Visiting Lake Humantay: 7 tips for the Best Experience
Visiting Lake Humantay: 7 tips for the Best Experience
Lake Humantay is currently listed as #4 on the list of the Top Attractions in the Cusco Surroundings, making Humantay one of the most coveted day trip destinations for travelers in Peru. On this day trip, you will admire panoramic views over Lake Humantay, the Apurimac River and learn about the region’s Inca and pre-Inca history. Read more about Visiting Lake Humantay: 7 tips for the Best Experience.
Lake Humantay or “Lago Humantay” – in Spanish – is a gorgeous body of water located at the foothills of the snow-capped Humantay Mountain at an altitude of 4,200 meters or 13,779 feet above sea level. The lake is nestled into a secretive and hidden location like a precious gemstone that you can only see once you arrive directly upon it. The tropical-colored turquoise water contrasts strikingly against the snowy mountain in the distance. In the past, only people hiking the Salkantay Trek were lucky enough to admire this amazing natural wonder, but in recent years the tour or hike to Lake Humantay has become a day trip open to all travelers.
Day Tour Humantay
The full-day Lake Humantay Trip starts in the center of Cusco. The bus departs around 5:30 AM and arrives at Soraypampa, the start point of the trek, around 8:30 AM. After a quick briefing from the guide the first part of the hike starts; after about 25 minutes there is breakfast at a small encampment. Up till here, the walk is almost completely flat. The breakfast consists of coffee, *a variety of teas, a hot chocolate drink with oatmeal, bread, butter, jelly and simple pancakes.
* Here is an insider tip on how to drink the coffee properly! The coffee in Peru is normally served, highly concentrated and black, in a small metal pitcher. There are also thermoses of hot water around the table. In order to prepare your cup of coffee, you need to add some of the concentrated coffee and the hot water into your mug. I saw a lot of the tourists around the table drinking the pure concentrated coffee and making very entertaining and unpleasant expressions!
Around 10:00 AM the guide gives a briefing with tips to get the best Lake Humantay Experience. You will be given walking poles and there’s also an option to rent a horse. *
The hike up to the lake offers a gorgeous view of the uneven and rocky terrain scattered with little vegetation that is typical of the high Andes Mountains. The hike itself is moderate and will take the average hiker between 45 minutes to an hour and a half to arrive at the lake from the encampment. Take your time walking because the high altitude can make you feel fatigued or even dizzy.
Arriving at the top
Once you arrive at the top, you will be amazed by the piercing colors within the lake. The colors span from a light yellow to a dark mix of emerald and turquoise. At Lake Humantay, you can feel that you are in two places at once. The varying hues of green, blue and yellow are due to the combination of the minerals and algae present as well as the reflection from the blue sky and the strong radiation from the sun.
You will be given plenty of time to take photos and walk to different vantage points to get the perfect shots. The lake truly is gorgeous and worth the strenuous hike up. The amount of tourists is not overwhelming and you can take photos without seeing another soul in the frame.
The walk down is much faster, but it can be hard on the knees as the terrain has many rocks and at times is quite steep. After approximately 30 minutes of walking down you will be back at the encampment where lunch is served. The lunch is mostly a hearty barley soup to start, a buffet-style main course with the traditional Lomo Saltado with French fries, rice, a cucumber and tomato salad and many vegetable options. Before heading back to Cusco, drink a warming and relaxing muña (a typical Andean herb) and honey tea. According to the Incas, muña helps digestions as well as adjusting to the high altitude.
Need to know before doing the Lake Humantay
Below is a short overview with the best tips and suggestions on how to make the most out of your day!
The morning is very cold, so you should wear multiple layers, including a long sleeve shirt, a fleece and a warm jacket and a hat for the cold as well as a hat for the sun later in the day. Once you start moving and hiking you can take off your layers. Once the sun goes behind the clouds, the temperature can drop very quickly. You should be ready for many varying temperatures. You can also bring a small blanket for the bus ride if you want to sleep.
You are going to be at a high altitude which means the radiation is very strong and you can get a horrible sunburn unless you protect your skin with sunscreen and a hat. You should also bring sunglasses to help protect your eyes from the strong radiation. There is hardly any shade or protection from the sun at the Lake.
3-Get enough sleep:
Make sure you get enough rest the night before your tour. You will probably struggle physically with only a few hours of sleep as the tour pick-up time is around 4:50 AM. Travelers should have a moderate fitness level to enjoy the hike to the lake.
4-Bring medicine to prevent motion or car sickness:
At times the bus ride can be winding and if you get car sick easily you should prepare by taking some medicine beforehand.
5-Bring a snack and water:
As the tour starts about 4 hours in advance of breakfast I would recommend bringing fruit, granola bars, nuts, cookies, crackers or a small sandwich along with you. After the excursion you will most likely be thirsty and bringing water, fruit juice or an energy/electrolyte drink can help you replenish your body. Breakfast and lunch are included during the tour.
6-Go with a travel agency:
Navigating on your own can be challenging, so we recommend you take an organized day tour to Lake Humantay. Full-day guided tours include round-trip transportation from Cusco, entrance fees, breakfast and lunch, medical kits and oxygen. Everything is taken care of for you so you have more time to enjoy your trek.
If you are not very fit, are tired, or you simply enjoy riding horses, you have the option to rent a horse which is led by a local member of the community up to the top. Tourists who choose this option will only need to walk a short distance after the horse ride to be able to view the lake. Renting a horse also helps support the livelihood of the local inhabitants. Please contact us for a price indication.
Schedule Day Trip Humantay Lake
- Pick-up time:
Between 4:50 and 5.15 AM from the Plaza de Armas or a nearby location
- Departure time from Cusco:
Around 5:30 AM (from the Plaza San Francisco or at your accommodation)
- Arrival time back to Cusco:
Around 6:00 PM (drop off at the Plaza San Francisco or at your accommodation)
- 25 minutes from the parking lot to the encampment where you will have breakfast and start the hike (flat)
- 45 minutes to an hour and a half up to Lake Humantay from the encampment
Most tours head back down from the lake around 1:00 PM.
- 30 minutes from the Lake back down to the encampment
- 25 minutes from the encampment to the parking lot where your bus will be waiting for you
*Please note that these times can vary depending on your group, traffic or other unforeseen circumstances.
The Day trip to Lake Humantay is a unique and alluring tour that you need to check off your Cusco bucket-list!
Feel free to contact our trip advisors if you have further questions about this, or other tours in Peru.
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