Lake Humantay: A tranquil, blue pool in the high Andes

9 April, 2021 | Reccy Guide

A day trip to Humantay Lake, located in the Andes, reveals one of Peru’s greatest treasures. This stunning alpine lake glows a bright turquoise underneath the sun and draws visitors from around the world. The Humantay Lake day trip (pronounced OO-man-tie) is an ideal adventure for those hoping to venture out of Cusco city and spend a day exploring the historic countryside around the Andes. 

Explore trip itineraries, accommodation, transport, required gear, fitness plan, insurance and more

Cusco, the gateway to Machu Picchu, lies in the south of the country. Humantay Lake can be found roughly three hours to the west when you travel by vehicle and is located in the Andes mountain range. It’s well-known as a sacred place for the ancient Incan civilization. It is believed to be linked to Pachamama, or the Incan interpretation of mother earth. To this day, many local shamans visit the Lake as part of their spiritual journey. 

View of Humantay LakeView of Humantay Lake

When you’re ready to begin your adventure, you’ll have a couple of options at your disposal. Most visitors choose to adventure to Humantay Lake as part of a group. There are plenty of touring companies located within Cusco which book tours for the following day. Busses and vans collect passengers bright and early in the morning—usually between the hours of three and four in the morning. 

Many travelers try to rest on the three-hour trip to the trailhead, and some companies even provide pillows and blankets to encourage the extra rest. If you do travel with a company, you’ll also be served breakfast upon arriving at the trailhead. Though this is usually a simple fair, such as sandwiches and coffee, it will be important fuel for your trip. 

The beginning of the hike is located near Soraypampa base camp. Though it is not quite a village, there are about three dozen regular residents who live in this electricity-free area year-round. It is a popular thoroughfare for longer treks through the Andes as well. It’s common for travelers to eat lunch at a local home or the base camp after the completion of the hike. In a group tour, this will be arranged beforehand.

If you prefer to travel solo, that is certainly an option as well. The benefit of this is that you are not on a set schedule; you are free to sleep in, explore the lake at your leisure, and head back to Cusco when you wish. The drawback is mostly financial. If you are not sharing a taxi, it can be fairly costly to rent one, as you have to pay for it to remain at the trailhead during your visit. Additionally, if you don’t book with a company, you will need to arrange your own meals for the day. 

View of Humantay Lake from aboveView of the lake from top

Regardless of how you begin your Lake Humantay day trip, you’re sure to be astounded. The hike itself is relatively short; it takes most people less than three hours to complete the full loop. The real challenge is the altitude. The trailhead is located at 3,900 meters above sea level, and the ascent of the trail brings you to 4,200 meters in just under 4 kilometers of trail. 

Given that some folks are not well acclimatized to high altitudes such as these, there are horses available to aid your journey. They can be rented for the day at the base of the hike and at a halfway point. Several locals have their homes along the trail path and often lend their horses to help struggling travelers reach their destination.

Once you reach the top of the trailhead, your grand reward awaits. Lake Humantay rests in a valley of the Andes and practically glows bright turquoise. This pristine blue pool is colored by a unique combination of minerals and algae. As such, there is no swimming allowed in the lake, to help preserve its natural balance. 

Instead, visitors are encouraged to rest along the lakeshore or hike up the surrounding ridges that practically envelop the lake. Some adventurers even leave their own offerings for Pachamama, as a thank you for the turquoise beauty. A trip around the lake will bring you even closer to the dramatic mountain backdrop. Glacier-fed waterfalls cascade continuously into the lake. Avalanches tumble down sheer rock faces of the high peaks surrounding the valley. It is truly a magical sight to behold.

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