Kinsa Cocha: Stunning Pictures of High Andean Lakes

by Nora on May 16, 2014

Our group panted and sighed as we finally reached the third lake at Kinsa Cocha; a series of high Andean lakes and lagoons at over 4,200 metres above sea level. Not everybody felt the effects of the high altitude, but we all felt the intense energy and beauty of the place.


The first stunning lake, at the start of the day’s trek


Our fearless leader was Miguel of Allpamama Journeys, the same man who took me on a 5-day trek culminating at Machu Picchu. Kinsa Cocha is his favourite place, a home away from home that he visits at least once a week, and the Quechua families who live in the community there welcome him as his second family.


A curious little boy wandering to school with his pan flute

Quechua woman wandering through the community built around the first lake


Hiking on from the first lake (which is a 40 minute drive from Pisac), we crossed a bridge at the base of the second lake. Most (if not all) of the water in Pisac ultimately originates from these three lakes.


This community around the second lake lives largely sustainably (and remotely) well above 4,000 metres


This is where the hike became strenuous with a steady uphill ascent from the second lake over a pass at 4,500 metres. But at the pass our efforts were rewarded with stunning views of the Andes, and the second lake below us.

High above the second lake, with beautiful views


Little did we know what was coming. Just beyond the pass, the third lake came into view. High altitude or not – it literally took our breath away. We each found a spot to plop down by the side of the lake, where we remained for over an hour, simply staring out in stunned bliss. The water was clear, and the colours were stunning. Even the odd drop of rain and spot of hail and chilly high altitude temperatures couldn’t dampen our spirits.

The magical third lake, above 4,500 metres


With the late afternoon encroaching, it was time to hike back down from the third lake and around the other side of the second lake, which took a couple of hours. As with so many places in Peru, evidence of Incan ruins and homes were scattered around with no fanfare, and only the mules, llamas, alpacas, and odd shepherd to appreciate them.

Coming back down around the other side of the second lake; as with so many places, Incan ruins exist everywhere


While the rest of the group went to a local home for soup and potatoes (Peruvians are very proud of their potatoes; in this area alone more than 400 varieties are grown), myself and two others decided to watch the sun set over the first lake, at our starting point of the day’s adventure.

A Quechua woman with a child slung on her back hiked up to join us, unwrapping a large bag of hand-crafted weavings and accessories for us to admire. We shared some fruit and biscuits with her, and bought a few pieces of her gorgeous work, which was quite original and unlike many of the factory-produced (but still beautiful) works found in the markets.

Back at the first lake enjoying the sunset, this Quechua woman and child came to join us and show us her hand-crafted weavings


Miguel hasn’t disappointed with his beautiful secret spots to go hiking and discover the beauty of Peru. This won’t be my last hike with him either; stay tuned!


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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Anna May 16, 2014 at 11:14 am

Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous. Seems like one of the few remaining ‘virgin nature’ places left on earth that actually has civilization.


2 mar May 17, 2014 at 3:02 am

Lovely trip! No altitude sickness?
Have shared on my facebook page 🙂


3 Nora Dunn May 17, 2014 at 10:58 am

Hi Mar,
No altitude sickness. Even when I arrived to Cusco – which is often initially hard on some people – I had no difficulties. All the more reason why I think I’ve found a place where I belong. 🙂


4 Nora Dunn May 17, 2014 at 10:55 am

Anna – There are so many little high-altitude sustainable communities in this area; it’s so refreshing to see these people who are aware of the outside western influence, but continue to honour their traditions and ways and keep things simple. I think they got something right. 🙂


5 Christopher Chiu May 16, 2014 at 10:04 pm

I was searching on google for kinsa cocha for my friend who wanted to knw more and you’re article popped up! 🙂 What a coincidence as I just got home a few hours ago from doing this trek w/ Miguel…you’re words are spot was such a beautiful day w/ just him, Maya and San Pedro. When I come back I’ll def do another hike w/ him an Pacha Mama.

Can’t wait to read the rest of your articles either.


6 Nora Dunn May 17, 2014 at 10:59 am

Hi Chris,
Awesome! I’m glad you had a great time, and that our experiences resonated together. I love hiking with Miguel, and have a few more planned for the coming weeks. And isn’t Maya wonderful? She’s a perceptive pup.
When are you back?


7 Ernest Brown May 18, 2014 at 1:56 am

Hey Nora, never knew that kinsa cocha would be this cool. I’m definitely looking at visiting the place in the future.


8 Nora Dunn May 19, 2014 at 11:16 am

Ernest – yes! It’s an amazing place.


9 basil July 18, 2014 at 1:17 pm

My Son is there now.
He is in Peru for 4 weeks with ‘True-Adventure’ and a group of his School students (Bedford Modern School).
Lima for the first few days then a coach journey to Cusco. From There a 4 day trek to the lake and then staying in the village for 7 days to do project work.
After that another Trek (6 days) ending up at Machu Pichu then R7R and back to blighty.
I hope they are all having a good time.


10 Nora Dunn July 19, 2014 at 11:51 am

Hey Basil,
Wow – I’m sure your son is having the experience of a lifetime. Hope he took a camera!


11 Bob Weisenberg January 6, 2015 at 6:35 pm

Thank you for your wonderful articles. I’m a newcomer here, and I’m looking forward to future articles and exploring past ones as well. We are living around the world a few months in each place (because we like to dig in a little. Right now were in Pallanza in northern Italy. Next it’s Cuenca, Ecuador, the Brasil, then…not sure yet, considering Peru, Colombia, and Chile, among others. Your site is very helpful.



12 Nora Dunn January 7, 2015 at 4:44 pm

Hi Bob,
Welcome! I’m a big fan of slow travel myself (here’s why:, so I like your style! And it’s good to keep your plans open, as you may find the next destination (or rather, it might find you) as you travel and live around the world.
Happy travels!


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