A day hike to the Wilka Cocha Lagoon

After our miserable day suffering from altitude sickness in Cabanaconde, we decided to make sure that we would be used to the height before starting our next big hike, the Santa Cruz trek. Thus, we opted for a day hike from Huaraz. Huaraz is a town in the north of Peru and entry point for many hikers to the Cordillera Blanca. We had read a lot of tips online about hiking in the area and chose the walk to the Wilka Cocha lagoon. This hike promised a good view over the Cordillera Blanca, the mountain range we wanted to discover on our next long trek.

Out of Huaraz we took one of those vans that serve as public transport all over South America and which get going once they are full. We got off at a bridge, the locals seemed to know exactly where we wanted to go. We passed a little store and had a refreshing Inka Cola before starting our hike uphill.

It was a sunny day and quickly we got warm but found some shade under the big eucalyptus trees. We walked along small farm houses surrounded by corn fields, donkeys and sheep. An old man coming downhill stopped to talk to us. He was impressed by our walking sticks. It seemed like he hoped to swap his wooden stick.

Eucalyptus trees, Cordillera Blanca, Huaraz, Peru
In the shade of the eucalyptus
House, way to Wilka Cocha Lagoon, Peru
One of the houses we passed

In less than two hours we reached the lagoon. The blogs we read suggested that if you managed to finish the walk within two hours you were sufficiently accustomed to the altitude and thus ready for longer hike. We hadn’t even walked fast and felt quite okay with the altitude. Ready for the next challenge! (- Oh were we wrong…)

The Wilka Cocha Lagoon wasn’t anything special. It looked a bit dirty with some waste lying around and a lot of algae. However, standing on the hill with a view over the Cordillera Blanca was stunning. The sky was open above us, just a few clouds around and then the snow capped mountains in the distance.

Wilka Cocha Lagoon, Peru
At the Wilka Cocha Lagoon
View on Huaraz and the Cordillera Blanca from Wilka Cocha, Peru
View on Huaraz and the Cordillera Blanca

We sat down for lunch. Watched other tourists reach the lagoon, piglets and dogs running around and enjoyed the view. The way downhill went very fast. We stuck to the dirt road instead of the small hiking path so we would see something else than coming up. The view over the green hills around us was great.

Back at the street we waited for a bus. Quickly another van came to take us back to Huaraz. To us it looked full but everybody squeezed in a bit more. Franziska shared the passenger seat with another guy and Kevin sat in the back on a row with a mother, her daughter and a baby granddaughter. They started to chat him up, telling him how handsome he was and had a great laugh about his Spanish. By the time they had to get off they had offered him the baby as a present and then wanted to take Kevin home with them. What a ride!

The walk to the lagoon was a good start for us to get a feeling for the hikes in the north of Peru. It made us look forward to the Santa Cruz trek.

Travel tips

Transport: It is very easy to get to the start of the Wilka Cocha Lagoon walk by local public transport. It’s a 40 minutes bus ride towards Puente Santa Cruz, the start of the hike.

Route: Start and end point is Puente Santa Cruz. It should also be possible to walk back to Huaraz, instead of taking the bus. There is a route back continuing west from the Wilka Cocha Lagoon. Check the Maps.Me app.

 

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