Cusco is known across the world as the gateway to Machu Picchu, the most iconic of all the Inca sites. With so much to see in this region, those skipping through whilst only visiting the Lost City of the Incas are only tapping the surface of what’s on offer.
Join us as we explore many of the day trips that Cusco has on offer and prepare to extend your time in this amazing city!
First up, Laguna Humantay (also known as the Humantay Lagoon).
Nestled into Humantay Mountain, under towering mountain peaks and hanging glaciers, sits Laguna Humantay – one of the most incredible bodies of water we’ve ever seen. Unbelievable hues of bright blue and green shimmer in water that feels somewhat out of place sitting atop a mountain. This otherworldly sight really does feel too good to be true!
It’s little wonder that centuries ago, the ancient Inca’s believed this to be a sacred place – even now, with tourists gathered around, you can still feel the magic.
What to Expect on the Hike to the Humantay Lagoon
I have a real love-hate relationship with hiking. When it’s flat or sloping gently downhill, I love it. When I’m clamping up steep, unending tracks – well, I don’t need to tell you how I feel about it. I’m not the fittest person around and I really do find it a challenge.
Without a doubt though, the views at the top of Humantay are worth the relatively short slog up to the top.
Leaving the mini-van at Soraypampa (3,900 metres above sea level), the hike begins, varying from a gentle slope to fairly demanding until trekkers come across the lagoon at 4,200 metres above sea level.
As you hike, you’ll enjoy views out over the surrounding valley and Salkantay, the namesake mountain of the popular multi-day hike in the region, headed for Machu Picchu. The area itself is gorgeous which certainly makes the hike all the more manageable.
The altitude and elevation gain is enough that hiking is more challenging than at sea level but if you take it slowly and stop for breathers along the way, it really won’t feel any more difficult than any other uphill hike you’ve done.
As always, after a couple of breaks and a good chance to catch your breath at the top, any suffering is soon forgotten!
Top Tip: Should you require (or just prefer) assistance to get to the top, horses are available and as a local leads you up, you don’t need any riding experience. The horses in all of Peru were in great condition, the service is reasonably priced and you can decide when you arrive (both at the base of the trail, and part way up), making this a great way to get to Laguna Humantay should you need a hand.
Practical Details Relating to Your Laguna Humantay Hike:
- Pick up is offered if your accommodation is relatively close to Plaza de Armas. We were amongst the first to be collected at 4.45am from Magic Packers (a hostel we highly recommend).
- The total drive is approximately 2.5 hours in each direction – this is broken up with breaks for meals.
- Both breakfast and lunch are included for participants in Mollepata. Breakfast included bread, fruit, fresh eggs and tea/coffee/juice whilst lunch was a delicious buffet.
- Take plenty of water as there’s nowhere to refill bottles or purchase new ones once you start the hike. Drinks are available for purchase where you stop for breakfast though and also at the base of the trail; they’re surprisingly affordable so don’t race out to stock up the night before if you’re short on time.
- A hiking stick is offered to each participant but as we had our own hiking poles from our Patagonian hikes, I used those. Nathan decided not to use either and was absolutely fine.
- Drop off is to a central plaza, not far from Plaza de Armas – your guide will point you back in the direction of your accommodation or help you hail a taxi if required. Cabs in Cusco are affordable and generally reliable so getting around is easily done. Uber is also freely available should you prefer.
- When you book through Exploor your voucher is issued and you have five months to decide when you’d like to book your hike in, making it the perfect way for friends and family to gift you an amazing experience (rather than more stuff that you don’t need). At only USD45 including breakfast, lunch, transport and guide, this is amazing value too! You’ll just need to allow PEN10 (USD3/NZD4.50) each for entrance to the community.
If there’s one day hike you do from Cusco, we highly recommend you make it Humantay.
Bang-for-buck, no other hike has ever compared to the beauty of this track and with the addition of horses, it really is attainable for the vast majority of travellers.
The views speak for themselves and if the water looks like this on an overcast, gloomy day, imagine them on a beautiful clear-sky day…
Off to Cusco or know someone that is? Pin this post to refer back to it!
Thank you to Exploor for hosting us for the purpose of this review. All views, as always, are entirely our own. We highly recommend you book your trip to Humantay Lagoon through Exploor.