Kinsa Cocha: Stunning Pictures of High Andean Lakes

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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.

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.

This post was originally published in 2014. It has since been updated for accuracy of links and content.

Quechua boy playing a pan flute at Kinsa Cocha town
A curious little boy wandering to school with his pan flute
Quechua woman in colourful garb in a local community near Kinsa Cocha
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.

Rustic off-grid homes near Kinsa Cocha
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.

Nora Dunn, The Professional Hobo, enjoying the beautiful views at Kinsa Cocha in Peru
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.

Reflective lake and mountains at Kinsa Cocha Peru
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.

Incan ruins exist everywhere in the remote high Andes of Peru
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.

Quechua woman and baby at sunset, selling hand-woven textiles
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!

Other Hikes I’ve Done in Peru:

Climbing Pachatusan and Taking Refuge in a Quechua Home

Trekking Mount Pitusiray

Trekking to Lares Hot Springs

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12 thoughts on “Kinsa Cocha: Stunning Pictures of High Andean Lakes”

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

      • 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. πŸ™‚

    • 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. πŸ™‚

  2. Hola,
    I was searching on google for kinsa cocha for my friend who wanted to knw more and you’re article popped up! πŸ™‚ 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.

    • 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?

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

  4. 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.

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

  5. 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.


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