Pretty much, the best advice I've gotten has been from other travelers. Every traveler you meet is a resource of knowledge - where to go, where to stay, what not to eat, who NOT to talk to etc... You'll hear of places that were never in your game plan, and cross out other complete destinations. You'll make friends you feel closer to in a week than your best friends back home. After Macchu Picchu, the entire route of my trip was planned out one night in a drunken stupor at my hostel in Cuzco by a new friend - and the first stop, was a new dot on my map my friends, called - Huaraz.
Originally, I had wanted to try to visit Patagonia, the southernmost tip of Argentina to take a look at some glaciers, but you should know that flying in South America is extremely expensive. Their basic mode of transportation is by bus. So my buddy Alejandro told me, "If you want to check out some glaciers - go take a look in Huaraz!"
I took a 7 hour overnight bus from Lima to Huaraz for a 2 night stay. In that 48 hour period, I trekked across glaciers, hiked through magnificent mountain valleys, got stuck on the side of a mountain and traversed through several glacial lakes with colors even Crayola couldn't even try naming. From Hot- Cold, Huaraz was one of my favorite places to explore, and perhaps some of the very best hiking I've ever been on. Later on I found out that Huaraz is also the starting point to one of the most beautifully regarded hikes in the world, "Huayhash" which I plan on going back to one day.
See below for pictures but there are also other options -
If you can make a stop by Huaraz, even for two days - I highly recommend it for the adventure. See below for the details of what I did.
Transportation: Cruz Del Sur Bus / approx $40 US - Keep in mind that you can also go to the station to buy your ticket OR book online. I had a great time with Cruz Del Sur - they give you a little meal, have movies and cushy seats. It's very nice. There are also VIP and regular tickets. The downstairs section is VIP. Don't forget to bring your Cristal.
Where I stayed: Caroline Lodging / approx: $12 per night - I had gotten recommended by my friend Alejandro to this hostel. It is a family run hostel, so the family lives in this house. When you ring the doorbell at 5AM, the mom is the one who answers the door and the dad makes breakfast in the morning. The son is the one who drives you to the bus stop. While I loved my stay here and the place was clean + homey, I would not recommend this for a social or solo traveler. However, the family is adorable and so sweet + helpful.
Tour groups: 5 Hour Hike to Lagoon 69 + Pastoruri Glacier - The best part of staying at Caroline Lodging is that they are affiliated with a tour agency - so when I arrived at 6 AM to the hostel - the mom quickly arranged a day trip + pickup for me to Pastoruri Glacier within 5 minutes. The tour cost approx $35Soles or $11USD. Tours usually include transportation, a tour guide and a stop off at a restaurant for food (which you must pay for yourself).
Tips: Keep in mind that Huaraz is still at a very high altitude (3,052 m) or 10,013 feet. So you may still feel lightheaded, the hike to the glacier was a bit difficult for me. I would recommend coming here right after Cuzco should you still desire a climb. (Cause seriously, you will feel invincible after hiking Macchu Picchu). The hike to Lagoon 69 is incredibly beautiful and you see some really amazing terrain, but for me it was really difficult. Maybe it was the gluttinous 3 days I spent in Lima that completely rendered my body useless again to hike.
FOOD: Make sure you try the Aji De Gallina or Hen soup. It's really good! They'll have it everywhere.