Huaraz guide booklets analysed by a former publisher

Since a month ago, Huaraz has two printed tourist guide booklets. The first one is the 15th anniversary edition published by Mauro Olaza and is called The Map Guide Huaraz Peru (TMG), and a newcomer to the publishing market is The Ancash Tourist Guide (ATG), published by Fredy Cristhian Huallpa Bueno. We asked former American publisher James McCallum to have a look at both booklets and to give us his verdict. McCallum has visited the Huaraz area on a number of occasions and has hiked almost all of the trails in the Cordillera Blanca, Negra and Huayhuash for the past 20 years. What would this expert think about the two products that can be found for free at most places that have bought an advertisement in Huaraz? Were they just made to make a profit or do they really contribute to make Huaraz a better place and serve the tourist industry in Huaraz?


TMG started in 1998 as a simple publication that offered tourist information and a black and white map of Huaraz. This publication formed the start of an interesting option for tourists and finally became an ideal pocket guide book for the Huaraz area. TMG has always offered information on Huaraz and its surroundings, but also has handy info on personal safety, prohibitions, documents, money and travellers’ assistance. There is also space for other destinations away from Huaraz, such as Lima, Cusco and Trujillo, although the information is very limited. TMG has been dominating the market for at least 10 years as no other product existed that could compete with the quality of TMG. TMG is known for repeating the same information over and over again and charging vast prices for advertisements. Very few times in 15 years of publication the information was updated.

ATG published their first edition at the end of May 2016 and started to look for advertisers far before TMG did. This and the fact that the ads were reasonably cheap, and many advertisers that have been backing TMG for years, are now to be found in ATG. The publisher of ATG had formerly worked on another pocket map guide called Recorriendo Huaraz. This production was known for its hundreds of spelling mistakes and being of little use.

James McCallum compared both productions and analysed the size, the editorial/index, maps, tourist information, spelling, grammar and translations, font used, printing quality, photos used, usefulness and articles, and compared them with the previous editions published by the same author. Both were scored out of 10 in each of the 10 categories. Who has the best product?

  1. Size and front page

TMG is a couple of millimetres bigger compared to the ATG, which is surprising because TMG had a different size for the previous 14 editions. TMG used to be a pocket edition and by making it bigger, not only did it become heavier, it hardly fits in someone´s pockets now. TMG should have kept its original size as now the two products seem identical and TMG has lost its identity. Probably the lack of sold ads could have been a reason for change in size. I like the front page because as it has a nice picture and it mentions its website and Facebook. Another thing I like is that this edition doesn’t have the back folding front and back page, which were not handy.

ATG appears to just have copied the format of its previous production Recorriendo Huaraz, and is a lot thicker compared to TMG. I also have to mention that the name Ancash is poorly chosen because I believe that very few foreign tourists know what Ancash actually is. I would have chosen a different name because in the more known guidebooks like Loney Planet, Rough Guide and Routard the word is only mentioned a couple of times. Another thing that is calling my attention is that ATG has many pictures on its cover, but the ones that are visible are beach pictures. Is this guide also distributed in coastal areas? Looking at the overabundance of advertisements, I get the impression that this guide is only distributed in the Huaraz area.

TMG: 6/10

ATG: 4/10

  1. Editorial/index

In TMG there is a short foreword written by the publisher that gives the impression that this production might be his last. The index is to be found on page eight, which is preceded by an article written by a Canadian travel writer. TMG´s index page give a good overview on the features, maps and articles that are in the booklet. It also shows a colophon and mentions what sources are used.

ATG has no foreword and just a simple text on top of page two although this isn’t officially page two as the pages in the beginning aren’t numbered. The index or summary as it´s called by the editor is colourful but far from handy. A poor election of colours and font don’t make it very convenient to use. Maybe ATG´s biggest mistake is not having mentioned the Depósito legal, as every publication in Peru should have a declaration of the National Library of Peru. Beginner´s mistake? Another thing, and I´ll try to point this out later in my analysis, if the ATG is directed at foreign tourists, it would have been handy if the publisher had explained that the guide is divided into provinces. I don’t think that a ´gringo´ has ever heard of the words Huari, Santa and Recuay, it´s a bit confusing.

TMG: 9/10

ATG: 3/10

  1. Maps

Apart from useful tourist information, maybe maps are the most important factor inside the tourist guides. TMG uses the same maps every year and you have to admit, when maps are good, why would you change them? They´re in full colour and there is a legend describing the roads, trekking trails, lakes and camp sites. Distances are not mentioned, however, on the maps, apart from the overview maps such as Ancash and Peru. The city map is very clear and detailed. What is worrying is that some trails on the maps, including some lakes, don’t exist anymore, which gives the impression that the maps have not been updated recently, especially in the Santa Cruz part, which is the most popular hike in the area. On the Huayhuash map there are trails and passes mentioned that are far from easy, and the map gives the impression that every regular hiker can do those trails but that is not the case. When you look at the Alpenverein Maps these trails are not marked, and for a reason. They only mark the trails that are really trails.

The maps in ATG are rather disappointing, all maps are to be found at the back of the booklet and for the city maps the editor just used prints of Google Maps. The other maps such as the Santa Cruz area, Huayhuash and Huaraz area maps are colourful but far from great. They look cheap and very unclear and are not useful at all.

TMG: 8/10

ATG: 2/10

  1. Tourist information

TMG offers a whole list of activities for tourists, where to go and what to see, such as ice climbing, fishing, eco-tourism, and horseback riding. The articles in the booklet compared to other years are not that interesting, but maybe the biggest mistake in the guide is the information on rafting, kayaking and skiing. It seems that this information hasn’t been updated for years. The Rio Santa is polluted and rafting and kayaking is absolutely not recommended, unless you want to get sick. This is the reason that the Festival del Andinismo has not included the activity for a couple of years now. Another remarkable error is the information on skiing. It´s strictly forbidden to ski on the Pastoruri Glacier because of climate change and it isn’t even possible to access it. There is actually a huge contradiction in the guide because on another page it mentions that the glacier Pastoruri can´t be used for skiing anymore and that guided tours to it are now being executed under the denominator of climate change route. In TMG there are many sites that shouldn’t have a mention. For example, Honkopampa is mentioned as a hiking trail when it´s a conventional tour. The guitarist´s cave should be taken out and not be recommended because this place is packed with garbage. It will give tourists are really bad impression. Maybe the biggest mistake of TMG is when it talks about rock climbing in Monterrey. This is site is not recommended because of problems with the owner apparently. Another thing that is incorrect is that the publisher of TMG states that Churup is a two-day trek, you can´t even camp over there.

ATG uses brief descriptions of the areas around Huaraz and also mentions the not known sites in the Ancash department. It appears that the publisher is working for the Regional Government, which might have made it easy to obtain the information but this doesn’t mean it´s useful information. There are neither suggestions nor opinions on why tourists should (or shouldn’t in the case of Rataqueñua, for example) visit a certain area or attraction. ATG has space in its booklet for rural community tourism, folklore dances, gastronomy and festivities in the area. I guess no one reads this information because the font that is used makes it very hard to read. The kind of information seems to have come straight from the Internet and is very brief.

TMG: 5/10

ATG: 2/10

  1. Spelling, grammar and translations

Spelling and grammar mistakes in TMG are minimal, although the mistakes that were in it a couple of years ago are still there. The use of a Canadian proofreader definitely pays off. ATG seems to have used Google Translate for the translations as the text seems a literal translation from Spanish to English. The publisher doesn’t seem to know that since the beginning of the year, the Peruvian currency is Sol and that the dot is no longer used behind the slash (S/). Another thing I see is that the author uses the Spanish abbreviation M.S.N.M., does a foreigner know what this means? Why haven’t they used M.A.S.L.? The English used in ATG is not bad; I have seen worse translations in South America but it´s not an easy read. It´s pretty clear that the editor didn’t have help from a native speaker and this is a shame because it could (and should) have been much better.

TMG: 9/10

ATG: 2/10

  1. Fonts

ATG, was there really no other option than that font? The lettering is horrible and makes it very hard to read the information on offer, not to mention the colours used at certain places.

TMG uses a font that´s very readable and a good mixture between spaces and bolds.

TMG: 10/10

ATG: 2/10

  1. Print quality

The print quality of TMG has never been in doubt and the ATG has made a wise decision of printing the booklet in Lima instead of Huaraz. Not bad for a first edition, although Mr. Huallpa doesn’t mention the name of the printing company, nor the Depósito legal as I mentioned before. The pictures in ATG are of very high quality.

TMG: 9/10

ATG: 8/10

  1. Photos

Comparing the two products, ATG uses a lot of full colour photos but fails to credit the owners and mentions three sources including a professional photographer, but I get the impression that most of the pictures are his and can´t imagine that if this is the case he will be happy with this. Like I mentioned before, there are plenty of beach pictures and this is a shame, especially when the booklet is used mainly in Huaraz. A shame the rest of booklet is not of the same quality as the pictures, as I am looking at the overall product. TMG has its most spectacular picture on the front of the booklet as most of all the other pictures are in black and white although they are of good quality.

TMG: 6/10

ATG: 9/10

  1. Usefulness and articles

So how useful are ATG and TMG for tourists? Both offer information using their own style. If a tourist knows nothing of the Ancash area, ATG and TMG are handy; however, the lack of ´how to get there information´ by ATG gives TMG a slight benefit. ATG has no articles on experiences, whereas the articles published by TMG are in some form advertorials because they like to mention the businesses that also having advertisements in the booklet. The font used in ATG is seriously an obstacle to read the guide in the first place. Another thing I don’t understand very well about ATG is the order of the places (which are actually the provinces in Ancash) in the guide. It seems alphabetical but it´s not how I would have done it, it´s not logical. For example, from Llaca, Willcacocha and Churup, the guide goes straight to Chacas. Why? And after Chacas, the next chapter is Casma. I would recommend the publisher for his next edition divides Ancash into three regions, Callejón the  Huaylas, Conchucos area and the coast. What are well explained in ATG are the entrance fees for the National Park Huascarán. Staying overnight in the park will cost tourists 65 soles for up to 21 days. The one-day ticket is 10 soles per person. In general, and I believe both booklets are lacking here, there are many places in the area where the park doesn’t charge an entrance fee because they have no personnel at all the sites. When tourists visit Lake Paron, they will have to pay 5 soles to the community and can´t use their 65 soles ticket, which is something that should be mentioned.

Additionally, TMG talks about ice climbing as if it concerns mountaineering but these are two different things. The only place where people can do ice climbing is Llaca, but this site isn’t recommendable because of falling ice due to de-glaciation. Another thing that I believe is interesting but I am sure the editor of TMG will have a valid reason for it is that there are (too) many mentions of mountain biking, is this the only activity that´s important? On the topic of horseback riding it gives the impression that the Lazy Dog Inn is the only place in the whole area. Why is Yungar not mentioned? Again, and I have mentioned this before, I believe TMG should really update its information because there are many things that have changed over the course of the years and tourists could get confused. For example, the Santa Cruz trek is not five days but four. The trek doesn’t start at the Llanganuco Lakes but at Vaquería. The distance mentioned is incorrect at well, it´s 50 km and not 62, unless tourists include Laguna 69 to the hike.

In general, I would say that both booklets have descriptions of most of the sites around Huaraz, although it should be more specific not as brief as it is now. Maybe the biggest mistake of TMG is that it seems that most of the information dates back 15 years.

TMG: 6/10

ATG: 3/10

  1. A comparison with the previous editions published by the same author

As mentioned before, TMG has decided to change its size from a pocket booklet into a bigger sized mini magazine. The maps that were used in the previous editions are still there but are smaller overall. TMG should have kept its original size. What´s a pity is that maybe the best map (the one with a description of all the peaks that are visible from Huaraz) in TMG is in black and white. In other publications that I have seen by the same publisher they were in full colour.

ATG is definitely not a bad production and better compared to its first publication called Recorriendo Huaraz, although there are still many, many things that need to be improved and included in any future editions.

TMG: 5/10

ATG: 9/10

The final verdict

TMG: 73/100

ATG: 44/100

Although both booklets are almost the same size, what´s to be found on the inside makes a difference. Also the Google translations used by ATG ensures that the gap between the two booklets widens and makes TMG a more interesting option to read, not to mention the poor quality of maps and the chosen font. I would like to recommend TMG update the information because I have the impression that things haven’t been updated since its first edition came out 15 years ago, which is unacceptable. Furthermore, I would like to stress that it is not my intention to criticise the booklets, although many things can and should be improved because Huaraz would become a better place if more tourist information were available for its visitors. Let´s hope both publishers will read my recommendations and that next year they will do a much better job.

What do you think? Do you agree with the findings of James McCallum? Send us your thoughts or ideas.

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