A Complete Guide To Hiking Laguna 69: Everything You Need To Know About The Most Popular One Day Trek In Peru
Laguna 69 is one of the best one-day treks in the Cordillera Blanca near Huaraz in Peru. Read our complete guide to discover everything you need to know before you go hiking Laguna 69.
Laguna 69 is on every traveler's bucket list while visiting Peru. How did this happen? The lake itself is very often placed on the list of the most beautiful lakes in the world, and it is one of the most iconic sites in Peru not only because of the beauty of Laguna 69 itself but also because of the spectacular and scenic hike leading to the lake. The trek to Laguna 69 will take your breath away, and we mean it not only figuratively, but literally as well as the lake sits 4600 meters above sea level.
Lately, thanks to social media (looking at you Instagram), Laguna 69 experiences an immense demand and especially in the high season from June to September the lake's shore changes from a peaceful place to a buzzing spot full not only of avid hikers but also selfie chasers. But this downside of its own popularity doesn't change the fact, that the utterly breathtaking blue Laguna 69 is worth a visit.
If you've never hiked at this altitude, you should spend at least some time in Huaraz which sits in 3100 meters or do one or two hikes around the area to acclimatize properly. We slept in a smaller town Caraz which is only 2200 meters above sea level, so to prepare for a trip to Laguna 69, we visited another beautiful lake, Laguna Paron, only one day before.
THE LAGUNA 69 FACTS
Laguna 69 lies in Huascaran National Park and only the drive to the starting point known as Cebolla Pampa was spectacular as we could see Huarascan, the highest mountain of Peru and Laguna Llanganuco along the way.
The hike to the Laguna 69 is not long, only 6 kilometers one way, but you must gain 800 meters - it means some parts are steep and the combination with the high altitude might slow you down. It usually takes about three hours to get to the lake and a bit less than two hours to reach the parking lot. Don't forget to include the time you will spend near the lake - we sat there about an hour, not only to enjoy fabulous views but also to relax and replenish energy.
HOW TO AVOID CROWDS
Before we'll share with you what's the best way how to get to Laguna 69, here's another tip on how to enjoy the spectacular place without many people around. Because tours but also independent travelers reach the lake almost at the same time (around 11 AM), you can consider staying at a campsite by Llanganuco lake near hike's trailhead and start as early as you wish. Another way is to travel to the trailhead on own by taxi to make sure you'll be the first one that day on the lake's shore.
ENTRANCE FEE TO THE LAGUNA 69
Entrance fee to Huascaran National Park for one day cost S/30 it means you must pay this amount if you want to visit Laguna 69 which lies within park's borders. You can also buy multiday passes for four days or up to one month, so always think in advance what you want to visit in the area and for how long you want to stay so you won't have to pay the one day fee multiple times.
HOW TO GET LAGUNA 69
You can visit Laguna 69 in a way which suits the best your traveling style and budget. Independently by taking public transport or taxi, or with a tour.
Tour | If you think that taking a one-day excursion must be always more expensive than traveling on own, visiting Laguna 69 with travel agency will convince you otherwise. Although calling the service a tour is probably not correct in the right sense of meaning as this service generally include only transport (no guide or meals). Daily departures from either Huaraz and Caraz and a big competition drove prices down, and today you can find a one day tour for about S/40 - S/55 (to get the best prices, shop around and do not book online). The price doesn't include the entrance fee which must be paid at the entrance to the park separately. Departures from Huaraz to Laguna 69 usually start at 5:30 so you will reach the hiking trailhead at around 8:30. You should be back in Huaraz about 6 or 7 PM, but it mostly depends on a hiking pace of your fellow travelers. The itinerary is very similar when you start in Caraz.
Pros | When taking a tour, you don't need to worry about your transportation back to Huaraz or Caraz, which is the biggest advantage we could see. It is for sure the most comfortable way how to visit Laguna 69.
Cons | Some might mention that the biggest downside of taking a tour is that you will reach the lagoon more or less at the same time with others and won't have the place only for yourself. Well, this is not the thing which would bother us the most. Particularly in this tour, we would be frustrated by a different level of fitness of all participants. The bus must wait for the slowest person in a group, so it can easily happen that you will be sitting on the cold bus for a couple of hours only to wait for everyone to return. When we were coming back from Laguna 69 (after sitting on its shore for more than an hour), we still met several people who hadn't reached the lake yet, and the slowest ones were still about an hour from reaching the lake.
Taxi | If you are not short on money or if you are in a hurry but still want to visit Laguna 69, taking a taxi might be an option for you, although we haven't met anyone who visited the lake this way. You can arrange a taxi from Huaraz, Caraz or Carhuaz and the cost is around S/180 for roundtrip (this price should include waiting time). If this is the way of transport you prefer, you can try to find other people in a hostel to share the cost. You can arrange a taxi service easily on the street or to be a bit safer, ask at your hostel to call you a cab.
Pros | Taking a cab is for sure a bit more comfortable, although it is not so much faster. The advantage is that you don't need to wait for others to finish the hike and you can leave once you are ready.
Cons | Because hiking Laguna 69 is so popular and the cost of a tour is relatively cheap, taking a taxi makes this trip very expensive while you don't save that much time as the road to the trailhead is bumpy and unpaved.
Public Transport | We traveled to Laguna 69 on own from Caraz, but we will cover here also the option when you decide to start from Huaraz - it is pretty similar.
From Caraz, first, take a frequent bus to Yungay. The first bus goes at 5 AM from the 'Huaraz' bus terminal, and it takes about 30 minutes to get to Yungay (the cost is S/2). In Yungay you must take another bus going to La Cebolla (the place where the hike starts, you can also say Laguna Sesenta Nueve or Cebolla Pampa). But there we hit a snag as the first bus to La Cebolla was about to leave the bus terminal, not until 7 AM - we didn't want to arrive that late, and also we didn't want to wait there that long. When this happens, you have two options here. Either to leave Caraz later to arrive in Yungay around 7 AM or wait by a road leading to La Cebolla. Here is also stand an official stand for collectivos (cars leaving when full). Here we were facing a problem as drivers were willing to take us but for a ridiculously overpriced amount of money, about S/30, which is double of the normal rate. Luckily, there was one empty van going in the right direction, we stopped him, and because it was a driver from one travel agency on his way to pick up clients from Santa Cruz trek, he was willing to take us for a fair price). On the way back, we could travel to Yungay with one of the tour buses which had empty seats (it is never guaranteed though), but we waited for a collectivo (this time for the right price S/15) which goes irregularly, but usually, it passes the trailhead around 2 PM. From Yungay, catch again the regular bus to Caraz.
From Huaraz, you must also travel to Yungay and change a bus here. Take a minibus from Simon Bolivar for S/5 first bus leaves between 5:30 - 6 AM. Once in Yungay, you will face the same circumstances as we did while traveling from Caraz. You can either take a taxi, wait for collectivo or hitchhike. On the way back, you must also be either lucky and fit into one of the tour buses (be ready to wait for the last passenger to finish the hike) or catch a minivan to Yungay (the last one should be passing the trailhead around 3 - 4 PM. In case you wouldn't make it, you can try to hitchhike some of the bypassing cars.
Pros | When lucky you can get to the lake earlier than those traveling with a tour and have Laguna 69 for a few moments just for yourself. Also, on the way back (when everything goes as it should), you don't need to wait for the slow hikers traveling on the same bus.
Cons | Traveling by public transport, in this case, is not really quicker, not cheaper plus there is no guaranteed transport back (we found the transport in Peru surprisingly unreliable at some places). But it makes the journey more adventurous, right. The uncertainty of return transport is a shame, but on the other hand, this was our second hike in Peru with an open return (the first was a hike to Laguna Paron), and we were always able to get back.
HIKING TO LAGUNA 69
The actual hike to Laguna 69 is not long - the total distance is only 6 kilometers one way, but it is the altitude which makes this trek demanding. In La Cebolla trailhead, leave the main road and walk down to the river. You will have a spectacular view of the snow-capped mountain behind you.
The beginning of this hike is surprisingly easy and flat. Approximately 1 kilometer of the trek leads through an open meadow. It is not until the end of this meadow when the path starts to zig-zag all the way up. The path is not technical at all, and you shouldn't experience any troubles here (climb up slow and steady). You must climb to the edge on your left side, but before you get there, you can enjoy waterfalls on both sides of the valley. Once you reach the edge, there is a small lagoon and a short flat section.
Many people at this point think that the worst part is over, but unfortunately, the opposite is true. Behind this section where you can take a rest starts the more difficult ascent to the lake.
Now you are only about 1 kilometer from the lake, but the path is more inclined, and also there is a chance you start feeling the altitude. This part leading to Laguna 69 took us a little bit less than an hour, but the first glimpse of the lake made us forget the exertion very quickly. The hike to the lake takes about three hours, but less than two hours back as you will go all the way downhill.
We'd seen pictures of Laguna 69 before our trek, but we were still amazed by the blue waters of the lake. There is a narrow waterfall running down and feeding the lake with the melting water from the iceberg of the Chacraraju mountain towering above the lake.
Laguna 69 lies in a high altitude in the Peruvian Cordillera Blanca. It means that the weather can change rapidly. The best months to visit are probably from May to September, with a bit lower temperatures but a higher chance to enjoy the sunshine and clear skies. From October, it starts to rain more frequently, usually in the afternoons. We did the hike to Laguna 69 in late October and experienced everything from sun and clear skies in the morning to a hailstorm and snow on our way back.
Huaraz offers a large number of accommodation options. One of the most favorite hostels among backpackers is La Casa de Zarela.
But you can also look up a hotel matching your budget HERE.
A small town of Caraz can be a pleasant alternative to a touristy (and bit dirty) Huaraz. There are also several travel agencies which will help you organize one day or multi-day treks.
We stayed in a cheap, but very nice hostel with a bit weird name Hostal y Restaurante Business Rosh.
You can check other accommodation options in Caraz HERE.