Humantay Lake – Cusco’s Exquisite Gem Of The Mountains

salkantay trek
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Humantay Lake (pronounced Uman-tie) is one of the most renowned alpine lakes in the Peruvian Andes. Humantay stands out as a blue-green gem amidst the mountains and is only a few hours away from Cusco.

Hiking to Humantay Lake entails a challenging uphill trek. Upon reaching the summit, you’ll be rewarded with shimmering green waters framed by snow-capped peaks. The captivating scenery of this surreal landscape entices hundreds of visitors to ascend the slopes each day.

This article covers everything you need to know about Humantay Lake in Peru. You’ll find detailed information on day trips from Cusco and tips for reaching the lake independently.

Having trekked to Humantay Lake myself, I hope this provides valuable insight to other travelers. If you have any questions or feedback, please leave us a comment at the end of the article.

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Where is Humantay Lake located?

Humantay Lake is situated in the Cusco Region of southern Peru, within the Vilcabamba mountain range.

What is the altitude of Humantay Lake?

Humantay Lake sits at an altitude of 4,200m / 13,780ft above sea level.

How do I reach Humantay Lake?

The trail to Humantay Lake begins at Soraypampa, which is located at an altitude of 3,900m / 12,795ft. From Soraypampa, you will hike and gain approximately 300m / 1,000ft in elevation to reach the lake.

Do I need to acclimatize before visiting Humantay Lake?

Yes, it is crucial to acclimatize to the high altitude before visiting Humantay Lake. It is recommended to spend at least two days in Cusco before embarking on the hike. This will allow your body to adjust to the lower oxygen levels and reduce the risk of altitude-related issues.

Why Humantay Lake Is So Blue

The lake waters are fed by glaciers. As the ice melts, it releases minerals that give Humantay Lake its vivid shades of blue and green.

You will find these stunning blue lakes throughout the Andes range. The exact hue of blue varies from lake to lake. Temperatures and weather conditions also affect the color of the water.

Humantay Is A Sacred Lake

Humantay Lake was a sacred site for the Inca people. The lake still holds great significance for the locals. Shamans and spiritual leaders often visit this lake, and small ceremonies are conducted here.

It is customary to leave a small offering or Apacheta to Pachamama, the goddess of fertility in Inca mythology. Usually, some coca leaves are placed beneath a stone on the lakeside.

How to Get to Humantay Lake

Humantay Lake is located about 121km / 75 miles northwest of Cusco. The lake is nestled below Mount Humantay, which is very close to Salkantay Mountain. From Cusco, you can reach Humantay Lake in one day by car trip and a short hike.

The nearest town to Humantay Lake is Soraypampa. It takes about three hours to drive from Cusco to Soraypampa. After driving, you will need to hike up the trail to Humantay Lake. It is a short walk over steep sandy terrain and takes between 45-90 minutes. Alternatively, you can hire a horse to take you up most of the slope.

Soraypampa has many campsites that are used by hikers on the first night of the Salkantay Trek. If you choose to do this trek, you will make a detour to Lake Humantay on the first day of the trail.

For a fun combined tour, check out our guide on Humantay Lake and Rainbow Mountain.

Is Humantay Lake Worth It?

Humantay Lake is the most accessible alpine lake from Cusco. However, this also means that it is one of the busiest natural attractions in the area.

If you have a free day and don’t mind a bit of exercise, it is worth the effort to visit Humantay Lake. The sparkling blue waters are exceptionally beautiful, even if you are sharing the site with a crowd. On the other hand, there are much more beautiful and tranquil lakes in Peru.

The town of Huaraz, north of Lima, is a hiker’s paradise. The surrounding mountains have endless trails and are filled with montane lakes. Huaraz is also much less touristy. I had many of these stunning lakes completely to myself when I visited Huaraz.

If you have already visited (or plan to visit) Huaraz, I wouldn’t bother with Humantay Lake; the lakes in Huaraz are far more beautiful and less crowded. However, if you have limited time in Peru, Humantay Lake is worth a day trip.

What to Expect on a Humantay Lake Tour

You can visit Humantay Lake on a full-day hike from Cusco. Numerous tour operators offer this tour with nearly identical itineraries, and group sizes for these trips range from 8-16 people.

Booking Your Tour to Humantay Lake

Like most day trips from Cusco, there is no need to book a tour to Humantay Lake in advance. It is easier and cheaper to book the tour when you arrive in town. Dozens of tour operators are located around the Plaza de Armas.

Humantay Lake Without a Guide

You don’t need a guide to reach Humantay Lake. You can take a taxi to the starting point of the trail at Soraypampa.

Why Hike Humantay Lake on Your Own?

The main advantage of visiting Humantay Lake on your own is the flexibility to sleep in. If you take a taxi, you won’t have to wake up at 4 am. Honestly, you’ll enjoy the lake more if you get better rest. A private taxi ride is also more comfortable than a shared minivan or colectivo.

There’s another reason to visit Humantay Lake without a tour. All tour companies leave Cusco at the same time in the morning. If you leave a bit later, you’ll avoid the main crowds. Most tour groups have left the lake by 12 pm.

For more ideas on great unguided treks in Peru, check out our guide on hiking the Salkantay solo.

Where does the Humantay Lake trail start?

The trail to the lake begins just past the main parking lot at Soraypampa camp. Once you are dropped off, follow the dirt road a bit further and cross a bridge.

Within 5-10 minutes, you should see the beginning of the narrow hiking trail. Don’t worry, there will be other people around to point you in the right direction if you get a little lost.

Cost Of Visiting Humantay Lake Without a Tour

A taxi costs around $75-$85 / 250-350 soles. This depends on your negotiating skills and how well you speak Spanish! This price is for transportation to and from the lake.

If you split the cost between two people, you’ll pay $37 / 150 soles per person. If you share a taxi between 3-4 people, it is more economical.

What Is the Best Time to Visit Humantay Lake?

To avoid a wet and cold trek up the mountain, it’s best to visit Humantay Lake during the dry season. May through September is generally the best time for trekking in Peru. The evenings can be cold, but rain is rare. Most days during these months are sunny and warm.

What To Pack for a Humantay Lake Trek

Here are the most important things to pack for a Humantay Lake trek:

  • Sun protection
  • Rain gear
  • Water
  • Snacks
  • Camera
  • Sun protection

The sun is much closer and particularly harsh at high altitudes. Bring a good hat and sunglasses. High-protection SPF sunscreen is also essential.

Rain Gear

Even if you’re traveling during the dry season, it’s always wise to be prepared for unexpected weather in the Andes. It’s worth purchasing a cheap plastic poncho and keeping it in your daypack for rainy days.

Water and Snacks

Bring approximately 1.5 liters of drinking water per person. It’s a good idea to pack fruits and a few energy bars to maintain your energy levels.

It’s best to buy food in Cusco. While you can purchase snacks and water at the Soraypampa campsite, they are usually overpriced. A liter of water there will cost around 10 soles.

If you’re hiking to Humantay Lake without a guide, pack a lunch to enjoy at the lakeside. The slope next to the lake is a perfect spot for a picnic.

Camera

You’ll definitely want to capture plenty of pictures, so make sure to charge your smartphone or camera before the trek.

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