Laguna Paron in Huaraz is one of the most striking blue glacial lakes in the world. It’s nestled deep within the Peruvian Andes and is fast becoming one of the most popular lakes to visit for those staying in the nearby towns of Huaraz and Caraz. If you’re looking to escape the hustle and bustle of city life in exchange for tranquil nature and utterly gorgeous scenery, then you’re going to enjoy this trip.
In this guide, you’ll discover how to visit one of Peru’s best lagunas. I’ll cover how to get there with a tour and independently, various different hiking routes, as well as alternative things to do if hiking isn’t your thing. Before we get into the nitty-gritty, it’s important to consider some things like the best time of year to visit, where to base yourself and how to prepare for the altitude.
Where is Laguna Paron
Laguna Paron is situated in the Cordillera Blanca mountain range in the Ancash region of northern Peru. It lies within the Huascaran National Park which is a UNESCO World Heritage site and home to a vast amount of hiking trails, brilliant nature and stunning turquoise lakes, known as laguna’s in Peru.
Below is an interactive map so that you can see the exact location of Laguna Paron in Peru.
Best time to visit Laguna Paron
There are a few things to consider before deciding on the best time to visit Laguna Paron. Firstly, what weather conditions you are comfortable with and secondly, the level of crowds you’re willing to tolerate.
Although the dry season in the Ancash region of northern Peru is from May to September, in the mountains, it’s more like June to August. This is when you can expect almost pristine weather conditions, with blue skies and hot sunshine. However, this is also peak season for visitors and so you can expect many of the most popular laguna’s like this one to be flooded with people.
If you’re happy to sacrifice a few blue skies for fewer crowds, then the best time to visit is during the shoulder season. This is typically April, May, September and November. Since the weather tends to change for the worse in the afternoons, you’re better off heading here early in the morning for the best chance of good weather.
I visited in November and nearly every single day was gorgeous sunshine in the morning, but not so great from around 2:30 pm onwards.
The best base for Laguna Paron
The two main locations to consider when planning your trip the Cordillera Blanca mountain range – and specifically Huascaran National Park – are Caraz and Huaraz.
Caraz | is a town which is situated at 2,250 meters above sea level, at the foothills of the mountains, approximately 2 hours away from Laguna Paron. It’s home to over 18,000 people – many of which are from indigenous communities. It’s filled with colourful architecture and a growing number of restaurants and souvenir shops following an increase in tourists who are using the town as a base to explore the region, yet still has a very authentic feel about it.
Huaraz | is a city that’s situated 3,052 meters above sea level essentially just a bigger version of Caraz and approximately 1 hour further away. It’s home to over 128,000 people and is the preferred base for most, since it’s more developed and close to other popular lakes in the area such as Laguna Churup. It also has a number of museums and cultural attractions as well being the location which most tour operators leave from.
It’s important to notice the difference in elevation between the two locations, as staying in Huaraz will help you to acclimate better before heading higher up the mountains. Later in this guide, you’ll find a section on acclimatising to the altitude.
How to get to Huaraz
Although Anta Airport is close to Huaraz and there is conflicting information online about flights, my research concludes that there are no bookable flights to Anta Airport near Huaraz. As such, you’ll need to take a day or night bus.
If you take the day bus, you’ll be able to enjoy the stunning scenery as you head into the mountain in northern Peru. However, you are more likely to face some hold-ups due to traffic or protests which are unfortunately quite common in this part of the world.
If you take the night bus, then I’d recommend ensuring that you select a bus that has decent reclining seats or a bed. You’ll also want to make sure that you are wearing warm clothes and possibly packing a blanket, as it gets very cold travelling at night. If you really feel the cold, then you’re best selecting seats in the middle or at the back of the bus as the windows are the front get extremely cold.
Either way, the journey through the mountains follows some long and winding roads. If you suffer from motion sickness, then you’ll need to ensure that you’ve taken the necessary precautions to avoid feeling bad.
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
The bus from Lima to Huaraz takes approximately 8 hours and you’ll have a number of different bus companies to choose from. You’ll find a few buses which leave in the morning, however, most of them leave at night.
The two major bus stations in Lima are Javier Prado and Plaza Norte.
If you’re staying in the popular tourist neighbourhoods on Miraflores or Barranco, then you’ll need to head to Javier Prado. The best way to do this is with Uber.
If you’re staying in the historic centre or you’re coming from the airport, then you’ll need to head to Plaza Norte. Again, the best way to get to the bus station quickly and safely is with Uber.
Check the timetable and prices: Busbud
Trujillo to Huaraz
If you’re making your way down through South America, then the likelihood is that you’ll be travelling from Trujillo to Huaraz.
Similar to if you were travelling to Lima, the journey is around 8 hours and there are more night buses than day buses.
There are two bus stations in Trujillo America Sur and Terrapuerto Trujillo. Most buses leave from the America Sur bus station which is the more central of the two, however, if you do need to travel to Terrapuerto Trujillo then it is only an extra 10 minute drive.
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 bus 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:
- Budget | Kame House Backpacker
- Mid-range | Hotel El Rubi
How to get to Caraz
Similarly to if you were heading to Huaraz, you’ll need to take a bus to Caraz as there are no bookable flights (although according to other sources, there are).
In fact, if you’d prefer to stay in Caraz, you’ll need to take the bus to Huaraz before changing to a colectivo bus which is heading to Caraz.
If you’re not familiar with colectivo buses, these are small buses which do not operate to a strict timetable. They are regularly on standby, however, they only leave once they are full. These are very cheap, but often uncomfortable if you’re travelling with a lot of luggage as they are mini-vans rather than coaches.
The journey from Huaraz to Caraz is approximately 1 hour and costs around 10 soles, which is about £1.50/$2.
Lima to Caraz
To get from Lima to Caraz, follow the steps to get from Lima to Huaraz, before taking a colectivo from the same bus station to Caraz.
Trujillo to Caraz
To get from Trujillo to Caraz, follow the steps to get from Trujillo to Huaraz, before taking a colectivo from the same bus station to Caraz.
Cusco to Caraz
To get from Cusco to Caraz, follow the steps to get from Cusco to Huaraz, before taking a colectivo from the same bus station to Caraz.
Where to stay in Caraz
Staying in Caraz over Huaraz will cost you slightly more money as there aren’t any backpacker-style hostels. However, compared to other towns and cities across Peru, the hotels are very cheap.
Below are some recommendations for where to stay in Caraz:
- Budget | Hostal Real Caraz
- Mid-range | Hotel Dulzura
How high is Laguna Paron?
Laguna Paron sits at 4,200 meters above sea level. But, if you’re planning to hike to the viewpoint to enjoy the best views over the lake, then you’ll be hiking to 4,600 meters above sea level.
How to acclimatize to the altitude before visiting Laguna Paron
In order to acclimatize before heading higher up the mountain, you’ll need to give your body time to gradually adjust without doing anything strenuous. This means that you will need to spend time in Caraz and/or Huaraz which are at lower altitudes before you increase the elevation when visiting Laguna Paron.
Since Caraz is at 2,250 meters above sea level and Huaraz is at 3,052 meters, Huaraz is the more preferable base for those who are not used to the altitude because its elevation is closer to Laguna Paron.
If you’ve spent some time in other towns or cities which are at altitude, then you will be able to head into the mountains after 1 day of acclimatizing. But, if this is your first time, then you will need at least 2 days to adjust. You’ll want to do nothing more than relax during this time.
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.
Laguna Paron hike
The most popular hike to Laguna Paron is a short trail which leads to the viewpoint. This is the one which many tour operators offer as it’s a good test to see how you’re body is adjusting to the altitude before moving onto bigger hikes like Laguna 69. In the section below, I’ll let you know how to do this popular route through a tour company, as well as independently.
There are also a few other hiking routes which lead to Laguna Paron and so I’ll cover the details of those too.
Route 1: Laguna Paron to the viewpoint
Distance | 1.8 kilometres
Elevation gain | 148 meters
Time | 30-40 minutes
Difficulty | moderate
The hike from the base of the lake to the viewpoint is short and sweet, yet still moderately challenging because of the altitude.
The trail begins with a gradual ascent before finding a number of switchbacks. Before long, the surface of the trail changes from a dusty clear path to one which is less defined and essentially just a lot of big boulders that you’ll need to navigate over.
After 30-40 minutes, you’ll arrive at a sign which states the elevation and this signifies that you’ve made it to the viewpoint.
How to get there
Every day there are multiple tours which leave from Huaraz.
You’ll be collected by your tour company between 7 am and 8 am before driving approximately 45 minutes to the charming town of Carhuaz. You’ll be given between 20 and 30 minutes to pick up some breakfast and snacks for the day, as well as have the opportunity to try some of the local ice cream. I’m a big fan of lucuma – an incredible fruit which tastes like a caramel milkshake – so I highly recommend the lucuma ice cream here.
You’ll travel for another 45 minutes to the base of the mountain before the long and winding 2-hour journey begins at the start of the hike.
Once you’ve arrived at the starting point, you’ll be given 2 hours to hike and explore independently.
Once everyone has made it back to the bus, you’ll be taken to a restaurant in the mountains for a late lunch before arriving back in Huaraz at around 6 pm.
Tip: booking this trip through a tour is the simplest and easiest way to do this hike due to the remote location. It’s also extremely cheap if you book it through your accommodation rather than online.
If you’re keen to do this route but you don’t like the idea of a tour, then it’s possible to go from both Huaraz and Caraz independently with colectivo buses. However, as mentioned before, colectivo buses do not operate on a strict schedule and are not always reliable which can create some uncertainty and risk of getting stranded in the mountains if you’re not careful.
To begin with, you’ll need to head to the bus station is Huaraz and look for a bus which is going to Caraz. Once you arrive in Caraz, find the marketplace and look for another colectivo which is going to the Pueblo Paron. From here, you’ll need to take a 30-minute taxi or try and hitchhike to the start of the trail.
If you’re planning to visit the lake independently, then consider your timings carefully as there is no reliable bus schedule to return home. I’d recommend aiming to leave by at least 3 pm to ensure you have a chance of getting a colectivo out of the mountains.
Route 2: Laguna Paron, the viewpoint and Laguna Artesoncocha
Distance | 11.3 kilometres
Elevation gain | 339 meters
Time | 3-4 hours
Difficulty | moderate
Instead of leading up to the viewpoint over Laguna Paron, this trail leads beside the lake and extends further to find Laguna Artesoncocha – another stunning lake in the Huascaran National Park.
The first 4 kilometres of the trail are extremely easy, as you’ll be walking the length of the lake. Once you’ve reached the end, you’ll then begin a steep accent which covers almost all of the elevation in just over a kilometre. Needless to say, this is tough – particularly at altitude – however, the view which looks down onto Laguna Artesoncocha is well worth each breathless step.
Once you’ve spent enough time enjoying the view, the route follows the same way back to the starting point of the trail.
How to get there
To enjoy this hike, your only option is to do it independently, as tour companies only give guests 2 hours to explore Laguna Paron and the surrounding area before returning down the mountain.
Since the start of the trail is at Laguna Paron, you’ll need to follow the same steps to get there as mentioned for Route 1.
Tip: If you’re concerned that you may not have enough time to do this hike and get there and back to Huaraz or Caraz in a day, then you could consider staying at the lakeside hut beside the laguna. Staying here is covered in detail later on in the guide under ‘Other things to do at Laguna Paron’.
Route 3: Pueblo Paron to Laguna Paron
Distance | 20 kilometres
Elevation | approx. 550 meters
Time | 6-7 hours
Difficulty | hard
Before we get into the description, I just want to caveat this by saying this is not a hike which I did. I’m adding this hike in as an option to give you guys the opportunity to explore it further if you’re super hard-core hikers.
From my understanding, the hike leads from a small village called Pueblo Paron – which is more like a few houses dotted about some fields – and leads up the mountainside through woodland to Laguna Paron.
This village is so small, that it doesn’t even appear to be on the map and so the best piece of advice I can give you is to speak to your accommodation provider once you arrive to get some more information about this hiking trail.
Help me to help you: if you do manage to hike this trail, I would be eternally grateful if you could let me know in the comments section so that I can update this post for other readers
How to get there
To get to the start of this trail from Huaraz, you’ll need to go to the bus station and take a colectivo bus to Caraz. Once you arrive in Caraz, head to the marketplace and find another colectivo bus which is going to Pueblo Paron.
Other things to do at Laguna Paron
For those who aren’t into hiking but still want to enjoy the lake, then you may want to consider kayaking, canoeing and paddleboarding instead. Or, if you finish the hike early and still have plenty of time to kill before heading back down the mountain, then this may be for you.
Upon arrival, you’ll see a hut near the car park and equipment down by the lake. If you head into the hut, you’ll be able to speak to the owners and rent some equipment by the hour or for the day.
Prices change as time goes on, but they should roughly be around the below. You’ll need to pay by cash for all of this rental equipment.
- Single kayak
By hour: 20 soles (£5/$6)
By day: 100 soles (£22/$25)
- Double kayak
By hour: 30 soles (£7/$9)
By day: 130 soles (£28/$32)
By hour: 40 soles (£10/$6)
By day: 120 soles (£26/$28)
By hour: 30 soles (£7/$9)
By day: 100 soles (£22/$25)
Stroll along the edge
If you’ve taken a tour and the rest of the group are heading to the viewpoint, but you think this will be too much a of challenge, then there is an alternative path which is almost completely flat and leads by the side of the lake.
It’s approximately 4 kilometres long to walk the length of the lake which should take around an hour one way. If you’re struggling with the altitude or you’re a particularly slow walker, then you may not have time to walk to the end of the lake if you’re part of a tour which returns back to Huaraz after 2 hours at Laguna Paron – especially if you’re stopping to take pictures.
Yet, no matter how much of this trail you complete before having to turn back, it’s a great alternative for those looking for something less challenging.
Stay in the lakeside hut – Centro de Información Turística
In the same location as where you can rent kayaks, boats and paddleboards (Centro de Información Turística), you’re able to stay the night for just 20 soles.
Although it’s basic accommodation with bunk beds and blankets, it’s comfortable, super cheap and the owners are incredibly kind and welcoming. You’ll be able to pay extra to have breakfast included, however, they also have plenty of snacks on sale.
If you’re planning to trek from Pueblo Paron then staying here reduces the need to begin your hike early and takes away the risk of missing the last colectivo back down the mountain.
Although there are limited spaces in this mountain hut, it’s unlikely that you’ll need to book ahead of time. However, I’d recommend speaking to your accommodation provider who can contact the mountain hut ahead of your journey, just to be on the safe side.
Go for a dip
If you’re keen on some cold-water therapy, then Laguna Paron is the perfect spot to give it a go. Although glacial water may look inviting, the temperature can range from 5-10 degrees depending on the time of year you’re visiting.
It’s unlikely that you’ll start doing lengths of the lake in these temperatures, but a quick dip and a photograph just to say you’ve done it is a good idea – one that I thought wasn’t worth it – but hey, you might be braver than me.
Tip: remember to bring a towel, change of clothes and flip-flops so that you can quickly hurry back to the mountain hut and warm up
The facilities at the laguna can be found in the Centro de Información Turística which is just beside the lake.
Inside, you’ll find plenty of drinks and snacks such as crisps, biscuits and sweets. You’ll also find some toilets, however, you will have to pay to use them, so make sure you bring some cash with you.
Laguna Paron packing list
Below is everything you’ll need to take with you on your trip. Some of the items may seem excessive, however, 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
Why is Laguna Paron so blue?
Laguna Paron is so blue due to a number of factors. Firstly, it’s glacial water that’s trickled down from the snow-capped mountains surrounding it and this is typically very pure.
Secondly, there is a high number of glacial sediments and rock flour. These are fine particles of pulverized rock that are suspended in the water.
As glaciers move, they grind against the bedrock, creating rock flour, which is then carried downstream by meltwater. This rock flour is very fine and remains suspended in the water, giving it a milky appearance. When sunlight reflects off the suspended particles, it creates the blue colour that is characteristic of Laguna Parón.
In addition to the presence of rock flour, the depth of the lake also plays a role in its colour. Laguna Paron is relatively deep, with a maximum depth of around 300 meters (984 feet), which allows the blue colour to be more pronounced.
Can you swim in Laguna Paron?
Yes, you can swim in Laguna Paron, but it is extremely cold with temperatures between 5 and 10 degrees depending on the time of year that you’re visiting.
Other Lagunas near Laguna Paron
Laguna Llanganuco is situated at an altitude of around 3,850 meters above sea level which is much lower than many of the other lakes in the mountain range. It’s an absolutely stunning lake which you don’t need to hike to, making it accessible for everyone to enjoy. Once you’ve arrived at the laguna, you’ll be able to walk to a number of different viewpoints, take a boat ride or simply relax and enjoy something to eat.
There are a number of tours from Huaraz that travel to Laguna Llanganuco, including the popular Laguna 69 tour which briefly stops here on the way to the trailhead. Alternatively, you can take a colectivo from Huaraz to Yungay before changing to another colectivo bus which is taking visitors directly to Laguna Llanganuco.
Laguna 513 is somewhat of a hidden gem as not that many people know about it, but it’s just as beautiful as some of the more popular lakes like Laguna 69. Although it still covers similar distance and elevation gain, it’s arguably easier than hiking to Laguna 69 since it sits at a lower altitude (4,200 meters above sea level) which means you shouldn’t be as breathless.
To get to the Laguna 513, you’ll need to take a colectivo bus from Huaraz to Caraz which takes around an hour and a half and then switch to a different colectivo which is heading to Cashapampa, which will take another hour.
Read more: Lagunas de Huaraz: 14 Best Glacial Lakes in Peru
What is 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.
|Laguna Paron||Laguna 69|
|Distance||1.8 km (out and back)||13.8 km (out and back)|
|Elevation||4,200 meters||4,600 meters|
|Elevation gain||148 meters||842 meters|
|Hiking duration||30-40 minutes||5-7 hours|
Explore Peru further
If you enjoyed this guide on Laguna Paron and you’re looking for further things to do then I’ve got a Peru itinerary which may come in handy for you. If you’re sticking to Huaraz, then perhaps some of the other lakes are worth visiting. You can find a full list here: Luganas in Huaraz.
Stay Wild Travels.
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