By: Harold A. (Peru)
On my trip to Cusco I visited the famous Humantay lagoon, one of the most beautiful landscapes I have ever seen. To make this visit I hired a one-day tour with a tourism agency in the center of Cusco. In general my experience was positive. The walk was very difficult for me but it is not impossible if you make an effort. The photos I got I think were the best of my trip. Next, I will tell you step by step the itinerary that I followed on the tour to the Humantay lagoon.
My previous days in Cusco
Before doing the tour to the Humantay lagoon, I had already spent about five days in Cusco. In those days I got to know the city, the Sacred Valley of the Incas, Machu Picchu as well as Maras and Moray. On my fifth day I planned to meet Humantay as I already felt acclimated and ready for the challenge.
The day before we bought the tour with an agency in the center of Cusco. The price seemed right to me. The service offered me: pick up from my hotel, trip to the Humantay lagoon, a professional tour guide, breakfast, lunch, utensils and a first aid kit if necessary. As they informed me, after five days in Cusco, I was ready for this tour.
The Humantay lagoon seemed like a very different experience to what I had already experienced in Cusco. Landscapes like this are not even imaginable in the daily life of Lima, my city. I was aware of the difficulty of the hike. However, he was convinced that he would make it. It was my penultimate day in Cusco and I wanted to top it off with such a difficult adventure.
- More information: My tour did not include the entrance to the Humantay Lagoon. During the visit I had to pay 10 soles for the entrance fee. I was informed that some tours do include entrance fees while others do not.
The trip to Humantay
At around 5 in the morning the transport arrived at the door of my hotel in Cusco. The minivan was clean and respected compliance with protocols against Covid 19. The trip was long, I think it took 3 hours or more. On one part of the route we stopped for breakfast. Breakfast was in the town of Mollepata. It consisted of fruits, breads, jams, infusions and something else to choose from.
Back in the minivan we had to pay the 10 soles entrance fee to Humantay. Then they let us pass and continue with the route up. The landscapes in the area were simply amazing. At the end we arrive at the Soraypampa camp. According to the guide, the tourists who make the 5-day ‘Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu’ spend the night here.
Our group was called ‘Chaska’ which means ‘star’ in Quechua. We were about eight tourists. Two Peruvians, four Brazilians and two Germans I think. The guide knew Spanish and English. He handed out sticks to each of us. We made a bar to grab morale and started the famous final walk to the Humantay lagoon.
- More information: Altitude sickness does exist. I have seen some tourists suffer the long trip to the Humantay lagoon. The guide has a preparation of alcohol with flavorings that give you back your breath. However, from my own experience, it is best to drink plenty of water, avoid fats and too many beers. Then you just have to relax and enjoy the visit without worrying about anything else.
The difficult hike
The hike did seem difficult to me. I’m a normal guy, with a little paunch. Sometimes I play soccer so I thought I wouldn’t suffer from the walk. However, the walk cost me a lot. In total it was 2 kilometers according to the guide. The first few meters are very easy as they are flat. But from the ascending paths is when it’s time to suffer.
When the ascending walk begins, there are people on horseback who offer to take you. Two Brazilian tourists in the group decided to pay 90 soles each for the horse and the muleteer to lead them to the top. I decided to walk although the truth is that a little help was needed for everyone. The guide was always accompanying the last of the group, the Brazilians.
After 2 more or less 2 hours of walking we arrived at the Humantay lagoon. The road is totally safe. There are no ravines or areas near rocks. Along the walk there are many tourists so it will be impossible to get lost. Zero that it is not convenient to go with very young children. Old people can feel altitude sickness.
- More information: Horses are never included in the tour. The inhabitants of that town are the owners of the horse and they are the ones who lead the tourists and the animal to the lagoon. Sometimes it is children or even women who lead the horse. It seems easy for them to lead the horses. Surely they are very used to this walk. That’s how they make a living.
Finally at the Humantay lagoon
The Humantay lagoon is the best landscape of the trip to Cusco, after Machu Picchu of course. The first view of the lagoon seems like a mirage in the middle of so many mountains. The lagoon is big. It has turquoise waters that seem drawn by God. Surrounding it is the snow-capped Salkantay, all white and imposing.
The tour guide paused the photos to perform an ‘offering to the mountains’ ceremony. For this he used the stones of the place with which he formed a mound. These stones on stones are called ‘apachetas’. He says that it is a belief that has been carried out since before the Inca era. We all leave our ‘apacheta’ in gratitude to the mountains.
In the Humantay lagoon there are stalls selling hot drinks and beers, of course. They say that some crazy tourists got into the waters of the lagoon. When I went nobody did it because it is prohibited, according to what they told me. It rained a little but nothing prevented us from getting the indelible photos of the Humantay lagoon.
- More information: The lagoon is 4,200 meters above sea level. The guide indicated that tourists performed religious ceremonies there. For the Incas, the lagoons were sacred gods to whom they worshiped.
The return to Cusco
After the visit to the Humantay lagoon, it was time to return to Cusco. For that, we follow the same one-way path, only now going backwards to the Soraypampa camp. Here nobody took a horse because the descent was much easier. You just have to watch out for slips. We arrived at Soraypampa shot.
Many of us fell asleep in the minivan. However, after some time of travel, we stopped for lunch in the town of Mollepata. At lunch there were noodles, rice, soups, alpaca meat and porridge. Back in the minivan we don’t stop until we reach Cusco at around 6 in the afternoon.
In general, it was an entertaining tour, something different from the tours of Machu Picchu or the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Here you do need to have energy. We arrived exhausted in Cusco, after more than 12 hours of tour. I think it’s a good service. The prices are cheap compared to the other tours. Includes full food. The truth is that I recommend it to young people and people with a young spirit. Cheer up!
- More information: A visit to the Humantay lagoon should not be without good slippers, a poncho in case it rains, sunscreen, light clothing but also a warm jacket because it is cold. It is always important to carry extra money, especially if you are thinking of hiring a horse.