City: Cusco // Activities: Trekking tour to the Humantay lake // Reading time: 6 min
There are many options to do amazing tours when you’re in Cusco. Until a few years ago, most people used to stay in Cusco and its surroundings for 3 days.
Nowadays, we can see that more and more people stay between 4 and 5 days in Cusco, as they also want to get to know Cusco’s rainbow mountains and/or the Humantay lake (check out or Best of Cusco in 4 days tour if that sounds interesting to you).
Both options are absolutely worth considering as they will show you more of Peru’s spectacular nature.
In this post, we will tell you all you need to know about the tour and why going to the Humantay lake with us is your best choice.
The Humantay Lake Tour
Pickup, drive and breakfast
The alarm clock rang at 3:00 am, we got our stuff ready and our guide Carlos picked us up from our hotel at 3:30 am as communicated the night before. In the bus, there were 2 Americans, 1 Indian, 3 Germans and 1 Peruvian waiting for us.
Everyone was still a little tired but definitely very excited for what was to come.
Once we were on the outskirts of Cusco, Carlos put on some relaxing music which was perfect for falling asleep.
I woke up when we got to the checkpoint where you need to pay an entrance fee of S/ 10 ($3). From this point, it took us around 1 hour more until we reached our breakfast spot.
It was 6:26 am and the first sun rays came out. Perfect time to get a small energetic breakfast of coffee/tea, bread and jelly, fruit and cereals.
After some nice group conversations where we got to know each other better, we entered the van again in order to get to the starting point of the trek. This took us another 45 minutes and during this ride the driver really earned our respect.
You could tell that he knew how to drive (and that it wasn’t his first time doing this tour). There were quite some locals with their horses on the way and the on top that it was curvy and very narrow.
We arrived at the parking lot together with another van, but they headed to a restaurant to get breakfast so we were the only ones on the hike.
In front of us, there were a couple horses and two beautiful mountains: the Humantay mountain on the left and the Salkantay mountain on the right. Take a look for yourself.
View of the Salkantay mountain on the right side of the mountain (20,574 ft / 6271 m)
The hike up and some time at the lake
On the way to the starting point of the hike, we passed various igloos in which people sleep before starting the Salkantay trek, a 5-day tour to Machu Picchu.
Once we made it to the starting point, some people in our group decided to rent a horse for S/ 70 for the way up. That’s definitely a great option for inexperienced hikers or people that want to take it easy.
One of our travelers taking a horse to the Humantay lake.
If you’re in a good shape, I wouldn’t say it’s necessary. Just make sure to take it slow as the altitude is no joke.
As our guide Carlos said, “The first part up to the wooden house is the most difficult part. The rest of the hike is easy.” And he was right.
On the way to the wooden house we could see the fog coming closer and closer behind us. I was worried that we wouldn’t get any clear shots of the Humantay lake. Luckily, the fog disappeared after a while and we were good to go.
We made short stops along the way and Carlos took great care of us respecting everyone’s pace. During a stop, he poured some Eau de Cologne, also known as “condor piss” in Peru, in our hands which we then rubbed and inhaled. This felt great and we were ready to take on the last part of the hike.
This part turned out to be rather simple to be honest. The feeling of hiking to the lake being the only group around was incredible. Nobody around us, even when we finally arrived at the lake.
Everyone of us was surprised by the beautiful setting: a crystal-clear lake at 4200 m and a mighty mountain, the Humantay mountain (17,956 ft / 5.473 m) in the back.
After taking some photos at this spot, we moved on to another one where we could see the entire lake from a more elevated position. Just fascinating!
After 40 minutes or so, the first tourist groups started to arrive. We made sure to get the best photos and then started to descend after being at the lake for 1 hour enjoying the sun and the view.
The hike to the lake took us around 2 hours and the distance was 3 km. Descending was faster, but the distance was the same.
The hike down, lunch and the return to Cusco
Saying “We’re the first ones to get you there” sounds nice but when you have experienced it yourself, you will understand why it’s so amazing.
It makes you feel like an explorer that just discovered an impressive piece of nature before everyone else. It somehow feels like a privilege. And that’s not just me saying it, but everyone in the group agreed on that.
The way down was uncomplicated. It was the same way we used to get to the Humantay lake, only that this time there were tons of people coming up.
Small groups, large groups, people with horses, guides that urged their clients to hurry up etc. We’ve seen all of it.
Once we made it back to the van, everyone was happy to sit down again knowing that lunch wasn’t far. We headed back to the same restaurant where we had breakfast and everything was all set already.
For lunch we had a quinoa-vegetable soup and a buffet with different vegetables, rice, chicken and spaghetti with meatballs. The server brought us a kind of sweet pineapple juice and there was also tea or coffee available.
I think everyone fell asleep on the way back to Cusco, as we were all exhausted from getting up so early and hiking at 4000+ meters.
We made it back to Cusco at 4:00 pm which was great as we had the entire afternoon for ourselves. The driver dropped us off in front of our hotel with 3 others that stayed close to us, said goodbye to everyone and were left with incredible memories from this day.
Why our Humantay Lake tour is the best option
- You get to the lake as one of the first people, if not the first ones.
- You are in a small group of 2-8 people
- Our guide hikes in a flexible pace adapted to you. No rushing.
- Take incredible photos where the large groups don’t go
The Humantay lake tour is a great option for a day tour from Cusco. Even though it is well known already, you won’t be bothered by large crowds as you arrive before them.
The crystal-clear water and the incredible view of the Humantay mountain and the Salkantay mountain convinced us at Exploor that this tour is definitely one of the top things to do in Cusco.
No matter if you plan on doing this tour, the rainbow mountain tour or another high-altitude trekking tour, we definitely recommend getting acclimated minimum 2 days before so you don't have problems with the altitude sickness.
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