Humantay lake is one of the prettiest lakes of Peru, it is located about 3 hours from Cusco. We did a day trip to Humantay lake, where I tried to hike at an altitude of 4200 meters, which did not turn out very easy. Though Humantay lake is absolutely stunning, we were a little bit down about Peru as a country for tourists, so therefore I included a note about tourist traps in Peru. In Peru we found the way of travel less relaxed than in Colombia and Ecuador and I hope that Peru will change some things in the future.

Humantay Lake

Humantay lake is a beautiful lake, situated at 4.200 meters between snow capped peaks of 6.000 meters. I heard that the hike to Humantay lake was more doable than the hike to Rainbow Mountain, which is at an altitude of 5.000 meters. Humantay lake is supposed to be less touristy than Rainbow Mountain, so we decided to do this tour instead. We booked a tour to Humantay lake for € 15 per person, which included a breakfast, lunch, guide and transport. I was promised that the guide would take it slow, so that inexperienced hikers like me would have no trouble reaching the top of the hike. Unfortunately things went wrong right away, as our guide didn’t turn up at 4.15 AM as promised, but at 5.15 AM. I was already afraid that this time would be deducted from our hiking time and unfortunately I was right.

When I still hoped it was going to be a fun day 😉

After our breakfast and a three hours drive our guide immediately sped off with some of the fittest people in our group, leaving the rest behind and to ourselves. Being a really slow and inexperienced hiker I felt super uncomfortable when this happened. The altitude really got to me and my legs quickly felt like spaghetti. Apparently I was wrongfully informed regarding the hiking time as I severely underestimated it. The hike started off quite flat, but after that you had to ascend a really steep mountain for about 1,5 hours, while I thought it would be steep hike of half an hour. I really had no idea how my body would react to those circumstances as I had never attempted a hike at that altitude before. When you are ascending the mountain there are locals with horses that continuously try to convince you to ascend the mountain on the horse instead. To be honest, this deeply affected my mental ability. When you are trying to do something for a first time but your surroundings are cheering you on to fail, that does not help with reaching your goal. Continuously being in the slow group and having sore legs did not make me enjoy this hike, so finally I caved and ascended on a horse. Being relieved from me, Hielke turned out to be a mountain goat and he climbed the mountain super quick. I really loved the views of Humantay Lake, but because of how the day went I felt like a loser. I already knew I am more of a “enjoys the views kind of person” than an “enjoys the hike kind of person” but I was still really disappointed in myself. I guess giving up the hike, just to have a fun day and let Hielke walk at his own pace, should be a good thing but I didn’t feel good about it.

Hielke quickly ascended the mountain!

Maybe a hike at this altitude was way too ambitious, but I did wish I booked a more expensive trip with a relaxed guide and less people in it. But unfortunately in Peru, you never really know what you book. Tour companies will often tell you what you want to hear and there are hardly any reviews about the different tour companies. Often you are put in a group with a different company, for example when a tour is not fully booked they just put you on another tour. You never know what you are going to get in Peru, and that is why I wrote the next paragraph about tourist traps in Peru.

Tourist traps in Peru

Somehow, our time in Cusco made us realize that Peru seems to have more tourist traps than the other countries we have visited until now. Especially with booking activities and entrance fees, when something is cheap it often not very good (read: our experience with Humantay Lake, Maras & Moray, Nazca lines). At times I found people in Peru dishonest about what they would offer you, tours always have some hidden cost or they drop you off somewhere for shopping, even if you don’t want to. They are also not honest about the free time you have during tours. As we just had an amazing experience with Peru Hop during our first days in Peru we were really disappointed in that.

Peru for a large part does depend on Machu Picchu related tourism and everything Inca related is super expensive and out of proportion compared to the price level in the rest of the country (examples: entrance fee Moray, train tickets to Machu Picchu). We paid about € 200 per person before we entered Machu Picchu (train, entrance fee + bus tickets), but when we were inside we were not treated very kindly. The guards often seem to make up rules, just to piss tourists off. I was not allowed to change in a twirling skirt in Machu Picchu and almost got kicked out. The problem was that I was changing clothes, and not that I wanted to wear a skirt. And then I almost got kicked out off Machu Picchu.. bizar! These kind of things sometimes left a bad taste in my mouth. In the end I was able to take the picture… it will be included in the next blog 😉 Hielke wouldn’t let Peru’s rule-changing keep me from my picture 🙂

Peru also knows how to play the Instagram game and is capitalizing on global warming with Rainbow Mountain, as the gletsjer that was previously covering it has disappeared. We decided not to book a tour to Rainbow Mountain, as it’s extremely over-touristy and it seems photoshopped in all pictures taken by “influencers”. On pictures of regular tourists like us it seems far less impressive than in the professional pictures.

We have yet to encounter one taxi in Peru that has a taxi-meter, so you are really dependent on your negotiation skills and knowledge about the distance before settling on a price.

A lot of things that seem authentic in pictures of Peru, actually are only about money. People that dress up in traditional clothes will almost always try to sell you something or ask money for that picture. This is especially the case in Cusco… I am not naive but sometimes it was irritating. An example of this is the negative experience we had when we took a picture with a baby alpaca. We tried to settle on a price before taking the picture, but the woman told us to decide afterwards what we wanted to pay. This ended up in an argument, because she found that we took to many pictures and that we paid too little… At times we were surprised when people on the streets helped us with a question, without asking something in return. Not to say that people in Peru aren’t nice, because we also met a lot of kind people (especially in restaurants and hotels).

The infamous picture

Another thing in Peru is that when you get a little bit off the beaten path, you will encounter a lot of garbage dumps. While taking the bus through the country, we saw so much garbage, it didn’t look sustainable to us. Even the beautiful desert at Huacachina was littered, what a shame! These kind of things do make Peru a little more exhausting than Colombia and Ecuador, where we encountered none of these issues.

I wouldn’t say that you shouldn’t go to Peru, but it might be a good idea to lower your expectations regarding the authenticity of the country. We did think the hotels/hostels and food are of amazing value and the sights are absolutely breathtaking. Especially in more upscale restaurants the hospitality is amazing and this is one of the reasons that we enjoyed Cusco this much.

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