Laguna 69 is an absolutely breathtaking turquoise-coloured lake nestled within the Huascarán National Park in the Peruvian Andes. It’s by far one of the most popular spots to visit for those who are visiting northern Peru for stunning its stunning snow-capped mountains, lush valleys and breathtaking natural wonders.
In this guide, I’ll cover so key information about the laguna such as the location, best time to visit and where to base yourself. I’ll also give you all the details about the Laguna 69 hike and what you need to know about booking this through a tour or doing an independent day trip. Later on in the guide, you’ll find some other useful pieces of information that are also worth knowing ahead of your trip, however, if you have any further questions then drop a comment down below and I will get back to you.
Why it’s called Laguna 69?
Back in the mid-20th century, large bodies of water like Laguna 69 were numbered as they were discovered when Peruvian mountaineers were mapping out the Huascaran National Park.
Whilst most lakes in the area have since been replaced with a Quechua name, Laguna 69 is one that seems to have stuck.
Where is Laguna 69?
Laguna 69 is situated in the Huascaran National Park which is on the very edge of the Cordillera Blanca mountain range in the Peruvian Andes. It sits high in the mountains at 4,600 meters above sea level and is encapsulated by extraordinary snow-capped mountains.
Below is an interactive map so that you can see the exact location:
Best time to visit Laguna 69
Before deciding on the best time to visit Laguna 69, there are several factors to consider, such as your comfort level with weather conditions and your tolerance for crowds.
The dry season in the Ancash region of northern Peru is from May to September, but in the mountains, it’s more like June to August. During this time, you can expect nearly perfect weather with clear skies and warm sunshine. However, this is also the busiest time of year for visitors, and popular spots like Laguna 69 are likely to be crowded.
If you’re willing to trade a few sunny days for fewer crowds, the ideal time to visit is during the shoulder season, which is typically April, May, September, and November. Since the weather tends to deteriorate in the afternoons, it’s best to arrive early in the morning for the best chance of good weather.
When I visited in November, most mornings were filled with beautiful sunshine, but the weather would typically worsen from around 2:30 pm onwards.
The best base for Laguna 69
Huaraz is one of the biggest cities in northern Peru with over 128,000 people residing there. It’s located at over 3000 meters above sea level, has excellent transport links and is the main hub for people travelling to the mountains to embark on a number of adventure sports. The city has a number of museums and cultural attractions and offers an authentic view into Peruvian life in the Andes.
Despite Anta Airport’s proximity to Huaraz and the conflicting information available online regarding flights, there are no bookable flights to Anta Airport near Huaraz. Therefore, taking a day or night bus will be necessary.
If you opt for the day bus, you’ll have the opportunity to appreciate the breathtaking scenery as you venture into the northern Peruvian mountains. However, delays caused by traffic or protests, which are unfortunately common in this region, are more likely to occur.
On the other hand, if you choose to take the night bus, it is advisable to select a bus with comfortable reclining seats or beds. Additionally, you should dress warmly and consider bringing a blanket as temperatures can be quite chilly during nighttime travel. To further combat the cold, it’s recommended to choose seats in the middle or rear of the bus as the front windows tend to become very cold.
In any case, travelling through the mountains involves navigating lengthy and winding roads. If you are prone to motion sickness, it is crucial to take appropriate measures to prevent discomfort.
Help me to help you: If you do happen to find any flights to Anta Airport, please comment at the end of this guide so that I can update the information to help others out there.
Lima to Huaraz
There are several bus companies available for the approximately 8-hour journey from Lima to Huaraz. While a few buses depart in the morning, most of them leave at night. Two major bus stations in Lima are Javier Prado and Plaza Norte.
If you are staying in the popular tourist areas of Miraflores or Barranco, you should head to Javier Prado via Uber. Alternatively, if you are located in the historic centre or arriving from the airport, you should go to Plaza Norte. Once again, the quickest and safest way to reach the bus station is through Uber.
Check the timetable and prices: Busbud
Trujillo to Huaraz
If you are travelling from Trujillo to Huaraz while exploring South America, chances are you’ll be undertaking an 8-hour journey. Similarly to the trip to Lima, more night buses than day buses are available.
In Trujillo, there are two bus stations to choose from: America Sur and Terrapuerto Trujillo. Although most buses depart from America Sur, the more central station, it only takes an additional 10 minutes by car to reach Terrapuerto Trujillo if necessary.
Check timetable and prices: Red Bus
Cusco to Huaraz
If you’re wanting visit Laguna Paron from Cusco, then you’ll first need to make your way to Lima and then take the bus from there as advised above.
To get to Lima from Cusco, you will need to either fly or take a bus. The flight takes approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes, whereas the bus takes approximately 21 hours and 30 minutes. Although the bus is cheaper, it’s not a significant amount.
Check flight prices: Skyscanner
Check the timetable and prices: Busbud
Where to stay in Huaraz
Huaraz is a surprisingly large city that has quite a lot of hostels and hotels to choose from. And, what’s even better is that they’re all pretty cheap in comparison to some of the other towns and cities in Peru.
Below are some recommendations for where to stay in Huaraz:
Carhuaz is situated 45 minutes away from Huaraz and is a town rather than a city, but is similarly nestled between the mountains and sits at 2,645 meters above sea level. Although Carhuaz is home to over 10,000 people, it has a wonderful sense of community, with great cultural heritage, traditional architecture and heaps of agricultural work going on nearby.
How to get to Carhuaz
As mentioned in the section ‘how to get Huaraz’, there are no bookable flights to the nearest airport – Anta Airport. As such, you’ll need to take a bus.
Lima to Carhuaz
To get from Lima to Carhuaz, you’ll need to follow the same steps detailed above for travelling from Lima to Huaraz. You’ll then need to find a colectivo bus at Huaraz bus station that is going to Carhuaz.
Trujillo to Carhuaz
To get from Trujillo to Carhuaz, you’ll need to follow the same steps detailed above for travelling from Trujillo to Huaraz. You’ll then need to find a colectivo bus at Huaraz bus station that is going to Carhuaz.
Cusco to Carhuaz
To get from Cusco to Carhuaz, you’ll need to follow the same steps detailed above for travelling from Cusco to Huaraz. You’ll then need to find a colectivo bus at Huaraz bus station that is going to Carhuaz.
Where to stay in Carhuaz
Yungay is the smallest of the three locations and is well-known for its heart-wrenching history of the catastrophic earthquake that triggered a huge avalanche and killed approximately 18,000 people living in the area back in the 1970s.
Whilst alot of Yungay was destroyed, just a few kilometres away, the new Yungay was built at 2,500 meters above sea level, and the old town has been left as a memorial park. Although Yungay is relatively small, it’s vibrant with lively markets selling plenty of homemade souvenirs and lots of local produce.
How to get to Yungay
Again, there are no bookable flights to this area and so you’ll need to take the bus.
Lima to Yungay
To get from Lima to Yungay, you’ll need to follow the same steps detailed above for travelling from Lima to Huaraz. You’ll then need to find a colectivo bus at Huaraz bus station that is going to Yungay.
Trujillo to Yungay
To get from Trujillo to Yungay, you’ll need to follow the same steps detailed above for travelling from Trujillo to Huaraz. You’ll then need to find a colectivo bus at Huaraz bus station that is going to Yungay.
Cusco to Yungay
To get from Cusco to Yungay, you’ll need to follow the same steps detailed above for travelling from Cusco to Huaraz. You’ll then need to find a colectivo bus at Huaraz bus station that is going to Yungay.
Where to stay in Yungay
- Mid-range: Alpamayo Casa Hotel
Laguna 69 hike
The Laguna 69 hike is one of the most popular day treks in the region that leads through the stunning Cordillera Blanca mountain range.
Surprisingly, it’s also super diverse.
You’ll wander through the valley and scale the mountains, whilst passing glacial rivers, grand waterfalls and spotting heaps of wildlife – all whilst the rugged snow-capped mountains tower above you.
Below you’ll find some key details about the hike, as well as a detailed guide on what to expect on the day. Regardless of whether you take a tour or do this hike independently, you’ll cover the exact same route as there is only one trail.
Laguna 69 trek details
The distance of this hike is 13.8 kilometres. It’s an out-and-back route and a challenging distance for most novice hikers due to the altitude.
The total elevation gain of this hike is 842 meters – all of which is covered in the first 7 kilometres.
Although the distance and elevation usually wouldn’t mean too much time on your feet, the altitude means you’ll be walking at a snail’s pace for a lot of the time. You expect the hike to take a minimum of 3 hours to ascend and 2 hours to descend. You’ll also want to factor in some time to enjoy the lake and perhaps a few stops to photograph all that’s on offer during this hike.
I’d recommend giving yourself at least 7 hours to complete this hike.
There’s no denying that this hike is hard. For most people, it’s a real test of fitness, however, with plenty of stops, it’s achievable for most people – even if you’re not an experienced hiker.
Although everything feels strenuous at this altitude, the hardest part of the hike is the last few kilometres and everyone on the trail will be huffing, puffing and maybe even shedding a few tears.
Altitude and aclimtisation
The trail begins at 3,900 meters above sea level (which is already pretty damn high), and Laguna 69 is at 4,600 meters above sea level.
It’s super important that you acclimatise correctly before doing this hike otherwise you will struggle enormously and potentially do yourself some serious damage.
In fact, this hike is known by locals as the ‘gringo killer’. Whilst there are rarely deaths as a consequence of hiking to Laguna 69, the altitude is no joke – especially when you’re going to be hiking for a long time.
To acclimatise, you’ll want to spend at least 24 hours at your chosen base and do little more than wander around your surroundings. It’s also a good idea that you head on a short hike at a similar altitude to test how your body will cope before tackling this longer hike. A good one to do is Laguna Paron.
Tip: to help limit the risk of altitude sickness, you can pick up some Acetak tablets from most pharmacies in Peru.
Insurance: be mindful that most basic insurance plans only cover hiking at 3000 meters elevation and so you’ll need to select a premium plan if you’re heading into the mountains across Peru and other parts of South America.
Altitude sickness really is a problem that you should take seriously. I suffered a lot the first time I went to Cusco which sits at 3,339 meters above altitude and ended up unable to do anything for days and ultimately having to go to the hospital for a chest x-ray to ensure there was no fluid on my lungs. Luckily, there wasn’t, however, it cost me $500 which thankfully the insurance company covered.
What to expect on the day
A flat stroll from Cebollapampa through the valley
As soon as you’ve arrived at the trailhead in Cebollapampa, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find a gentle downhill which leads into the valley.
Others who have arrived on the trail at the same time as you may speed off into the distance, but honestly, hang back and don’t rush. You’ll need to let your body adjust gradually. It’s the marathon not a race and you can bet that the people who rush to start with will be struggling later on.
Once you’ve passed the toilets, you’ll arrive beside the glacial river with fabulous views over the Cordillera Blanca mountain range ahead. They’ll be cows grazing in the grass and it begins to feel so idyllic that you’ll be tricked into thinking that this hike is going to be a breeze.
You’ll keep plodding alongside the river for quite some time before you begin to ascend ever so slightly. And, although it really is ‘ever so slightly’, it certainly doesn’t feel like it at this altitude. In fact, after feeling like I’d been sprinting, I questioned whether my body could cope with hiking at this altitude. But trust me, it usually gets better.
The switchbacks and waterfalls
Once you’ve made it through the valley, you’ll now be starting your first proper test. You’ll glance up to see a number of switchbacks which zig-zag up the mountain. The best piece of advice I can give you is to keep going at a very slow pace rather than trying to hike at your normal pace and then stopping every few minutes. This way, your body will be able to cope much better rather than keep sending it into shock.
After you’ve climbed about halfway, you’ll be able to see all the way back through the valley, as well as two waterfalls. The one furthest away on the left is absolutely incredible and deserves a few photographs.
A moment of respite
Once you’ve completed the switchbacks, you can enjoy a moment of respite with a long flat path. However, when you catch sight of what’s ahead the enjoyment may quickly come to an end.
You’ll spot a dramatic incline – helped by some short and sharp switchbacks – as well as a likely queue of hikers who are having to stop every few steps.
The second test
Upon arrival at the base of the steep accent – a.k.a – the second test, you may want to stop to ensure you’ve refuelled with snacks and water.
The path to the top of this section is rocky and uneven. Although it doesn’t require any scrambling as such, you’ll definitely need to think about where you’re putting your feet and poles would come in handy.
Whilst this section of the hike is the toughest yet, it’s fairly short-lived and you can expect it to only take around 20 minutes until you can catch your breath again – if there is such a thing at this altitude.
Another lovely valley
Peeking over the last ascent is another lovely valley that’s surrounded by mountains and heaps of wildlife, with the final ascent looming intimidatingly in the distance. Still, you can enjoy this section of the walk and gear yourself up for the final push.
One thing to note is that the weather can be quite different here than lower down the mountain. In fact, most of the way up until this point I experience glorious sunshine and was wearing a t-shirt. Bizarrely, as soon I began to head through this valley, it began to snow and I had to put a woolly hat on. This hike is definitely one which you need to come prepared for as you just next know what the elements are going to throw at you when you’re in the mountains.
The final push
Now it’s going to get tough. Really tough.
This section of the walk will feel the hardest. It’s steep. It’s unstable. The air is thin.
Remember when I said that slow and steady is better than a regular pace with lots of stops? Well, even at a slow and steady pace, you’ll be having to stop.
This section of the walk really does drag on because you won’t be able to go anywhere fast. And, the bad news is that it’s quite a long section.
But don’t let that deter you. With plenty of stops, you’ll smash it. Plus, the higher you climb the more clearly you will be able to see Laguna Brogui in the distance behind you which you’ll no doubt want to photograph.
To the laguna!
After a long ol’ slog to the top, you’ll arrive at the home straight which leads down to Laguna 69. Needless to say that you’ll feel ecstatic to reach this point, with Laguna 69 dazzling ahead.
Once you arrive a the lake, there will no doubt be plenty of people who are soaking up the view and sinking their teeth into a well-earned sandwich.
Don’t worry too much about the crowds at Laguna 69, as there is plenty of space and if you want some privacy, then you can head further around the lake and it will feel like you’ve got it all to yourself.
The descent back to Cebollapampa
The descent back to Cebollapampa is one which is by no means as tough as the accent, but it’s certainly one which presents some challenges at times – particularly the last ascent which you battled hard to climb not so long ago.
If you’ve got some poles, it’s definitely wise to get them out at this point.
Luckily, the route is one of those trails that throws in some flats every now and then – which, with your legs probably aching by this point, will be something which you’re grateful for.
Although you’ll be heading down the same way in which you climbed, the route feels completely different as you’ll be able to enjoy the views whilst actually being able to breathe.
Before long, you’ll have arrived back in Cebollapampa and be more than ready to get back to your accommodation to relax.
Laguna 69 map
Below you’ll find a link to the route map for the hike. But, in all honesty, you will not need a map on the day. The trail is well-signposted and there will be heaps of people on the same trek.
Laguna 69 Tour
By far the easiest way to do this hike is through a tour and the excellent news is that it won’t cost you a lot – usually around 30-40 soles which is approximately £7-9/$17-20.
In fact, you would likely pay a similar price for the transport if you were to do this hike independently.
Booking through a tour company will mean that all of the transport to this remote part of the world is taken care of and you’ll also have the opportunity to stop by some other locations on the way.
It’s also a great way to make some friends if you’re a solo traveller, as you never know how much encouragement you’re going to need to get to Laguna 69.
If you book a tour, you can expect the day to look a little something like this:
- 4:30-5:30 am: collection from your accommodation
The day starts early, with collection from your accommodation likely to be somewhere between 4:30 am and 5:30 am. The exact time will depend on where your accommodation sits on the collection stop around Huaraz.
- 7 am: breakfast and bathroom break
Just after 7 am, you will stop at a small cafe in the mountains for some breakfast and a bathroom break. The breakfast menu looks quite good, however, don’t expect the quality to be all that great. In fact, if you can pick yourself up some breakfast ahead of the tour then I’d recommend doing so.
You’ll also be able to ask for a packed lunch and pick up some snacks and drinks here, too (but again, if you can get this ahead of time then it’s worth doing).
- 8 am: Laguna Llanganuco
Around 8 am, you’ll pass Laguna Llanganuco and be given 5-10 minutes to stretch your legs and take a few pictures of the laguna.
- 8:30 am: begin your hike
At 8:30 am, you’ll begin your hike to the laguna. You’ll be given 7 hours to complete the hike independently, although the guide will be somewhere behind the last person on the trail to ensure there are no issues.
- 3:30 pm – 4:30 pm: leaving Cebollapampa
Depending on how quickly the slowest hikers of the group make it back to the Cebollapampa, you should leave somewhere between 3:30 pm and 4:30 pm.
- 6:30 pm – 7:30 pm: arrive back to Huaraz
Providing there are no hold-ups on the road, you should arrive back in Huaraz before 7:30 pm. Most tour companies will not drop guests at their accommodation and so you’ll likely have to walk from the centre back to your accommodation.
Tip: book a Laguna 69 tour through your accommodation rather than online as they will be able to offer you a significantly cheaper price
Laguna 69 independent day trip
If a tour isn’t for you, then it’s possible to hike to Laguna 69 independently. However, given the fact the starting point of the trail is high up in the Peruvian Andes and public transport is not very reliable, it is more complex and does present a bit more of a risk of getting stranded.
Regardless of where you’re staying in this area, you’ll need to take a bus to Yungay. Most locations will have a colectivo bus that travels here, but especially Huaraz and Carhuaz.
From Yungay, you’ll need to another colectivo which is heading to Cebollapampa.
The journey time is around the same as if you were taking a tour and also a similar price – hence why taking tour makes quite a lot of sense in this case. Plus, the ‘tours’ aren’t exactly filled with heaps of information. They’re more of a transport service with a guide hanging around in case of an emergency.
If you are insistent on doing an independent day trip, then you’ll need to check with the local bus station the day before to confirm the timetable as these seem to change. Last I heard, the first buses leave between 5 am and 7 am and return no later than 4 pm.
One thing to bear in mind when returning back to your base is that these buses cannot be booked ahead of time and once they’re full they leave. If the last bus becomes full ahead of 4 pm it will go and you may not be able to get back.
Driving to Laguna 69
If you’ve got a car or motorbike then you may be wondering if it’s possible to drive directly to Laguna 69. Unfortunately, the answer is no. You have to put in the hard graph to witness this stunning laguna and there is no getting away from the 7-kilometre accent.
Of course, you can drive to the trailhead of the hike, however, you will need a robust vehicle. As you get further up the mountain the road surface is gravel and riddled with potholes.
Entry costs to Laguna 69
On top of the transport or tour costs, you’ll need to pay 30 soles which is approximately £7/$9 to enter the Huascaran National Park for the day.
If you’re planning to visit the national park a few times over the course of your trip, then speak to the ticket office as they should be able to offer you a cheaper price, rather than paying 30 soles each time you enter.
Laguna 69 weather
The weather at Laguna 69 can be extremely unpredictable and it’s mostly luck of the draw whether you’ll get sunshine or snow.
Of course, the time of year – and even the time of day – that you’re visiting helps with the odds, but the weather in the mountains can be completely different to locations lower down the mountain.
What to pack
Below is everything you’ll need to take with you on your trip. Some of the items may seem excessive, however, as I said, the weather in the mountains is extremely unpredictable and so you’ll want to be prepared for all of the elements.
- Hiking boots/trail shoes
- Mini first-aid kit
- Long hiking pants
- Waterproof coat
- Day bag
The facilities on the trail are fairly limited. In fact, besides the toilets and small snack stall at the start of the trail, there are no other facilities along the route.
Can you swim in Laguna 69?
Technically no. There is a sign by the lake which states that you should not swim in Laguna 69.
However, I took a tour and our guide said we were free to swim in the lake if we wished. But, bear in mind the water is glacial water and it’s super cold – usually between 5 and 10 degrees.
If you do want to swim in the lake, it’s not recommended to stay in the water too long.
Is Laguna 69 worth it?
Visiting Laguna 69 is absolutely worth every breathless step. It’s such a sense of achievement once you reach the lake and undoubtedly one of the most stunning hikes in the region that has so much to offer.
The difference between Laguna 69 and Laguna Paron?
There are some key differences to bear in mind when planning your trip to Laguna 69 and Laguna Paron.
The table below shows the key difference between the two lagunas.
|1.8 km (out and back)
|13.8 km (out and back)
- Eat a lot the day before
When you’re at altitude your body is working hard. To help with the acclimatisation process and ensure you have enough energy for the hike, you should be eating much more than you normally do.
- Pack a lot of snacks
The hike is certainly one which is unforgiving and you’ll want to have more snacks than you think you need on the day. The journey to and from the starting point of the trail is a long one and you’re going to be out for over 12 hours and exerting a lot of energy.
- Bring at least 2.5 litres of water
The guides on the tours tell you that this is the minimum you should be carrying on this hike. Not only will you be sweating a lot and so you’ll be thirsty, but staying hydrated will throughout the hike will reduce the risk of altitude sickness.
- Bring cash for the toilets
If you want to use the toilet on this trail, then you’ll need to pay. Remember to bring some small change.
- Bring loo roll
The only toilet on this trail is at the start of the hike. That leaves almost 14 kilometres without a toilet. If you need to use the wild toilet, you may want to bring some toilet roll with you.
- Walk slow
I’ve said it heaps of times throughout this guide but it really is a point to keep harping on about it. Slow and steady will always win the race when you’re hiking at altitude.
- Travel sickness
The journey through the mountains is a long and winding road. If you suffer from motion sickness then don’t forget to take some travel sickness tablets before your journey.
- Inflatable pillow
One of the best travel hacks is to bring an inflatable pillow – the type you use on camping trips – for long bus journeys. Most people are exhausted by the time they get back to the bus and there is nothing worse than a screwed-up jumper that continuously slides down the window.
- Download podcasts/music
Long bus journeys through the mountains often mean that you won’t have any signal, so downloading podcasts or music ahead of time is something to bear in mind.
Explore more of Peru
If you’re looking for something completely unique, then Paracas or Peru’s desert oasis – Huacachina – is a great place to head to.
Stay Wild Travels.
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