Serenity at Humantay Lake: A Stunning Day Trip from Cusco, Peru (2024 Guide)

Written by Kali Todd

Budget Travel Guides & Tips

February 6, 2024

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Just a stone’s throw away from Cusco lies the majestic Andes Mountains and breathtaking Humantay Lake. This jewel, surrounded by towering peaks and untouched landscapes, is a must-visit destination for those seeking a day of adventure and beauty.

View of Humantay LakeView of Humantay Lake

How my day went

I opted for a day trip with Willka Cusco, a reputable local company that provided an experienced guide, all for under $40. At the time of my booking, TripAdvisor was running a promotion that made the day excursion $67 for two people. This all-inclusive package includes hotel pick-up in Cusco, comfortable transportation in a mini-van, wonderful homemade breakfast and lunch, walking sticks, and the entrance fee to Humantay Lake. It was an incredible experience for an exceptional price! 

The adventure started in Cusco, Peru with a dark and early morning being picked up from my hotel at about 4:15 AM. From there the guide picked up a few other tour guests from nearby hotels and we started the drive towards Humantay Lake! 

View of Humantay LakeView of Humantay Lake

Tip #1

The drive to and from Humantay Lake is along a winding road that can easily cause car sickness. One man in our group really struggled with the drive down so I highly recommend Dramamine or the extremely stylish motion sickness glasses.

With an early kick-off, everyone on board seized the opportunity for a power nap until the sun decided to join the party. We rolled into Mollepata, Peru at around 7 AM and found ourselves at a beautiful home. A fantastic homemade buffet-style breakfast was made for us so we could fuel up for the intense hike ahead. 

Where we ate breakfast and lunch in Mollepata, Peru

After a delicious breakfast, we hopped back in the van for a 1-hour journey to the start of the Humantay Lake hike.

At the start of the hike, each person on the tour went at their own pace. Being from Florida and not used to the elevation, my pace was undoubtedly slow! But in my defense, the highest elevation in Florida is a whopping 345 feet (105 meters).

The Humantay Lake hike is no joke, starting at 12,630 feet (3,849 meters) and reaching a height of 13,779 feet (4,200 meters) – an elevation gain of 1,150 feet (350 meters). I’ll reiterate, this hike is hard!

Alpacas near the start of the hike

Because this hike is at such a high elevation, it is recommended to stay in Cusco for a few days to acclimate. Cusco is also located in the Andes Mountains, at 11,152 feet (3,399 meters) above sea level, so it’s a great starting point for all the high-elevation activities in the region.  

Thankfully, I did not have any altitude sickness here or even on our Rainbow Mountain hike (article coming soon) which was at a shocking 17,100 feet (5,200 meters) above sea level – nearly the same elevation as Everest Base Camp, for perspective.

If you don’t have the same luck when it comes to higher altitudes, along with medication you can bring to Peru, try the cocoa tea – a natural remedy that is very popular in the Cusco region. The bed and breakfast I stayed right in the heart of the historic district had coca tea available 24/7 for guests. Some people swear by it, so you will have to give it a try.

Tip #2

Make sure you have the right footwear. I wore these Salomon women’s waterproof hiking boots for comfort and stability on the trail. I had so many problems with my feet while hiking before I finally found this brand!

Horse lounging on the mountain side and view of Humantay Lake

The great thing about this destination is that hiking is not the only way up. Locals have horses and mules available for an additional cost, typically 80 soles or $21 per person. Mentally, I wanted to push myself to make it to the top on foot, but I was slowing down after 45+ minutes of hiking. I eventually decided to take a horse the rest of the way up and stopped a local coming down with his horses who offered a ride for half the typical fare. If you are not used to hiking at this elevation, I strongly urge you to consider a horse at the beginning on the hike. 

Once I arrived at the top, I was met with live traditional Andean music, referred to as “taqui” in Quechua, and the stunning backdrop of Humantay Lake. In front of me was a panorama of serene beauty – the turquoise alpine lake with the reflection of the towering snow-capped mountains of Salkantay and vibrant addition of purple Lupins lining the lake shores.

Tip #3

Make sure to carry plenty of water and some snacks for this hike! I personally love a hydration backpack with waist support. It’s easy on my back and I don’t have to fumble with taking the backpack on and off to grab a water bottle. 

I also added a hydration electrolyte drink mix to my water to help with the altitude. I’m obsessed with Liquid IV’s strawberry electrolyte drink mix. Remember those strawberry creme candies that were popular in the 1990s and 2000s? This tastes just like it.

Even with my slow hiking, I was able to spend at least a half an hour admiring the lake and views. Humantay Lake is considered a sacred site by the local Quechua people. It means “rest” and “stay forever,” and it’s no doubt this name was given because of the immense natural beauty of the site. 

The hike down can only be done on foot, there are no horses available. But I found the trail down was much easier to catch my breath on and takes about 1 hour. And the views never disappointed. For much of the trail down, I followed a beautiful stream. Picture the perfect nature playlist with the sound of running water and lively birds in the background – that is this hike!

Humantay Lake and view of the stream on the hike down

I met back at the tour van once I finished the hike and our group hit the road, headed for lunch. We stopped back at the same family restaurant where we had breakfast, located in Mollepata, and enjoyed another fantastic buffet-style meal before continuing the drive back to Cusco. The tour guide dropped us off right outside our hotel by 6 PM. 

A day trip to Humantay Lake from Cusco is not just an excursion; it’s a journey into the heart of Peru’s natural wonders. With the convenience of a guided tour, the experience become enriched with insights and stories that bring the landscape to life. Although Humantay Lake tested my hiking abilities, or lack thereof at high elevations, I look back at the adventure with so much appreciation! Humantay Lake is a prime destination for nature enthusiasts. 

What is Humantay Lake?

Nestled high in the Peruvian Andes is Humantay Lake, a stunning gem formed from glacier runoff, creating a vibrant emerald-turquoise shade of water with the reflection of the surrounding mountains. Humantay is pronounced Uman-Tie and is considered a sacred lake to the Quechua people.

View of Humantay LakeView of Humantay Lake

Where is it located?

Humantay Lake is located 2.5 miles above sea level in the Andes mountain range in Peru, about 3 to 3.5 hours from Cusco, in the town of Soraypampa.

How did Humantay Lake get its turquoise color?

Mineral runoff from the glaciers surrounding Humantay Lake and the presence of microalgae creates the unique coloring.

What tour did I take for Humantay Lake?

I booked my Humantay Lake tour with Willka Cusco on TripAdvisor. The tour was fantastic and included everything we needed for a long day out at a fantastic price. If you have any questions, you can reach out to the company on WhatsApp at +51 984951059 or visit their office at Calle Garcilaso 265 Office 7 Cusco.

Can I take a taxi?

Yes, but you’ll be paying much more than an all-inclusive tour. A taxi to and from Humantay will run about 290 soles or $75, not including the 20 soles (~$5) entry fee per person. An all-inclusive tour costs less than $40 per person and includes the entry fee to Humantay Lake along with both breakfast and lunch. I personally would opt for a tour unless you are familiar with the region and can find a reputable driver that is willing to wait 3+ hours while you hike. The only perk to taking a taxi is being able to explore Humantay Lake without all the crowds since you can arrive later in the day.

Tip #4

Don’t rent a car in Peru. The roads can be wild and traffic patterns are hectic. Taxis and private tours are extremely affordable. For Humantay Lake, I highly recommend a tour with Willka Cusco!

How long is the hike to Humantay Lake?

The hike is 1.5 hours up, 1 hour back, and approximately 2.6 miles. The first half of the trail runs at an incline of about 40% whereas the second half of the trail is at 65-70% incline. 

Is the elevation that bad?

Yes! Do not downplay the effects of high elevation. Before hiking make sure you are acclimated to the elevation or know from previous experience that you will not fall ill to the high elevation.

Is hiking the only option to get up to the lake? 

No, you also have the option to pay an additional fee for a horse. The fee runs about 90 soles or $24 per person and has a weight limit of about 180 pounds. The horses take you up the majority of the way, stopping shy of the end, where you are required to hike an additional 10 minutes to the lake.

Horses are only available for the upward journey – you will need to hike down on foot.

Is there a bathroom?

Yes, there is a bathroom at the base of the hike and you’ll need a few soles to use it.

Where did I stay in Cusco?

I stayed at a fantastic bed and breakfast in the historic district of Cusco called Amaru Inca, located at Cuesta San Blas, 541, Cusco City Centre, 84 Cusco, Peru. My stay included breakfast and a private bathroom (with plenty of hot water)! The view of the city from the hotel was stunning.

View of Cusco from hotelView of Cusco at night from Amaru Inca Hotel

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  1. Sheenia

    Beautiful post, love the photos!

  2. Ginger

    Humantay Lake looks simply splendid, thanks for the discovery and for all your useful tips too. Added this hike to my list!

  3. Roseline

    lovely share, found your blog just at the right time because I was just thinking if I should visit Costa Rica or Peru and your post has just made things easier.

  4. Maryanne

    What a stunning location! I love the alpacas too 🙂 This is very useful information and I love all the tips too. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Kevin Foodie

    Never heard of Humantay Lake until I read your blog. The aqua blue-green color of the water is captivating. Are visitors allowed to swim? The 1.5 hour hike sounds like fun. Thanks for sharing your detailed travel experiences.

    • Kali Todd

      It’s stunning! Swimming is not permitted in order to protect the minerals and algae that create the beautiful colors, as well as prevent litter and pollution. The water is also used by locals for drinking water and farming.

  6. Jolayne

    The lake is amazing. I can see why you would want to visit Peru!

  7. Miss Simplitty

    Amazing photos. I’m sure you had a great trip.

    • Kali Todd

      Thank you! It was amazing!

  8. Vickie Moua

    Wow! What a beautiful lake! I appreciate your first tip! I get motion sickness easily on long trips. This lake is definitely going on my bucket list!

  9. Anne Betts

    What an amazing experience and such stunning scenery. I loved your tips… and learned about the existence of motion sickness glasses. Thank you for such an informative post.

  10. Andrea

    So beautiful! I’ve actually never heard of Humantay lake, but I would love to visit! Looks breathtaking.

    • Kali Todd

      It’s stunning! I highly recommend it if you’re visiting Peru!

  11. Nanna

    Oh wow! I would love to visit!!

  12. Courtney

    Beautiful! I’d love to visit!

  13. Angelia

    So beautiful! Peru is one of my bucket list trips. Your posts are so informative. Thank you for sharing!


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