Laguna 69: The Hidden Gem Of Peru — Here's What You Need To Know
The best part about travel is discovering places you never thought you’d see. When I joined Remote Year last year and knew I would live in Peru for a month, I obviously wanted to plan a trip to hike Machu Picchu. But because I had five weeks in Lima, I wanted to take advantage and explore other parts of Peru that I hadn’t thought of. I got a suggestion from a local to take a bus to Huaraz and hike Laguna 69 — she stressed it’s a difficult hike, but a hidden gem of the country. So I did my research, booked a bus ticket, and went a few days later! And let me tell you, this place was BEAUTIFUL. Something to be aware of though is that this was the hardest hike of my LIFE — and I had just come back from Machu Picchu! Laguna 69 is at a very high altitude, so it’s rough getting to the top. You’re also on a time limit.
So, without further ado, here’s everything you need to know about Laguna 69!
What is Laguna 69?
Laguna 69 is a beautiful, crystal blue lake at the top of a mountain — only reachable by a three-hour hike. It’s in the Ancash region, and it’s one of the most beautiful sites I’ve ever seen. The color of the water changes in the light and it has a fairytale backdrop of snowy mountains and cascading water. It’s something you would expect to find in Canada, not Peru.
How to get there:
If you’re coming from Lima, you can take a bus to Huaraz! It’s about a nine-hour drive and I highly recommend taking the overnight bus so you can sleep through the ride. I booked through Cruz Del Sur, which had luxury seats with TVs, pillow, blankets, and a meal. The roundtrip cost was $55 USD, which I found to be completely worth it.
Where to stay:
Because I was by myself, I found the most affordable and comforting option would be a hostel! I used Hostelworld to find Alpes Huaraz Hostel, and I was able to book my hike to Laguna 69 through them. I signed up the night before at the front desk, and a group of us met at 5 a.m. to take a three-hour bus ride to the start of the hike. The cost of the bus and guided tour is 35 soles and the entrance fee to Laguna 69 is 30 soles, totaling $20 USD.
Also worth noting that this hostel was really cute and the staff were SO NICE! They have communal drinks at night, they make breakfast, and the staff were just very helpful and accommodating. :)
What to know about the altitude:
OK, so Laguna 69 is HIIIIIGH. Like, it was pretty dang rough. I highly recommend you spend at least 1-2 days in Huaraz to acclimate before you do the hike. I had just come from Cusco and Machu Picchu, so I was fine to go the following day after arriving, but I was in a different position. Listen to your body and give yourself time to breathe. I cannot stress enough how hard this hike is. There were very fit people in my group and they were struggling too.
What to bring:
WATER. Bring enough water. Besides hiking forever, you are also in high altitude, so you will need to hydrate a lot. You want to pack a bag with some essentials, but don’t go too heavy. I recommend toilet paper since there are no bathrooms and the hike is at least three hours. I also found that I desperately needed hiking poles (especially when going back down) — and you can ask Alpes Huaraz to lend you some. Keep in mind that it could be sunny, and it’s always good to have a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen!
Tip on clothing: It was absolutely FREEZING in the morning in Huaraz (I went in September), but got warmer as you started hiking. I wore leggings, a t-shirt, and a jacket with a puffy core to keep me insulated. Light layers of clothing is usually a good bet.
Getting to Laguna 69:
As mentioned earlier, you will take a three-hour bus ride to the start of the hike. Now, this bus ride was ROUGH. It had small seats and it was very bumpy. I took Dramamine to survive. But before you get to Laguna 69, you’ll make a pit stop where you can purchase breakfast, coffee, snacks, water, and use the restrooms. This is the last time you will see bathrooms, so make sure you go. You’ll then visit the Llanganuco Lakes to take some pictures by the turquoise water. It is MAJESTIC (these pictures above have no filters). You only have about five minutes here, and then it’s another 10-minute drive to the start of the trek.
OK! So the trail actually isn’t that bad. You first go down some rocks, and then the trail itself is pretty smooth and calm (no stairs either). I saw cows and donkeys along the way. There are beautiful mountains and landscapes. What makes it so hard is ascending when the altitude is so intense! With this tour group (set up through the hostel), you have a total of four hours to make it to the top. The hike usually takes three hours, and then you have an hour at the lake to eat and enjoy the view. So the faster you make it up, the more time you have. Unfortunately it took me four hours, so I only had about 10 minutes to take pictures and see the lake. BUT IT WAS STILL WORTH IT.
The hike up:
I feel like I’ve said this too many times now, but this hike was HARD. AS. HELL. I truly believed I wasn’t going to make it to the top. The first hour isn’t that bad, the second hour things really escalate, and the last hour or two is brutal. There comes a point where you hit some flat land before having to do the really big incline at the end — and that last incline before the lake is CRAZY. Like, it took every fiber of my being to drag my heavy, fatigued body up that mountain. You need to take it slow, conserve your energy as much as possible, hydrate, and prepare yourself. I think doing the StairMaster isn’t a bad idea to gain some leg muscle.
Getting to the top:
The last 30 minutes is the worst, and it is so mentally and physically taxing. But when you hit the lake, it is like MAGIC. It’s seriously so pretty and the pictures don’t even do it justice. My lips were completely chapped, my body ached, my face was covered in salt from sweat, and my legs felt like jelly. You are given a time limit of four hours, and I only had 10 minutes to enjoy the lake. But would I endure the pain again? 100%!
Also, if you’re wondering how my hair looks so nice after four hours of hiking, I have no idea. Cold weather? Lol it’s a miracle.
Getting back down:
You have two hours to head back down, and it is a bit steep. I had hiking poles and I found that to be a lifesaver! The guide is pretty strict about getting everyone down by the end of the two hours since the bus ride back is three hours. I was stressed and a little less cautious than usual, so the poles made me feel more secure.
Overall, Laguna 69 is the hardest hike you’ll ever do, but it’s worth it!
Have any questions? Drop them in the comments below!