This is a guest post by Brad Goodman. You can read more about Brad and visit his website in the author bio below the article.
The green mountains, crisp air and fresh waters of the Huarochirí Province seem worlds away from the drab and disquiet of Lima’s winters, but in fact are less than 75 km (and two quick bus rides) away. Anyone who’s spent time in Lima understands the relief of the Andean sun upon leaving the city. Of course there are further-away destinations like Huaraz or Yauyos, but the culture, food, and landscapes of the Andes are closer to Lima than they seem.
Here I highlight two towns on the Central Highway in the Huarochirí Province: San Jeronimo de Surco and Matucana. Both offer a great choice of activities, including four waterfalls, two lakes, and canyoning.
How to Get to Surco and Matucana
First, take a car to Chosica. There are many options from Lima, including buses and colectivos, and the trip takes just over an hour. In Chosica there are buses a block from the plaza which leave regularly for Surco and Matucana. The trip to Surco (km 63) takes roughly 45 minutes; to Matucana (km 75) it’s about an hour.
Waterfall Hikes and Canyoning Near Surco
Welcome to the pueblo of waterfalls! The “waterfall circuit” includes three spots and only costs S/ 3. The most visited waterfall in Surco is Huanano, a 45 minute walk from town. For a more difficult hike, check out Cuchimachay, an hour long hike.
And if you really have time and are up for a long trek, the hike to Palacala waterfall takes most visitors about three hours.
Looking for something more adventurous? Ten minutes by bus from Surco are the Toboganes de Songos. In an adrenaline-pumping 45 minutes you’ll hike and perform canyoning in multiple waterfalls and waterways. But, ojo: you MUST go with an accredited tour company for the canyoning activities. Otherwise you can only walk the hike (which is still beautiful and fun, and only costs S/ 3).
Waterfall Hikes and Trekking from Matucana
OK, I’m biased on how great Matucana is. But that’s only because I lived there and it’s where I met my awesome wife. However, Matucana is objectively a nice weekend trip from Lima. It has a famous old train station (where a folklore show is put on for the tourists on the monthly train to Huancayo). And if you’re in town in the afternoon, try the pumpkin dessert that the women sell in the plaza. Trust me.
The top hiking opportunity in Matucana is the waterfall of Antankallo. Entrance to the hike is S/3 (S/ 1.50 kids). It takes about 1.5 hours to arrive at the falls, during which you’ll be going uphill most of the time. The trek includes a small rock forest and views of mountains named for the figures they appear to resemble, such as a lion’s head or a woman.
Closer to town is the waterfall of Challape. Just take a 20 minute walk (or 5 minute moto-taxi) to the neighboring town of Huariquiña. From there you follow a path along the train tracks towards the train bridge. Upon arriving at the bridge it’s a slightly steep 10-minute walk to the falls. Visiting Challape is free, but keep in mind the falls can disappear during peak dry season (July-August).
If you have more time, the Lagunas Gemelas de Orcococha in Matucana is a full day hike. If you are interested, it’s recommended to go with a local guide. Matucana’s tourism department can provide more information.
When to Go and What to Bring on Your Day Trip From Lima
For your day trip to Huarochirí, I recommend that you bring:
- Sunblock! And a hat and sunglasses.
- Hiking shoes. No high heels! (seriously)
- Water and snacks (or cash to buy snacks in town)
- Cash for food, lodging, & transportation
- Backpack. You want to have free hands for some hikes, especially the Toboganes de Songos
- Clothes for layering up. Afternoons are warm and sunny, but evenings are cool
I recommend avoiding the peak rainy season (January-March). This is because the Central Highway and the towns witness unpredictable flooding during these months.
A Final Word on Surco and Matucana
Be mindful of the altitude! Surco is 6,621 feet (or 2,018 meters) high. Matucana is higher at 7,802 feet (2,378m). Most people do not experience altitude sickness right away, so if you go for the day it might not be an issue. However everyone adjusts differently.
If you want to spend the night, both towns have several hotels and hospedajes. Most do not need to be booked ahead of time. There are also plenty of menús and restaurants.
Admittedly, these are just two locations in one province of Lima that are fascinating and fun. I chose them because their proximity to the city and location on the Central Highway make for a uniquely easy day trip from Lima. So I hope this article helped to plan your next trip and to keep finding new adventures!
An adventurer at heart, Brad Goodman’s most transformative experience occurred in Peru. He now writes articles on Peruvian culture and develops sample itineraries for tourists to Peru. Visit his website at www.GringoInca.com.