Laguna Hualcacocha is truly a hidden gem near Huaraz in Peru. Nestled in the Huascaran National Park, Laguna Hualcacocha is another sensational lake to be found in the stunning Cordillera Blanca. Similar to Laguna 69 and Laguna 513, Laguna Hualcacocha is a mesmerising turquoise-coloured lake.
But, to our surprise, not many tourists, nor, even locals, have heard much about Laguna Hualcacocha. Only recently, tour companies have started offering tours to this gorgeous lake. But, word hasn’t really spread about the amazing beauty of this place. So, in mid-2022, at least, this lake remains untouched and unvisited by tourists. Well, with the publication of this guide, that’s all about to change.
In this guide, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about this amazing lake. After describing the day hike, we’ll talk about how to visit independently and also discuss options when it comes to visiting with a tour company. Whilst we’re at it, we’ll talk about how to properly acclimatise for the hike, where to stay in Huaraz and detail other awesome hikes in the area.
Table of Contents
Introducing Laguna Hualcacocha: A New Hike in Huaraz
Hiking to Laguna Hualcacocha in the Huascaran National Park, AKA Parque Nacional Huascaran, is an amazing experience. Truly, the lake is a sensational turquoise colour that’s absolutely breathtaking. But, as we mentioned, no one really knows about this lake or hike. Given the beauty of the lake, it’s hard to believe! Honestly speaking, this natural attraction is just as immense as some of the more popular lakes in the Cordillera Blanca, such as Laguna Churup and Laguna Paron. Equally, the hike to the lake is just as fun, adventurous and challenging. So, where exactly is the lake located?
The closest sizeable town to the lake is Carhuaz. If visiting from Huaraz, you’ll basically head to and pass through Carhuaz. You’ll then continue towards a small town called Shilla. Close by, you’ll find the lake. Anyway, you should read How to Get to Laguna Hualcacocha for more details on how to visit. For now, let’s look at the hiking specs and a GPS-guided map for this day hike. That way, you know exactly what you’re getting yourself into!
Laguna Hualcacocha Hike Details & Map
- Type: Out & Back
- Distance: 10km
- Time: approx. 3.5–5 hours
- Accumulated elevation gain: 600m
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Trailhead: AN-107
- Map: Wikiloc
Laguna Hualcacocha Hike
The hike starts from the roadside in the Ulta Valley. After scurrying down a faint trail, you’ll arrive at a flat grassy section, that faces the winding Ulta River (Quebrada Ulta).
To proceed with the hike, you’ll need to cross the river. Here, you have two route options. You can choose a dodgy crossing made from narrow tree logs. Or, there is a more sturdy bridge. By taking the bridge, you’ll extend the distance of the hike. But, following the river is no pain at all. The colour of the stream is breathtaking. So, it’s worth the extra steps.
Once you’ve crossed the river, you’ll find a series of ascending switchbacks. Starting around 3,800 metres above sea level, the going is tough as you gain elevation. After recently completing the 8-Day Huayhuash Circuit and Santa Cruz trek, Beck and I were buggered from the get-go. Eventually, the steep ascent softens as you enter deeper into the forest.
The trail becomes more challenging to navigate as the forest becomes increasingly dense. But, there is usually a faint trail to follow. Soon, you’ll see the peaks of Hualcan (5,300m) and Ulta (5,440) mountains appear over the treetops.
Arriving at Laguna Hualcacocha
Eventually, you’ll reach the second series of switchbacks. But, soon enough, you’ll reach a flat concrete platform. Yes, like many of the lakes in the Cordillera Blanca, it’s controlled by a human-made dam. Sure, the concrete slab is a bit of an eye-sore. But, at least, it provides your first glimpse of Laguna Hualcacocha. Wow! Unfortunately, Beck and I visited on a wet and dreary day. So, the lake wasn’t popping as much as we’d like. But, still, the colour of the lake was amazing, even in overcast conditions.
Keep in mind, that it’s possible to cross the concrete platform to get a closer look at the lake. Continuing the trail on the other side of the platform, you’ll find a signpost and a couple of outcrops. This is a great place for photography.
Once you’ve marvelled at the stunning lake, it’s time to retrace your steps to complete the hike. Given the descent, Beck and I enjoyed some speed hiking on the way back.
What’s speed hiking? It’s hiking just about as fast as you can. We love it. Read more about it here.
Laguna Hualcacocha Hike Recap
Many tourists who visit Huaraz won’t visit Laguna Hualcacocha. This is through no fault of their own. Simply, this lake, in the Cordillera Blanca, remains barely known. If anything, we hope this guide has convinced you to visit this less-explored lake. You won’t regret it.
How to Get to Laguna Hualcacocha
There are a few options for getting to Laguna Hualcacocha. Let’s look at these below.
- Colectivo from Huaraz to Carhuaz and then a moto-taxi: colectivos run regularly from Huaraz (see pick-up location on the map here) to Carhuaz, and vice-versa. They start around 5:30am, take around 45 minutes and cost S/6 ($2.50USD) per person. In Carhuaz, find a moto-taxi or taxi to drive you to the trailhead, wait, and then drive you back to Carhuaz. This should cost around S/100–150 ($25–38USD). Then, simply, get the colectivo back to Huaraz.
- Join a Nevado Mateo tour: a cheaper, but time-consuming option, is to join a Nevado Mateo tour. These tours pass by the trailhead for the hike. So, they can simply drop you off there and pick you up on their way back to Huaraz. We were offered this option for S/60 ($15USD) per person by the owner of Krusty Hostel B&B, who was in contact with another tour company. But, the trade-off, is that these tours leave Huaraz around 3:30am. And, of course, you’ll have to wait back at the trailhead for the Nevado Mateo tour to finish and pick you up. Personally, this option isn’t ideal. You’d be waiting around for hours after finishing the hike. But, it’s the cheapest way to get to Laguna Hualcacocha independently. After all, there isn’t any public transport that passes the trailhead for this hike.
- Laguna Hualcacocha tour: this is by far the most convenient and easiest way to visit the lake. Thankfully, there are a few options when going with a tour company to make your visit cheaper. Let’s look at these options below.
Laguna Hualcacocha Tours
You’ll find quite a few tour companies in Huaraz, that now offer Laguna Hualcacocha tours. After considering visiting independently, Beck and I thought it would be easier to do a tour. Thankfully, when we contacted Qorianka, the owner of the company was quite flexible. Basically, they offered the following:
- Group tour: minimum of 8 people required for S/70 ($18USD) per person. Roundtrip transportation from your accommodation in Huaraz and a guide are included. This is the cheapest way to visit the lake.
- Private tour: S/190 ($48USD) per person. Roundtrip transportation from your accommodation in Huaraz and a guide are included. This is the most expensive option for visiting the lake.
- Transport-only private service: you can request to not have a guide. So, you’ll just pay for roundtrip private transportation from your accommodation in Huaraz. This costs a total of S/230 ($58USD). Personally, given the convenience, Beck and I chose this option. We were picked up at 7am, enjoyed hiking independently, and then, were dropped back to Huaraz in the early afternoon.
Laguna Hualcacocha Entrance Fee
Because you’ll be entering Huascaran National Park, you’ll need to pay an entrance fee at a checkpoint near the trailhead. Interestingly, we were told by our driver that our 4–30 day Huascaran National Park pass wouldn’t suffice. To that end, the driver said we’d have to pay S/15 ($4USD) each for entrance. But, upon showing the national park staff our multi-day pass, we didn’t have to pay the entrance fee.
FYI – Beck and I paid S/150 ($38USD) per person for a 4–30 day Huascaran National Park. We needed to show this pass for entry to Laguna 69, Churup, Llaca, Shallap, Pastoruri Glacier, and, twice for the Santa Cruz trek. By visiting more than five places at Huascaran National Park, it’s worth buying this pass. Otherwise, you’d usually need to pay S/30 ($8USD) to visit each of these destinations.
Best Time to Visit
Your chances of good weather are better in the dry season, which runs May–October. As mentioned, this hike isn’t known by many tourists (for now). So, even when hiking during the peak tourist times during the dry season, you won’t see many, if any, people on the trail. Personally, Beck and I only saw a group of four locals during the trek.
Of course, mountain weather is unpredictable. Beck and I visited during the dry season, in June, and we encountered rain and overcast conditions. Hopefully, you’ll have better luck when you visit.
How to Properly Acclimatise
Before you do the hike, you should acclimatise properly. Altitude sickness (AKA Acute Mountain Sickness) is a common illness experienced by travellers, who reach unaccustomed high altitudes. The main symptoms include headache, shortness of breath, nausea, lightheadedness, dizziness, indigestion and loss of appetite. It’s impossible to predict who will get altitude sickness. Even if you have avoided altitude sickness in the past, that doesn’t mean you won’t get it the next time.
You’ll hear about several ways to avoid altitude sickness. But, the most important factor for reducing altitude sickness is to 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.
In practice, if you arrive in Huaraz (3,050 metres above sea level), you should have at least two days’ rest before you hike. This should give your body time to adjust and acclimatise. In theory, by the third day, your body should be able to 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 the Laguna Wilcacocha (3,710m) or Laguna Paron (4,300m) hikes before attempting Laguna Hualcacocha (4,325m). This will reduce your chances of getting altitude sickness.
How to Avoid Altitude Sickness
There are other simple ways you can reduce the chances of getting altitude sickness. Firstly, don’t rush when you’re hiking to the lake. Walk slowly and take it easy. Secondly, eat light meals and don’t eat them too quickly. Also, drink plenty of water. In addition, you may also benefit from coca leaves, tea or sweets. This is what the locals recommend. Finally, there are altitude sickness tablets (such as Diamox) available. But, if you acclimatise properly, you shouldn’t need these.
Where to Stay in Huaraz
Of course, if you’re exploring Laguna Hualcacocha from Huaraz, you’ll need a place to stay. We’ve handpicked the best budget, mid-range and luxury options.
- Budget – Accommodation Bella-Vista: this is a solid option for the shoestring traveller. At Accommodation Bella-Vista, you’ll have a nice stay that’s great value for money. There are dorm rooms; but, also private rooms to choose from.
- Mid-range – Krusty Hostel B&B: Beck and I really enjoyed our stay here. We stayed in Huaraz for over a month. So, we got to know Krusty Hostel B&B really well. It’s actually one of the most highly-rated accommodations in Huaraz. The hostel itself is very roomy and comfortable. It features a large shared kitchen, which includes a free breakfast. There’s also excellent Wifi here.
- Luxury – Cordillera Hotel: this is hands-down one of the best hotels in Huaraz. Cordillera Hotel is an excellent hotel with nice rooms and modern facilities. If you’re exhausted from hiking in Huaraz, this would be the perfect place to relax.
SafetyWing is an excellent budget-friendly travel insurance provider. Personally, Beck and I have used SafetyWing’s Nomad Insurance many times. This insurance isn’t just for digital nomads, it’s for everyone and anyone needing travel insurance for their trips. The Nomad Insurance is great value for money with just a small additional cost to add a partner. Unlike most other insurance companies, there’s an option to pay on a monthly basis, similar to having a prepaid phone plan. Better yet, there’s no lock-in contract – you can cancel any time you want, which will take effect the following month.
For shorter trips, it’s also possible to use Nomad Insurance for trips lasting days or weeks. Indeed, SafetyWing is cheaper than almost all other travel insurance policies and covers just as much and sometimes more. Specifically, Nomad Insurance includes medical cover as well as standard cover for travel-related mishaps.
SafetyWing is a modern travel insurance company that is certainly leading the way in terms of how travel insurance should work in the future. Press on the image below to find out more.
Other Hikes in Huaraz
There are so many epic hikes to do in Huaraz. We highly recommend doing the following trails when you visit:
- Laguna Wilcacocha: the perfect acclimatisation trek.
- Laguna 69: one of the most popular day hikes in Huaraz.
- Four Lagunas Trek: our favourite Huaraz day hike.
- Laguna 513: another turquoise-coloured lake, similar to Laguna 69 and Laguna Hualcacocha.
- Paron Lake: one of the most beautiful lakes in Huaraz.
- Pastoruri Glacier: a popular day trip that includes a short high-altitude hike.
- Laguna Churup: a day hike that’s simple to do independently.
- Laguna Llaca: is probably the most underrated day hike in Huaraz.
- Huayhuash Trek: an increasingly popular multi-day hike.
- Laguna Shallap: this trek leads you to a mouthwatering green lake!
- Laguna Queshquecocha: a hike which is even lesser known than Laguna Hualcacocha!
- Santa Cruz Trek: another brilliant multi-day trek.
- Laguna Rajucolta: an easy day hike.
- Laguna Yanacocha and Uruscocha: quite a challenging day hike.
What to Wear and Pack
- Merrell Moab Mid Gore-Tex Hiking Boots: these hiking boots are super comfortable and lightweight.
- The North Face Venture Jacket: a fantastic windproof/waterproof jacket.
- Osprey Skarab 30L Day Backpack: a great backpack for hiking, which has plenty of space to store your gear.
- The North Face TKA Glacier Fleece Jacket: an excellent warmth:weight ratio fleece jacket that’ll help keep you warm.
- Columbia Convertible Trousers: a value for money pair of water-resistant convertible trousers.
You should also pack water, snacks, a box lunch, sunglasses, sunscreen and a hat.
For a more complete hiking gear list, check out our 66 Travel Accessories That You Must Travel With. Or, for a summary of everything you’d need for a trip to Huaraz, read our Ultimate Packing Checklist.
- Trekking Cordillera Blanca: there are so many stunning hikes in this mountain range! Read our Huaraz hiking guide to find out information on other great hikes to do in the area.
- Use Busbud: an easy way to book bus tickets in advance at decent prices. We used Busbud to book our bus from Lima to Huaraz.
- Explore the unknown: sure, visit the popular places near Huaraz, like Laguna 69 and Laguna Paron. But, there are many hidden gems in Huaraz to explore. Talk to locals and tour companies to find out any secrets or hidden gems for the most authentically unique experiences.
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