Laguna Parón is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.
Parón is a glacier lake located inside the Huascaran National Park (within the Cordillera Blanca mountain range), in the Ancash district of Peru. The lake is actually at an altitude of 4,185m above sea level and it’s 3.2km in length.
The owner of our lodge recommended it to us as the best lake to visit in the area. It’s the biggest one in the Cordillera Blanca, but harder to get to than some of the others (the most popular of which being at Llanganuco), therefore making it much less likely to be full of people.
This was all true. There were maybe 6 people at the parking area and another 6 out on the trail. There were a few people that had climbed all the way up to the viewpoint above the carpark, but we could barely see that they were there.
It is a tough drive up (so I can see why there would be less people), with the road winding all the way up and into the mountains, plus it was mainly rocky meaning our average speed hit about 15km an hour. So, all in all, we did the journey of 31km up from the main road in Caraz (1hr30m from Huaraz) in 2 hours.
You start the drive going through little villages and farms, but once you reach the gate of the Huascaran National Park (you need to pay s/5 per person), you’ll find the rest of the way uninhabited. It’s like driving through the set of Jurassic Park or the planet in Prometheus. The landscape is insane.
We drove and drove, until we were finally greeted with this view.
I may have had a little tear in my eye as we pulled up alongside it. It was so picturesque.
The camera didn’t pick up the extraordinary colour of the water from here, but then I got a little closer……
Ever since I saw those incredible pictures of glacier lakes in Canada, I had desperately wanted to visit one. Those turquoise waters against the rocky and snow capped mountains just enchanted me. Then, I found out that Peru had their own and for the last 4 years it had been on my Peru bucket list.
And I finally got here on the eve of my 31st birthday.
Not a bad place to spend your birthday weekend eh?
We decided to walk to the opposite end of the lake so that we could take in the views and surroundings. It’s 3.2km long, plus you can carry on up the river once you reach the other end, so I suppose all in all we managed a 10km round trip.
It’s a beautiful walk, and you’ll find yourself stopping every 2 minutes to get a photo of another section of lake. I had my camera permanently around my neck and my phone in my back pocket, ready to whip out at any moment!
It’s not too hilly, but pretty rocky, so there can be quite a bit of scrambling and clambering going on.
I loved every second of it.
I didn’t feel inhibited by the altitude at all, and in fact I felt like I had so much more energy. I was absolutely loving life.
Along the route you’re treated to waterfalls, streams, and bright white piles of granite stone. However a highlight for me was this tree.
El Queñual (Polylepis sericea) is the tree that can grow at the highest altitudes in the world and can be found at up to 5200m above sea level. They have developed ways to survive in low temperatures, including the fact that their branches and trunk are covered in extremely thin, flaky, paper-like layers (think the outer skin of an onion). They are a stunning deep, burnt orange colour and look fabulous contrasted against the turquoise water.
Once we reached the other end, the scenery completely changed. First into a sandy shoreline, and then onwards into a more brush-filled area complete with grazing cows.
As we followed the river, we could see how it’s course had cut into the rock, and there were visible layers present to show the erosion over time.
It was fascinating.
At this point, the sun had briefly disappeared and the cold air was starting to nip at my ears (luckily I had my ear muffs!), but otherwise it was a perfect hiking temperature.
The icing on the cake of this walk was turning the corner to see the mountain Artesonraju (the Paramount pictures logo – although I didn’t know this until I returned home) completely covered in snow. It was so beautiful.
We were so lucky though and had been spoiled with mountain views throughout the whole trek. The Pyramidé mountain (left) was also a gorgeous sight.
The walk back was quicker, as we didn’t take as many photos.
However, just remember to allow enough time to get back to the car park and drive back down to the gate of the National Park (about half way down the mountain) before 4pm, or you will be locked inside overnight!
I’m so happy I finally fulfilled my aspiration to visit these stunning glacial lakes and it made for one of the best birthdays.
It’s definitely a trip I will never forget.