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, a result of 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 logo of Paramount Pictures).
Listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site since 1985, Laguna Parón can be reached by car or by 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 a combo — can become complicated.
From Lima, Huaraz can be reached by an 8hr bus ride (take a night bus to pass the time sleeping). A variety of 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 guide 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 7:30am or 8am 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 on your own, you will need to 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 (there are no rideshare apps here) that is 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, a S/8-10 combi ride from Caraz. The 8-mile hike can take three to five hours, depending on stamina as it is quite steep and rocky.
Be warned: signs along the route are few and far between, another reason to hire a local guide. Apps such as Maps.me can be helpful navigating the route even without a wi-fi or data connection.
Trekkers looking to return to Caraz the same day must get back to the town of Parón before 3pm, 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 despite the fact that its water level was lowered from 75 meters to 15 meters in the mid-1980s to prevent a 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.
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 take your time as you inch your way up in altitude.
Looking to soak up the most of your time in Laguna Parón? Campers are welcome and can camp without a fee, though there are no amenities or equipment 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 of course, to continue to preserve 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 located at 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, a 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.