The Humantay lagoon offers one of the most beautiful landscapes in Cusco. Its turquoise waters crowned by the immense snow-capped Salkantay offer a landscape that is difficult to forget. It is located 128 kilometers from the city of Cusco. The last 2.5 kilometers must be done on foot along high Andean trails. Tours to this destination are one of the favorites for tourists. The 1-day tours cost between 30 and 60 dollars, depending on the tour agency you choose.
The Humantay lagoon
The Humantay lagoon is one of the most beautiful landscapes in Cusco. Its scenic beauty lies in its turquoise waters. At the top you can see the snowy Salkantay, the second highest in Cusco. The entire natural environment offers amazing high Andean landscapes. It is one of the preferred tourist attractions in the region.
The lagoon is 4,200 meters above sea level. It is part of the Vilcabamba mountain range, the same that includes the Salkantay and the citadel of Machu Picchu.
The lagoon is located at the foot of the Humantay mountain, which gave the lagoon its name. It is presumed that the Incas worshiped its waters near important snow-capped mountains. However, no archaeological remains were found at the site to prove this.
The lagoon is located in the community of Soraypampa, district of Mollepata, province of Anta. To get there from the city of Cusco, you must travel 128 kilometers by road.
The last part of the route must be done on foot. The road is ascending for 2.5 kilometers. Due to the altitude of the place, it is an arduous walk. Some tourists prefer to rent a horse with a muleteer from a local resident.
The snowy Salkantay
The snowy Humantay and Salkantay guard the lagoon. The latter is the second highest in Cusco. Its summit is 6,271 meters above sea level.
Because of its shape and height, the Incas considered the Salkantay an ‘Apu’ or god that deserves great respect. The mountain guards other nearby lagoons such as Inca Chiriaska, Salkantay Verde, Soqtacocha and Yanacocha.
The Incas worshiped the mountains whom they considered ‘Apus’ or sacred gods. The higher the mountains, the more sacred and respectful they were. The Salkantay was one of the gods or ‘Apus’ most respected by the Incas.
To this day, visitors leave offerings to the Humantay lagoon and the Salkantay mountain. During the tours, tourists often leave ‘apachetas’ or stone offerings in homage to the Inca gods. These ceremonies are led by tour guides.
The trip to the lagoon follows the following route: Cusco – Mollepata – Soraypampa – Humantay. The tours include transportation from Cusco to the Mollepata camp. The last section of the route is done on foot. It is an arduous walk of only 2.5 kilometers but due to its ascending sections it is a challenge for visitors.
The walk can be done by all people. However, for visitors who do not have a good physical condition, there is the possibility of renting a horse with a muleteer. Horse rental costs $30 (negotiable with the owner of the animal). These services are not included in the tours to the Humantay Lagoon.
The climate at the lagoon
The Humantay lagoon has a cold climate, especially at night and early morning. Temperatures vary from 10ºC. maximum up to 0ºC. As minimum. During the mornings and afternoons, when tourists visit the lagoon, the average temperature is 8ºC.
The rains in the Humantay lagoon are more intense from November to April. The rest of the year, from May to October, they are not as frequent but the cold is more intense at night. According to tourists, the best time to visit the lagoon is in June, July and August.
Other lagoons in Cusco
Cusco is in an Andean region full of beautiful landscapes such as lagoons with splendid waters. Get to know some of the most touristic lagoons in Cusco:
- The Huaypo Lagoon – This lagoon is located in the town of Chinchero, just 36 kilometers from the city of Cusco. It offers a beautiful landscape full of mountains, farm fields and blue waters. There, tourists can do activities such as kayaking or artisanal fishing.
- The Piuray Lagoon – This lagoon is also located in Chinchero. Its blue waters supply and supplied the city of Cusco since Inca times. It offers incredible landscapes where you can also practice sports such as kayaking or stand up paddle. There are Inca legends about Piuray and Huaypo, such as the one that maintains that they were sons of the Inca Manco Cápac.
- The Pomacanchi lagoon – This lagoon is the most beautiful of the so-called ‘Circuit of the 4 lagoons of Cusco’. It has blue waters surrounded by an idyllic mountain landscape. There are beautiful viewpoints where you can usually see Andean birds and animals. The lagoon is located in the province of Acomayo, 104 kilometers from the city of Cusco.
- The Urcos Lagoon – This lagoon is located in the city of Urcos. It has greenish blue waters where birds and fish live. There are legends about the lagoon, such as the one that mentions that in its waters there is a piece of gold used in the coronation of the emperor Huayna Cápac. The lagoon is located 50 kilometers from the city of Cusco.
The tours to the Humantay lagoon have a cost of 30 to 60 dollars, depending on the tourism agency you choose. All services include: full transportation, breakfast, lunch, entrance fee and professional tour guide. If you travel on your own, keep in mind that the entrance to the lagoon costs 10 Peruvian soles.
The waters of the lagoon are used by local people for their basic daily needs. Due to this, it is forbidden for tourists to enter them. In addition, the lagoon presents temperatures below 0ºC.
Altitude sickness (also called soroche) can be a bad time for you on your trip to the lagoon. For this reason, it is advisable to drink plenty of water and acclimatize to the geography of Cusco, at least two days before making the visit. On the day of the trip, do not forget to bring with you: a hat, good shoes, comfortable clothes for walks, rehydrating water, snacks, a poncho in case of rain, cash, documents and whatever you think is necessary.