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An Explorer’s Guide to Humantay Lake (2023 Update)

Written by: Kevin Groh

Humantay Lake An Explorer's Guide

During peak trekking season, as many as 6,000 people a day visit Machu Picchu. Many visitors make their journey along the famous Inca Trail, while others prefer the more scenic (and less crowded) Salkantay Trek.

Another bonus of making the Salkantay trek? The chance to visit stunning Humantay Lake along the way.

(And if long treks aren’t your thing, don’t worry: You can even take a day trip from Cusco to see this dazzling Humantay Mountain lagoon.)

What’s so great about Humantay Lake? Why should you visit it, and what do you need to know before you go?

Read on for your Peru travel guide and learn why Lake Humantay belongs on your must-see destination list!

Humantay Lake: Fast Facts

Humantay Lake (or Laguna Humantay to the locals) is a hidden gem beneath the peak of Mount Salkantay. Here’s a quick introduction to this natural wonder.

1. How Do I Pronounce Humantay?

First things first: Let’s make sure you know how to say it. Although it looks similar to the word “Humanity,” the Spanish pronunciation is quite different.

Drop the “H” at the beginning and change the “tay” sound at the end to a “tie” instead. When you’re saying “Oo-man-tie” you’re saying it right.

Humantay Lake with turquoise water and blue sky with white clouds

2. How Far is Humantay Lake from Cusco?

Humantay Lake lies about 80 miles (130km) northwest of Cusco.

3. How do you get to Humantay Lake from Cusco?

It takes about 3 hours to reach by road if you visit on a day trip from Cusco. You start by taking either a bus or van to the village of Soraypampa and then starting the Humantay Lake Hike. If you’re taking the Salkantay trek, you’ll pass the lake on your first day.

4. What is the Humantay Lake Elevation?

Humantay isn’t only breathtaking because of its beauty. The glacial lake sits at an impressive elevation of 13,779 feet (4200m) above sea level-likely much higher than most places you’ve visited before.

Even though it’s a relatively short hike to the lake, you’ll want to make sure you’ve acclimated for a few days in Cusco before you venture out. This will minimize your chances of developing altitude sickness.

5. What’s the Significance of the Humantay Lake Peru Area?

Not surprisingly, the lake was considered a sacred place to the Incas. They believed that the surrounding mountains were home to deities, and even now the lake area has tangible positive energy.

The spectacular turquoise color of the lake combined with the breathtaking mountain scenery is the perfect setting for spiritual contemplation and reflection. Shamans and other spiritual pilgrims frequent the lake, often leaving an “apacheta” (small offering) for the Incan Mother Earth, Pachamama.

When you visit, you’ll see many cairns (stacked rocks) around the shores. If you want to leave your own apacheta, say a prayer of thanks to Pachamama for your safe arrival before you add your rock to the stack.

6. Why Should I Visit Laguna Humantay?

If your jaw drops when you see photos, just wait until you see this lake in person. The electric-blue water beneath the snowcapped peak of Salkantay is a memory you’ll carry with you for the rest of your life.

Unless you regularly trek at high altitude, you’ll also walk away with a wonderful sense of accomplishment. It’s no easy feat to hike at such an elevation, so you’ll love that “King of the World” feeling that only comes from a serious alpine trek. If you’re feeling up to it, you can also explore the surrounding area via mountain bike or go paddleboarding through the clear waters.

You might have the chance to witness a local ritual, such as an offering to Pachamama or a traditional Andean wedding ceremony.

Chances are, though, that you’ll have most of the lakeshore to yourself. Lake Humantay is still largely undiscovered by most tourists, so you need to come and see it before the secret gets out!

Person wearing boots sitting in front of Lake Humantay with glacier in the background

Things to Know Before You Go

Signing up for a tour is the easiest and safest way to visit Lake Humantay. You’ll have a knowledgable guide to bring you there and ensure your safety on the trail, meaning all you have to do is enjoy the scenery!

How is the Weather of Humantay Lake?

Still, the high-altitude alpine climate is unique, and it’s best to be prepared before you embark on your journey.

The weather can change drastically and quickly in the mountains, so you’ll want to bring plenty of layers (including a waterproof outer layer). The rainy season lasts from December to March and the temperatures can drop to freezing (or colder) from June through September.

Another factor many visitors overlook is the sun. Just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean you can’t get sunburned – in fact, your chances of sunburn increase at high elevation. Be sure to wear sunblock when you set out and reapply it throughout the day.

    How is the Humantay Lake Hike Difficulty?

    Given the remote setting, you’ll also want to bring plenty of water and snacks for your journey. You’ll burn through a lot of calories on the short hike up to the lake, so make sure you have enough food to replenish your energy level.

    And even if you don’t feel thirsty, make sure you’re drinking enough water. At this elevation, experts recommend an extra 1-1.5 liters of water on top of the normal recommended amount.

    Our last piece of advice is to take it slow, hike at your own pace, and stop to enjoy the views along the way. This might be the most beautiful place you ever visit, so you’ll want to soak up every second of the experience.

    Peru Travel: Add Lake Humantay to Your Itinerary

    Most mountain lagoons like Lake Humantay require a lot of time and effort to reach.

    The great thing about Humantay Lake is that it’s possible to visit on a day trip from Cusco. You’ll have all the rewards of visiting a remote glacial lagoon-with only a fraction of the effort.

    Are you ready to add this dazzling lake to your Peru travel itinerary? Would you like to combine your visit to Lake Humantay with a trek or other sightseeing options?

    Fill out our online booking form and let’s discuss your upcoming trip.

    Humantay Lake FAQs

    Can you swim in Humantay Lake?

    Yes, you can find people swimming, hiking, mountain biking, and paddleboarding in Humantay Lake.

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