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The Humantay Lake Peru
The Humantay Lake is a stunning glacier lake surrounded by dramatic mountains that can be visited on day trips from Cusco or as part of the challenging Salkantay trekking, offered by Machu Picchu Andes Tours. Laguna Humantay is famous for its brilliant turquoise color, with a backdrop of mountains often covered in snow, and undoubtedly one of the most stunning places to visit in Peru.
If you like hiking and enjoy a bit of a challenge, this experience is definitely for you! Curious to know more? Keep reading, because here is your complete guide to visiting the Humantay Lake.
The Hike to Humantay Lake: Essential information
The hike to Humantay Lake is round trip the same way. The total distance is approximately 7.5 km (4.7 miles) and the descent is 400 meters (1,312 feet).
This hike is considered moderate, but due to the effects of high altitude, it can turn out to be quite challenging. The trek starts at an altitude of 3800 meters above sea level (12,467 feet) and ends at 4,200 meters (13,780 feet). The terrain presents irregular, but clearly marked trails.
Near the walk to Humantay Lake Peru
The hike is steeper than the hike to Seven Colors Mountain, but it is shorter. From the start of the trail (near the baths) it takes approximately 45 minutes to get to the lake. No need to rush, you can enjoy it at your own pace. It’s like climbing stairs for 45 minutes straight. The trail is steep and a bit slippery in places. We recommend you to wear waterproof hiking shoes, provided by Machu Picchu Andes Tours.
Altitude of Humantay Lake:
The hike starts at 12,700 feet and the lake is at 13,900 feet.
The image above is the view from the summit, almost reaching the lake
Entrance to the Humantay Lake Peru
We have mentioned several times in the text that the price of admission to the Humantay Lake is 20 soles per person, but there are some more things you should know.
In the first place, the price is paid in Mollepata, which is the official checkpoint. Mollepata is also the farthest place that can be reached by collective from Cusco at the moment.
The cost of admission to the Humantay Lake is not covered by the Tourist Ticket.
If you booked the tour with Machu Picchu Andes Tours, your admission to the Humantay Lake is already included, so check before booking.
Total hike time to Humantay Lake:
Depending on your fitness level, it will take you around 1.5 hours to reach the lake and less than an hour to descend. Most people can get to Humantay Lake in 2 hours or less. This means you can expect to hike at least 3.5 hours, round trip. If you do this hike in a group, the pace will adjust to the slower member, so the total time may be higher.
The hike to the Humantay Lake
The hike to the Humantay Lake starts from the small town of Soraypampa. The trail veers off to the left of the main Salkantay trekking trail, plunging into the valley.
As you leave Soraypampa, you will notice bathrooms. These will be the only bathrooms available during the entire trek, from this point on the only option is a “natural bath”. The bathrooms are simple, but have a cost of 2 Peruvian soles (approximately $0.50 USD).
The road from Soraypampa starts relatively flat and gives you time to really enjoy the scenery within the valley. You will also get a view of the road to the lake and it can look quite intimidating. It is steep and climbs steadily.
There are some zigzag curves, but it is a steady climb through the valley. The trail is rocky and can be rough underfoot, so I strongly recommend wearing a good pair of hiking boots that provide support for your ankles.
Towards the end of the climb, the trail turns left, avoiding a rock formation. After, the trail turns right and the Lake almost appears as a surprise. It is a truly beautiful view and you can take advantage of this place to take a breath and take some pictures.
There are some trails around the lake that take you to viewpoints of the Humantay Lake. Some people will be fit enough to tour them, while others will feel the effects of the altitude and prefer to take it calmly, it all depends on you and how you feel!
On the way back to Soraypampa, you will follow the same trail you took to go up to the Lake. It is a great feeling to come back, as you can feel how the effects of the high altitude gradually diminish.
The scenery on the way to the Humantay Lake Peru
The altitude of the hike to the Humantay Lake means it lies above the tree line, giving you an uninterrupted view of the Vilcabamba range. As you hike through the valley towards the Lake, you will have a fantastic view of both the valley and the Salkantay and Humantay mountains.
The Humantay Lake has as its backdrop the Humantay Mountain, whose summit reaches 5,473 meters (17,956 feet). Expect to see some high altitude plants, like the beautiful purple Lupins.
Altitude in Humantay Lake Peru
You should not overlook the effects of altitude during the trek to Humantay Lake. The entire hike lies within the “very high altitude zone” and reaches an altitude of 4,200 meters (13,780 feet) above sea level. I strongly recommend not doing this hike unless you have spent at least 3 days in Cusco, which is at 3,350 meters (10,991 ft) above sea level, to acclimate yourself to the altitude.
The effects of altitude can be very serious and should not be underestimated. If you decide to do the trek with a tour agency, all the most reputable agencies have oxygen bottles in their vehicles and the guide will have a satellite phone to contact the emergency services in case you have any problems. During the whole hike there is no cell phone signal.
Altitude sickness symptoms can include dizziness, intense headaches and vomiting. To try to prevent this, make sure you drink plenty of water and it reduces your hiking speed.
Coca leaves or coca tea also help reduce the symptoms of altitude sickness. Even if you are used to hiking, for this hike you should go a little slow due to the altitude. Remember, height badness can affect you no matter how fit you are!
Guided tour of Humantay Lake Peru
Currently, the most popular way to get to Lake Humantay from Cusco is with a guided tour.
The classic Humantay Lake Tour starts early in the morning (around 4:30 am) when a van picks you up at the hotel and includes Lake admission, guide, transfer, breakfast and lunch.
The day generally unfolds smoothly, but as with any organized tour, you must wait for the slowest person in your group, besides you will never be alone on the lake (but we believe it is a rare luxury anyway) since most of the tour operators start around the same time.
There is no set price for the tour; expect to pay between 100 and 120 soles per person; the more last minute you book, the more chances you have to haggle the price.
You can find much cheaper or much more expensive prices in Cusco. But, do not look for the cheapest price, look for quality service and formal travel companies, because in Cusco there are many informal travel agencies that do not guarantee your experience.
If you plan doing the Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu, tour to the Humantay Lake is included on the first day. This is an excellent option to get to know more iconic places in Cusco.
Crowds at Lake Humantay
The Humantay Lake has become very well-known and the fact that it can be accessed so easily from Cusco means you can expect to see a lot of people on the trail. As all tour buses leave Cusco at approximately the same time, this really contributes to the crowds on the trail, especially in the morning.
If you are looking for a remote spot where you are unlikely to see other hikers, this is not for you. If you are looking for a chance to experience the beautiful Peruvian mountains and have little time, a day trip to the Humantay Lake is perfect.
How to get to Humantay Lake from Cusco
There are 2 main ways to visit the Humantay Lake: as a day excursion from Cusco or as part of a multi-day hike like the Salkantay hike. Either way, the trail starts in the village of Soraypampa, which is a 3-hour drive from the center of Cusco. The road is mountainous and can be very winding at times.
Hike to the Lake Humantay
The Salkantay trek is a 5-day trek that is often offered as an alternative option to Machu Picchu, although it reaches the site through the village of Aguas Calientes (from where you can hike or take the bus) and not through Inti Punku (Sun Gate).
The Salkantay hike also starts in Soraypampa, and the Humantay Lake is usually included as part of this hike; basically, you will be on the Salkantay hike after approximately 5 km (just over 3 miles) from the start of the hike to the Humantay Lake.
Many travelers choose this hike as a more economical alternative to the Inca Trail, as it does not require a permit. The Inca Trail is also limited to 200 tourists per day, so, if the Inca Trail is not available, this is an excellent alternative. However, keep in mind that as most Salkantay hikes include a ticket to Machu Picchu on the last day, you will still need to book well in advance to secure your visit, especially if you visit Peru in the high season, between May and September.
Recommended season to go to Lake Humantay
The journey from Cusco to the starting point of the Humantay Lake hike takes approximately 3 hours by car. The hike lasts approximately 1 to 1.5 hours, depending on your level. The groups start abandoning the lake around noon. At 12:30, I had the lake all to myself.
If you leave Cusco around 7am, you are likely to get to the lake while there are still people there (which is good, I always like to have other people on the trail just in case), but you will definitely have enough time to alone on the lake too.
Recommendations for doing the Humantay Lake hike
Here are some important tips to make your hike to Humantay Lake as enjoyable as possible:
- Take your time . You are at a great altitude, which means there is less oxygen and the hike becomes even more difficult. Therefore, take your time and you will reach this beautiful place of Mother Earth (Pacha Mama) in good shape.
- Use sunscreen. Although at this altitude it looks deceptively cool, it is very easy to get sunburned. You have less sun protection, so be sure to protect yourself with sunscreen.
- Carry enough water. Due to the dryness at the altitude of the Humantay Lake, you do not realize how much water you are losing. Carry enough water with you to keep you hydrated. Do you think you have enough? Take more.
- Wear a jacket. Even when it seems warm, it gets cold in the 1,000 meters you gain during the hike. Have a jacket handy, just in case.
- Enjoy the beauty. The Humantay Lake is a little piece of paradise. Take the time to enjoy it fully.
The good thing about the tours is that they include breakfast and lunch. If you go on your own, you will have to bring your own food. If you leave later, you can have breakfast at your hotel. But definitely take something food with you to eat right before you start the hike. It is a 3 hour drive and the hike is demanding. You won’t want to be hungry during the hike and end up with a headache.
Some additional tips
Take a picnic lunch
Honestly, I can’t imagine a more perfect setting for a picnic than the Humantay Lake. Just don’t forget to take everything with you when you return!
Don’t forget water!
Drinking plenty of water will help you with the altitude in the Humantay Lake. I recommend carrying at least 1 liter per person on the hike, and having an extra bottle to leave in the car when you return.
Wear sunscreen and wear layers of clothing
You burn with the sun much faster at higher altitude.
Carry cash and toilet paper
You will need to pay 10 soles for the entrance fee to the hike. Also, carry some coins in case you need to use a bathroom. The only bathrooms are at the beginning of the hike. Be sure to bring toilet paper!
Best time to visit Humantay Lake
The climate in the Peruvian Andes can be harsh, but you can generally expect two distinct seasons. May to October is the dry season, characterized by clear skies, sunny weather and cooler temperatures.
This is the best time of year to hike Peru, so you can expect crowds by the lake. On the other hand, November to April is the rainy season.
The rainiest months are January and February . In fact, February is the month when the Inca Trail closes for maintenance, but also due to the high probability of landslides, so it is necessary to keep in mind that it is not the best time to do hikes.
It is possible to do the hike all year round, but it is absolutely essential to check the weather forecast and consider the pros and cons.
The weather in the mountains is often changeable, so you should always be prepared, even when the weather forecast looks more than promising.
Where is the Lake of Humantay located
Humantay Lake is located approximately 120 kilometers northwest of Cusco, in the Vilcabamba Mountains, at an altitude of more than 13,000 feet.
The nearest towns to reach are Saray (Soraypampa) and Mollepata.
Most visitors make a stop in Saray, either on a tour, visiting the lake alone or starting the trek to Machu Picchu. Either way, a stop at Laguna Humantay in Peru is worth it. And, to do that, you’ll have to get to Saray.
Another useful information
Finally, here are some more things you might want to know before you start the hike.
Restrooms along the walk
No restrooms along the trek route. The last bathrooms you will find are in Soraypampa and cost 2 Peruvian soles ($0.50 USD). They should have toilet paper, but carry some with you just in case.
Swimming in Humantay Lake
Swimming is prohibited in Laguna Humantay. Besides the freezing temperature of the water, it contains a lot of bacteria that could make you sick.
Photographs at the Humantay Lake
You can definitely take pictures during the hike and at the lake, but you can’t fly a drone unless you have written permission to do so. Flying a drone is prohibited to protect the environment around Humantay Lake.
Can kids and dogs do the Humantay Lake hike?
In principle, children can do the Humantay Lake hike. Make sure your child can walk for at least 2 hours on a steep and steady trail. However, I recommend great caution when taking children to Laguna Humantay due to the risk of altitude harm. Under no circumstances carry babies!
Dogs can do the Humantay Lake walk. If you are traveling to Peru with a dog and wish to take a tour, be sure to check with the tour operator to see if dogs are allowed on the tour. One of our travelers made the entire Salkantay trek with his Border Collie !
Preparation for the hike
Yes, that’s correct! Recommendations on what to take when hiking Humantay Lake include:
- Hiking Shoes: Choose sturdy and comfortable hiking boots that are tailored to your feet to avoid blisters.
- Breathable Clothing: Opt for lightweight, breathable clothing that allows for easy movement and layering.
- Warm sweater: Pack an extra sweater or fleece jacket to keep you warm at higher altitudes or when the temperature drops.
- Waterproof jacket: Carry a waterproof or rain-resistant jacket to protect you from sudden downpours and sudden weather changes.
- Quick drying pants: Wear hiking pants that dry quickly, are comfortable and allow freedom of movement.
- Hat and sunglasses: Protect yourself from the sun with a hat and sunglasses to shield your face and eyes from UV rays.
- Daypack: Carry a comfortable daypack with padded shoulder straps and a waist belt to store your essential elements.
It is important to check the weather forecast in advance and be prepared for changes in temperature and weather conditions during the hike. The layering will allow you to adjust as needed. Enjoy your hike to Humantay Lake and keep safe!
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