Have you ever seen views so amazing it seemed out of this world? It appeared you have been transported in a canvass that holds an exquisite work of art. Every corner radiating beauty that it overwhelms the senses. Welcome to Lake Humantay!
Located in the Vilcabamba range of the Andes, this lake is one of the most visited sites in the mountainous regions near Cusco Peru. Looming at a height of 13,779 feet (4,200 meters), it won’t give you its breathtaking views so easily. The climb is difficult for both first timers and experienced hikers. Our guide often said, “This is a lot of work just to see water like we haven’t seen one already.” Get adjusted in Cusco before doing this daytrip.
Planning a trip to Cusco? See how we planned and budgeted our Cusco Peru trip.
True! Lake Humantay is just a body of water, but apart from its pristine allure this site is vital to Andean culture and beliefs. The lake and its surroundings are considered sacred by the people that lived around it as it was their primary source of water. Legend has it that the lake was formed by the tears of the god Salkantay longing to be with his beloved. The word Humantay is a Quechua word meaning “Head of the gods.”
Planning your visit to Lake Humantay
For daytrips outside of Cusco, we recommend getting a tour package to avoid the hassle of coordinating everything. Agencies would have updated knowledge of timetables, traffic conditions and connections with local restaurants and services on the way. On the day of the tour, you will be assigned to other companies for guides and transportation. Multiple destinations may have lots of transfers and tour guide changes.
Excursions from travel agencies all over Cusco Peru are affordable (you can negotiate). Our trip to Lake Humantay starting from 6:00 am to 5:00 pm (pick-up to drop-off) only costs S/ 68 ($17.95) per person with the entrance fee of S/ 20 ($5.28) paid onsite.
- Pick-up from hotel early morning
- 3-hour travel to Mollepata for breakfast (included)
- 1-hour bus travel to Soraypampa (trailhead)
- 2-hour climb
- Free time at Lake Humantay
- 1-hour hike down to trailhead
- 1-hour bus travel to lunch (included)
- 3-hour travel back to Cusco
Packing your bags
- Identification (passport, DNI) and Vaccination Cards
- Decent shoes
- Sun protection
- Bottled water and light snack – prices go up to as much as 2x as you approach the trailhead
- Cash / coins – for emergencies and bathrooms takes a fee of S/ 1 – 2 ($0.30)
- Walking sticks – made a lot of difference on the 40- and 60-degree incline
Starting the Hike to Lake Humantay
On reaching the parking lot, our guide (Marco) told us to stick together during the first 15 minutes of the hike because we might wander to a more difficult trail if we go on our own. Bathrooms are located only in the parking lots.
The hike starts flat on dirt ground with the stunning views of the imminent white mountains. Apart from the altitude, that was still easy for us. Worrying about the rest of it, we asked our guide on the whereabouts of the oxygen supplement in case we needed it. He had so much faith on our lung powers that he didn’t bother to bring any!
For those who doesn’t feel like their legs can take the climb, you can take the Andean “taxi!” Our strong four legged-Ubers will drop you close to the lake for a fee of S/ 80 ($20). Know that it is not advisable to use the horses on the way down due to risk of tumbling down, so you’ll have to go down on foot.
After the last stable will be the 40-degree incline, so get ready to use those walking sticks. The path is uneven, littered with rocks and stones. Watch out for horses and mules on their way down to the stables and tourists (like yourself) with weary legs sprawled on top of a rocks, calculating their remaining reserves, hoping the lake is just around the corner.
It’s not a race. Take time to rest, drink water, and take-off of some layers when needed. If returning hikers tell you “You’re almost there!”, yes you are, but not after you take on the narrow 60-degree incline for a few minutes more.
You could either continue walking on the path around the mountainside or take a shortcut by climbing up a rocky incline to reach the stunning views you so desire. We took the shortcut, and we were glad we did because we had the best and unobstructed view of Lake Humantay mirroring the white Andean range behind it. The water was calm, clear, and so rich in color, I swear nature has an Instagram filter over it!
After taking pictures, Marco gathered our group for a quick story of the lake, then we headed back to the parking lot. You would think that it would be a breeze to go down but the struggle to climb was replaced by the effort not to fall on your face (the walking sticks helped). Altogether we hiked and stayed at the site from 9 am to 1 pm, lunch at 2 pm and we’re headed back to Cusco Peru by 3:30 pm.
We had to rest for a day after the Lake Humantay hike, but it’s nothing like a few hours of snooze and pain meds didn’t solve. There were moments when we thought we couldn’t do it anymore but we’re happy to live up to the challenge. That with each laborious breath and careful step, we came up close to the mountain of the gods.
Join is live up to the challenge that is Lake Humantay in this video!
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