© iStock/Creative-Family
© iStock/Creative-Family

Humantay Lagoon, a natural wonder of the Peruvian highlands

3 minutes to read

In the surroundings of Cusco, the former Inca capital, for centuries, stunning natural places have remained covered by geysers. In the last years, the geysers have considerably thawed, revealing some of these magical sites, secretly known and considered sacred by the local natives. It is the case of Rainbow Mountain or, our subject for today, Humantay Lagoon, a natural wonder that lately has become one of the most visited places of the Peruvian highlands.

Humantay Lagoon, Cusco
Humantay Lagoon, Cusco
© iStock/Creative-Family
© iStock/Creative-Family

A trail for brave ones

As you might know, trekking in the highlands is a true challenge. The lack of air caused by the altitude can make a relatively short path feel endless. This trek has a length of less than 2 km (one way), but it can take from 1.5 to 3 hours to reach Humantay Lagoon because of its altitude and inclination. Still, if you like challenges, you will make it through. Just make sure to take with you a few coca leaves for altitude sickness!

The way up

The way up trail starts in the Soraypampa community. Keep in mind that during the rainy season, from December to March, the fog can affect the visibility of the lagoon. On the other hand, in June and July, sometimes the path can get covered with snow or ice. In both cases, the difficulty of the trail will increase, nevertheless, the place is still impressive.

Even if the ending point of the trek is Humantay Lagoon, the whole trail is astonishing! Do not let the rush keep you from enjoying the way up. Stop and look back from time to time. You will face an impressive landscape. Remember, you are going up, so the view just gets better as you get further.

© ZoomalMapa/Vanesa Zegada
© ZoomalMapa/Vanesa Zegada

Humantay Lagoon and Apu Salkantay Mountain

At approximately 4200 meters above sea level, surrounded by mountains, is Humantay Lagoon, which means “The Head of the Gods”, in the Quechua language. The crystal-clear waters of Humantay Lagoon have a lime green color near the shore, acquiring an emerald green color in deeper areas, contrasting with the white snow of the surroundings. Feeding the lagoon is Apu Salkantay, a majestic snowy mountain with its top at 6271 meters above sea level. The prefix “Apu” (meaning "lord") is given to several Andean mountains, considered sacred protectors of the Andean towns, providing them with pure water from their melting snow.

Swimming in Humantay Lagoon is not permitted, not only because it is considered a sacred place but also because its color could be altered. Furthermore, the water coming from the mountains and going through the lagoon feeds the nature and populations beneath.

© iStock/Jhon Eduard Rincon Rios
© iStock/Jhon Eduard Rincon Rios

Spending the night in the Andean nature

Generally, the visit to Humantay Lagoon is done as a day tour from Cusco city. However, if you would like to spend the night in the area, there are camping spots, lodges and domes in the Soraypampa community, at the feet of the trekking path. Spending a night in the middle of the Andean nature might be the cherry on the cake of this experience! Soraypampa is also one of the stop points of the Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu, a trail that generally takes 5 days and passes through several natural wonders of the Peruvian highlands.

Soraypampa, Cusco
Soraypampa, Cusco
© ZoomalMapa/Vanesa Zegada
© ZoomalMapa/Vanesa Zegada

Even if the trekking can get tough, you will feel that every breath was worth the effort. Just admire Humantay Lagoon, a natural wonder of the Peruvian highlands and its surroundings, which constitute some of the area’s most spectacular views. In other words, this will be a memorable experience!


The author

Vanesa Zegada

Vanesa Zegada

I am Vanesa and I am from Bolivia. I am in love with my homeland. It never stops surprising me, even if I am a local. It is a place full of diversity, traditions, interesting spots that I want to share with you through my stories on itinari.

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