Orientation

Piura, Huancabamba, Peru

Photo by: Kyle Wehrend

Nestled in a valley high in the Piuran Sierra, far from the popular beaches of northern Peru, Huancabamba offers a side of Peru few outsiders (or even Peruvians) venture to see. While upon first glance it may not seem like much, Huancabamba has a certain mystical charm to it. The grey clouds hanging on the neighboring mountains, the many brujos and curanderos offering their spiritual healing powers and the town’s reputation as “La Cuidad Encantada de Huancabamba” (The Enchanted City of Huancabamba) all lend a certain otherworldly atmosphere to this quiet city in the mountains. As far removed as it may be from the typical tourist track, the inhabitants of Huancabamba have a reputation for being extremely hospitable and will offer assistance without hesitation to any traveler making an attempt to speak Spanish. Add to this its proximity to the stunning Huaringas lakes, a series of icy cold mountain lakes said to have curative properties, and the opportunity to take part in a religious ceremony performed by one of a kind Peruvian witch-doctors, and you can see why Huancabamba would make for a great destination on any adventure traveler’s itinerary.

Activities

Las Huaringas

These series of 14 mountain lakes sit almost 4,000m above sea level and are the main reason most tourists come to Huancambamba. In order to arrive at the Huaringas lakes, you will have to arrange for early morning transport (usually around 4-5 am) in a taxi from your hotel in Huancabamba to Salalá, a pueblo about three hours outside of Huancabamba. From there, it’s about another two and a half hour hike to the first lake, Laguna Negra. In order to reach the largest lake, Laguna Shimbe, you will have to hike about three to four hours from Salalá. It’s not the easiest hike and the closer you get to Shimbe the muddier, slicker and colder it gets, but the views along the way are beautiful and the lake itself is well worth the hike. It’s also possible to camp next to the lakes, however, due to often cold and wet conditions, proper equipment is definitely necessary.Huancabamba, Piura, Peru

Photo by: Kyle Wehrend

Price: There are a lot of variables for this trip and it is totally customizable, so your price will depend on your interests, but expect to pay around S/.90 for a round trip taxi ride (this includes him waiting for you – read the paragraph below).

Note about transport: Make sure that you set the price not only for the drive to and from Salalá, but also for the time that the taxi driver will be sitting waiting for you in Salalá as you’re going to see the lakes. You might also want to insist that he stay sober while he waits the 6-8 hours it might take for you to hike as that’s a pretty typical way for some taxi drivers to pass the time when they’re just sitting around.

There’s also a combi (minivan) that supposedly leaves from the main bus station at 5am that can take you to Salalá, where you can arrange your return journey. It will definitely be much cheaper to use the combi, although much less reliable.

In order to arrange transportation, either speak with the tourist office officials at the main bus station or speak with the staff at your hotel.

Medicine Men

Medicine Man Photo by: Kyle Wehrend

Photo by: Kyle Wehrend

They are famous among locals, but few tourists know about the curanderos (medicine men) that perform their ceremonies at the lakes of Huancabamba. Offerings to the earth mother (Pachamama), spiritual cleansings, and physical healing are all part of the process, which the curanderos are willing to share with you. You can also try the natural hallucinogens ayahuasca or san pedro, if you want the full curandero experience. If you do, please read our ‘Note on Ayahuasca‘ at the bottom of this page.

If you’re interested in seeing or participating in the curandero process, speak with the tourist office in the bus station and they will connect you with reputable curanderos. You can either do hikes on your own (as described above) and then join the curanderos, or you can hire one as your guide and pay one price for an all-inclusive deal that includes transport, guide services on the hikes, and participation in the ceremonies.

Lodging Options

Peru, Huancabamba, Piura

Photo by: Kyle Wehrend

El Mirador

Great, clean, fairly new hotel with friendly staff and rooms with warm water (you can even ask to put your beer in their fridge). It also has a great view of the city and a chill back patio area with seats and hammocks for relaxing. When you arrive in the bus station, head up the hill where the large Pilsen beer ad is located on top of a building and you’ll see it on the left-hand side of the street. Or just ask literally anyone and they will likely walk you there. Single, double, and triple rooms all available for similar prices.

Price: S./ 30-40 a night.

Other than that, there are several other hotels and hospedajes around town and in the plaza de armas, but El Mirador was by far the best looking option.

Dining Options

Dining options are sparse and fairly homogenous: menú with meat and rice and potatoes, all for a low price.

How to Get There

Peru, Huancabamba, Piura

Photo by: Kyle Wehrend

In order to get to Huancabamba from Piura, you have to first go to the Terminal Castilla, usually around S/.4-5 in a taxi from the city center. From there, there are multiple bus options, but the most well-known is Civa (S./ 20-25). The bus ride is pretty spectacular, especially to see the rapid and vast change in ecosystem from the desolate desert coast to the lush green, mountainous Sierra, but can be fairly treacherous if not impossible during the rainy season (December – March). On the way, each bus will stop briefly for lunch in Canchaque, a small town known for its delicious local coffee, which you can buy right off of the plaza de armas. Regardless of the bus you take, the rides will all last about 10 hours and will end up at the main bus station in Huancabamba, which serves as a tourist information office providing basic details and tour guide info for all of the local attractions.
Here’s some info:
“CIVA”

Peru, Huancabamba, Piura

Curanderos (medicine men); Photo by: Kyle Wehrend

Huancabamba: Terminal Terrestre Municipal; y Unión 300, Tf: 475137.
Piura: Terminal Terrestre – Castilla Teléf.
Salida Huancabamba – Piura y viceversa 7:30am
Chiclayo: Domingo, Martes y Jueves 4:00pm RPC 979778176
Huancabamba: Terminal Terrestre RPC.969714205
Lima: Todos los días y conexión con la selva alta
Retorno: Chiclayo – Huancabamba 4:00pm
Página Web: www.civa.org.pe.

“TURISMO EXPRESS HUANCABAMBA, S. C. R.L.”
Huancabamba: Terminal Terrestre Municipal. Tf: 473320.
Piura: Terminal Terrestre de Castilla, Tf:345668).
Salida Huancabamba – Piura y viceversa 7:30am y 5:00pm
Los Viernes: 7:30am, 2:00pm y 5:00pm – RPM *859755

“TURISMO SAN PERO Y SAN PABLO”
Huancabamba: Terminal Terrestre Municipal, Tf:775901.
Piura: Terminal Terrstre de Castilla, Tf:349271.
Salida Huancabamba – Piura y viceversa 8:00am y 6:00pm
Salida Piura – Huancabamba y viceversa 8:00am y 7:00pm
Los viernes 2:00pm – RPM *6906079 P.- RPM *513404 H

Community Contacts

Your best contact will be the tourist office as well as the municipality. To contact the Jefe de Oficina de Turismo (head of the tourism office): Tec. Luz Mabel Castillo Huamán, her email is turismohuancabamba.mph.ot@gmail.com. She should be able to tell you who else to contact.

Other helpful websites:

http://www.munihuancabamba.gob.pe/
http://wiki.sumaqperu.com/es/Laguna_Las_Huaringas
http://www.piuravirtual.com/pag_3_1.htm

Note on Taking Ayahuasca:

Peru, Huancabamba, Piura

Photo by: Kyle Wehrend

Ayahuasca is a hallucinogenic jungle vine that grows naturally in Huancabamba and many other parts of the rainforests of South America. It is an integral part of Quechua history and has spiritual, not recreational implications. It is perfectly legal. Do not take ayahuasca if you are just looking to “trip” – you should treat its consumption as at least a cultural experience, if not a spiritual quest. If you do drink ayahuasca at the end of the curandero ceremonies, be aware that you are in a for a weird, potentially intense night.

The ayahuasca will kick in about 30 minutes after you drink it, and when you feel the initial symptoms (lightheaded and dizziness), concentrate on a part of your life in which you want guidance and hopefully the ayahuasca will help guide you. You will likely throw up and have diarrhea either that night or the next morning, so don’t plan on doing anything important or strenuous. You are not guaranteed to have visions or hallucinations and if you do, they could be pretty intense and unpleasant.

All of that said, enter the experience with an open mind and you will not forget it.

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Huancabamba

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Huancabamba -5.234365, -79.446602 Nestled in a valley high in the Piuran Sierra, far from the popular beaches of northern Peru, Huancabamba offers a side of Peru few outsiders (or even Peruvians) venture to see. While upon first glance it may not seem like much, Huancabamba has a certain mystical charm to it. The grey clouds hanging on the neighboring mountains, the many brujos and curanderos offering their spiritual healing powers and the town’s reputation as “La Cuidad Encantada de Huancabamba\" (The Enchanted City of Huancabamba) all lend a certain otherworldly atmosphere to this quiet city in the mountains.