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Humantay Lake Vs Rainbow Mountain – Which is Best and Why

Alison Macallister

Most people visit Peru to see the famous Machu Picchu. If you stay in Cusco, don't miss out on the abundance of natural attractions. Humantay Lake and Rainbow Mountain are two of the area's most popular phenomenons and with excellent hiking trails. If you can, I recommend seeing both.

But what if you have limited time in the area? Which is better: Humantay Lake or Rainbow Mountain?

In this article, I will compare the two sites as each location has a lot going for it. Hopefully, this guide will help you decide which day trip to choose when travelling from Cusco.

Looking for a day tour? Here are my 5 favourite Rainbow Mountain and Humantay Lake day tours: 

See more Cusco day tours

Humantay Lake Vs Rainbow Mountain

What Are Humantay Lake and Rainbow Mountain?

Humantay is the postcard-perfect mountain lake. The water here is remarkable - an unnatural-looking, stunning shade of blue. The lake is framed by snowy peaks. When you first lay eyes on this lake, it’s hard not to be mesmerised.

Rainbow Mountain is a relatively recent addition to Cusco’s tourist route. The glacial retraction has caused slopes of colorful layers to be revealed. The mountain is striped with reds, oranges, purples, yellows, and browns. The colors make Rainbow Mountain a magnet to tourists seeking unique photo-taking opportunities.

Humantay Lake Vs Rainbow Mountain - What They Have In Common

While being vastly different locations, trips to Humantay Lake and Rainbow Mountain do share some commonalities for visitors to Peru.

You Need to Hike to See Rainbow Mountain or Humantay Lake

Whether you visit Humantay Lake or Rainbow Mountain, you will need to do some trekking to get there. However, hiking is made more difficult by the high altitudes. At Humantay and Rainbow Mountain, you have the rare option of riding a horse at least part of the way.

Expect a Crowd

Both Humantay Lake and Rainbow Mountain are extremely popular as day trips.

No matter which site you visit, prepare to share the view with hundreds of other people. All tour groups arrive at the lake or mountain around the same time of day.

Cusco Day Trips Start Early

A tour to either site means getting up before the sun. Most trips leave between 4 and 5 in the morning and generally include breakfast and lunch. Most of these tours return to Cusco after 5 pm.

You Can Visit These Attractions Without a Tour

There's no need to book a tour for either attraction. Lake Humantay and Rainbow Mountain can both be reached by collectivos or taxis.

However, doing these tours yourself is not necessarily cheaper. With that said, you aren’t confined to a tour’s specific schedule; that means you can sleep in and miss the busiest times on site. To learn how to get to these attractions yourself, read our full articles on getting from Cusco to Rainbow Mountain and Humantay Lake.

Where to stay? Here are 5 of my favourite accommodation options in Cusco: 

See more Cusco accommodation options.

Which Trek Is Harder - Humantay Lake Or Rainbow Mountain?

For some, the deciding factor for your plans may be which feature is easier to get to. Overall, trekking to Rainbow Mountain is more difficult than trekking to Humantay Lake.

The Hike to Humantay Lake is a 4km / 2.5-mile roundtrip. Trekking to the lake takes approximately 1 hour. It's worth noting that most of this hike is up a steep slope.

In contrast, the Rainbow Mountain Trek is approximately 8km / 5 miles. It usually takes around 3 hours to walk to Rainbow Mountain and back. Most of the route is flat except for the final steep ascent.

Humantay Lake is at an altitude of 4200m / 13,800ft. Conversely, Rainbow Mountain is at 5,200m / 17,060 ft above sea level. Regardless of your overall fitness, Rainbow Mountain’s higher altitude makes hiking more difficult. 

Both treks are at a high altitude which means you need to acclimatize and take precautions for altitude sickness.

See more in our guides on training for the Inca Trail and how to train for Machu Picchu to get a better idea of how to prepare for hiking Rainbow Mountain and Humantay Lake. 

Humantay Lake - Pros and Cons



Crystal blue lake and gigantic snow-capped peaks

Not a very scenic walk up the slope

An easier trek than Rainbow Mountain

Gets very crowded around midday

Less crowded than Rainbow Mountain

Better options for other mountain lakes in Peru

Tours are slightly cheaper ($20) than those to Rainbow Mountain ($35)

Who should visit Humantay Lake?

If you are not visiting Huaraz, where you can see better blue Lagunas, it is worth your while to visit Humantay Lake instead.

Humantay is also a better option than Huaraz if you are looking for a shorter hike. If you have time and want the lake to yourself, consider spending a night at Soraypampa. Humantay Lake is at its most spectacular during sunrise or late afternoon.

Looking for a day tour? Here are my 5 favourite Rainbow Mountain and Humantay Lake day tours:

See more Cusco day tours

Rainbow Mountain - Pros and Cons



The ‘Mountain of 7 Colors’ is a unique-looking landscape

Rainbow Mountain is very crowded

You can combine Rainbow Mountain with a hike through the beautiful Red Valley

You need to walk about two hours to get there (a pro for some!)

It's a scenic walk to the mountain through the countryside

The pictures you see beforehand are heavily filtered

Lots of opportunities for taking photos

While pictures of the area are amazing, the real colors aren’t quite as vivid

Who should visit Rainbow Mountain?

If you are tired of visiting ruins, visiting Rainbow Mountain will be something different and a completely unique experience. If you are prepared for the over-touristy aspects, visiting Rainbow Mountain is a great way to spend a day.

Choose Rainbow Mountain over Humantay Lake if you are planning to do the Salkantay trek. In this case, you will be seeing Humantay Lake anyway. You should also opt for Rainbow Mountain if you have, or are going to, visit the town of Huaraz.

Alison Macallister

With a degree in Nature Conservation and experience working with wildlife including the Big 5, Alison works as a guide for a 5-star reserve. She enjoys sharing her passion for all things nature-related. She enjoys hiking, horseriding, 4x4 driving and kayaking.

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