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Mar 20, 2024



Located among the high snowcapped mountains of northwestern Cusco, at an altitude of over 4,200 meters, Humantay Lake is a stunning turquoise body of water surrounded by white peaks. This lake is a popular destination for adventurous travelers who seek majestic landscapes away from chaotic downtown areas. In this blog, you will discover 10 fascinating facts about Humantay Lake that will inspire you to witness the splendor of this Andean landmark.

1. Natural Origins

The turquoise color of Humantay Lake is due to its glacial origins. The lake formed from the melting of the nearby Humantay snowcapped mountain, part of the Salkantay mountain range, which continues to feed the lake with its icy waters. As the snow melts, it carries finely ground rock particles, known as ‘glacial flour,’ which absorbs specific electromagnetic spectra from the sun’s rays giving the lake its captivating hue.

2. Legendary Origins

For centuries, Humantay Lake has been of great significance to the local indigenous communities. According to Inca mythology, the lake is believed to be the tears of the mountain deity, Apu Salkantay. This connection to ancient traditions and spirituality adds an extra layer of mystique to this captivating natural wonder.

Furthermore, according to traditional tales, the high Salkantay snowcapped mountain (6271 masl/ 20574 ft) had several sons, and Humantay was one of them who was responsible for providing water to the populations in northern Cusco. Salkantay is the second highest mountain in Cusco, while Ausangate, located in southern Cusco, is the highest (6385masl/ 20948 ft). Both mountains are considered the spiritual protectors of the Cusco city since Inca times.

3. Meaning of “Humantay” lake

Humantay is the snowcapped mountain that feeds the lake below with its snow. Humantay is a Quechua word that means ‘the greatest head of them’. The name comes from the word ‘uma’, which means ‘head’, and ‘ntay’, which means ‘part of them’. This makes Humantay the greatest peak along the Salkantay mountain range.

In contrast, locals believe that the name changed throughout history and originated from ‘umanapuntay,’ which means the head of the gods or the main head of gods. This belief is not far from reality, as reaching the lake feels like being in heaven surrounded by high, white peaks.

4. A Challenging Trek

Visitors must wake up early in the morning and start with the Humantay hike taking a 4-hour car ride before beginning the 2-hour hike to the lake. The return trip takes another 2 hours or less using the same pathway. The total distance covered is approximately 8 kilometers (5 miles) starting from Soraypampa.

Additionally, there are other tours available to explore this lake, as well as other tourist attractions such as the 4-day Salakantay trek, which includes a visit to Machu Picchu, or the 5-day Salkantay journey, which not only includes Machu Picchu but also a chance to relax in the hot springs of Cocalmayo. However, any trail around the lake offers stunning views of the surrounding landscapes, including glaciers, valleys, and high mountain peaks.

5. Seasonal Splendor

Humantay Lake is stunning year-round, but the best time to visit is during the drying season from May to October. Clearer skies during this period offer gorgeous views of the lake and its surroundings. However, even in the raining season, the lake’s beauty remains undiminished, with the added drama of clouds and mist.

6. A Bucket List Destination

This lake has become a popular destination for hikers and nature enthusiasts worldwide due to its stunning beauty and challenging trek. Travelers from all over the world seek out this highly popular adventure because of its breathtaking beauty and the challenge of the trek. Even more, there are travel packages around Peru that include this landmark, such as 5-day Cusco Experience.

7. The Best Spot for Photos

Its breathtaking beauty and dramatic landscape make a paradise for photographers and nature lovers alike. The interplay of light and shadow on the lake’s turquoise waters, the soaring peaks reflected in its mirror-like surface, and the bright colors of the surrounding vegetation create a feast for the senses and an endless variety of breathtaking photo opportunities. Only compared with the rainbow mountain‘s lanscapes!

8. Biodiversity Haven

Despite the high altitude and rugged terrain, the area around the lake is home to diverse flora and fauna. Visitors may catch sight of Andean wildlife such as vizcachas (a type of rabbit), Andean gulls, and even the magnificent Andean condor flying overhead. The trek also offers opportunities to observe a variety of native plant species, including colorful wildflowers and hardy shrubs adapted to the rough mountain environment.

This kind of flora and fauna can be appreciated along Lares trek as well!

9. Sustainable Tourism Efforts

Local communities, travel operators, and conservation organizations collaborate to minimize the environmental impact of tourism. Efforts include waste management, trail maintenance every year, and educational programs to preserve the area’s natural beauty for future generations.

10. A Spiritual Experience

For many visitors, the journey to Humantay Lake is not only a physical challenge but also a deeply spiritual experience. The lake’s beauty and serenity, coupled with a sense of connection to ancient Inca traditions and the awesome natural surroundings, can inspire a deep sense of wonder and inner peace. It is a place where one can truly disconnect from the stresses of modern life and reconnect with the power and magnificence of nature.

Humantay Lake is a stunning destination in the Peruvian Andes, providing an unforgettable experience for those who are looking for adventure, natural beauty, and a deeper connection to the region’s ancient cultures and traditions. Whether you’re an expert hiker, nature lover, or simply someone seeking a transformative journey, Humantay hike is sure to leave an indelible mark on your heart and soul. Click here to know more!

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