The stretch of the Andes Mountains that surrounds Cusco is absolutely breathtaking, making it a must to go out and see if you are in the area. We can’t all take one of the hikes to Machu Picchu though, whether age, fitness level, cost, or time be a prohibiting factor. Luckily, there are many other ways to experience the beauty of the Andes. The Humantay Lake hike starts at the beginning of the Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu and offers stunning views for a day’s adventure.
Finding a Humantay Lake Tour
The Humantay Lake hike is a popular excursion and one of the many great things to do in Cusco. There is an abundance of tours able to take you there. Not all are created equal though, so research is imperative to your experience. The only way to reach Humantay Lake is by tour or your own personal transportation. There is no public transport going into the park, but finding a tour is not difficult. Just walk around the Plaza de Armas, and ask around for tour details from the various companies. It is a good idea to ask for recommendations and do research online, but it is often cheaper to book in person. For more information on Cusco and finding tours, check out our Cusco City Guide.
We took a sort of private tour with a friend of a friend who lives in Cusco. He commonly offers trips of Humantay Lake, Rainbow Mountain, the Sacred Valley, and other surrounding areas. This was a great option for the four of us because it allowed for a little more flexibility and we were up at the lake before all the tours arrived. It was cheaper than the tour to the lake, but didn’t include lunch. It was still very worth it in our opinion. If you would like his contact information, feel free to contact us.
The Humantay Lake Hike
We headed out from the apartment in Alex’s little Toyota at 5 a.m. sharp. It was dark and rainy for the majority of the three-hour drive to the start of the trail. We briefly stopped at the entrance to the park to pay the entrance fee, which was a mere S/.10 per person. After that point, the going was slow on the muddy and rocky road to the trailhead.
When we started the Humantay Lake hike, the fog was thick. We reached the base camp for those starting the Salkantay Trek where one can hire a horse to ride up to the lake if desired. We began the steep, muddy hike on foot. The slippery mud definitely made the hike a bit challenging at points for fear of falling.
The trail snaked up the hillside, crossing rivers along the way. The fog was still heavy, and the thick clouds rolled through the valley, lightly stroking the greenery as they moved. We huffed up the last incline and arrived at the lake after 3.6 kilometers (2.25 miles), greeting only three others who were already taking in the views.
The clouds masked the glaciers and peaks we knew towered above the lake. It was kind of a bummer, but the fog passing through the basin provided a peaceful atmosphere. The vibrant aqua and green water seemed to reflect into the fog, giving it a blue tint.
We perched our packs on a rock and wandered around the edge of the lake for some photos. The water color was truly amazing, and it flawlessly reflected the mountains that surround the lake. In about 30 minutes, groups of tourists filled the shores. People were flying their loud drones just barely above our heads, filling the once silent air with an annoying buzz.
At this point, we decided to head back down. The mud had started to dry a bit, but was still slippery. When reaching the bottom of the hill, we all washed our muddy shoes in the river before hopping in the car. The drive home took longer than the expected three hours due to a landslide that took an hour to clear. We luckily had a lunch packed that we enjoyed in the car. We made it back to Cusco between 4:30 and 5:00 that evening, tired but thrilled for the day spent in the mountains.
The Humantay Lake Hike at a Glance
Tour Cost: S/.80 + S/.10 park entrance fee per person
Tour Cost (With Alex): S/.300 for up to four people + S/. 10 park entrance fee per person
Tour Duration: 12-13 hours
Hike Distance: 4.5 miles/7.2 kilometers round trip
Hike Duration: 1 hour – 1 hour 45 minutes hours to hike one way
Elevation Gain: 1,100 feet/330 meters
What to Bring: Rain jacket, warm jacket, first aid kit, comfortable hiking shoes (they may get wet and muddy), plenty of water, hiking poles if desired, sunscreen, sunglasses, snacks and lunch if not provided on tour, camera, cash for entrance fee