What is the Huacarpay Lagoon?

Huacarpay Lake | If you are planning your trip to Cusco for Andean bird watching, you can visit the Huacarpay Lake, it is very close to Cusco city, and the place is magnificent because of its biodiversity in flora, fauna and proximity to Cusco.

1. History and importance:

24 million years ago, the entire valley of Cusco was an immense lake that today in history we call the Morkill lake, at some point this lake drained out and left a fertile valley known as “El Valle Sur del Cusco”, however there are still vestiges of the existence of that lake such as Huacarpay lake.

The Huacarpay Lake is a wetland protected by SERNANP as a Natural heritage because of the landscape and the importance for the southern valley of Cusco‘s ecosystem for various species of birds and vegetation.          

2. Etymology:

The term “Huacarpay” derives from the Quechua language “Waqar” which means White Heron (Ardea alba), in this lake there are mainly this type of birds, in addition to other 107 species of birds among local, occasional and migratory.

3. Location and distance:

The Huacarpay Lagoon is located 30 km southeast of the Cusco Valley, at an altitude of 3,050 meters above sea level, in Lucre district, one of the twelve districts of the Quispicanchi Province – just follow the road Cusco to Puno.

4. What to see?

  • Huacarpay lake is made up of 4 permanent lagoons, 1 seasonal lagoon, 3 swamps and the Lucre River, which is the main river that feeds this lagoon.
  • At the lagoon you can see a great variety of birds (in total 108 species) among local, migratory and occasional birds, highlighting the presence of endemic birds of Peru, such as the Montañez Barbudo (Oreonympha nobilis), Canastero Frentirojo (Asthenes ottonis) and the Monterita de Pecho Castaño (Poospiza caesar).
  • The lagoon is also a habitat for reptiles, mammals, wild fish such as the “Chiñi Challwa“.
  • The lagoon is also a habitat for wild flora, such as the high-andean vegetation from the lakes [algarrobos and various species of cactus, predominantly the totoras (Typha angustifolia)].
  • At the top of this lagoon is the pre-Inca city known as Pikillaqta and the Rumiqolca quarry, both archaeological sites belonged to the Wari culture.

5. How long does it take to get there?

By either public or private transportation, getting there takes about 30 to 45 minutes.

6. Price:

The entrance to this wetland is Free unlike the Humantay lake or the 7 Lagoons of Cusco.

7. How do I get there?

7.1 On my own:

  1. Take the buses that go to Urcos, but you must get off brfore you arrive at Urcos at the Huacarpay Lagoon, just inform the driver well, what’s more you will not be the only person getting off at Huacarpay lake, keep in mind that there are many people who live around this lake.
  2. The terminal for the buses is located in front of ” Hospital Regional del Cusco”, you can also find some taxi drivers at this bus stop who take quickly to the lagoon.
  3. On the way back, take the same buses to Cusco, there is no terminal in Huacarpay lake, so just go to the main road (paved road) and raise your hand to stop the medium sized buses coming from Urcos – Cusco, as simple as that!

7.2 Via a travel agency:

First option:

There are no travel agencies that offer this attraction in a group service, they only offer private tours for bird watching activity, these private bird watching tours will be your cup of tea, but they will also cost more money, if you live, you can also contact us and get a quote for this private excursion to the Lake of Huacarpay with a Bird-watching Guide or Ornithologist at decent price.

Second option:

There is a group tour to the southern valley of Cusco, on this tour you will visit Piquillaqta ruins, Tipon ruins and Andahuaylillas church, if you wish you can take this excursion, it is very affordable, the average price is 50 Soles (16 USD), it includes Tour Guide and Transportation – On this excursion you can see the Huacarpay lake for about 5 to 10 minutes maximum (you will not approach to the lake, you will see it from 300 meters away – 1000 feet). If you are a wildlife lover and want to spend more time at the lake, this option is not your best choice, choose the first option.

8. What to bring

  • Caps or Hats.
  • Sunscreen.
  • Water bottle.
  • A good camera and your tripod.
  • Bring binoculars.
  • Warm clothes and a waterproof jackets.
  • Rains poncho.
  • Snacks, you can buy it in Cusco San Pedro market.
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