Humantay Lake: How to go there, height and curiosities

Reading : 5 min May 4 2022

Turquoise waters of spectacular beauty, clear, clean and very cold. This is Humantay Lake, a natural wonder which has become one of the most popular tourist destinations among travelers who visit Cusco alongside the Rainbow Mountain, Ollantaytambo or Machu Picchu.

This place is a treasure of the Andean scenery and today we would like to guide you so you visit the Humantay Lake when on your trip to Cusco. Visit de Humantay Lake and explore this and other destinations. We will help you to plan your trip to Cusco and its most important destinations.

Where is Humantay Lake located?

This beautiful lake is placed at the foot of the Salkantay snow-capped mountain (which in quechua means Savage Mountain) and the Humantay snow-capped  mountain. This last one rises up to 17880 feet asl (5450 m) and from their snow melting the Humantay Lake is formed, where, fortunately only the purity of the mountains is breathed.

The lake is located right in the middle of the Andes mountain range, at Norwest from Cusco city in Soraypampa, which belongs to Mollepata district, province of Anta in Cusco Department, 80 miles (128 km) from the Imperial City. The sights are breathtaking because of its beauty and the contrast between the white caps of the mountains and the intense color of the lake.

How to get there?

In order to experience this adventure, you must book your place by clicking here: Hiking to HumantayLake

The experience starts early in the morning, you will be picked up and transported in a private bus up to the Soraypampa community, from where the trek starts  The walk takes approximately 4 hours between ascending and descending. 

After this unforgettable tour, taking lots of pictures and feeling that you are the most experienced trekker ever, we will go back to Cusco city for rest and recover your strength. We recommend taking at least two days prior taking this route while you adapt to the height, because this is a stressful exercise for your body.

How high is the lake placed and how is the ascension?

Laguna Humantay: Cómo llegar, altitud y curiosidades

The Humantay Lake is 13780 feet altitude (4200 masl). To get there you must walk a long way; it is a beautiful trek but a difficult one. For this reason you must be physically prepared. 

The distance of the trekking route is about 3 miles (5 km), but it is up the mountain so it is not an easy one. The walk takes more or less 4 hours going forth and back. You must know that the difficulty of this trail is 3 over 5 as the maximum difficulty.

How is the weather and what is the temperature of the water?

The lake is at the foot of an impressive snow-capped mountain so, as you can imagine, this is a quite and very cold place; temperature goes between 50°F                                                     (10°C) and 32°F (0°C).

The water in the lake can be below that temperature since it comes directly from the snow melting in the glacier, which makes this water pure and crystal clear.

How come the lake has that beautiful color?

Laguna Humantay: Cómo llegar, altitud y curiosidades

White Light contains all colors of the rainbow, when the light falls on a surface or object; those retain some colors and reflect others. The wonderful turquoise color of the Humantay Lake depends on a selective absorption of the light. When the light passes through the water, due its mineral content, it absorbs the reddish tones and only reflects the blue ones, and turquoise.

The light combined with the soil minerals of the lake and the flora inside, gives that effect, but it is because of its water purity that this spectacle is possible.

What does Humantay mean?

Every place in Cusco has a special name, which keeps a special meaning.  Usually they are related to legends or local stories which explain their origins or the meaning for the local people. It is said that Humantay means head of the gods due to the legend of two brothers.

The Humantay Lake Legend

According to the legend, the lake is made by the tears of the Salcantay snowy mountain.

Long time ago, during a drought that was killing the Andean people, the brothers Ausangate and Salkantay decided to travel looking for water and food for their people. They parted ways and each one took a different route: Ausangate went to the south and Salkantay took to the north. Both found food and water for their dying people but Salkantay also found love during his jurney.

Sadly, Salkantay had to leave his loved one because he had to go back with his people, because he was expected and trusted by them. After arriving, both brothers were transformed into imposing snowy mountains but the tears from Salkantay´s broken heart filled the land and formed the Humantay Lake, one of the most beautiful lagoons of the region.

It is being said that the color of the lake is caused by the deep and true feelings of the Apu (the Sacred Mountain).

Sacred Lake

For the local people, the Humantay Lake, besides being beautiful, is considered a gift from the Pachamama or Mother Earth, because the streams that flow from it, feed the land and nearby fields, ensuring a good harvest for the community. This is why people paid their respects to this beautiful lake.

You can also see along the way some small stone mounds made by locals and visitors called Apachetas. The Apachetas are small mounds made in conical shape, putting stones one over the other as a manner of tribute. Those tributes are an ancient custom among the Andean people to showing gratitude to the Pachamama and other gods. 

When you visit Humantay Lake, make one yourself in order to show your gratitude to the Pachamama and the universe for being present every day.

Is it allowed to swim in Humantay Lake?

Even when the lake looks calm and perfect for swimming and you may be wishing to take a dip into its freezing waters, swimming is not allowed since it sources water to nearby communities.

What do you need when visiting Humantay Lake?

As in any place of the Peruvian sierra, the sun is very strong, but when it hides behind clouds or when the night comes, the temperature drops significantly and if you don’t carry proper clothes you are not safe. Take precautions and carry with you whatever you may need to fully enjoy the experience.

  • An outdoor jacket
  • Comfortable clothes for the trekking
  • Head cover
  • Sunscreen lotion
  • Sun glasses
  • Walking sticks
  • Trekking boots
  • Water
  • Lemon or Coca candy
  • Rain coat

Which is the best time for visiting the lake?

You may visit Humantay Lake at any time of the year.

Are you a camping enthusiast?

At about 1.2 miles (2 km) from the lake, at Soraypampa, you may find a special camping zone if you wish to stay there and sleep over night. It is not allowed to camp near the water since the night cold is unbearable. If you decide to camp in Soraypampa, be sure to have adequate equipment and all necessary items required by an experienced camper.

May I visit the lake  without making the trek?

Laguna Humantay: Cómo llegar, altitud y curiosidades

There is only one route for reaching Humantay Lake and is a path good only for walking. Nevertheless there is the chance to rent a horse at the beginning of the path or at any time during the walk so you can enjoy the sights without the physical effort required for this experience.

Traveling with family?

If you travel with children, the safer and recommendable way is to go up using horses since the effort could be too much for them. Due to the altitude and extreme temperatures it is not recommendable to make the route with babies or little kids, but of course, that is a family decision.

Important data about the altitude

  • The route starts at 12713 feet height (3875 masl) at Soraypampa
  • The height at the resting place in the middle of the ascension is at 13533 feet (4125 masl).
  • The lake is at 13780 feet (4200 masl).

Now that you have all the information about the lake, where it is, how to make the route and what to expect from the visit, you only need to chose the date for your trip to Cusco, to immerse yourself in its history, go deep in its sights and enjoy its food, music and the kindness of its people. If you think that the color of the lake and its surroundings in the pictures are unique, wait to make the trail and arrive at Humantay, you will see that it's even better than you imagine.

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