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Huacarpay Lagoon: Mirrors of water and Andean biodiversity

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Huacarpay Lagoon: Mirrors of water and Andean biodiversity

The Huacarpay Lagoon is part of a protected natural area, made up of unique and beautiful wetlands, full of great biodiversity. This area is located 30 km southeast of Cusco and located at an altitude of 3,050 meters above sea level. in the district of Lucre, one of the twelve districts of the Quispicanchi Province.

The name Huacarpay refers to the White Heron (Ardea alba), a bird whose name in Quechua is “Wakar”, one of the 108 species of birds found here. The wakar is present throughout the year, although its population in recent years has decreased.

In the upper northern part of the lagoon is the Wari citadel of Pikillaqta. The protected natural area is surrounded by the Pikillaqta archaeological park that has numerous pre-Inca and Inca remains, such as innumerable terraces that were used by ancient cultures to supply the population that inhabited the citadel.

Important data about the Huacarpay wetland

The Huacarpay wetland has an area of 1979 hectares. Likewise, it is made up of four permanent lagoons (Waton, Lucre, Pumaorco, Choquepujio and Huáscar); a seasonal lagoon (Huacarpay-Muyan), two swamps (Una and Pisqonniyoc) and two rivers (Lucre and Huatanay) and is part of the archaeological park of Pikillacta.

The wetland is a source of food and refuge for approximately 126 species of birds. During most of the year, some are endemic to the place, migrants and others are in danger of extinction.

In this place you can also find native species of tiny fish such as the “chiñi challwa”. Despite the fact that mammals are scarce, the presence of the wild guinea pig or “poroq’owe”, as well as the Andean foxes, continues to attract attention.

In the Huacarpay wetland you can also see species such as chachacomo, molle, lambran, capulí, and other species of trees native to the area.

Submerged aquatic plant species predominate in the water bodies and lagoons. As well as, cattails in extensive formations that occupy the shores of the lake forming islets. In the extensive ecosystem. Also, grass, reed and others are observed.

Name Etymology:

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

Location and Distance:

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

History and Importance:

24 million years ago, the entire valley of Cusco was an immense lake that today we call Lake Morkill, at some point the lake drained and left a fertile valley, however there are still traces of the existence of that lake, this is the case of the Huacarpay lagoon.

The Laguna de Huacarpay is a wetland protected by SERNANP as a Natural heritage of the Cusco region for its scenic value and its importance in the ecosystem of the southern valley of Cusco for various species of birds.

At what altitude is the Huacarpay wetland?

The Huacarpay wetland is located at about 3020 m.a.s.l.

What is the weather like in the Huacarpay wetland?

The Huacarpay wetland is located in the province of Cusco which has a temperate climate. Throughout the year it presents two seasons. The dry season that begins in the month of April to October and the rainy season from November to March with a maximum and minimum temperature of 22 ° C and 4 ° C.

What to see in the Huacarpay Lagoon?

Huacarpay Lagoon is made up of 4 permanent lagoons, a seasonal lagoon, 3 swamps and the Lucre river, which is the main one that feeds this lagoon.

In it 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 Monterita Chestnut Chest (Poospiza caesar).

The lagoon is also a habitat for reptiles, mammals, wild fish such as the “Chiñi Challwa”

It also functions as a habitat for wild flora, such as the high-Andean vegetation of lakes [carob trees and various species of cacti, predominantly the reed (Typha angustifolia) that occupies its shores forming islets].

At the top of this lagoon is the pre-Inca city of Pikillaqta and the Rumiqolca quarry, both archaeological sites belonged to the Wari culture.

Main Biotopes of the Huacarpay wetland.

Waton Lagoon.

It is the most extensive and important, has an elongated shape from northwest to southeast and is located at an altitude of approximately 3076 m. In addition, this lagoon is fed by the Lucre River of permanent course, and receives the waters of the Lucre lagoon. Meanwhile, they pass through the marsh deposits and the Waskar swamp through infiltrations.

Lucre Lagoon (Pumaorcco).

This body of water does not have an important nutrient influx, mainly referred to as phosphates. Since, the substances in solution come from the biological and physicochemical activities existing in the body of water itself.

Likewise, submerged vegetation (algae) is observed, with a relatively uniform concentration of dissolved oxygen. In fact, it promotes higher nitrification and lower ammonia concentration.

Swamps (including seasonal lagoons).

The largest area of the Huacarpay wetland is occupied by swamps, characterized by their shallow depth and abundance of emergent plants. For this reason, the swamp area becomes a source of organic matter.

Peripheral zone.

The arboreal formations: scrub-shrub and shrub-arboreal are considered important resources. Due to the role they play within the hydrological cycle of the sub-basin, they function as a protective cover against water erosion. Because, they are a source of food and refuge for many species of wildlife. Since, this area corresponds to an environment of Espinoso Steppe. Where, the presence of three endemic species of Peru is frequent. That is to say, the “Bearded Highlander” Oreonympha nobilis, the “Red-fronted Canastero” Asthenes ottonis and the “Monterita pechicastaño” Poospiza caesar.

What activities are carried out in the Huacarpay wetland?

Bird watching

These can be excursions organized by groups of local observers, university students, high school students. Also, by tour operators in the city of Cusco. Also, the frequency of visits is generally 2 to 5 hours in the morning. Due to the fact that bird watching in the last 10 years has been gaining more followers, the visitors increased.

It is presumed that annually there are about 6000 visitors (foreign and national tourists, bird watchers, etc.). In addition, those who travel to the Manu National Park are tourists interested in birds or nature. For this reason, they often stop by the wetland for a quick visit.


They are occasional camps in the Huacarpáy wetland of no more than one night, by families from Cusco and the visits are generally on weekends.

Urpicancha Hostel

The visit to this place is on weekends. Above all, hostel members and family groups taking a break to enjoy local dishes and looking to relax.

How to get to the Huacarpay wetland?

Taking as a starting point the city of Cusco, you can take a local bus to Lucre – Huacarpay. It will be approximately 30 minutes by local bus at a cost of 5 soles. On the other hand, you can also choose to visit the Huacarpay wetland using a private transport with an average cost of 30 soles one way and return.

Visit the Huacarpay wetland on your own:

Upon reaching Lucre, we will find the first lagoon on the right side. Therefore, we will start bird watching from this point as there are open spaces where we can observe shorebirds, ducks, seagulls and herons. Then, they only have to skirt the surroundings of the lagoon to continue their visit.

Note: It is important to remember that the busiest times are sunrise and sunset. Since there is not much mobility at night, it is better to go early in the morning between 05:00 am.

Visit the Huacarpay wetland through a travel agency:

Hiring the services of a travel agency is possible. however, the ramsar de Huacarpay wetland is not yet open to the public as a tourist attraction. For this reason, what it means to want to visit the wetland will have to hire a private service and depending on the operator’s program the tour price may vary.

Another option that travelers can opt for is to take the South Valley tour. During the tour, you can make a stop at the ramsar de Huacarpay wetland, prior coordination with your tour guide.

How long does it take to get there?

By public or private transport, the time ranges from 30 minutes to 45 minutes.

What is the best season to visit the Huacarpay wetland?

It is during the months of April to October. Because, in this period of time the presence of rains is very unlikely.

Which are the visiting hours?

Visiting hours are free from Monday to Sunday. However, it is recommended that bird watchers go very early in the morning around 05:30 am to be able to make a tour of all bodies of water to register a greater number of species in birds.

What is the cost of the ticket entrance to Huacarpay wetland?

The entrance to this Wetland is Free, unlike the Humanay lagoon or the 7 Lagunas del Cusco.

Where to buy the Huacarpay wetland entrance ticket?

Despite the fact that the Huacarpay wetland has the recognition of the RAMSAR group. In the same way, there are terraces and Wari constructions that are part of the archaeological center of Pikillacta. INCOME IS FREE.

Equipment Recommendations:

In dry season:

  • Wear clothes with muted colors
  • Cap and / or sun hat
  • Water resistant shoes (in case you want to get closer to the birds to photograph them since it is possible that you have to enter humid areas)
  • Sunscreen
  • Binoculars
  • Telescopes
  • Photographic camera
  • Water, don’t forget to hydrate
  • Snacks
  • Extra money
  • Tripods
  • Identification document

In rainy season:

  • Waterproof clothing
  • Rain boots

Equipment not recommended:

The use of DRONES is not allowed in the Huacarpay wetland. Since, it can generate an impact on birds.

Other Tours in Cusco:

The famous Inca Trail Tours are the most popular excursions in Cusco – Peru; and considered among the best walks in the world. 

If you want to visit Machu Picchu, we recommend you to book your Machu Picchu Ticket in advance, so you will enjoy your Vacation in Machu Picchu without any problem.

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