingbirds and the emblematic Andean condor.
In 1985, it was given World Heritage Site status thanks to the 33 archaeological sites inside the park, which date back to the Chavin, Recuay or Huari cultures
The Cordillera Huayhuash is an area just 30km long, but it is packed with stunning lakes, cascading glaciers and towering, fluted peaks over 6000m. These include Yerupaja (6634m), the world’s second highest tropical mountain, and Siula Grande (6356m), made famous by Joe Simpson and Simon Yates in the award winning book and film ‘Touching the Void’.
Situated to the south of the well-known Cordillera Blanca, this small and compact mountain range features a dense collection of unspoiled, trout-stocked lakes in shades of azure, emerald and turquoise; glacier-clad peaks that rival any in the Himalayas; and idyllic alpine meadows perfect for camping.
The Huayhuash range spreads over three different departments: Ancash, Huanuco and Lima. The area is sparsely populated, with only a few hamlets dotted around the rugged and remote territory. Local communities look after the area, which unlike the Cordillera Blanca is not officially protected, and charge user fees to trekkers at several points within the range. Part of the fees goes towards improving the security of the area, and part goes towards conservation work. Please support this preservation effort by always paying your fees.
Wildlife sightings include Andean condors circling high above the Yaucha and Cacanan passes; herds of vicuñas around the Cuyoq and San Antonio passes; viscachas near Huanacpatay and Huatiac; and llamas grazing on the high grasses near Viconga Lake.
Cordillera Huayhuash
Length: 30 km
Highest Peak: Yerupaja 6634m
Main Mountains: Jirishanca, Rondoy, Siula Grande, Trapecio, Cuyoc, Jurau, Carnicero, Rasac,
Diablo Mudo, Puscanturpa

Highest Pass: San Antonio pass 5050m
Lakes: Jahuacocha, Carhuacocha, Viconga, Solterococha, Sarapococha, Juraucocha
Cordillera Negra
Length: 180 km
Highest Peak: Cerro Rocarre 5187m
Main Mountains: Cerro Rumicruz (5010m), Rico
(5006m), Tres Cruces (5181m), Carhuac (5070m),
Huancapeti (4978m)

Highest Pass: Tres Cruces pass 4690m
Lakes: Antacocha, Wilcacocha
The Cordillera Negra, or ‘Black Range’, with its arid, brown hills, may not look as impressive as its beautiful neighbour, the ‘White Range’, but it plays an important role in the area’s ecology by stopping the warm winds from the Pacific Ocean from thawing the glaciers of the Cordillera Blanca.
The Cordillera Negra also has attractions of its own. There are fantastic rock climbing locations, notably in Hatun Machay - a stunning rock forest with dozens of climbing routes as well as archaeological remains - and in Antacocha - where a 180m wall towers high above a beautiful lake. There are also good trails for mountain biking over rugged landscape and through small, untouched, traditional villages. And the Guitarrero Cave, discovered a few kilometres north of Carhuaz in the 1980s, contained bones of mastodons and llamas and suggests human occupation dating back to 12,000 BC. Its name comes from the nearby natural rock formation that resembles a guitar.
The Cordillera Negra also gives visitors breathtaking panoramas of the stunning snow-capped peaks of the Cordillera Blanca. The best places to admire the views are in Wilcacocha, a small picturesque lake located high in the range, and Punta Callan, the 4225m-high pass that can be reached by a paved road from Huaraz.
The Cordillera Negra is rich in mineral resources such as gold, silver and copper. The local Quechua population grows wheat, maize and oats at an elevation of well above 4000m.