Laguna 69, Peru

One of the most iconic shots in Peru (outside of, you know, Machu Picchu), Laguna 69 is every bit as breathtaking in person as it appears in photos.

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Located in the Huascaran National Park, part of the Ancash region of Peru, Laguna 69 can easily be reached from the city of Huarez.

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While it is possible to take local transportation to the starting point of the hike, it’s easier to take a tour to Laguna 69. I, like most budget travellers, can’t stand the thought of an organized tour. However in this case, it does seem like a day tour from Huarez is the best method to see this incredible site!

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The tour:

Costing 30 – 35 soles ($12-13 cad), the tour bus will drive you 2 hours to the starting point of the hike. From there, you’ll hike 2 – 3 hours on your own until you reach the iconic aqua lake, meeting back up with the group you came with. The descent back to the bus will take about 1.5 – 2 hours and from there it’s another couple of hours back to Huarez.

pros of taking a tour: 

  1. It’s much easier than figuring out local transport to and from the lake.
  2. An experienced local guide is present incase any serious problems arise. The lake itself sits at 4680 meters above sea level, so altitude sickness is a real concern.

cons of taking a tour: 

  1. You’re with a bus full of 30 people.
  2. You will pay 5-10 soles more than if you take local transit.

* For me, the pros outweighed the cons. Because Laguna 69 is about 2 hours away from Huarez and local transport returning to the city apparently stops running after 3pm, taking a tour was more secure. Additionally, local transport apparently can cost up to 30 soles itself, so you may not even be saving money when going by yourself *

The hike: 

After leaving Huarez very early in the morning, the hike will begin around 9:00am. Prior to arriving at the start of the hike, the bus will make a 10-minute stop at Laguna de Llanganuco for some beautiful photos!

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The hike will begin 20 minutes later.

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Despite arriving with a group of 30 people, you’ll quickly separate from the crowds. The first hour or so is relatively easy, which is crucial, as your body gets acclimated to the altitude.

 

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However, the remaining 1 – 1.5 hours is very difficult as you zig zag your way higher and higher up the mountain, taking short breaks every 5 minutes to catch your breath.

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And just when you begin to give up hope that Laguna 69 actually exists….

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….There it is!!

One of the most impressive glacial lakes in the world, Laguna 69 will take whatever breath you currently have, away! (not much)

Unfortunately you’ll have to share this iconic spot with the other members on your tour. After 45 minutes or so, you’ll begin to climb back down toward the bus just as the afternoon clouds inevitably start to roll in.

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After 1.5 – 2 hours, everyone will be back on the bus, exhilarated and exhausted! The sleepy journey back to Huarez will arrive around 5 to 5:30pm, dropping each passenger off at their hostels or hotels. Undoubtedly, this 12-hour day will be very demanding, yet VERY rewarding!

Conclusion:

You can’t go wrong whether you decide to take a tour or to venture to Laguna 69 on your own. Just make sure to get here! You’ll want to spend a few days in Huarez prior to hiking, as it’s important to acclimate your body to the altitude.

While I didn’t find the hike to be completely grueling from a fitness standpoint, it is extremely challenging trying to catch your breath at 4680 meters. My advice would be to pack some coca leaves or coca tea as this is crucial for battling altitude sickness.

Additionally, you’ll want to bring:

  • a rain coat
  • hiking boots
  • sunscreen
  • 1.5 L of water
  • snacks

Enjoy!

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