The Andean mountain range has gifted Peru with incredible landscapes and myths that connect civilisation with nature and ancient cosmogony. But at the foot of some of the highest snowcapped mountains, there are usually turquoise or crystal clear lagoons that complement the magical scenery. Although reaching these secret lacunas, or lagoons, often involves trekking through rough roads in dangerously high elevation for hours or even days, you don’t need to travel far from Lima, or the Andes to see some of the most beautiful lagoons in Peru. Up for the challenge? Here’s our pick of the best ones.
Perfect for a day-long trip in Ancash, Laguna Churup at 14,600 feet above sea level has got to have the most spectacular landscape out all of the lagoons. Be prepared to swim in its turquoise blue and crystal-clear water and waterfall. Although a tour guide is always recommended for every visit, you can also have a bus drop you off at the beginning of the trek, two hours from the lagoon
You’ll daydream thinking of Lagunas Llanganuco until you’re actually there. Located in the Ancash region, right above Lima, the water of Lagunas Llanganuco is so aquamire it’s enchanting. It’s made up of two lagoons: Chinancocha (female lagoon) and Orconcocha (male lagoon), both inside the Huascarán National Park, home to Peru’s highest mountain of the same name. A stream coming from the park’s glacial peaks feeds both lagoons. At 12,631 feet above sea level, visitors trekking to Lagunas Llanganuco will enjoy diverse flora and fauna.
Ancash region is, perhaps, where you’ll find the most breathtaking lagoons. Laguna Querococha is one of the 400 lagoons or lakes in the Huaylas inter-Andean valley. Legend says that a warrior named Querococha, stole a golden rattle from a lake nearby, and during his escape, he dropped it on the prairie. The golden rattle sank creating a hole so deep, water started filling it, creating this stunning lake.
If your goal is to at least do a five-day trekking tour of the Cordillera Blanca in the Ancash region, make sure Laguna Jahuacocha is one of the places you’ll camp in. Two impressive peaks can be seen from Laguna Jahuacocha: Jirishanca and Yerupajá mountains. Once you’re done setting a tent near the water, take your camera out and get ready for long exposure shots for before the sunrise.
By now you might’ve read the quechua word for lagoon, “cocha”, quite a few times in this list. Cocha Salvador is located in the Manu National Park and it’s so rich in flora and fauna that you might end up running into a jaguar sleeping on a fallen tree near its water, or a playful pack of river otters following your boat. It has an island in the middle that remains more or less untouched by man, making it a perfect spot to view rare species.
Four hours south of Lima, you’ll find an oasis. Inside that oasis, you’ll find Laguna Huacachina, home to many myths involving mermaids. Truth is, this oasis wouldn’t look too much like one if it wasn’t for the dark green hole with water that gives the place character. It’s a perfect day- or two-day trip for those who want to get away from Lima for a bit.
Located at 15,584 feet above sea level, Laguna Quimacocha sits below the La Venturosa mountain range in the Andean part of the Lima region. Laguna Quimacocha is surrounded by grayish mountains (little to no vegetation grows at that elevation) and you can see trout swimming its crystal-clear waters. The trek takes about seven hours and can be a challenging adventure even for those who are physically prepared. You can find tours costing around 40 soles (which at around USD$12 is highly recommended), and the bus ride from Lima to the nearest town — where it’s recommended you spend a night in — costs about 12 soles (just under USD$4).