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Laguna Hualcacocha: The Ultimate Guide To This Hidden Gem

Laguna Hualcacocha: The Ultimate Guide To This Hidden Gem

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.

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?

Read our Laguna Shallap, Laguna Queshquecocha and Four Lagunas Trek guides

Beck looks at Laguna Hualcacocha

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
Top 3 Accommodation in Huaraz
A hotel surrounded by a mountain range

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.

Ulta River
Ulta River

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.

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.

Top 3 Huaraz Day Hike Viator Tours

Dan and Beck at Laguna Paron

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.

Checkpoint for Huascaran National Park
Checkpoint for Huascaran National Park

Best Time to Visit

Your chances of good weather are better in the dry season, which runs May to 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 – Krusty Hostel B&B: Beck and I really enjoyed our stay here. The private rooms at Krusty Hostel B&B are nice and cosy. The hostel features a large shared kitchen, which includes a free breakfast. Additionally, the Wifi is top shelf.
Dan at Krusty Hostel
  • Mid-range – The Lazy Dog Inn: this mountain lodge is growing in popularity. Located just outside of Huaraz, in Pitec, The Lazy Dog Inn has serene and beautiful surroundings. We’ve heard the owners are really generous. They spend time helping guests to plan their hikes. By staying here, you’ll be much closer to the Laguna Llaca trailhead and other hikes in the Cordillera Blanca, compared with staying in the city of Huaraz.
A hotel surrounded by a mountain range.
  • Luxury – Cordillera Hotel: this is probably one of the nicest hotels in Huaraz. Cordillera Hotel is an excellent place to stay. Expect stylish rooms and modern facilities. We doubt there are many better places to stay in Huaraz.
A hotel room in Huaraz.

Travel Insurance For Huaraz

Heymondo is one of the best budget travel insurance providers on the market. They provide comprehensive travel and medical insurance that won’t break the bank. Whether it’s single trip insurance, annual multi-trip insurance or long stay insurance, Heymondo offers affordable travel and medical insurance to suit all of your needs. Personally, we use Heymondo travel insurance and highly recommend it. To find out more about Heymondo travel and medical insurance, read our Heymondo travel insurance review.

Travel Insurance

Heymondo Travel Insurance

Don’t leave for your trip without booking travel insurance. We all know accidents can happen and having Heymondo travel insurance could save you thousands of dollars if something goes wrong. Click the button below to receive a 5% discount!

Other Hikes in Huaraz

There are so many epic hikes to do in Huaraz. We highly recommend doing the following trails when you visit:

What to Wear and Pack

Osprey Skarab 30
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
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
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
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.

Sony Cybershot RX100 VII
Sony Cybershot RX100 VII

Capture epic photos and videos with the Sony Cybershot RX100 VII. This is hands-down the best compact camera. We love using this simple point-and-shoot camera when we’re hiking as it’s lightweight and durable.

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.

You should also pack water, snacks, a box lunch, sunglasses, sunscreen and a hat.

Bonus Tips

  • 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.

Booking Buses


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.

Laguna Hualcacocha pinterest

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Daniel Piggott

Dan is a travel blogger, physiotherapist, hiker, natural wonder seeker and world traveller. He loves writing travel guides to help his readers explore the most beautiful destinations in the world.

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