If you’re planning a trip to Huaraz in Peru, undoubtedly you’ll have come across the unrivalled and quite extraordinary Laguna 69 trek. As the most popular lagoon hike in the Cordillera Blanca, the turquoise water and thoroughly enjoyable trail to Laguna 69 attracts huge tour numbers of hikers every day. It’s an experience not to miss really whether you like busy trails or not.
Also known as Lake 69, this day tour is easily one of the best hikes in Peru. In this guide, we’ll detail the trail description and your options on how to get there, putting the case forward as to why, on this occasion, a tour is a much better idea. We’ll throw in some FAQs about visiting Laguna 69 as well as give some handy tips on how to acclimatise ready for the hike.
Table of Contents
Laguna 69 Overview
Laguna 69 sits outside of Huaraz, northern Peru, within the Huascaran National Park. Part of the sublime Cordillera Blanca Mountain Range, the Laguna 69 trek is just one of a wealth of incredible lake hikes to do in the area. Yet, somehow, this seems to be the most popular of them all.
Sitting at 4,600m above sea level, serious acclimatising needs to take place to be able to comfortably hike the 7km trail to the lake. It’s also helpful for overall enjoyment; because let’s face it, altitude sickness is no fun. Additionally, there’s also an almost 800m elevation gain to tackle. So, on paper, the hike to Laguna 69 in Peru is no walk in the park. Yet, it attracts thousands of visitors every week. But why?
Well, one can simply put it down to the ease of access, simple trail, and jaw-dropping scenery. Plus, the turquoise lake you see in pictures, really is that colour. In a world of heavy edits (ahem, Rainbow Mountain), it’s refreshing to see something in the flesh that looks just like the photographs.
Once you’ve visited, the Laguna 69 trek’s popularity makes complete sense.
Top 3 Huaraz Accommodation
Laguna 69 Hike Preview
- Type: Out & Back
- Distance: 14.5km
- Time: 5-6 hours
- Accumulated elevation gain: 684m
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Trailhead: Cebolla Pampa
- Map: Wikiloc
Laguna 69 Hike
After an early departure from Huaraz, you’ll get a real sense of the beautiful surroundings the Laguna 69 hike takes place in as you begin the drive through the Llanganuco Valley. The towering mountains are gargantuan and the lakes that begin to spring up are completely mesmerising. If this is your first sighting of glacial lagoons in the Cordillera Blanca, just know that this is a complete commonplace. They’re magical. In particular, as you pass through Llanganuco, it’s possible to stop off at Chinancocha and Orconcocha Lakes.
Incredibly, these lakes change colour depending on the time of year. It’s an easy stop since they’re en route to the Laguna 69 trek trailhead. Besides this, these lakes deserved to be visited in their own right, given their beauty. That’s why, day trips to just these two lakes, are a popular activity for tourists.
Top Laguna 69 Viator Tour
Enjoy this full-day tour from Huaraz and hike to Laguna 69 and Laguna Llangancuco
The Hike Begins
After arriving at Cebolla Pampa, the trail to Laguna 69 begins with a short downhill trek towards the river and past the entrance hut. Here is where you’ll either pay the national park entrance fee or show your already purchased pass. You’ll also find toilets here for your convenience.
The tranquil trail then continues on a rather flat section, following along the path of the river. It’s an absolutely breathtaking landscape, surrounded by snow-capped mountains, alpine flowers and waterfalls.
At around the 3km mark, you’ll hit the first set of switchbacks (there are two main sections of switchbacks, FYI). Compared to a lot of hiking trails in Peru, this first set of switchbacks is, all things considered, fairly tame. The trail winding ever higher is of a gradual ascent. The path is easy to walk on and if anything, you’ve more time to enjoy your surroundings, marvelling at the waterfalls and the valley below. This place is beautiful.
An Easy Middle Section
At around the 5km mark, the switchbacks and uphill section end for a short stretch, and you’ll reach a wide plateau. The trail flattens which feels like a nice break on the legs. Here, you’ll pass a small lagoon before crossing the open plain towards the final switchback ascent up to Laguna 69. You’ll likely see cattle grazing as you pass by some incredible alpine flora.
At the far end of the plateau, after following the trail curving to the left, the final switchback begins. It’s a steeper gradient than the first, though the distance is shorter. Small mercies. Stick with it though, just over the top edge is what you came for.
As you summit the final pass, and after around 2.5–3 hours of hiking, the trail winds towards the snowy mountains ahead, and you’ll begin to catch sight of the brilliant, almost unreal, turquoise colour of Laguna 69. It’s truly breathtaking and enough to rejuvenate tired legs, that’s for sure.
The Lake Views
Upon reaching the edge of Laguna 69, you’ll have no doubt as to what all the fuss surrounding this place is about. The turquoise expanse of water glistens perfectly in the midday sun (if you’re lucky), with a pretty waterfall cascading into the far end of the lake. The amphitheatre of mountains surrounding Laguna 69 frames the lake perfectly, and the whole atmosphere is spellbinding. In particular, you’ll notice Pisco Mountain, a very popular peak to climb for mountaineers.
Now, with Laguna 69 being one of the most popular lakes to visit in Huaraz, if not Peru, you’ll find the first bit of shoreline does become quite crowded. Dan and I followed a faint trail/scrambled a little to head left around the edge of the lake. This brought us to a wonderful boulder section where we could find a much quieter spot, just the two of us, to enjoy lunch. There’s also a great view of the waterfall that drops into Laguna 69, from here.
Later, we also tried climbing higher to get a panoramic view of Laguna 69. For this, we headed back to the busy section, where the original trail arrives at Laguna 69. From here, continue on a faint trail to the right of the lake, and then climb up the rocky embankment. You’ll see cairns sort of leading the way. Luckily, you don’t need to climb too high to get fantastic views of the whole lake. Again, it’s a tranquil spot you might well have to yourself.
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Thankfully, your tired legs will be happy to hear the hike back down is, obviously, much easier than the hike up. Taking between 1.5–2 hours, you’ll find you can enjoy the scenery much more as you let gravity do the work. Again, you’ll have another chance to marvel at just how breathtaking the landscape truly is. In particular, on the return, you’ll have fantastic views of Huascaran Mountain, the tallest in Peru, at 6,768m.
Laguna 69 is one of the most beautiful lakes to see in Huaraz, if not Peru. Its popularity is well deserved and this is one of those occasions where trying to avoid overly touristic places really doesn’t pay off. You don’t want to miss the beauty of this stunning lake.
Of course, given the altitude, it pays dividends to be well acclimatised before you embark on this trek. But, what is also fantastic about Peru’s Laguna 69, is that the hike to reach it is just as good as the lake itself. Truly, for an unbelievable day hike with an incredible glacial lagoon at the end, it’s hard to look past what Laguna 69 offers.
How to Get to Laguna 69, Peru
As unusual as it may seem, the easiest and cheapest way to visit Laguna 69 in Peru is by taking a tour from Huaraz. Given the immense popularity of the lake, tour prices are now much cheaper and more convenient than they once were. Getting to Laguna 69 independently by public transport just no longer makes sense.
Tour operators run daily services to Laguna 69, for what is ultimately a very reasonable price. Of course, I know some of you just flat out prefer to travel independently, or just want to know your options, so, we’ll cover both below.
Laguna 69 Tour
The Laguna 69 tour starts with a 5am pick-up in Huaraz, usually from your accommodation. It’s then around a 3–3.5 hour drive to get to the Laguna 69 trek trailhead, at Cebolla Pampa. With the majority of the drive spent on unpaved and windy roads, be sure to pack anti-sickness tablets if you’re not good with this kind of travel.
At around 9:30am, you’ll arrive at Cebolla Pampa. Unfortunately, as do the other tour groups arriving for the day. But fear not, hikers seem to spread out as the trek to Laguna 69 gets going. From here, you are now free to hike independently. The guide lays out a rough time frame of how long the hike to and from Laguna 69 should take, plus, how long this leaves you to spend at the lake. This helps to structure your day better, and so is actually quite helpful. Obviously, the quicker you hike, the longer you have at the lake. And then it’s off to hike and enjoy the Laguna 69 tour at your own pace.
Dan and I thought this element was absolutely brilliant. If, like us, hiking as a big tour group is not your favourite and you neither want to be rushed nor wait for stragglers, then hiking solo is perfect. In essence, it’s kinda like paying for private transport, rather than the regular group tour thing. Plus, Dan and I love to speed hike. So, this option worked even better for us. The guide will stay with the slower hikers at the back to ensure everyone sticks to the timings.
Returning to Huaraz
The general cut-off time for leaving the lake is 1pm (a little later if you hike quicker) to ensure you’re back at the bus by 3pm. Once everyone on your tour has returned, the bus departs Laguna 69 and heads back to Huaraz, arriving between 6–7pm.
Despite the disparity between hikers in the group, we found that most of the group stuck to the timings and we returned from Laguna 69 to Huaraz on time. Almost unheard of for group tours, eh?
A Laguna 69 tour costs around S/45 ($11USD) per person. Lunch is generally not included and usually neither is the national park entrance fee, so you’ll need to bring an extra S/30 ($8USD) per person for that, plus food.
It’s not just Laguna 69 which is easier to do as an organised tour. Other day trips from Huaraz that are simpler and more cost-effective to do as a tour, rather than independently, include Laguna Paron and Pastoruri Glacier.
Top 3 Huaraz Day Hike Viator Tours
Hiking Laguna 69 Independently From Huaraz
With the low price and sheer convenience of taking a Laguna 69 tour, we really wouldn’t recommend entertaining the notion of getting to Laguna 69 independently. It really isn’t worth it. But, we appreciate some of you really do prefer to do things on your own. So, let’s take a look at your public transport options.
From Huaraz, firstly, take a colectivo to Yungay. The price is S/10 ($2.60USD) and the journey time is around 1.5 hours. It’s important to start the day early if hiking independently. Much the same as taking a tour. The colectivo starts at 5.30am and I recommend you be on this service.
We used this colectivo service for the Santa Cruz Trek and, confusingly, we were told to go to Paradero Caraz for this first colectivo. But, there were so signs of any colectivos here in mid-2022. So, we walked around aimlessly and then rocked up at Paradero Carhuaz, where collectivos were running to Caraz! By taking this colectivo, you’ll be dropped off at Yungay.
Yungay to Laguna 69
Once at Yungay, you’ll need to swap onto either, another colectivo, or take a taxi. Both are easy given you’re arrival at a pseudo bus terminal, so they’ll be plenty of drivers ready to hustle you onto their service. Well, which one should you choose?
- Colectivo: if you let the waiting colectivo drivers know you’re heading to Laguna 69, they’ll put you on the correct service. The price, one-way, per person, is S/20–30 ($5–8USD).
- Taxi: If there’s a group of you, this may well be cost-effective. You could arrange with a taxi driver to take you to the trailhead and either wait for you or return at a pre-planned time. Negotiating a price is key to making this worthwhile.
The issue with returning from Laguna 69 back to Yungay is the unreliability of the colectivos. By all accounts, the last returning colectivos to Yungay are between 3–4pm. If you either miss this, or it simply doesn’t show up, then you’ll find yourself negotiating for an empty seat on one of the many Laguna 69 tour buses, or, flagging down anything returning to town.
Anyway, you’re looking at around S/60–70 ($15–18USD) per person if using the colectivos for the whole journey from Huaraz to Laguna 69 and back again. So, as you can see, arriving independently vs by tour really isn’t worth it. Not on this occasion anyway.
Alternatives to the Laguna 69 Trek
For something a little easier, it’s possible to just do a day trip to the Llanganuco lakes and do some simpler walking around the twin lakes’ edges. Alternatively, you can combine the Laguna 69 hike with the world-class Santa Cruz multi-day trek. This is typically a 5–6 day hike.
Entrance Fee to Laguna 69
Laguna 69 in Peru falls inside the incredible Huascaran National Park in the Cordillera Blanca. The daily fee to enter the national park is S/30 ($8USD) per person. As Dan and I were lucky enough to spend a month hiking in Huaraz, we decided to buy the 4–30 day park pass for S/150 ($39USD). If you’re going to do more than five hikes in the Huascaran National Park, it’s well worth it. Then you just show your pass at each entrance point on whatever hike you’re doing, so don’t leave it behind!
If hiking with a Laguna 69 tour, the tour price will either include the entrance fee, or you may give the entrance fee to the tour guide and he will arrange the payment for you.
Acclimatisation For Laguna 69
To reduce the risk of suffering altitude sickness, it’s super important to acclimatise for the Laguna 69 hike in Peru. Altitude sickness (AKA Acute Mountain Sickness) is a common illness experienced by those who reach high altitudes that they’re not used to. The main symptoms include headache, shortness of breath, nausea, lightheadedness, dizziness, indigestion and loss of appetite. If you’ve avoided altitude sickness in the past, it doesn’t mean you’ll be immune the next time.
You’ve probably heard about different ways to avoid altitude sickness. But, the most important way to reduce your chances of getting altitude sickness is to simply avoid going up too high, too quickly! Generally speaking, you shouldn’t go higher than 500 metres a day, once you’re beyond 2,000 metres above sea level.
So, in practice, once you’ve arrived in Huaraz (3,050 metres above sea level), you should have at least two days’ rest before you start trekking. This should give your body time to adjust and acclimatise. In theory, by the third day, your body should be able to better tolerate approx. 3,550 metres. By this time, you should start with some hikes with a lower maximum elevation gain. For instance, you could start with Laguna Wilcacocha (3,710m) and then perhaps Laguna Shallap (4,250m) and Laguna Churup (4,450m) before attempting Laguna 69 (4,600m). This will reduce your chances of getting altitude sickness.
How to Avoid Altitude Sickness
There are some other ways you can reduce your chances of getting altitude sickness. Firstly, don’t rush when you’re hiking to Laguna 69. Walk slowly and take it easy. Secondly, eat light meals, don’t eat them too quickly and stay hydrated. Water is your best friend. Also, you may benefit from coca leaves, tea or sweets. Do as the locals do I suppose. Finally, there are altitude sickness tablets (such as Diamox) available. But, if you acclimatise properly, you shouldn’t need these.
Laguna 69 Weather and The Best Time to Visit
Peru has a dry season and a wet season. You’ll have a better chance of good weather in the dry season, which runs from May to October. Dan and I hiked in June and had fantastic weather on the whole. Just a little hail flurry on the return which lasted a matter of minutes, but otherwise, lots of blue skies. The dry season also coincides with peak tourism in Peru, which generally means much busier trails. As one of the busiest hikes in Huaraz, expect to see a lot of hikers if trekking Laguna 69 between May and October. For a quieter experience, consider hiking in the wet season. But, just be prepared for a higher chance of adverse weather conditions. The Laguna 69 tour runs all year round, so you have plenty of options.
Although the lake is surely beautiful in all weather, the turquoise colour really does pop and display the best in sunlight, so, you may want to plan your trip with a quick check of the forecast. Of course, mountain weather is always unpredictable, so fingers crossed for you.
Below, we’ll briefly address a few of the most commonly asked questions regarding the hike to Laguna 69 in Peru.
How Long is the Laguna 69 Hike?
The Laguna 69 trek distance is 14km. It’s an out and back hike that generally takes between 4–6 hours, including ample time to rest and soak in the views at the lake.
How Hard is the Laguna 69 Hike?
We’ve rated the Laguna 69 hike as moderate. This is due to a number of factors; but namely, altitude is the biggest difficulty for hikers. This makes the trek to Laguna 69 slow going and for those not so well acclimatised, a little problematic. But, on top of that is the accumulative elevation gain of almost 700 metres. That’s no small climb over a 7km trail. Still, it’s a clearly defined trail, which is a big help. So, overall, a moderate hike is doable for most abilities.
Can You Swim at Laguna 69?
Despite what you might read or see online, you’re not allowed to swim at Laguna 69 in Peru. The sign signalling your arrival at the lake informs you of this. So, if you do see people swimming, they’re either very disrespectful, or, well, very disrespectful.
Why is it Called Laguna 69?
The name Laguna 69 might seem rather unimaginative, and that’s because, well, it is. Back in 1975, when the Huascaran National Park was created, all of the lakes that fell inside the park boundaries had to be accounted for. Those without a traditional Quechua name were simply numbered. And thus, this spectacular turquoise lake in Peru became simply, Laguna 69. And I guess it just stuck!
Other Cordillera Blanca Hiking Trails
Other than the Laguna 69 hike, there are many other brilliant Cordillera Blanca trekking options. Dan and I stayed in Huaraz for one month. So, we had the pleasure of doing many of the best treks in the area. If you have enough time, we recommend the following trails in the Cordillera Blanca.
- Santa Cruz Trek: a world-class multi-day trek that’s easy to do independently.
- Laguna 513: another turquoise-coloured lake, but without the crowds.
- Pastoruri Glacier: a popular day trip that visits a spectacular glacier.
- Laguna Churup: the Laguna Churup hike is one of the easiest to do solo from Huaraz.
- Laguna Llaca: the most underrated day hike in the area to a duck-egg blue-coloured lake.
- Paron Lake: a short hike that explores the largest lake in the Cordillera Blanca.
- Laguna Hualcacocha: one of the newest day hikes in Huaraz.
- Laguna Queshquecocha: a day hike that is even lesser known than Laguna Hualcacocha!
- Four Lagunas Trek: a challenging day hike in Huaraz that’s sure to be a favourite.
- Laguna Shallap: shocking green lake, anyone?
- Laguna Yanacocha and Uruscocha: one of the hardest day hikes in Huaraz.
Where to Stay in Huaraz
Of course, if you’re exploring Laguna 69 in Peru, you’ll need a place to stay in Huaraz. We’ve handpicked the best budget, mid-range and luxury options.
- Budget – Krusty Hostel B&B: Beck and I really enjoyed our time here. Krusty Hostel B&B is one of the most highly-rated places to stay in Huaraz. The private rooms are nice and cosy. Also, the hostel features a large shared kitchen, which includes a free breakfast. Plus, the Wifi is very good.
- Mid-range – The Lazy Dog Inn: this country inn is located in Pitec, which isn’t too far from where the hike starts. By staying here, you could possibly skip the colectivo and walk to the trailhead from the lodge. Given its location outside of Huaraz city, this lodge provides stellar mountain views and a stunning natural ambience. Indeed, The Lazy Dog Inn comes highly rated.
- Luxury – Cordillera Hotel: this is likely the best hotel in Huaraz. Cordillera Hotel is an excellent place to stay. It has lovely rooms and modern facilities. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better place to stay in the area.
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Hiking Essentials For Laguna 69, Huaraz, Peru
These are our hiking essentials for Laguna 69 in Peru. You should also take lunch, snacks, water, sunglasses, sunscreen and a hat.
Osprey Skarab 30
The Osprey Skarab 30 is our go-to hiking backpack for day hikes. This well-designed unisex backpack is comfortable and spacious, so you’ll have plenty of space to pack everything without feeling the strain on your upper back.
Osprey Ultralight Raincover
A waterproof backpack cover is an absolute must when you’re adventuring outdoors. The Osprey Ultralight Raincover Medium is a high-quality waterproof cover that’ll keep your backpack bone dry.
GRAYL Reusable Water Bottle
The GRAYL GeoPress is the best water filter bottle that allows you to purify 710mL (12 ounces) of water. This bottle will make water safe to drink wherever you’re hiking.
BUFF Original Ecostretch
The BUFF Original Ecostretch is a great option when it comes to multifunctional headwear. We use the Ecostretch as a neck gaiter to keep the sun off our necks and it helps us keep warm in cooler climates.
To find out more about all of the gear that we use and recommend, read our guides about our favourite hiking gear, travel gear and camera gear. Otherwise, read our comprehensive travel packing checklist.
Tips For Hiking Laguna 69, Peru
- Trekking poles: hiking in the Cordillera Blanca is no walk in the park, especially given the altitude. Do yourselves a favour and pick up or rent a pair of trekking poles, you’ll not regret it.
- Cordillera Blanca Mountain Range: there’s an unbelievable amount of hiking in the Cordillera Blanca. But, if you love it around Laguna 69, you should check out Santa Cruz Trek and Laguna Paron, which are all in the same area.
- Use Busbud: a convenient way to book bus tickets in advance at a very reasonable rate. We used Busbud to book our bus tickets from Lima to Huaraz.
Busbud is one of the best online bus booking platforms. Wherever you’re travelling, you can easily compare bus tickets from different companies and book the best option for your trip. We highly recommend using Busbud to find the cheapest bus fares.
Peru has some of the best hiking on offer in South America. Huaraz may be the hiking mecca, but Cusco is the cultural capital, where hiking to Machu Picchu via the Inca Trail or Salkantay Trail is a must. Have you been?