Cusco is any traveler´s dream destination. This small city is a treasure trove of a variety of amazing gems to be discovered and explored. You might have heard of the famous Machu Picchu or Rainbow Mountain, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg of the numerous attraction this city has to offer. In this blog, we will share information on the dazzling jewel that is Humantay Lake.
Located on the foothills of the gigantic Humantay Mountain (5 473m/17 956ft). This lake is 100% glacial and is primarily fed by the mountain that towers above it. On the hike you will be amazed by the stunning landscape and striking turquoise color of Humantay Lake. This is definite must-see for the nature lover. You can simply join a day trek, that will transport you from Cusco to the trailhead and back . If hiking is not for you, then you have the option to hire a horse from the locals to take you to the top. For the adventure seeker that enjoys a bit of a challenge before the reward. Then the Salkantay Trek including Humantay Lake is just the thing for you.
The are many alternatives to hiking to the lake. The most popular is the multi-day Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu.
What is Humantay Lake?
Humantay Lake is named after the nearby mountain Humantay, and is considered as one of the most beautiful and sacred lakes in Cusco. Its vivid turquoise waters with the snow-capped mountain of Salkantay (6,270 m) in the background, reveal the true reason behind its popularity.
In addition to tourists who make day trips to the lake, there are more adventurous tourists who go on the so second from popular hike after the Inca Trail, the “Salkantay Trek“. The 4-day Salcantay trek to Machu Picchu is a scenic hike, with the best vistas in Cusco. This trek allows you to visit the lake at a more leisurely pace.
Where is Humantay Lake?
From the the Imperial City of Cusco, you have to drive northwest towards the village of Soraypampa. Its located 77 miles/ 124km from the city in the Mollapata district, Anta province in the Cusco Region. The trek takes you through the Vilcabamba Mountain Range of the Andes of Peru from the village of Soraypampa. Lake Humantay is located near the Apus Mountains of Salkantay Mountain(6,271m, 20 574ft). This gigantic mountain slightly peaks behind Mount Humantay (5, 473m/ 17, 956ft).
How to get to Humantay Lake?
From the city of Cusco, you travel about 120 km by road. On the way you pass through the towns of Limatambo and Mollepata, until you reach the community of Soraypampa.
Once we enter Soraypampa, we start an uphill hike of about 2 km until we reach the lake. If you are traveling with a tour package, transportation is included, as well as breakfast and lunch in the town of Mollepata. Horse rental is an optional extra payable directly to the locals),
Can I get to the lake on my own?
Of course, you can; below we explain the route step-by-step:
You must take public transport from the city of Cusco to the town of Mollepata. The bus leaves from the Arcopata terminal and costs around 15 soles (4 USD).
Once you arrive in Mollepata, you will need to take a taxi to the community of Soraypampa.
The taxi can cost 50 soles (approximately 12 USD).
Finally, in Soraypampa, you have to hike to Humantay Lake. It is a 2 km hike and, depending on how fit you are, it can take between 1 to 2 hours. It is a very beautiful experience, but we recommend traveling with a registered tour company. You don´t save enough, to account for the risks involved with doing it on your own.
You need to have a very good command of Spanish and maybe a little bit of Quechua. Majority of the locals only speak Quechua, the Indigenous language of Peru
Its also important to be well acclimatized to the altitude, its can be very dangerous to suffer from the more serious symptoms of altitude sickness without a guide to help you.
Be prepared to possibly spend the night in Mollepata. The taxi the taking you to the trailhead needs to wait for you because there are generally no taxis at the trail head. Once you return to Mollepata, it is a possibility that the busses could have stopped running for the day. If this happens, then you need to find a place to spend the night and resume your journey the next day.
Beware that all prices are relative and highly dependent on your negotiation skills. However, as a foreigner you are lightly to be charged a lot higher rates than stated above.
How much is the entrance fee to the lake?
The entrance fee is paid in the town of Mollepata and gives access to the Soraypampa camp, where the lake is located. The fee for foreign visitors is 10 soles (2.5 USD) and for Peruvian visitors it is 5 soles (1.5 USD).
What to do in Humantay Lake?
Once you arrive at the lake you can leave an offering for the Pachamama (the Inca Mother Earth), usually in the form of coca leaves. Alternatively, you can make an ‘el hito de Piedras’, a small stack of rocks made as an offering to the mountain. You can hike around the edges if you have the time, giving you 360° views of this incredible scenery. It’s worth noting that if you plan to do a tour you won’t have time to hike around the outside of the lake. You can make it part of the way around with the timing of a tour, but not the whole way around, so plan ahead or take a private tour.
Observe the ceremony
In Humantay Lake a thousand-year-old ceremony is held in honor of Pachamama, Mother Earth. Once you arrive at the lake, you can participate in the ceremony by placing stones to express your gratitude for arriving at the lake safe and sound.
The story of Humantay Lake is the legend of 2 brothers, whose names are Salkantay and Ausangate. It is said that both brothers decided to undertake a journey to unknown lands in order to obtain food and put an end to the famine of their people.
Are you interested in knowing more stories about Cusco on your journey to Machu Picchu? The PeruRail Vistadome train offers you an incredible experience through a beautiful dance of the region, a fashion show on board and explanatory audios that make your journey a very pleasant and sensory one.
In the vicinity of the snowy territory, just 3 minutes from the lake, there is an Eco camp where you can enjoy the magical experience of witnessing the sunrise and sunset, and you will have time to explore the most fascinating corners of the Peruvian highlands.
Of course, it is recommended to bring special gear for the cold in case you go camping. This is due to the low temperatures experienced in the lake throughout the day.
The inhabitants of the community of Soraypampa offer a horse rental service at the starting point of the hike to Humantay Lake. You can rent a horse going up and again on the way back. The cost is around 90 Peruvian soles (23 USD) and all proceeds go directly to the community.
What is the best time of the year to visit Humantay Lake?
The climate of the highlands and mountains is not very predictable. However, a considerable number of tourists visit Cusco during the dry season, which runs from May to November. This is undoubtedly the best season to visit lake. The lake has its signature clear vivid turquoise color and the weather makes for a very pleasant hike, with full days of sunshine. However, during wet season (December to April) , the trail is slippery and the lake can lose its turquoise-blue color.
Humantay Lake is accessible all year round, although during the rainy season you will find fewer tourists. Remember , unlike the Inca Trail tour or the tickets to visit Machu Picchu, the Humantay Lake tour is always available.
Cusco is any traveler´s dream destination. This small city is a treasure trove of a variety of amazing gems to be discovered and explored. You might have heard of the famous Machu Picchu or Rainbow Mountain, but that’s only the tip of the iceb...