I came across Humantay Lake by chance. Actually, I think it was by Instagram sponsored ad after researching all things Peru. Either way, this was absolutely a day well spent. You are able to hike this one alone should you so choose, but I opted to go the guide route given I was traveling alone. You can easily book the trek upon arrival in Cusco for around 80 soles (~$25 USD) however if you’re going to book before, make sure you price shop. There are plenty of overpriced options out there. I went with Get Your Guide (basically, a travel broker who coordinates with the local tour agency) as they were reasonably priced ($36 USD) with good reviews.
The day began at 3:45am when the guide and I were supposed to meet at my hostel. I say “supposed to” because we had a slight… miscommunication. You see, I was staying at the Supertramp Hostel (highly recommend if you’re looking for somewhere to crash). There are 2 possible pickup locations at this hostel: the one that Google Maps directs you to at the top of a super narrow road, and the one that probably makes more sense that falls downhill from the hostel and is equipped with a turning circle. I chose the former. Around 15 minutes after I was supposed to be picked up, I realized my mistake and ran (literally) down the stairs to the other location just in time to see a man hop into the van and watch the van pull away.
At this point, with a feeling of slight defeat, I emailed the company, let them know what happened, started to research other activities that I could do at 4am (I was up, after all), and reluctantly made my way back up to the hostel where the concierge waved me down. He asked if I had a tour scheduled, called the guide, arranged for a new meeting place, called me a cab and after what felt like a “high speed” 8 minutes, I was at the van receiving unimpressed glances from the other tourists. We were on our way.
The trail to hike up to Humantay Lake (the only way to reach it) starts at Soraypampa base camp, a very scenic 3 hour drive from Cusco. This is the same location where the Salkantay trek kicks off and is nestled between Salkantay and Humantay Peaks.
The hike starts at 12,700 feet (3,850 meters) and climbs 1,200 feet (350 meters) with Humantay Peak in sight nearly the entire way. As you make your way up to the lake, you’ll undoubtedly pass wild livestock, as well as a plethora of horses available should you decide to throw in the towel and need a lift.
The lake itself is located at 13,779 feet (4,200 meters) and is absolutely worth the gain. As you approach, you’ll be greeted with what look like cairns everywhere. But cairns, they are not. Instead, these are called Apachetas and are intended to give thanks to Pachamama (Mother Earth).
Try to get there early or late (if you’re going alone). I was lucky enough to be the second person to arrive at the top, so had time to take it all in without the distraction of other tourists. But it gets busy. Fast. Take some time to reflect on all of the things you have to be grateful for. And build an apacheta to give thanks to mother Earth for beautiful places such as this.
- Bring water. The lake water is not potable due to the bacteria contained within the glacier melt. And you’re going to be thirsty at the top.
- Bring snacks. Because, well, you can’t go wrong with snacks at the top of a mountain.
- Bring toilet paper. And 10 soles if you plan on using the toilet. They will charge you.