Laguna 69 is one of Peru’s most spectacular lagoons. It is located in the Huascaran National Park, at 4,600 metres above sea level! Although that fact in itself is impressive, trekking to Laguna 69 is really worth it for the stunning views. Prepare to feast your eyes on breathtaking turquoise waters and ice-capped mountains!
Laguna 69, Peru: What You Should Know!
- Start point: 3,800 m.a.s.l.
- Highest point: 4,500 m.a.s.l.
- Distance: 12 km (7.5 miles)
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Tour start point: Huaraz
How to get to Huaraz
Huaraz is easy to get to from Lima. Simply hop on one of the many buses headed there from the main bus station. The route is served by several different bus operators, including the reputable Cruz del Sur as well as MovilTours and Civa. The journey from Lima is around eight hours so it is well worth getting an overnight bus if possible.
If you are headed to Huaraz from a location further north (popular options include Chiclayo and Trujillo), the journey is only done on overnight buses and takes in between eight to ten hours. Check out the bus companies covering this route by visiting the main bus station or by booking in advance via Busbud.
Trekking Laguna 69: Tour vs. Independent
The Laguna 69 trek takes around 6 hours to complete, including time spent at the lagoon and the return journey on foot. Unlike many tours in South America, it is possible to trek Laguna 69 independently. However, the price of transport means that this is usually not as cost-effective as visiting as part of a tour.
Visiting Laguna 69 independently
The Laguna 69 trekking trail is well marked which makes it very easy to navigate. If you want to visit without a tour, there are two main ways you can get to the start point of the hike.
A taxi from Huaraz can easily be arranged, however, this can be costly compared to the other options so it is worth splitting the cost with other travellers if you can. The return journey from the city, including wait time, totals around 180-200 soles.
It is possible to take public transport to the trek start point. However, backpackers will need to leave very early in the morning to ensure that there will be return transport available once they have completed the hike.
If you are coming from Huaraz, you will first need to grab one of the early morning collectivos heading to Yungay. If you are planning on taking the return public transport, you will need to be on one of the collectivos departing between 5.30 – 6.00 am to make sure you are finished in time. These leave from Simon Bolivar and will cost around 5 soles for the journey.
Once you have arrived in Yungay, you will need to find a collectivo headed to La Cebolla. Although collectivos run all day, they don’t tend to leave until they are full. Bear in mind, there is still around an hour and a half travel time before you arrive at the start of the trek. If you are stuck waiting for the collectivo to fill up, you may run out of time to finish the trek then get public transport back.
There is also the option to get a taxi to La Cebolla but this is a little more expensive (around 20 soles per person). The only remaining option for the most frugal travellers is to attempt to hitchhike the rest of the way.
When returning from your Laguna 69 trek, the last collectivo back to Yungay leaves between 3 – 4 pm. As much as we would love to be more specific about times here, South American public transport can be hard to predict and travellers have reported picking up this transport at any time between 3 – 4 pm. This allows you just 45 minutes at the lake which really isn’t that long, especially if you want to use this as an opportunity to get your breath back!
If you miss the last collectivo back, the only options are to try and hitch back to Yungay or see if you can barter with one of the tour buses which has empty seats. However, this is not always successful as the tours have become very popular, thanks to their cost-effectiveness.
If you are happy to break the travel across 2 days, Llanganuco is a recommended camping spot close to the trek start point. By staying here, you cut out the majority of the journey there, which means you can start your hike earlier. Most of the tour groups arrive around 11am so you should aim to get to Laguna 69 before that if you want to explore without the crowds.
Visiting Laguna 69 on a Tour
Tours to Laguna 69 have massively increased in popularity in recent years, partly owing to their affordability but also because of a little thing known as the ‘Instagram effect’. Believe me, when you see the scenery, you will understand why this hike is so popular!
Choosing a Laguna 69 Tour
As pretty much all of the tour operators in Huaraz offer this trek, it can be hard to know who to choose when booking a trip.
Although many companies offer this tour, in reality, the package usually just involves return transport to Huaraz. If you have a guide (which many don’t), their main purpose is to assist the group with timekeeping as opposed to providing information about the landscape. Tours don’t usually include food or snacks. The cost for one of these very basic tours is around $15-$20USD per person.
The most comprehensive tours offered will include return transport from your hotel/hostel in Huaraz, a professional guide with first-aid kit and oxygen tank, a trip briefing and usually breakfast and lunch as well as hot drinks. As you would expect, the price for these tours is higher at $40-$60USD per person, however, arguably you will have a better experience.
Coping with the Altitude on a Laguna 69 Trek
Laguna 69 is located at 4,800 m.a.s.l. which means that the trek can be very challenging. It is a great day hike to do, especially if you are planning on taking on one of the longer hikes in the area such as the Santa Cruz trek. When it comes to coping with the altitude, we recommend the following:
- Take it slow and stop for breaks frequently.
- Make sure you stay hydrated.
- Bring coca leaves or coca candy to help with the effects of the altitude.
- Allow at least a few days (minimum one) to acclimatise.
- If you have been prescribed altitude sickness medication, use it but don’t panic if you don’t have it. It is rarely necessary for the average backpacker!
Weather at Laguna 69
Travellers can attempt the Laguna 69 trek all year round. However, the ideal time to take on the trek is from around mid-April through to late September or even early October. This is the dry season in Peru but also the coldest time of year. You will want to wear warm layers!
January to March are the wettest months and although the hike is still possible, the trails may be slippery and the weather may not be as good. April to June boasts picturesque scenery as the flowers are in bloom and the landscape is lush and green.
We found that the weather was constantly changing during our walk. Therefore it’s really important to remember to bring a coat or poncho! Thanks to the altitude and exercise, our temperatures fluctuated a lot so we would recommend wearing multiple layers so that you can de-layer or add layers as needed.
One Traveller’s Experience Trekking Laguna 69, Peru
To explore the bluest waters of Huaraz on a day hike, you will need to set off early, but we promise that it will be worth it! There are lots of agencies offering day trips but we booked through First Class Huaraz, who sent us on a tour with Esperanza Travel.
An Early Pick-Up!
We woke up around 4 am and were promptly picked up from our hostel at 4.30 am, which was perfect as the city was still very much asleep! The journey to the Cordillera Blanca mountain range takes around 3 hours so we used this time to take a nap, don’t forget a neck pillow if you have one!
At around 7 am, we arrived for a short stop at a café and shop, perfect for breaking up the journey and a more acceptable time to eat breakfast. Everything was on offer here, from bread rolls with marmalade, eggs, meat and of course, avocado! There were also bananas, coca tea (the one with honey is amazing) and even hot chocolates. We were pleasantly surprised to see that the food was super affordable and the service was speedy. We didn’t want to waste any time on our way to the trek start point! It is definitely advisable to stock up on a good meal for the hike ahead of you, especially if your tour doesn’t include breakfast.
Following this stop, we headed onwards to the Huascaran National Park, where we purchased our entrance tickets. These are 30 soles per person. Not long after this was sorted, we caught the first glimpse of blue at the Llanganuco Lagoon. This five minute stop is a great place to take a couple of photographs, as well as to get a feel for the temperature and altitude in the mountains.
For the next 20 minutes, the guide gave us information about the hike and suggested timings for the trip. Once we arrived at the start of the path at Cebollapampa, we had our entrance tickets stamped and there was also the opportunity to use the toilet for a small fee (1 sol which includes a small amount of toilet roll). This is the only toilet on the route, so we would really advise using it before you start the hike. We were one of the first groups to arrive for the trek and so there weren’t many people around, apart from the odd few campers.
Starting Our Laguna 69 Trek
From this point, the trip is very independent. You are able to walk at your own pace and our group split into their own subgroups. Most people tended to walk in groups of 2 or some on their own. The guide stayed at the back of the group and would set the minimum pace in order to complete the hike in the required time. It was advised that the hike should take 3 hours to get to the top, with 1 hour spent at Laguna 69 and then a further 2 hours to get back down.
The first part of the hike begins at around an altitude of 3800 m and is fairly flat with not too much of an incline. We found ourselves walking alongside the river and through herds of cows! If you look up, you’ll see that the mountains surround you. Many waterfalls are trickling down the hills and you can even catch your first glimpse of the glaciers towering above! Already there are many beautiful photo opportunities. This part of the trek takes just under an hour with multiple short stops, walking at an average pace.
The path then begins to slowly snake its way up the mountain, resulting in a slight incline. If there are people in front of you (particularly those in bright colours), then you might be able to get a good idea of the route ahead. You won’t quite believe where you are heading! We really liked how all of a sudden we were zigzagging our way up to the top without climbing steps. The switchbacks were gradual which helped us as we could really feel the altitude already. We took many short breaks as we ascended but around an hour later we reached the top (we naively thought this was the actual top)!
The landscape opened out into a small lake with vast grasslands and we saw there was a mountain to climb in the distance. We were greeted by a small wooden sign, which points to Laguna 69 and states ‘1 hora’ – the last leg! With this in mind and a welcome break from the incline, the next 10-20 minutes were spent enjoying the walk on flat land.
The area was a little wet and marshy in places, so you will need to step across stones and walk around puddles at times if you haven’t worn waterproof shoes. The path is fairly straightforward but if you are unsure, there are a few more signs dotted around to direct you to Laguna 69. Alternatively, you can always find the guide at the back of the group if you have any questions.
Reaching Laguna 69
We reached a sign that read ‘Zona Silvestre’ with another saying, ‘Laguna 69, 1 km’. Before this last push up the mountain, we stopped for a quick snack to give us a final burst of energy. This last part can be really hard on your breathing so it’s really important to stop and catch your breath every so often. We also used coca candy and coca leaves along the way to ensure that we didn’t fail victim to the symptoms of altitude sickness.
This path can get fairly steep in parts but if you take a second to breathe and look at the view, it is incredible! As you get near the top, everything looks to be a washed-out grey colour but eventually, you will see the blue hues of the lagoon peeping through the rocks! Walking towards the lake, you really won’t believe that it is this blue in real life. It really is worth every step of the ascent to make it to the 4600 m mark.
There were already a few people that had positioned themselves at the point of arrival or slightly round to the right of the lake. We opted to head left and find our own little slice of the lake to enjoy. There is plenty to go around so I would say it pays to walk a little to find a good spot. Despite the chill of being at 4600 m, the lagoon felt quite sheltered from the mountains surrounding it, so it wasn’t too cold. We took off our jackets and found a spot on a rock by the water, overlooking a beautiful waterfall in the distance, which was trickling into the lake.
We refuelled with more snacks and enjoyed the view around us. You can’t help but want to touch the water in the lake due to its vibrant colour. It was very cold yet pure but unfortunately, swimming is not allowed so that’s as far is it goes. During this time, we also heard cracking noises which really added to the ambience. We later found out this was the sound of the glaciers breaking in the distance!
We took some photos at the lagoon on top of a huge rock behind us. It was the perfect place to stand, there’s nothing more exciting than feeling this tiny in such a dramatic landscape! Our hour at the top went all too quickly and before we knew it, our guide was nudging us all the head back down.
The guide advised us that this journey would take around two hours to get back to the bus. Again, we all walked in our own groups and at our own pace. The path was the same as we took up the mountain, but now with the bonus of really being able to take in the surrounding scenery. We decided to stop every so often to take a couple of photos, have a drink and rest our knees. The walk down is so much easier than the way up, especially on the lungs! Occasionally, we would hang back with the guide to ask a few questions about our surroundings, which he was more than happy to help with.
We reached the starting point of the trek 2 hours later and waited for the whole group to arrive before the bus departed around 3 pm. Everyone was absolutely shattered which made for a very quiet bus journey back to Huaraz. Make the most of the toilets at the entrance to the park before getting back on the bus. If you are awake, then you can enjoy the landscape as you leave Huascaran National Park. The bus will pass through some beautiful mountain scenery. The next stop is one hour away, back at the restaurant where the group enjoyed breakfast earlier that day. Here you will be able to grab a few snacks at the shop or use the toilets. From this point, it takes around 2 and a half hours to get back to the city of Huaraz, where we arrived around 6 pm.
It is easy to see why Laguna 69 has become one of the most popular hikes in Peru. The hike is 12 km in total, ranging from an altitude of 3800 m to 4600 m. Overall, the walk can be challenging but if you have a moderate level of fitness and allow yourself to acclimatise, then you should be able to complete the hike enjoyably on a day trip from Huaraz.
What to Bring on your Laguna 69 Trek:
- Drinks – lots of water, we took a 2L bladder, which was super convenient. We also took a Gatorade each for energy.
- Snacks – granola, nuts (there is a really delicious brand called Gra), cereal bars, crisps, energy bar (we brought Kendal mint cake from the UK), etc.
- Coca candy/leaves for the altitude
- Toilet roll/wipes
- Hand sanitizer
- Any medicines, paracetamol/ibuprofen, plasters, etc
- Suncream – we really underestimated the sun’s rays as it was very cloudy, but definitely apply cream before and during the hike.
- Travel pillow – for the bus journey
- Change of clothes – if you are feeling super organised, you can bring something to change into on the way back (I would only say this is necessary if you get wet on the hike so might be more applicable to the wet season).
What to wear:
- Sturdy walking boots or trainers – waterproof if possible
- Thick walking socks
- Leggings or hiking trousers
- Hat or cap
- Waterproof coat
- Fleece or jumper
- Poncho waterproof or ‘pac a mac’ style coat
- T-shirt or vest