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Laguna Parón

Laguna Parón

Laguna Parón

The largest lake in the Cordillera Blanca — a snowcapped range of the Andes in west central Peru — and a gorgeous natural reservoir, Laguna Paron is a unique destination for hikers, rock climbers, and nature enthusiasts.

Located within the Huascaran National Park and 62 miles north of the hiking mecca Huaraz, the 17.1 square mile lake is distinguished by its striking turquoise hue due to high concentrations of dissolved lime. From its shores, visitors can take in precious views of formidable peaks blanketed in fresh snow (including Artesonraju, the pyramid peak many believe to have inspired the Paramount Pictures logo).

Listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site since 1985, Laguna Parón can be reached by car or foot. Having arrived at this awe-inspiring body of water at 4185 meters above sea level, the serene environment welcomes one to meditate, rock climb, kayak, or even set up camp near the quiet shores.

How to get to Laguna Parón
Most people visit the lake as part of an organized tour out of Huaraz or Caraz (from S/50), as the logistics of getting to Laguna Parón — whether by car, hike, or combo — can become complicated.

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From Lima, Huaraz can be reached by an 8-hour bus ride (take a night bus to pass the time sleeping). Various companies whose offices are spread throughout the capital city offer the commute. One of the better recommended is MovilBus.

The city of Huaraz is not large, and a short stroll around the plaza will lead you to numerous offers from local agencies and guides for full-day tours of Laguna Parón. Be sure that the direction you hire is certified for Laguna Parón, and expect to pay between S/50-70 per person for a group tour. Reputable tours won’t set out until 7:30  a.m. or 8 a.m. the following day, so take the first day in Huaraz to acclimatize (the city is 3052m/10,013ft above sea level).

If you want to venture to Laguna Parón alone, you must commute from Huaraz to Caraz by “combi” (public shuttle van). The 45-mile ride takes less than two hours and costs between S/6-8 per person. These vans depart throughout the day and can be found on Jr. Cajamarca, a 10-minute walk north of the Plaza de Armas in Huaraz.

Having arrived in Caraz, find a taxi (no rideshare apps here) willing to take you to the lake and wait until you are ready to return. Including a wait time of 2-3 hours, a round-trip taxi ride will cost between S/150-180. The bumpy ride takes nearly two hours.

Walking to Laguna Parón
Those in physical shape and with proper acclimatization to the altitude can hike to Laguna Parón from the town of Parón, an S/8-10 combi ride from Caraz. The 8-mile hike can take three to five hours, depending on stamina, as it is steep and rocky.

Just to let you know, signs along the route are few and far between, which is another reason to hire a local guide. Apps such as Maps. me can help navigate the way even without a Wi-Fi or data connection.

Trekkers looking to return to Caraz the same day must return to Parón before 3 p.m., when the last shuttle van leaves, or should coordinate for a taxi to wait at the park entrance.

What to do at Laguna Parón
The lake continues to promote water-based activities even though its water level was lowered from 75 meters to 15 meters in the mid-1980s to prevent the collapse of Huandoy’s moraine. You can rent a kayak and navigate the smooth, frigid waters for half an hour (S/20). Families may be interested in taking a boat ride, though it is costlier and lasts far less time (S/10 per person and just 15 minutes).

Rock climbers will find a challenge at Torre de Parón, known as the Sphinx. There are at least 13 wall routes on the granite monolith.

You can take an easy hike to the lookout point, the Mirador. This 30 to 40-minute trek is well-marked and leads to a prime view (and plenty of photo opportunities) of the turquoise lake. But please take your time as you move forward in altitude.

Are you looking to make the most of your time in Laguna Parón? Campers are welcome and can camp without a fee, though no amenities or equipment are available on site. You’ll need to bring a tent, a warm sleeping bag, plenty of layers and all your food. The following day, be sure to take everything with you, including your trash, to continue preserving this pristine natural gem.

Tickets and other practicalities
Entrance tickets to the lake can be purchased once you’ve reached Huascaran National Park. The entrance fee is S/5.
Buy food and water in Huaraz or Caraz, whichever will be the final city/town, before heading up to the lake, as there are no guarantees of finding vendors at Laguna Parón.

The best time to visit is between April and September when it is sunnier and dry in the Andes.
Take a day or two in Huaraz or Caraz to acclimatize to the high altitude. The lake is over 4,000 meters above sea level, and rushing to the top can result in stomach sickness or extreme headaches.

Restaurant options in Caraz are slim, though La Peña del Gordo is a prime spot to try local flavors, including charqui, dehydrated meat, typically beef or alpaca.

Have plenty of Peruvian soles on hand, as all transportation, restaurants, and entrance fees are all paid in cash, not with a bank card.

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