We like to think we’re somewhat immune to the follies of instagram and planning trips based solely on a single beautiful photo.
But then we saw a photo of Laguna Paron. And well, yeah, we didn’t stand a chance.
Having visited the increasingly popular Laguna 69 last time we were travelling in Huaraz, we didn’t expect to find another glacial lake quite so beautiful. However, an easy day-trip out to Paron persuaded us that when it comes to impossibly gorgeous and impossibly blue lakes, the north of Peru really does have the best in South America.
In this post, we’ll share all the key information on how to do a day trip to Laguna Paron (with a tour or independently), plus advice on how to make the most of your time at the lake.
Laguna Paron Essentials
Altitude | The mirador over the lake sits at 4,200m, the lake itself a little lower. Yep, this is really quite high.
Distance | If you choose to hike from the trailhead entry, the total distance is approximately a 20km round trip. Should you take a tour that goes all the way to the lake entrance, you need only do a short walk (45 minutes there and back) up to the mirador.
Time | This is a long day trip from Huaraz, requiring a start at either 5 a.m. or 8 a.m. dependent upon the type of tour you take. Tours are usually back in Huaraz by about 6 p.m.
Base City | Huaraz - the hiking capital of northern Peru.
How To Visit Laguna Paron With a Tour
Laguna Paron is one of the lesser visited lakes in the area, but even in the lowest of low season, finding a tour is relatively easy. The important thing to note is that there are two distinctly different tours on offer at hostels and agencies in Huaraz; one that departs at 5 a.m. and includes a three hour hike to the lake’s edge and another that departs at 8 a.m. and delivers you by bus straight to the lake.
We had initially wanted to do the tour that involved the hike (if you’re not sweating by the time you reach some spectacular destination in the mountains, have you really deserved it?), but as it was the December low season there simply wasn’t enough interest for an early morning tour to leave. In high season (May-September), the situation may be different so it’s worth asking around town. Instead, we had to opt for the tour arranged by our hostel (called Alkilo by the way, which we highly recommend staying at whilst in Huaraz) which departs at 8 a.m. and is the most popular option.
The guided tour itself takes 9.5 - 10 hours, but the vast majority of that is spent driving:
| 45 minutes to the small town of Carhuaz, famed for its ice cream, with a 30 minute stop to pick up snacks
| 45 minutes to Caraz, passing through Yungay, the small town utterly decimated by a 7.9 magnitude earthquake back in the 70s.
| Two hours along a very very bumpy and winding dirt road to the lake, stopping after one hour to pay the S/. 5 / £1.10 / $1.5 / €1.30 entry fee
| Two hours at Laguna Paron to explore independently (more on this below)
| Two hours back to Caraz, with a short stop to indulge in alfajores (the town is apparently famous for them)
| 1.5 hours (likely fast asleep) back to Huaraz
It’s a long drive there and back, so make sure you’ve got some podcasts or music downloaded! The Laguna Paron tour costs S/. 50 / £12 / $15 / €13 per person - we did see slightly higher prices too - but this does not include the S/. 5 entry fee.
How to Visit Laguna Paron Without a Tour
Oh how we tried to find this information! I mean, we really really tried - reading every single other blog post that mentioned Laguna Paron, but not a single complete set of instructions on doing it independently exists. Whilst we’re pretty certain we could have gotten there and back independently - like we did on our day trip to Laguna 69 - the risk of being stranded at 4,200m in torrential downpours didn’t seem like the most exciting prospect.
For those that would like to give visiting Laguna Paron without a tour a go however, here’s what we deduced:
| Take the first collectivo from Huaraz to Caraz, which takes around 1.5 hours and is rumoured to leave at 5 a.m.
| Transfer to first collectivo from Caraz to Pueblo Paron, which leaves at 6.30 a.m. from the Terminal Terrestre, with other early morning departures.
| The collectivo will drop you a five minute walk from the trailhead.
| From here, you have two choices: follow the dirt road that collectivos take, or take the hiking trail, which although 10 km long is significantly shorter than the road. This is well-signposted and only occasionally crosses the road. Plan on taking three hours up and two hours down.
| The next portion of the itinerary is the reason that we opted for a tour. Although there is a rumoured to be a collectivo that leaves from Pueblo Paron in the afternoon, we could find no sources to confirm this. Indeed, those that have attempted to do this independently admit that they gave up waiting and flagged down a lift from a passing car. There will definitely be a collectivo, but the issue is whether it aligns with the time that you’re back in Pueblo Paron…
| From Caraz, there are regular collectivos back to Huaraz.
The Along Dusty Roads style is to do these sorts of things by ourselves, so we would love to be able to provide this information for all you intrepid travellers out there - if you manage to do this as an independent day trip from Huaraz, we’d love if you could send us a message with any further details or put it in the comments below so we can let future travellers know the deal!
Do note that, after much discussion between ourselves, we actually think that doing the trip to Laguna Paron as an independent day trip from Huaraz doesn’t make the greatest amount of sense due to the distances involved. Instead, you’d likely being better getting accommodation for the night in Caraz and setting off on the first collectivo from there.
Things to do in Laguna Paron
Hike to the Mirador
Standing at the water’s edge, there is little doubt that this is one seriously pretty lake; head up to the mirador however and you will be blown away by the snow capped peaks and spectacular views out over the aquamarine waters.
As tours somewhat limit your time at the lake, be sure to factor in an hour to get up and down from the mirador (that’s one hour total) as well as photo time. Do note that although there is a path for the majority of the ascent, once it begins to flatten out, the dirt path turns into giant boulders than require much more scrambling than walking - definitely make sure you have good footwear for this hike and stay away from the bloody edge!
Top tip | If you’ve visiting as part of a tour, they will usually head to the mirador first - so we’d absolutely recommend that you don’t join them. Instead, check out some other parts of the lake and let the groups dissipate. We promise, it’s worth the wait and nobody else being around taking photos.
Take a short walk along the lake’s edge
To the left of the small beach, there’s a walkway that snakes along the edge of the lake for about twenty minutes, providing views not accessible from the main mirador.
Head out on to the Water
If you have a little time after snapping away and hitting up the mirador, consider taking one of the row boats or kayaks out on to the water. Nothing like paddling across a glacial lake! Kayaks are S/. 20 per person and row boats are S/. 10 per person. Just make sure you don’t misjudge the time and end up stranded in the middle of the lake as your tour gets ready to head back to Huaraz…
Spend the night
Possibly one for the more hardy amongst you, but it is possible to spend the night at Laguna Paron. The visitor’s building that houses the toilet (S/. 1 to use), also has a couple of very basic shared dormitories with bunk beds that you can rent for the night (S/. 20 per person). If you are happy to source your own transport to and from Caraz, this would definitely allow you to enjoy the lake without another soul present.
Things to Know Before Visiting Laguna Paron
Even if you go on an organised tour to Laguna Paron, there are a few things you can know or do that will ensure you have the absolute best time possible at the lake:
Acclimatise. No, seriously. This lake sits at 4,200m - this altitude is no joke, and will feel utterly horrendous if you’ve only arrived from Lima the previous day. Don’t assume that simply because the tour requires minimal exertion that you needn’t worry. If you’re not exploring much of the Cordillera Blanca whilst in Huaraz, this hike will likely be a real highlight, so acclimatise and then enjoy. Want to know more about altitude sickness in Peru and how to prevent it? See this post.
Take snacks. With lunch time falling at exactly the moment you arrive at the lake, you don’t want to waste valuable exploration time wolfing down sandwiches (unless you already made them back at the hostel you smart guy/girl!). Additionally, there is nowhere to really source food at the lake bar the one or two local ladies selling a basic plate of food (nothing veggie that we were aware of). As ever, bring enough water (we highly recommend buying a Lifestraw travel filter water bottle for your South America adventures).
The weather can be very temperamental. We had thick fog, heavy rain, strong winds and clear blue skies - all in the space of two hours. This high up, things change very quickly, so if the picture perfect scene isn’t there when you arrive, give it time.
Wear the right clothing. When we got dressed on the morning of our tour, we weren’t entirely sure what to wear. Was full-on hiking gear a little excessive for a day that involved minimal hiking? We decided to go for it anyway, and boy were we glad we did. Waterproof jackets protected us when the weather turned and solid hiking boots meant we didn’t twist an ankle getting to the mirador.
Tours will usually pick you up from your hostel, so be aware that the first 30-45 minutes of the tour will involve driving around Huaraz. Make sure you’re on time, as it’s never fair to make the rest of your tour wait around.
Keep change for the entry fee. No tour will cover the S/. 5 entry fee, and, if you’re already in Peru, you’ll know that nobody has change - for ease, it helps to be prepared.
There are bathrooms at the lake, costing S/ 1 per person. Toilet roll is provided (it always makes sense to keep some in your daypack in Peru anyway) but bring hand-sanitiser.