As everyone already knows, Cusco has a unique magic that attracts thousands of tourists a year for its impressive archaeological parks, museums, gastronomy, humantay, tradition, culture, and nature. In short, every corner of this region is beautiful.
In recent years, the impressive turquoise Humantay Lake has become the most sought after destination by visitors, and here I’ll tell you the details of how you can get to know it.
Humantay Lake: Heading to Paradise
Life is so unpredictable that when you least think about it, it could be your last trip. That happened to me when I decided to go to Humantay weeks before they declared mandatory social isolation in Peru. Happily I already had the blessing of knowing this beautiful lake.
The morning of that day started very early, around 04:00 a.m. The van went to my hotel in Cusco to pick me up. Excited, I put my backpack overhead and took a seat near the window. I love to see the scenery of the route and more do if I am visiting.
We picked up four more people and began our journey. After 2 hours on the bus we arrived at the town of Mollepata, where we had breakfast. There are toilets and crafts there that you can buy as a souvenir of your adventure.
At the end of breakfast we returned to the bus and traveled for about 20 more minutes until we reached the town of Challacancha, which for us was the starting point of our walk. We had a few minutes to organize our belongings and then started our tour. We walked around 3 hours to reach the community of Soraypampa. The trail of this section was light, and almost like a practice for what was coming.
In Soraypampa we visited the luxury camp Sky Camp (yes it is luxury), where we spent the night. I was surprised to see them, so modern and beautiful, in front of two imposing snow-capped mountains of Salkantay and Humantay. Without a doubt, the night promised an unforgettable evening.
Before continuing with our walk we rested and had lunch in our camp. Here, our guide took the opportunity to give us some recommendations for the ascent. He told us that we should hydrate from small sips of water, and also pointed out that the trekking poles in this section were essential to lighten our weight, and above all it gave us courage not to lose heart on the way.
Recharged, we headed to the Humantay Lagoon, and as I advanced I could see the great Apus approaching, as if watching me. In Andean cosmology, the Apus are gods; living sacred beings that protect the peoples.
Within my group, there was a young man who screamed with excitement marveling at such beauty. He advanced rapidly while I stayed behind with all the mortals used to a sedentary life.
As I advanced I began to feel the effects of the altitude; the headache, chest, and breathing began to disturb me. The guide who led the group approached me and reminded me “take water in small sips, breathe, and rest; this is not a competition”. Me paid attention to him, every so often I would stop, breathe, and drink water. I was ashamed of my physical condition until I looked around me and there were others who could walk with their dignity intact.
I was about to give up, and the residents of the area who walked with their horses offered me transportation to reach my destination, I was about to succumb to temptation, but I remembered that the mind is more powerful than the body so I decided to enjoy the landscape, the mountain ranges, the wind, and the clouds. After almost 1 hour and a half of fighting with my body, when I arrived and saw this beautiful and incomparable landscape, I was tired.
In Peru, the lakes are usually blue, but this one, due to some minerals, microalgae, and the melted water of the Humantay glacier, takes on a turquoise color. It’s inevitable you’ll be hypnotized by the show, taking photos and more photos. After enjoying this beautiful landscape we said goodbye, and it was no surprise that everyone in my group looked so happy.
Back at our camp, it was lovely to arrive and have dinner ready to be able to eat and recharge. The sky began to darken, and the cold and the wind made me enter my igloo. From there, without any interruptions, I could appreciate the stars that were beginning to shine like a scene taken from the most amazing film. The tranquility that I experienced is indescribable. Morpheus called me into his arms and I fell into a deep sleep.
Salkantay Pass: On the Top of the World
I was awoken very early and had an exquisite breakfast in the middle of the Andes, near the Vilcabamba mountain range, and after getting my things ready, we started the adventure to the Salkantay Pass.
The way up is known as “The path of the 7 snakes” due to its zigzagging shape. The path is steep and it’s difficult to keep up with the most acclimatized people. However, due to my experience on the first day, I remembered to rest and take small sips of water.
After 4 hours, we arrived at the Salkantay Pass from where you can see the immense snow-capped peaks of the Salkantay, Humantay, Tacarhuay, and Pumasillo mountains. These mountains transmit a pure and enchanting energy to you, which connects you with the world.
After appreciating the fabulous views on top of the world (for me), we had to head to the town of Soroycocha, where they waited for us with lunch ready as they’d done the day before.
At the end, we continued descending to our Sky Camp in Soraypampa, where the bus that would return to Cusco was waiting. During this journey I said goodbye to the Apus and magic. I thanked life for allowing me to reach this earthly paradise that nature offers us to care for and respect it.
With a heart full of love, peace, and gratitude, I returned to Cusco.
What to Bring
- Warm clothes
- Trekking shoes and socks
- Rain jacket and poncho (in case it rains)
- Toilet paper and hand sanitizer
- Trekking sticks
- Before embarking on this adventure, acclimatize your body for at least one day in Cusco.
- Take extra money; if the trail is challenging the first day you can rent horses to get to Humantay.
- Get a good camera, the views are spectacular.
- Go in good spirits so you’ll enjoy the walk
- Preferably travel in the dry season from April to October
- The route isn’t suitable for pregnant women and people with heart problems.
FAQ About the Route
Does it really look like the pictures?
Yes! And it’s definitely what makes the hike so much more rewarding.
How long is the walk?
From Soraypampa to Laguna Humantay, the section is approximately 3.5 km (2.17 mi) and can take between 1 and a half to 2 hours, depending on the physical condition of the hiker.
Can I get a tour once in Cusco?
Yes. Unlike the Inca Trail routes or the entrances to Machu Picchu, there’s always availability for the Humantay Lake tour. Therefore, you can get a tour to the lagoon once you’re in Cusco, without any issues.
Can I camp near the lake?
You can’t camp next to Humantay Lake, but it’s possible to camp in the Soraypampa camping area, 2 km (1.24 mi) from the lagoon.
Can I go with children?
Although it’s a bit difficult for both parents and children, it’s possible to go with your kids to the lake. The best option is to rent a horse to go up with children. Remember that the walk is demanding, and the altitude and temperature can cause discomfort to the little ones. On the other hand, it’s not advisable to go with babies to the lake.
Can I swim in the lake?
Currently you’re not allowed to enter Humantay Lake, since the water is used for the consumption of the population that inhabits these mountains and because human contact could alter the natural color of the lagoon. Also, the water temperature isn’t recommended for visitors as it’s very cold.
How’s the terrain of the route to Humantay Lake?
The terrain is somewhat hard with the presence of small stones. On the walk you’ll have to walk uphill, so we recommend that you’re in good physical condition.