Huaraz, Peru

Huaraz is the restless capital of this Andean adventure kingdom and its rooftops command exhaustive panoramas of the city’s dominion: one of the most impressive mountain ranges in the world. Nearly wiped out by the earthquake of 1970, Huaraz isn’t going to win any Andean-village beauty contests anytime soon, but it does have personality – and personality goes a long way.

This is first and foremost a trekking metropolis. During the high season the streets buzz with hundreds of backpackers and adventurers freshly returned from arduous hikes, or planning their next expedition as they huddle in one of the town’s many fine watering holes. Dozens of outfits help plan trips, rent equipment and organize a list of adventure sports as long as your arm. An endless lineup of quality restaurants and hopping bars keep the belly full and the place lively till long after the tents have been put away to dry. Mountain adventures in the off-season can be equally rewarding, but the vibe is more subdued and some places go into hibernation over the rainy season.

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