For a truly incredible day trip from Cusco, you can’t go far wrong with the beautiful Humantay Lake Hike. The relatively short out and back trail to Laguna Humantay is a moderate hike encompassing some of the finest scenes of the Vilcabamba Mountain Range, Sacred Valley of Cusco, and of course, the magical Andes running through Peru.
Also known as Laguna Humantay, Humantay Lagoon and Lago Humantay, this astonishingly beautiful lake will leave you completely captivated by the breathtaking beauty of the Sacred Valley, and the endless charm of Peru. Indeed, it certainly left Dan and I keen to seek out even more of these pristine lagoons that seem to litter the glacial regions of Peru. Simply put, a visit to Laguna Humantay in Peru is a must if you stay in Cusco. In fact, the day trip from Cusco to Laguna Humantay has to be one of the best single-day hikes in Peru.
In this guide, we’ll provide a GPS map and hiking stats, as well as a quick overview of the hike itself. We’ll discuss the options of taking a group tour or hiking independently, as well as going through a few different hiking options for experiencing Laguna Humantay in Peru. We’ll also cover some Humantay Lake hike questions, look at Cusco accommodation options and provide some bonus tips and hiking essentials.
Laguna Humantay Day Trip Overview
For a short and extremely rewarding hike, look no further than Laguna Humantay in Peru. The 7.5km out and back trail is a picturesque trek through glacial mountain terrain. Brimming with colourful lupins and surrounded by an amphitheater of epic peaks, the hike to Humantay Lake is one of those treks that will remain in your memory for a lifetime.
The Story of Humantay Lake
Translated from Quechua as “Head of the Gods”, the turquoise waters of Humantay Lake in Peru are mindblowing. As with many places in Peru, the names often transcend from legend and stories. This is the one of Humantay:
There is a legend of two brothers. They were named Salkantay and Ausangate. During a drought that was severely affecting the Andean people, the two brothers set out in search of food. Heading in different directions, they both found food to help their people, but, Salkantay also found love. Sadly, a broken-hearted Salkantay had to leave his love because of his commitment to his people. Both brothers were ultimately transformed into the huge peaks we now see of Ausangate and Salkantay Mountains. But, the tears of Salkantay created Humantay Lake, with the rich turquoise colour said to represent the deep feelings of Salkantay over his lost love.
Humantay Lake Hike Preview and Map
- Type: Out & Back
- Distance: 7.5km
- Time: 3-4 hours
- Accumulated elevation gain: 461m
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Trailhead: Soraypampa
Humantay Lake Hike
After an early departure from Cusco, at around 4am, the Laguna Humantay hike begins with a three-hour drive to the town of Mollapata. Here, you’ll pay the entrance fee of S/20 ($5USD)/person, before continuing on to the small village of Soraypampa. This is where you’ll find the trailhead for the Humantay Lake hike, and also your last chance to use a restroom or buy any water or snacks, should you need them.
At Soraypampa, you’ll pass by many accommodation options for those embarking on the Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu. This is another popular way to see Laguna Humantay from Cusco, and actually the option Dan and I took. More on that below.
The trail from Soraypampa to Laguna Humantay is roughly 3.5km. It’s a fairly steep incline, ascending from 3,800m to 4,200m. That’s a fair ascent over a short distance. As the Humantay Lake trek is high altitude too, it’s definitely recommended to be well acclimatised before taking on this trek.
Following a winding trail through an alpine-like landscape, you’ll see the huge hulk of Humantay Mountain growing larger before you. As you near the top of the trail, we’d recommend continuing the path to the higher viewpoint of Laguna Humantay first. You’ll see that the trail veers to the left to reach this point. Follow this, rather than the trail to the right. This one will lead straight to the lake’s edge.
Upon reaching the top, the views from this hillock are quite incredible. From this vantage point, you’ll experience the best of this sparkling turquoise lagoon. The colour is mesmerizing, caused by mineral-filled runoff from the melting glacier. Dan and I enjoyed scrambling along the small ridgeback to the left of the lake too, it made for some really epic photo opportunities.
Whilst up here, be sure to look around you. The surrounding Vilcabamba Mountain Range looks truly incredible. It’s quite the sight to behold. If you haven’t already, then it’s here you’ll truly fall in love with the Andes.
At your own leisure, it’s then time to follow the trail down to the edge of the lake and enjoy Laguna Humantay from a new perspective. The sound of the glacial waters gently lapping the shore is relaxing. Only once you’ve been still long enough to start to feel the cold will you be able to tear yourself away.
Standing majestically behind the sparkling turquoise waters of Laguna Humantay is Humantay Mountain. Known as Apu Humantay to the Incas, this sacred mountain was revered by the ancient civilisation and held great importance to them. Standing 5,478m above sea level, you can’t help but feel impressed by its imposing nature. Perhaps, only surpassed by the incredible Apu Salkantay, which sits right next door.
To return to Soraypampa, simply follow the same trail you hiked up to Laguna Humantay, Peru. Then, time to head back to Cusco.
Usually, Dan and I love to thrash out a little speed hiking whilst out on the trails. However, given the high altitude of the Humantay Lake hike, we decided it wouldn’t be a good idea. A slow and steady pace is a much better way to hike when trekking this high up. Speed hiking would have to wait for another time.
What’s speed hiking? It’s purposefully hiking fast! Increasing your speed to cover more ground in a shorter time. Thus, being able to see extra and hike more distance in a day. We love it! Find out more about speed hiking here.
Laguna Humantay Tour From Cusco
The easiest and most convenient way to visit Laguna Humantay from Cusco is to take a one-day group tour. These are easily organised in the centre of Cusco. You only need to wander around the Plaza de Armas and you’ll likely be approached, or pass by, numerous tour operators. Such is the abundance of tours on offer that booking just the day before is possible. Also, booking directly in Cusco will be cheaper than booking online, if you’re happy to do things a little more last minute.
An Humantay Lake day tour generally costs between S/70-100 per person ($18-27USD). This includes round-trip transportation, breakfast, lunch and a guide. You will need to double-check whether your chosen tour agency for the Humantay Lake hike includes the entry fee. Not all do. Group sizes can be quite large, sometimes with 15–20 people. So, you get an idea of how popular Laguna Humantay is. But, understandably so.
The tours usually start at around 4am, so it’s a big day, with a 6-hour round trip of driving to and from Cusco and Laguna Humantay. A boxed breakfast is usually provided upon arrival at Soraypampa. Around one hour is allocated for spending time at Laguna Humantay after the trek up. Then, it’s back to Soraypampa for lunch. This is a hot meal after the hike is over, before returning to Cusco. Snacks are also provided during the hike.
Humantay Lake Without a Guide
It’s possible to enjoy the Humantay Lake hike in Peru independently. Hiking independently also means you can be a little more flexible with time should you wish. Also, you may get to experience Humantay Lake in Peru with fewer crowds. You can avoid the peak group tour times, which generally leave early in the morning and finish up early afternoon.
How To Get to Humantay Lake From Cusco
To get to Humantay Lake from Cusco, you’ll need to take the bus from the Arcopata terminal. The cost is around S/15 ($4USD). Once in Mollepata, you have a couple of options. Firstly, you can take a colectivo to the village of Soraypampa. If there isn’t one available, option two is to take a conventional taxi. In this case, the price could be around S/50 ($13USD).
Taking a Taxi to Humantay Lake
If you possess good negotiation skills, then you can possibly hire a taxi to take you to Humantay Lake from Cusco for around S/250-300 ($65-80USD). The taxi will take you to the trailhead and wait for you to return. As you can see, compared with a group tour, the price is way more expensive. However, if there are a few of you, it wouldn’t be too much more to go to Laguna Humantay, privately, via taxi.
Humantay Lake via the Salkantay Trek
As mentioned earlier, a wonderful way to see Laguna Humantay is by taking on the Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu. It’s an incredible alternative to the classic Inca Trail, and, is a great way to experience the Humantay Lake hike at a quieter time.
Many tour groups descend on Laguna Humantay in the morning, returning to Cusco after lunch, ensuring clients are back to Cusco by the evening. However, the Salkantay Trek visits Laguna Humantay in the afternoon. If you visit this way, you’ll have a much more tranquil and peaceful experience at the lake. Dan and I loved seeing Humantay Lake this way.
In fact, the Salkantay Trek is one of the best multi-day treks you can do from Cusco. Even, throughout Peru. The 5-day trail takes in mountain passes, pristine lagoons, jungle trails, coffee plantations and much more! It’s an incredible way to see the Sacred Valley and one of the best ways to arrive at Machu Picchu. Because, of course, you’ll be heading there at some point. And remember, there are three excellent hikes at Machu Picchu also. Check out our guides on Huayna Picchu, Huchuy Picchu and Machu Picchu Mountain for more information.
If you’re interested in hiking the Salkantay Trail to Machu Picchu, then you can read more about our experience here. We highly recommend this multi-day trek.
We hiked the 5-Day Salkantay Trail to Machu Picchu with Apu Andino Travel Peru. To enquire about this fantastic tour, simply contact them on Whatsapp (+51 984 609 485 or +51 984 067 472). Otherwise, drop into their office in Cusco (Centro Commercial Imasumaq, Office #216) to find out more information. Also, feel free to check them out on Facebook and Instagram.
Humantay Lake Facts and FAQs
Laguna Humantay Altitude
Humantay Lake’s altitude is 4,200m above sea level. So, before setting out on the Humantay Lake hike, it’s recommended to spend a couple of days acclimatising in Cusco first. Altitude sickness isn’t fun.
Humantay Lake Elevation
The hike from Soraypampa to Humantay Lake climbs around 460 metres in elevation. Though not the highest of elevations, especially if you plan to take on other hikes around Cusco, such as Choquequirao or Ausangate, you’ll still feel the effect of your efforts due to the high altitude.
Lake Humantay Difficulty
The Humantay Lake hike is of moderate difficulty. It’s not the highest or the longest hike by any means, but again, the altitude adds an extra level of difficulty to contend with. With that being said, you shouldn’t find the Humantay Lake hike too challenging if you have a fair level of fitness and are properly acclimatised.
Weather at Humantay Lake
The weather at Humantay Lake can be very hit and miss. Clouds are very common around Humantay Mountain and it’s not unusual for the peak to be hidden. Clouds obviously mean less sun, which can impact the colour of Humantay Lake in Peru. Still, don’t let this put you off. When we visited, we hiked in quite a lot of low clouds, but, by the time we reached Laguna Humantay itself, the clouds had begun to disperse. Eventually, Humantay Lake was drenched in sunlight and the turquoise colour of the water was incredible.
Can You Swim in Laguna Humantay?
No, swimming is not permitted at Laguna Humantay in Peru. Humantay is a sacred place. Also, the lake is a water source for local communities. It’s also a concern that human interference could alter the colour of the water. On top of all that, Humantay Lake sits at 4,200m above sea level and is fed by melting glacial water. So, the temperature of the lake is very cold.
When Is the Best Time To Hike to Humantay Lake?
The best time to visit Laguna Humantay is during the dry season in Peru. This runs from May to October. Your chances of experiencing rain are low, which is great. But, the dry season also coincides with winter. So, although the sunshine keeps temperatures high during the day, the temperatures can really dip during the early morning and evening. Daytime temperatures during the dry season tend to reach around 15°C, with the wet season temperatures stretching to just 17°C.
How Long Is the Humantay Lake Hike?
The Humantay Lake hike is 7–7.5km out and back and will take around 3 hours. Given the incline from Soraypampa to Laguna Humantay, hikers generally take 1–1.5 hours to reach the lake and an hour to return.
Is There an Entrance Fee for Laguna Humantay, Peru?
As of mid-2022, the entry fee for Laguna Humantay is S/10 ($2.50USD) for nationals and S/20 ($5USD) for internationals. You are only permitted to enter for one day and your arrival must be between 6am and 12pm. You will not be allowed to enter after 12pm.
Humantay Lake or Rainbow Mountain?
This seems to be a common question searched online, Humantay Lake or Rainbow Mountain? Look, both are exceptional day hikes from Cusco. Also, they are both a similar drive time away from Cusco and cost about the same to visit. It’s also very easy to book a day trip to Rainbow Mountain in the centre of Cusco too, just like Laguna Humantay. Tours run daily and are operated by an abundance of tour companies.
But, importantly, the Humantay Lake and Rainbow Mountain treks are very different hikes. Let’s take a look at a few differences.
Aside from the obvious (one is a lake, one is a coloured mountain), the two hikes differ greatly in altitude. If 4,200m above sea level seemed high for Humantay Lake, then be mindful that the hike to Rainbow Mountain reaches an elevation of 5,200m above sea level. Significantly higher. So, you’ll want to factor in more time to acclimatise for the Rainbow Mountain hike.
The hike to Humantay lake is around 7.5km and takes up to 1.5 hours to hike up and 1 hour back down. In comparison, Rainbow Mountain is a longer trek at 2 hours up and 1–1.5 hours to return. The higher altitude will naturally play a part in the longer hike time, too.
Rainbow Mountain can be very windy and much colder than Laguna Humantay. Understandably so as it’s much higher. Also, if hiking outside of the dry season, Rainbow Mountain can have a dusting of snow on it. It would be a shame to miss those coloured stripes. So, you may need to think about the time of year you’re visiting Peru as it may help shape your decisions.
As to be expected, the views on both hikes and at both destinations are quite breathtaking. On the Humantay Lake hike, you’ll see both Humantay and Salkantay Mountains, the surrounding Vilcabamba Mountain Range and of course, Laguna Humantay itself. With Rainbow Mountain, you’ll see the incredible Ausangate Mountain, Red Valley and the painted mountain.
With the Humantay Lake hike rated as moderate, Rainbow Mountain comes with a moderate to difficult rating. This is primarily due to the higher altitude. Still, with good acclimatisation and a decent level of fitness, Rainbow Mountain isn’t too challenging.
Both Laguna Humantay and Rainbow Mountain can be done as part of stellar multi-day treks in Peru. As previously mentioned, Laguna Humantay can be visited as part of the Salkantay Trek. Rainbow Mountain can be visited as part of the 5-day Ausangate Trek. This too, is a multi-day trek Dan and I did and it was nothing short of outstanding. Even better than Salkantay, to be honest. We hiked to Rainbow Mountain for sunrise on day 3 of the trek and were lucky enough to experience the amazing site to ourselves before all the day-trippers arrived.
Ideally, you’ll be able to visit both Laguna Humantay and Rainbow Mountain during your stay in Cusco and travels throughout Peru. However, if you don’t have much time then it really just comes down to personal preference and what works best for you. Lagoon or mountain? Both are incredible, so you won’t be disappointed with a visit to either.
The above points will hopefully give a little helping hand in your decision-making.
Hiking at Altitude
As the Humantay Lake hike is a full-day excursion, at high altitude, you’ll want to try and avoid altitude sickness as much as possible. This means taking the necessary steps to acclimatise. It’s generally recommended to spend a couple of days in Cusco, which sits at 3,400m above sea level, before heading to Laguna Humantay, Peru. You’ll be wanting to fully embrace the day and get the most enjoyment from it, so avoiding being ill is essential. Don’t underestimate the effects of altitude on the body.
Altitude sickness (AKA Acute Mountain Sickness) is a common illness experienced by travellers heading to high altitudes. The main symptoms can include headache, shortness of breath, nausea, lightheadedness, dizziness, indigestion and loss of appetite. Even if you’ve avoided altitude sickness in the past, that doesn’t guarantee you won’t get it the next time! So, really, it’s impossible to predict who will get altitude sickness. It’s best to always take precautions.
You’ll read many different tips online about how to avoid altitude sickness. But, the most important way to reduce your chance of getting altitude sickness is to simply avoid going up too high, too fast! As a general rule of thumb, you shouldn’t go higher than 500 metres a day, once you’re beyond 2,000 metres above sea level.
In practice, once you arrive at Cusco (3,400 metres above sea level), you should have three rest days before you explore or hike. Besides this, there are other tips to help manage and reduce the chances of symptoms at high altitudes in Peru. Firstly, don’t rush around. Walk slowly and take it easy. Secondly, eat lighter meals and don’t eat your meals too fast. Thirdly, drink plenty of water. Coca tea and coca sweets are also super helpful. The locals will tell you this helps with dealing with altitude. Finally, there are altitude sickness tablets (such as Diamox) available. But, if you acclimatise properly, progressively reaching higher altitudes slowly over time, you shouldn’t need these.
Where To Stay in Cusco for the Humantay Lake Hike
Most hikers that trek to Laguna Humantay will usually do so from Cusco. So, where to stay in Cusco before and after the trek? Certainly, there are many options to choose from! To save you the headache, we’ve narrowed down the best budget, mid-range and luxury options.
- Budget – Secret Garden: a fantastic option for the budget traveller looking for a highly-rated dorm room. Secret Garden is conveniently located in the heart of Cusco. If you consider the price and quality of Secret Garden, it’s got to be one of the best value stays in Cusco.
- Mid-range – Fiesta Inn Cusco: Dan and I had a great experience staying here. Fiesta Inn Cusco is located just outside of the city centre, so, it’s nice and quiet. Breakfast is included and the Wifi is fantastic.
- Luxury – Cozy Room Cusco: this bed and breakfast is a truly great option for optimal comfort and rest. Ideal with the early get-up and long day of hiking to Laguna Humantay from Cusco. Cozy Room Cusco offers exceptional views of Cusco and the surrounding mountains. This highly-rated and popular B&B has excellent facilities, including a shared lounge and terrace to enjoy the mountain views. Sure, there are more luxurious options. But, you’ll pay a fraction of the price at Cozy Room Cusco and have just as good an accommodation experience.
How To Get to Cusco
If you’re headed to Peru, there’s no doubt you’ll find yourself in Cusco at some point in your trip. A dream destination, full of incredible hiking and interesting history. After arriving in Lima, Dan and I made our way to Cusco with a quick flight. Very reasonable prices can be found and we always get the ball rolling with a quick search on Skyscanner.com.
Alternatively, buses service Cusco from many other popular destinations around Peru. Whether you plan to travel via night bus or during the day, they’ll be an option that works for you. We found the buses around Peru to be very comfortable, with busbud.com being a great resource for finding services.
Also, if convenience is appealing to you, PeruHop is a fantastic service combining safe, touristic travel with popular tourist stops along the way. We actually used them to travel from Cusco to Arequipa for the Colca Canyon Hike, and then onwards to Huacachina and Paracas for the Golden Shadows Hike.
It’s massively important to have good travel insurance wherever you go in the world. But, it’s especially important when taking on some high-altitude hikes, like Humantay Lake in Peru.
Five Hiking Essentials for Laguna Humantay
Why do you need this?
See it in action
A lightweight, breathable and very comfortable pair of boots, perfect for a 1-day trek to Humantay Lake
This camera is lightweight and compact, so it's perfect for a quick trip to Laguna Humantay. The Sony Cybershot RX100 VII takes high-quality photos and 4K videos
Given the unpredictable weather, a waterproof jacket is a non negotiable
If you decide to upgrade to the Salkantay Trek, we recommend the Osprey Aether AG 70L backpack as a great multi day rucksack. The anti-gravity suspension makes the backpack feel super light and you can adjust the back support so it fits your body perfectly
The temperatures at Humantay can be cold, especially first thing in the morning. Quality layers, like a fleece, are a good idea to pack.
When on the hike to Humantay Lake, you should also take water, snacks, sunglasses, sunscreen and a hat.
For a more complete gear list, check out our 66 Travel Accessories That You Must Travel With. Or, for a summary of everything you’d need for a hiking trip to Peru, check out our Ultimate Packing Checklist.
- Quieter Cusco: The heart of the Inca empire was one of our favourite stops in Peru. It’s also incredibly popular and can feel quite busy. For some more off-the-beaten-track Inca trails in the area, you should check out the Huchuy Qosqo Trek and Choquequirao 3-Day Trek. You’ll find far quieter trails with a fraction of the usual visitor numbers.
- Lagunas galore: Laguna Humuntay isn’t the only beautiful lake in Peru. To see more incredible lakes in Peru, be sure to head up to Huaraz where you’ll find over 800 of them. Some of the most outstanding include Laguna 69, Laguna Churup and Laguna Paron.
- Hiking South America: Peru is one of South America‘s premier hiking destinations. Heck, it’s one of the world’s premier hiking destinations. But there are other incredible places to hike in this part of the world too, like Patagonia, with the fantastic W Trek and Cerro Castillo Hike.
Bookmark this post for when you’re ready to hike to Humantay Lake from Cusco, Peru!
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