Laguna Rajucolta is a stunning lake found at the base of the impressive Huantsan Mountain in Peru. Located near Macashca, which is a small town just outside of Huaraz, the lake is dwarfed by the mammoth peak. Thankfully, the day hike leading to Laguna Rajucolta isn’t very difficult. Essentially, there’s a huge reward for fairly minimal effort. Indeed, at the shore of the lake, you’ll enjoy unparalleled views of one of Peru’s highest mountains – Huantsan. All in all, seeing the mountain is equally impressive, perhaps even more so, than the lake itself!
In this guide, we’ll talk about everything you need to know about hiking to this lake. After describing the hike, we’ll detail how to get there independently and also discuss options for visiting with a tour company. We’ll also tell you about other amazing hikes that you should do during a trip to Huaraz.
Laguna Rajucolta Overview
When it comes to trekking in Peru, there are so many brilliant day hikes to lakes to choose from. Certainly, Laguna Rajucolta is one of them. In Huaraz alone, there are many beautiful lakes with equally impressive hiking trails leading to them. Personally, Beck and I did 11 day hikes to lakes in Huaraz. So, how does Laguna Rajucolta, AKA Rajucolta Lake, rank amongst them?
Well, it’s one of the easier day hikes in Huaraz. So, if you’re looking for an acclimatisation hike, this day hike is a great choice. Also, this day hike probably provides the best vantage point to see Huantsan Mountain (6,396m). All in all, Huantsan is the third-highest mountain in the Cordillera Blanca, fourth-highest mountain in the department of Ancash, and, the fifth-highest mountain in Peru. So, yeah, seeing it up close is incredible. Another reason why hiking to Laguna Rajucolta is 100% worth it.
So, where exactly is this lake located?
Where is Laguna Rajucolta?
Laguna Rajucolta is located in the Huascaran National Park, which is nestled in the spectacular Cordillera Blanca. The closest sizeable town to this lake is Macashca, which is positioned just outside of the city of Huaraz. Indeed, to reach the lake, you’ll head to and pass through Macashca from Huaraz. FYI – Huaraz is the capital of the Ancash region in Northern Peru. Certainly, the capital is a great base to explore this and many other lakes in the Cordillera Blanca.
Laguna Rajucolta Hike Details & Map
- Type: Out & Back
- Distance: 14.5km
- Duration: 3.75–5 hours
- Accumulated elevation gain: 395m
- Difficulty: Easy
- Trailhead: Portada Rajucolta
Laguna Rajucolta Hike: Trail Description
From Huaraz, you’ll pass through Macashca and Purush (a tiny village) before finally arriving at a locked gate on the road. This is the trailhead for the hike. The gate usually remains locked. So, you’ll have to scramble over the rock wall to get proceedings underway. Read How to Get to Laguna Rajucolta to suss out your options for getting to the trailhead.
After passing official Huascaran National Park signage, you’ll begin hiking through the Quebrada Rajucolta Valley. In other words, the Rajucolta River Valley. Immediately, you’ll see the peak of Huantsan – one of the most epic mountains in Peru. And, every step you take, reveals more of the breathtaking mountain.
Thankfully, the trail is quite flat for most of the way to the lake. This is one of the reasons why the hike isn’t very challenging. Trail navigation is also super easy. There’s a defined trail, basically all of the way to the lake. Other than roaming cattle, keep an eye out for birds. We saw some lovely birdlife during the hike.
Along the way, you’ll pass many brilliant waterfalls, plummeting into the sides of the valley. The waterfalls are another reason why this hike is really enjoyable.
Anyway, following alongside the Rajucolta River, you’ll finally reach the lake. Here, you’ll enjoy mind-blowing views of Huantsan Mountain – an iconic landform in Peru.
Laguna Rajucolta and Huantsan
After 7km or so, you’ll reach Laguna Rajucolta. Indeed, the views of Huantsan are absolutely awe-inspiring. Don’t get us wrong, the lake is also mesmerising. You’ll enjoy a vast rich-blue lake. But, admittedly, we think seeing Huantsan, this close, is one of the best moments you can experience in Peru. On a clear day, which we were lucky to have, you’ll enjoy unbeatable views of Huantsan and its glacier.
After a snack and gawking at the sensational lake and mountain, it’s time to retrace your steps to finish the hike. Once you’ve finished, it’s time to head back through Macashca on your way back to Huaraz. During the return hike, Beck and I enjoyed some speed hiking.
What’s speed hiking? It’s hiking with much gusto! We love doing it to work up a sweat. Read more about speed hiking here.
Laguna Rajucolta Hike Recap
Laguna Rajucolta is a gorgeous lake, positioned next to the humongous Huantsan Mountain – one of the highest in Peru. Indeed, hiking to this lake is an incredible experience. You’ll enjoy a serene and tranquil lake, as well as unparalleled views of the famous Huantsan Mountain in Peru. Win-win!
How to Get to Laguna Rajucolta
It’s possible to get to Laguna Rajucolta independently. But, there isn’t any direct public transport. So, it’s a bit tricky. Essentially, you’ll need to catch a colectivo from Huaraz to Macashca or Purush. Both of these colectivo services depart from a couple of different locations in Huaraz. See the map below for the easiest place to get the colectivo from Huaraz to Macashca or Purush.
- Colectivo from Huaraz to Macashca: depart from 6:30–7am, run fairly regularly, take around 45 minutes and shouldn’t cost more than S/2–4 ($0.50–1USD).
- Colectivo from Huaraz to Purush (Line 11): depart from 6:30–7:30am, run once hourly, take around 60–75 minutes and costs around S/3–6 ($1–1.50USD).
Once you arrive at either Macashca or Purush from Huaraz, you’ll need to find a taxi or moto-taxi to take you the rest of the way. Basically, you’ll need to hire a driver for the day. This should cost around S/100 ($25USD). They’ll drive you to the trailhead, wait, and then drive you back to Purush or Macaschca.
FYI – Purush is a tiny village, where we didn’t see any taxis or much else happening. It’s probably wiser to get a colectivo to Macashca. Then, find a taxi to take you to the trailhead and back to Macashca. But, Macashca is also a small town. So, you might struggle to find a taxi straight away upon arrival.
Admittedly, given the complexity of visiting Laguna Rajucolta independently, Beck and I decided to do a tour. Choosing to do a tour was purely based on the convenience of direct transport to the trailhead. Find out more: Laguna Rajucolta Tours.
Macashca is a small mountain town just outside of the city of Huaraz. It takes around 45 minutes to drive from Huaraz to Macashca. Honestly speaking, there’s unlikely a reason to visit Macashca unless you’re doing this hike. When Beck and I passed through in late-June 2022, it wasn’t possible to pass through Macashca as the road was blocked. Thankfully, there’s a parallel road running from Macashca to Purush. So, even if this road remains blocked, there is another road to get to the lake.
Laguna Rajucolta Tours
Laguna Rajucolta is by no means the most popular day hike in Huaraz. Those honours go to Laguna 69, Paron and Churup. In the same token, Laguna Rajucolta isn’t an unknown entity like Laguna Hualcacocha, Quehsquecocha or Shallap. So, you’ll find most Huaraz trekking companies offer full day Laguna Rajucolta tours. Personally, we chose to visit the lake with Qorianka. That’s because the owner of the company was quite flexible with tour options. Basically, we were offered the following:
- Group tour: if there’s a group of at least 14 people, costs are S/70 ($18USD) per person. Roundtrip transportation from your accommodation in Huaraz and a guide are included. This is by far the cheapest way to visit the lake.
- Private tour: roundtrip transportation from your accommodation in Huaraz and a guide are included. This could be quite expensive. But, the more people in your group, the cheaper it’ll be.
- $80USD per person for two people.
- $50USD per person for four people.
- $40USD per person for six people.
- $30USD per person for eight people.
- 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/270 ($68USD). Although, you may get a cheaper rate if you’re well-versed in bartering. Or, if you book multiple tours. Personally, given the convenience, Beck and I chose this option.
Typical Laguna Rajucolta Tour Itinerary
If you decide to do a tour, here’s the typical itinerary:
- 7:00am: pickup from accommodation in Huaraz.
- 9:00am: begin hike.
- 12:30–2pm: finish hike.
- 2:30–4pm: arrive back in Huaraz.
Because you’ll enter Huascaran National Park, an entrance fee is expected. It’s meant to be S/15 ($4USD), which isn’t included in the price of the tour. However, Beck and I were never asked to pay an entrance fee.
FYI – we paid S/150 ($38USD) per person for a 4–30 day Huascaran National Park pass. Indeed, we were expecting to use our passes during this trip. But, as mentioned, we didn’t have to. Although, we needed to show this pass for entry to Laguna 69, Churup, Llaca, 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
You’ll have a better chance of good weather in the dry season, which runs from May to October. Thankfully, this hike never gets too crowded. Personally, during our hike, we saw no other people! So, even during peak tourist times in the dry season, you shouldn’t see many, if any, people on the trail. This means, undoubtedly, the dry season is the best time to visit. When Beck and I visited during the dry season, in late June, we experienced nothing but clear blue skies. But, of course, mountain weather is unpredictable.
How to Acclimatise
Before you do the hike, you should acclimatise. 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. Even if you have avoided altitude sickness in the past, that doesn’t mean you won’t get it 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 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 start trekking. 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 Laguna Wilcacocha (3,710m) and then perhaps Laguna Shallap (4,250m) before attempting Laguna Rajucolta (4,271m). This will reduce your chances of getting altitude sickness.
How to Avoid Altitude Sickness
There are other ways you can reduce your chances of getting altitude sickness. Firstly, don’t rush when you’re hiking to the lake. Walk slowly and take it easy. If you feel out of breath, simply stop, relax and have a break. Secondly, eat light meals, don’t eat them too quickly and stay hydrated. Also, you may benefit from coca leaves, tea or sweets. This is what 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 Raucolta 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 good option for the shoestring traveller. At Accommodation Bella-Vista, you’ll have a nice stay that’s decent value for money. They do have private rooms; but, of course, the dorm rooms are where you’ll save.
- Mid-range – 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.
- 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.
Other Hikes in Huaraz
There are so many brilliant hikes and lakes in Huaraz to explore. We highly recommend doing the following trails when you visit:
- Laguna Wilcacocha: the only hike on this list that explores the Cordillera Negra.
- Laguna 69 hike: a popular day hike to do from Huaraz.
- Four Lagunas Trek: our favourite Huaraz day hike.
- Laguna 513: another turquoise-coloured lake, similar to Laguna 69 and Laguna Hualcacocha.
- Laguna Paron tour: the largest lake in the Cordillera Blanca.
- Pastoruri Glacier tour: a popular day trip that visits an immense glacier.
- Laguna Churup: an easy day hike to do solo.
- Laguna Llaca: the most underrated day hike in the area.
- Huayhuash Trek: an increasingly popular multi-day hike that’s simply epic.
- Laguna Hualcacocha: one of the newest hikes in Huaraz.
- Laguna Queshquecocha: a hike which is even lesser known than Laguna Hualcacocha!
- Santa Cruz Trek: a well-known multi-day trek.
- Laguna Shallap: a hike that visits a phenomenal green lake.
- Laguna Yanacocha and Uruscocha: one of the hardest day hikes in Huaraz.
What to Wear and Pack
Why do you need this?
See it in action
These hiking boots are super comfortable – just perfect for hiking in Peru
This camera is super lightweight and compact, so it's perfect for day hikes. The Sony Cybershot RX100 VII takes high-quality photos and 4K videos
It can get quite cold at high altitudes. Pack a warm fleece jacket, even if it's dry season
The neck gaiter is very versatile. During this trek, I used it to keep the sun off my neck
Always pack a waterproof jacket, because you just never know!
You should also pack water, snacks, lunch, sunglasses, sunscreen and a hat.
- Climbing Huantsan: other than hiking to the base of it, it’s certainly possible to climb Huantsan in Peru. For serious climbers, summiting Huantsan in Peru would be a dream come true. But, climbing this mountain is reserved for experienced climbers only.
- Use Busbud: a simple way to book bus tickets in advance at competitive prices. We used Busbud to book our bus from Lima to Huaraz.
- Peru tours: there are plenty of other great tours to do in Peru. When we were in Huaraz, we also did tours to Huayhuash, Laguna 69, Paron and Pastoruri Glacier. When we were in Cusco, we did hiking tours of Ausangate, Salkantay and Choquequirao.
Have you visited Laguna Rajucolta independently? We’d love to hear about your experience. Please leave us a comment below.
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