The Laguna Llaca day hike is one of the most underrated trekking options in Huaraz, Peru. With the mammoth Ranrapalca and Ocshapalca mountains creating a stunning backdrop, reaching the duck egg blue lake is an unforgettable moment. In this hiking guide, we’re going to tell you everything you need to know about the hike. Initially, we’ll cover details about the trail itself and provide a GPS-guided map. Then, we’ll explain how to get to Laguna Llaca independently; but, also discuss tour options. To finish off, we’ll list some other great hikes in and around Huaraz, as well as a few other bits and bobs.
Table of Contents
Laguna Llaca Hike in Huaraz, Peru
You should definitely add the Laguna Llaca day hike to your Huaraz trekking bucket list. The lake has a unique colour compared with other lakes in the Cordillera Blanca. Many lakes in the area have a deep blue, turquoise or green tone. But, Laguna Llaca is a glorious blue-greyish slate colour. Certainly, we have the run-off from the Ranrapalca Glacier to thank for this grey tinge. Indeed, dwarfed by the immense Ranrapalca and Ocshapalca mountains, this lake is truly mesmerising. So, where exactly is Laguna Llaca located?
Laguna Llaca Location Map
You’ll find Laguna Llaca in the Llaca Valley, which falls inside the Huascaran National Park. This national park is nestled in the spectacular Cordillera Blanca. Here, you’ll find many mindblowing lakes, which form from the glacial run-off of their respective nearby mountains in the range. The Laguna Llaca hike takes place just outside of the city of Huaraz, which is the capital of the Ancash region in Northern Peru. To get a visual understanding of the location, feel free to scope out the interactive map here.
For information on how to reach the trailhead of this hike, read Laguna Llaca: How to Get There. But, for now, let’s go through the nitty-gritty details of the hike itself.
Laguna Llaca Hike Details & Map
- Type: Out & Back
- Distance: 13.65km
- Time: 4.5–6.5 hours
- Accumulated elevation gain: 620m
- Difficulty: Easy
- Trailhead: Carretera Llaca
- Map: Wikiloc
Laguna Llaca Hike: Trail Information
From the roadside of Carretera Llaca, you’ll immediately follow an ascending rocky trail. You’ll then briefly re-join the mountain road before reaching an entrance gate. Once you’ve entered, you have two options to continue the hike. Either, you can continue straight and follow the gradually ascending mountain road. Or, turn right onto a very steep, winding and uneven trail. The mountain road option is easy. But, it’s much longer. So, we recommend following the hiking trail, which also feels a bit more adventurous.
Either way, you’ll eventually continue along a straight section of the Carretera Llaca. At this point of the hike, views of Ranrapalca and Ocshapalca mountains emerge. Soon enough, you’ll arrive at a point where you can, again, continue along the mountain road, which winds its way high above the Llaca Valley floor. Alternatively, you can continue straight to follow a fairly undefined trail, that follows alongside Quebrada Llaca. Similar to the section earlier, we recommend avoiding the mountain road. Sure, there won’t be many cars to ruin your chi. But, the mountain road route isn’t quite as exciting.
After following alongside the beautiful glacial river, you’ll arrive at a crossing. Hop over to the other side of the river and then continue towards the lake. Views of Ranrapalca and Ocshapalca mountains become ever-increasingly spectacular. Just before reaching the lake, there’s a steep series of switchbacks to ascend. It’s a tough climb. But, it’s oh so worth it once you arrive at Laguna Llaca, which is framed, perfectly, by the breathtaking Ranrapalca and Ocshapalca mountains.
Laguna Llaca, Ranrapalca and Ocshapalca
Laguna Llaca is hands down one of the most impressive lakes in Huaraz. Plus, you’ll enjoy epic views of some of the highest mountains in the Cordillera Blanca – Ranrapalca (6,162m) and Ocshapalca (5,888m). Once you arrive at the top of the switchbacks, you’ll have a great view of the lake from afar. We recommend hiking down to the shores. It gives you an even better appreciation of the grandeur of Ranrapalca and Ocshapalca. The shore also makes for a great lunch spot. In fact, Laguna Llaca flows and feeds into the Santa River, which is a long river that passes through the city of Huaraz!
After soaking in the awesome views of the lake and the Ranrapalca and Ocshapalca mountains, you have a couple of options. For an even longer hike, you can walk around to the opposite side of the lake. This will give you superb access to Ranrapalca Glacier, where you can touch the ice of the glacier. Here, you’ll also have even better views of Ocshapalca Mountain. Otherwise, it’s time to retrace your steps to complete the hike.
Either way, upon your return, it’s possible to enjoy a new trail. To do so, we recommend passing the Refugio, and hiking down a different trail, to the one you hiked up. Admittedly, this trail is a little less defined. So, it can be hard to follow. But, eventually, you’ll re-join the same trail you ascended, following alongside the majestic river.
Anyway, we hope you enjoyed our brief description of the trail. But, how to get to Laguna Llaca?
Laguna Llaca: How to Get There
Getting to the trailhead for the hike is very straightforward. Basically, you can catch a colectivo, organised by Transport Turistico Andes Peru, that leaves from Huaraz here. The colectivo initially goes to Pitec, which is the service you’ll want for the Laguna Churup and Shallap hikes. After dropping off hikers at Pitec, the driver will then take Laguna Llaca hikers to the trailhead. In total, the journey to the trailhead from Huaraz, via Pitec, is about 1–1.5 hours. The colectivo service for the Laguna Llaca hike is S/40 ($10USD) per person.
After dropping you off at the trailhead, the driver will wait for you to finish the hike. Once you’ve returned to the colectivo, you’ll be driven back to Pitec to pick up the Laguna Churup and Shallap hikers. You’ll then return to Huaraz.
Laguna Llaca Tours
We don’t think a guided Laguna Llaca tour is necessary. With the colectivo on offer, it’s really easy to get to the trailhead. In addition, the trail is fairly simple to navigate. Especially, if you use our GPS-guided directions, you won’t have a problem. Although, if you’re not wanting to do the complete hike, a tour company can organise to drive you straight to the lake. Or, drop you much closer for a short hike. But, we guarantee the full hike is fun and worth it. Besides, Laguna Llaca isn’t a popular trail for tourists. So, there aren’t cheap group tours available. Most likely, you’d have to do a private tour, which can be upwards of $100USD.
Typical Tour Itinerary
If you’re keen on a tour, most trekking companies in Huaraz should be able to offer a trip to Laguna Llaca. Here’s a very basic and typical itinerary:
- 8am: pickup from accommodation in Huaraz.
- 9am–3pm: explore Laguna Llaca.
- 3–4pm: arrive back in Huaraz.
Because you’ll enter Huascaran National Park, you’ll pay a S/30 ($8USD) entrance fee at the Refugio.
FYI – we paid S/150 ($38USD) per person for a 4–30 day Huascaran National Park pass. We used the pass for entry to Laguna 69, Churup, Shallap, Hualcacocha, Pastoruri Glacier, and, twice for the Santa Cruz trek. By visiting more than five places at Huascaran National Park, it’s worth getting this pass. Otherwise, you’d pay S/30 ($8USD) for each of these visits.
Best Time to Visit
The best chance of good weather is during the dry season, which runs from May to October. Thankfully, even during peak tourist times in the dry season, this trail should never get too busy. Personally, Beck and I visited in late June and we only saw around a dozen people throughout the day. True to form, we had mostly clear skies. But, of course, mountain weather is unpredictable.
Acclimatising For High Altitude Hikes
Before doing this hike, you should acclimatise. Altitude sickness (AKA Acute Mountain Sickness) is a typical illness experienced by those who reach high altitudes they’re not used to. The main symptoms include headache, shortness of breath, nausea, lightheadedness, dizziness, indigestion and loss of appetite.
In reality, the single most important way to reduce your chances of altitude sickness is to avoid going up too high, too quickly! 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, if you arrive in Huaraz (3,050 metres above sea level), you should have at least two days’ rest before you start hiking. This will 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 altitude. For example, you could start with Laguna Wilcacocha (3,710m). You could then hike to Laguna Shallap (4,250m), Yanacocha and Uruscocha (4,270m) or Laguna Rajucolta (4,271m), before attempting the hike to Laguna Llaca (4,440m). That way, you’re less likely to get altitude sickness.
How to Avoid Altitude Sickness
There are other methods for reducing your chances of getting altitude sickness. Firstly, don’t rush when you’re hiking to the lake at the foot of the Ranrapalca and Ocshapalca mountains. Walk slowly and take it easy. If you feel out of breath, stop and have a break until you feel comfortable continuing. Secondly, eat light meals and don’t eat them too quickly. Staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water is also essential. In addition, you may benefit from coca leaves, tea or sweets. This is what the locals recommend. Finally, you could take altitude sickness tablets (such as Diamox). But, if you acclimatise properly, you shouldn’t need them.
Where to Stay in Huaraz
If you’re doing this hike 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 fantastic accommodation choice for the budget traveller. At Accommodation Bella-Vista, you’ll find nice dorm rooms that are great value for money.
- Mid-range – 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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Other Hikes in Huaraz
There are so many incredible hikes to do in and around Huaraz. We recommend doing the following trails if you have time:
- Laguna Wilcacocha: an ideal acclimatisation trek.
- Laguna 69: a popular day hike to a stunning turquoise-coloured lake.
- Four Lagunas Trek: our favourite day hike in Huaraz.
- Laguna Rajucolta: an easy day hike in the Cordillera Blanca.
- Laguna 513: another turquoise-coloured lake, that we liked even more than Laguna 69!
- Pastoruri Glacier: a short high-altitude hike to a beautiful glacier.
- Laguna Churup: involves using the same colectivo that you’ll need for the Laguna Llaca hike.
- Huayhuash Trek: one of the best multi-day treks in the world.
- Laguna Hualcacocha: another hike that visits a beautiful turquoise-coloured lake.
- Laguna Queshquecocha: an unknown hike to tourists.
- Santa Cruz Trek: another wondrous multi-day hike.
- Laguna Shallap: this lake has an unbelievable green colour!
- Laguna Yanacocha and Urucocha: two awesome lakes for the price of one challenging hike.
- Paron Lake: another popular day trip from Huaraz.
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, lunch, sunglasses, sunscreen and a hat.
For a more extensive 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 Peru, read our Ultimate Packing Checklist.
- Choose this hike as an acclimatisation trek: to prepare yourself for the high-altitude Huayhuash and Santa Cruz treks, you should do acclimatisation treks. The hike to Laguna Llaca, at the base of the Ranrapalca and Ocshapalca mountains, is a decent choice for an acclimatisation hike.
- Use Busbud: we used Busbud to book our bus tickets from Lima to Huaraz. The website is super easy to use and allows you to book in advance, at a comparable price.
- Walk to the Laguna Llaca Glacier: if you have enough time and energy, walk around the lake to Llaca Glacier. After a busy hiking itinerary, Beck and I ran out of steam. But, we do regret not getting up, close and personal with the glacier.
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