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Humantay Lake

Humantay Lake or Humantay Lagoon is a turquoise blue mirror located high on the flanks of the majestic snow-capped peak Apu Humantay. The crystalline water of the lagoon is actually melt water from the Humanatay glacier above. From this vantage point you will be able to see all up and down the magnificent mountains and glaciers of the Vilcabamba Range.

This pristine lagoon serves as a refuge for Andean fauna and flora. It is a living icon representing the awesome beauty of Peru. And it is also one of the most popular and most scenic destinations in the Cusco region.

Everyday Humantay Lake is visited by hundreds of travelers. Among these visitors are the people who choose to escape the noise and the humdrum routine of the city. And there are those who prefer to travel afar in order to breathe the absolutely pure air of the high Andes. Here the adventurer can observe nature in its wild state, and seek an unforgettable experience high in the eternal ethers.

But this is not only a place of incredible colors: It is not only a place where one can feel the magic of the amazing landscape. It is also a sacred and a mystic spot where you can witness the fragility of the terrestrial ecosystem and view the effects of climate change.

Laguna Humantay
Laguna Humantay

Etymology

Humantay comes from the Quechua word HUMANTAY which means “Head of the Gods”. This could possibly be because of its location at the highest variant of the Upper Jungle.

History

There is not a lot of information about the history of this lagoon. The geologists tell us that it is certainly of glacial origin. At some time in the past of human history, the snow and ice came down and covered the lower parts of the mountain. These great blocks of ice carved out depressions on the sides of the mountain. When the ice melted, the beautiful Humantay Lagoon was left behind.

On the other hand local tradition tells us that Apu Humantay was the youngest son of Apu Salkantay. They were both in charge of rationing and sharing out the water that flows down from the eternal snows above to all of the villages and farms that are on the flanks of these great peaks. Therefore they are venerated by the local population as representatives of Pachamama.

This is the reason why you will be able to see innumerable apachetas in the area. These are mounds of stones placed one on top of the other by local people or by travelers. They can be an offering of thanksgiving to Pachamama, or of thanks for having made it safely to the lagoon. Or they could also be petitions for protection on the journey.

The Location of Humantay Lake

The turquoise blue Humantay Lake is located on the flanks of the great snow-capped Humantay Mtn. It is northeast of the city of Cusco, in the Soraypampa community, in the Mollepata district, in the province of Anta, and in the region of Cusco, Peru.

Altitude

  • Height: 4200 masl (13,780 ft.).
  • Co-ordinates: South latitude: 13°24’41.72” and east longitude: 72°37’2.43”
  • Area of the lagoon: 618 meters long and 164 meters wide (approximately).

Climate and Temperature

  • The weather is generally cool during the day in the dry season (April- Nov.) It is cold at night and in the early hours of the morning. It can be cloudy and rainy during the wet season (Dec.- March.)
  • The temperature generally varies between 4 C° and 17 C°.

How to get to Humantay Lagoon?

If you wanted to get to the lagoon on your own from Cusco, we would recommend the following route:

  • Cusco – Mollepata. Take the bus to Mollepata from the Arcopata terminal. You will travel along Route PE-3S until you arrive at the Mollepata turn off. From there follow the paved road until you reach Mollepata. The bus ride costs 15 soles. The distance is 98.5 km. The trip takes between an hour and 45 minutes and two hours.
  • Mollepata – Soraypampa. When you reach Mollepata pay the 10 soles fee that enables you to enter Humantay Lagoon. Then eat some breakfast. Next find a taxi that will take you to Soraypampa. The route Mollepata – Soraypampa is a pretty good unpaved road. The distance is 22 km. It usually takes an hour. The taxis charge about 20 soles.
  • Soraypampa – Humantay Lake. From the village of Soraypampa begin hiking up the trail that leads to Humantay Lake. The distance to the lagoon is 2.25 km. The time it takes you depends on what kind of physical shape that you are in, and how fast you want to walk. It usually takes somewhere between 40 and 80 minutes. If you find it necessary you can rent a horse for 70 soles.

You would return by the same route. One problem that you might encounter is that it is difficult to find a taxi that will take you from Soraypampa back to Mollepata. Therefore it is a good idea to coordinate your return journey with the taxi driver who took you from Mollepata to Soraypampa in the first place.

But why make it so complicated? In the end you will probably spend more money trying to get there by yourself. It is a better idea to travel with your travel agency and forget about trying to contract separate taxi rides and figuring which restaurant is a good one. The price of an all-inclusive day tour to Humantay Lagoon is about $20US. Such tours are for sale near the Plaza de Armas in Cusco.


The Distance from Cusco to Humantay Lake

The distance between Cusco and Humantay Lake is 123 km. It is split up in the following way:

  • Paved road to from Cusco to Mollepata: 98.5 km.
  • Dirt road from Mollepata to Soraypampa: 22 km.
  • The hike from Soraypampa up to Humantay Lake: 2.5 km.

Difficulty of the Hike to Humantay

The level of difficulty for this hike is rated as moderate.

The trail starts out going up a pretty steep incline. Then the trail winds around curves and there are quite a few loose rocks. The final section is a short descent where you can look down and see the peaceful, clear water.

Aside from the loose stones, the cold, and the high elevation, it is a relatively easy hike.

The Color of Humantay Lake

The magical turquoise color of the water in the lagoon is due to the purity of the glacial melt-water and a species of algae called Microcystis aeruginosa y Oscillatoria.

The color is very vulnerable to human action. Unauthorized visitors have entered the lagoon and caused the water near the shore to change from turquoise to gray. For that reason entering the water is forbidden.

What is there to see at Humantay Lake?

At Humantay Lagoon you can:

  • Appreciate the incredible beauty of the lagoon itself and the view of the surrounding mountains. You will be right up close to the glacier covered summits of Apu Humantay and Apu Salkantay.
  • Observe the crystalline clarity of the waters of the lagoon, and get to know the exotic flora and fauna of the high Andes mountains.
  • In addition to this, on the hike up to Humantay Lagoon you will be able to breathe the cool, pure mountain air, and feel the peace and tranquility that it all around.

Recommendations

  • Spend some time getting acclimated in Cusco before you start the hike.
  • You should be in good health and in good physical condition.Wear lightweight clothing that is appropriate for trekking. Use comfortable water repellant hiking boots. Long pants and long sleeved shirts are appropriate. Bring a wide brimmed hat. It could get cold. Dress warm.
  • You should bring sun block, insect repellant, a rain poncho, and walking sticks.
  • Bring cash money in soles. That way can buy something if you want to.
  • Morning is the best time to visit the lagoon. Then you won´t chase away the exotic wildlife.
  • Finally, if you looking for a wonderful, exclusive trip to Humantay Lagoon, you could consider our Humantay Lake Tour as an option.

Would you like to transform your way of looking at Mother Nature? Visit Humantay Lagoon and become captivated by the amazing mountain scenery, the crystal clear streams, the peaceful mirror-like waters, and by the exotic Andean biodiversity.

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