There are more than many beautiful and interesting things just outside of the capital of Peru. If the city dust and busy way of life make you dream of a little break to nature and fresh air, there are plenty of options for a little weekend getaway or a nice day trip.
A couple weeks ago I and a few friends decided to take the chance and go visit Cordillera de La Viuda. We had purchased a day tour from Sierra Verde Peru.
Our trip started early in the morning, around 6 am from the meeting point where we got into the minivan. There we were introduced to our guide, who was very caring and who shared lots of interesting information during the day. We were given little breakfast packs that included a sandwich and a juice.
It took quite a long time to get out of Lima as we drove through Los Olivos, Comas and Carabayllo, which are vast residential areas on the outskirts of northern Lima. We continued our way for a couple hours and the landscape started to change rapidly to mountains as we drove higher and higher.
Our first stop on the way to the Cordillera de la Viuda was the capital of the Canta Province, the village itself is also called Canta (2837m) and is located approximately 100km away from Lima. We had a little break from driving and then continued to our first stop; a view point to the village. The view was spectacular; you could see the valley of the river Chillón.
After taking in the view and a few photos we continued our trip higher to the Andean mountains and it was at this point when we started to feel the rising altitude. After a good 20 minutes of driving uphill, we arrived at a beautiful waterfall. The water was very clear yet freezing. After that, we continued by car for a little while and we arrived at our main destination Cordillera de la Viuda (over 4000m).
The first thing we did was an ancient ritual for the water in which we asked for a permission to enter the sacred place from the magical spirit. We were given a shot of Pisco (Peruvian spirit) and coca leaves, then we poured a few drops of the drink on the ground in honor of Pachamama, the mother earth and after that we'd take the shots and feel a little warmer. Then we threw the coca leaves in the air. The final step of the ritual was to take a sweet made of honey and coca and hide it somewhere in nature. Unfortunately, the strong aftertaste of the pisco made me hide mine into my mouth.
After the ritual, we simply just enjoyed the incredible view. Two beautifully turquoise colored Lagunas surrounded by enormous snow topped mountains. Chuchun, the first laguna is often called a laguna of eight colors, because it has different shades of blue and red in it. On the other side of the hill, one can see another slightly bigger laguna, Leoncocha.
On the way back to Canta, you can see one mountain peak which reminds of the Rainbow mountain Vinicunca in Cusco, however, there is no way to get there yet, but according to our guide, the tour operators are currently exploring the opportunities for the future.
On our way back we stopped by a little village called Cullhuay and then continued to a village called Huaros which is known for its fish farm where you can get delicious trouts that are used in many traditional dishes in the area, such as ceviche.
We had a lunch at a local restaurant and then walked around the village a bit. There's a 30-minute walk around the town which passes a beautiful waterfall and other interesting sites. You can also rent a horse for the way. The last stop of the day was in Canta where we had some time to do shopping. The local fruit yogurt that they sell is totally worth buying!
Things to consider before going:
Cordillera de la viuda is located over 4000m high which means that there's a risk of getting altitude sickness (often referred soroche) therefore it is not recommendable for people with cardiac problems, older people or for young children.
To avoid getting soroche; bring some coca leaves or coca tea or take a soroche pill before arriving. Remember to stay hydrated.
Nature is harsh in the Andean mountains meaning there is a risk of big rocks falling to the road. therefore the road might be blocked or there might be dangerous bumps on the surface. Therefore I recommend the route only for experienced drivers.
As the route goes through small villages, there might not be any signal, let alone the internet connection. The best operator for this area is Movistar but it is highly possible that even that won't work.
As you go up to the mountains, the wind is harsh and cold. Therefore you should bring warm clothes and a hat to cover your ears. However, the sun is still strong even you might not feel the heat, therefore using sun block is recommendable.