Palcoyo Mountain and Humantay Lake

5 min read


Palcoyo Mountain and Humantay Lake

7 min read
Reading Time: 5 minutes

It’s very difficult to get bored in Cusco. Whether you are chasing baby alpacas through a tiny street or looking for best sunset viewpoint – there is always something to do. But the real adventure starts when you get off the town to explore the Sacred Valley. While you can choose to hike the original Rainbow Mountain – Vinicunca we didn’t feel that moment it was a good idea. The place got touristy over the last couple of years and for many backpackers, it was a quite disappointing experience.

Note: Rainbow Mountains in Peru became a very recent discovery. Untouched peaks of Vinicunca and Palcoyo used to be covered by snow all the year-round. From 2016 we can see the slopes of turquoise, red, yellow and purple formed out of minerals. This could be due to climate change and rising temperatures. 


Usually, we go on hikes independently however, we understood when it comes about Peru and trekking in the Andes you need an experienced guide. After reading amazing things about Exploor Peru tour company we picked two days tour to Palcoyo Mountain and Humantay Lake 198$(~151£). Both tours included hotel/Airbnb pick up, experienced English speaking guides, breakfast and lunch. What’s more, they provide vegan options upon request! 

It’s extremely important you have insurance while travelling in Peru. Follow travellers maxim that if you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel.


Another thing, get a sufficient amount of time between tours. Based on our experience we don’t recommend to go on hikes day after day. Also, prepare for one thing. Travelling in the van is time-consuming, usually up to 3 hours ride one way. Our Palcoyo tour started at 5 am when we got picked up from our Airbnb in Cusco. Next, we had breakfast with a Peruvian family. Another stop was at Palcoyo community. We got a chance not only to meet Quechua people but also to see their everyday life. At the elevation of 4200 meters above the sea level, there will be only two sources of food – potatoes and lamas.

Note: Did you know there are over 4000 types of potatoes in Peru!?

About 150 families living in this region, creating small communities. Without knowing the value of the money locals are under threat of mining companies who are interested in copper, iron and other minerals. Our guide said in the future this hike might be closed in order to preserve the land. 

The trail starts not far away for the car park and then it’s around 45 minutes of gradual incline. You get a reward of an eye-popping panorama of the whole Red Valley on the 5200 meters above the sea. Our guide was extremely helpful and supportive while some of us suffered from the altitude. We were given plenty of time for little breaks so each of us could catch our breath. Most importantly there was only one more small tour apart of ours and it felt like we have the whole valley for ourselves.

Two days after we went on Humantay Lake Tour. The hike starts at the beginning of the famous Salkantay Trek which leads to Machu Picchu. Again, we were picked up from our Airbnb around 5 am and this time joined only two girls from the United States. Humantay Lake sets on 4200 meters above the sea level and we reached the top after two hours of a moderate hike. The last 15 minutes can be tough – be mindful about breathing, stay hydrated and do small breaks. Guides from Exploor Peru are always making sure you will be the first people to reach the summit. No tourists, we were only greeted by a grazing cow. We had to wait patiently and it took two hours for the thick fog to clear out.


While walking along the edge of the lake we followed a little path which ended up with some of the most spectacular views. The colour of the lake especially viewed from the top was insane. Shortly after we could easily spot the second highest peak in Cusco – Salkantay Mountain 6271 m! Our guide Raul told us about his personal relationship with the mountain and referred it as Apu – a spirit that brings protection, healing and guidance. It was really fascinating to hear how the cults of the Sun, Mother Earth and elements of Nature are still alive in Native’s beliefs. We almost felt like we went on a pilgrimage!

You will find so many piles of rocks around the lake left by tourists. In Quechua, apachetas are symbolic offerings to Mother Nature for protection and good luck. 


  • Warm clothes,
  • Waterproof jacket,
  • Hat and gloves,
  • Reusable bottle of water, snacks,
  • Small change for the entry and toilets,
  • Sunscreen and sunglasses, 
  • Hiking shoes,
  • Coca leaves, coca candies,