Laguna Paron with its seemingly Caribbean water and surrounded by spectacular snow-covered peaks was definitely one of the most beautiful places in South America. I remember seeing few pictures when I was googling “highlights of Peru” and in the middle of all pictures from Machu Picchu and many funny lama pictures I noticed amazing blue water surround by impressive mountains. I knew we had to go there. So we started researching and found the name: Laguna Paron.
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ABOUT LAGUNA PARON
Laguna Paron is the largest lake in Huascaran National Park and is located 25km east of Caraz and about 3 hours drive from Huaraz. Huaraz is the capital of Ancash region and the city has an elevation of approximately 3.050 metres. It is not a very big town but you would be very surprised how busy this place can get, especially in the evenings.
Many travelers come to Huaraz for adventures. Because of the mountains and glaciers there is so much to do and if you are into mountains you can spend probably weeks there. From climbing, camping, trekking, mountain biking or even snowboarding to discovering the beautiful nature in the Cordillera Blanca, mainly the popular Huascarán snow peak, Huaraz has much to offer. If you travel to Huaraz you might suffer from high altitude sickness. That is why you need to take care and be very cautious about your health. That is why I highly recommend to take 1 or 2 days just to relax and get used to the altitude.
What is altitude sickness and how can you overcome it? See below.
HOW TO DEAL WITH ALTITUDE SICKNESS
Once you arrive at the location (not just Huaraz but all high altitude places), please take it slow. For the first 24 hours don’t do much. Chill and relax until your body gets used to it. You would be surprised but even walking around the city can make you sick.
Before you start your trek, you might want to drink some coca tea. Coca tea is a very famous local remedy and local people drink it all the time. In general, the best advice is to drink lots of water. Especially during the hike.
Very importantly, take some coca leaves with you for the trek. You can easily buy them everywhere. For instance, at the local markets you can get a small bag for 3 soles. When you start walking, put around 5 leaves into your mouth and chew it. Then place it on your upper gum and from time to time suck on it. The saliva will distribute it into your body.
COCA LEAVES ARE ILLEGAL IN MOST COUNTRIES
Coca leaves are legal only in 2 countries in South America, Peru and Bolivia and in some parts of Argentina. However be careful and don’t bring coca leaves to your country because it is for sure illegal. Especially not to the US. So check it out before you get into some trouble. Coca tea has herbal taste and tastes like a strong green tea. I personally liked it and it helped me a lot with altitude sickness and headaches.
There are many other forms how you can use coca leaves. We bought coca bonbons and there is also coca chocolate.
OTHER REMEDIES TO HELP YOU WITH ALTITUDE SICKNESS (NOT ILLEGAL)
Muna is another plant which can help with stomach ache when you have altitude sickness or in general with any stomach pain. You can either drink a muna tea, or buy some muna bonbons or just grab some leaves and chew them. There is also another remedy called Agua de Florida . This can help with the headaches while coming down from high altitudes, simply apply a few drops where you have pain.
WHY DO COCA LEAVES HELP TO FIGHT ALTITUDE SICKNESS?
The symptoms of altitude sickness can be shortness of breath, headache, dizziness and nausea and even hallucinations. And, in extreme cases, altitude sickness can cause death. So please, take altitude sickness seriously.
Why is coca called coca?
Because it contains a psychoactive alkaloid called cocaine. However, the amount of cocaine in coca is minuscule, so don’t worry coca leafs don’t have the psychoactive effects cocaine has. Locals use it as remedy and chew it to relieve hunger, thirst, pain or fatigue. If you feel tired coca can enhance your physical performance and make you feel like a supermen or a wonder woman. Just kidding, you won’t be able to carry big trunks of wood or something like that. If you want to make it to Rainbow Mountain with an altitude of around 5.000 meters and one of the many highlights near Cusco you should take a big bag of coca leaves as well.
Did you know that coca is an ingredient in Coca Cola? This is where the name Coca Cola actually comes from. However, nowadays, Coca Cola uses coca that is de-cocainized. Or I hope they do 😀 But there was a time, at the beginning of Coca Cola where coca was not de-cocainized and people were actually drinking coca cola with cocaine inside. Inca people consider the coca leaves as a miraculous herb. No wonder.
Most of the hotels or even shops have a basket full of coca leaves for the tourists so you can never run our of coca leaves in Peru.
HOW TO GET TO LAGUNA PARON?
There are a few ways how to enjoy this amazing place. We spent 4 weeks in Peru and Huaraz was one of first stops.
If you are not a hiker or a camper type (like us), I would highly suggest a day tour to Laguna Paron. We stayed in a hotel/hostel called Akilpo Hostal. They organise tours as well. The best thing was that all the people for the tour where from the same hotel. So no wasting time with picking up people from all over town. Our guide was very nice, professional and fluent in English. We also had plenty of time to enjoy the view and take photos.
SLEEP OVER IN LAGUNA PARON
If you love to camp, there is also the possibility to stay at Laguna Paron over night. At the lake there is a small refuge with bathroom and kitchen where you can sleep for 10 soles per person. The cheapest option is to camp outside for free. If you don’t have your own car, don’t forget that you would need to arrange a drop off and pick up to and from the refuge. Otherwise you will stay there forever, which is maybe not that bad at all.
Naturally we went for a day option which was absolutely awesome. I have to be honest, I don’t really like camping. Especially when its super cold. And trust me it gets very cold up there.
DON’T MAKE THE SAME MISTAKE WE MADE
We arrived to Huaraz quite late and booked a tour to Laguna Paron for the next day. Don’t make the same mistake and make sure to rest at least 24 hours before your hike. But because of my perfectionism regarding pictures and weather we had to go the very next day. I checked and found out that the weather for that day should be the best. And it was. Everything for great photos 😀 However, just keep in mind, that one can’t really predict weather in the mountains. The weather is changing constantly. One minute you are super cold, when the clouds come and you get hit by strong wind and sometimes rain. And then a minute later it’s sunny and you are sweating like crazy.
That is why you need to carry with you several important items. Please see below.
IMPORTANT THINGS TO BRING TO THE DAY TREK TO LAGUNA PARON
- Warm clothes
- Rain jacket or poncho
- Rain cover for your backpack
- Proper hiking shoes with a good platform and profil
- Sunscreen (use the code GIGI10 for 10% off)
- Snacks, sugary bars, protein bars
- Water: LOTS OF WATER
- Coca leaves
TREKKING TO THE TOP TO SEE THE PARAMOUNT AND BEAUTIFUL LAGUNA PARON
WHAT IS PARAMOUNT?
Do you watch movies? Then you must know Paramount film studios. Paramount Pictures Corporation is an American film studio based in Hollywood, California. Paramount studio took this mountain as the inspiration for their logo. The point of the trek is to go up to the mountain where you can see the Paramount mountain.
The people nowadays call the mountain Paramount because of that. However, the original name of the mountain is Artesonraju with highest point of 6.025m. It is one of many peaks located in Peru’s Huascaran National Park. From this point you can see beautiful Laguna Paron in its entire beauty (almost 360 degrees). Hostal Akilpo is one of the few places (according to them the only one) that offers the tour. All or most other tours just drive you to the lake and then return to Huaraz. You will not climb up to 4.500 m and you will not have the incredible view from above.
We woke up at 4.30 and a van was waiting for us at 5. It’s a 3 hours drive to get to the base point of Laguna Paron. You don’t have to worry that you will be hungry. On the way to Laguna Paron you will stop at the local market for a local breakfast (not included in tour). We had a fresh avocado sandwich with some cocoa tea and it was really delicious.
After a tasty breakfast we arrived at Laguna Paron at about 9 AM, altitude around 4.200 m.s.m.n. From here, we started our hike. The view was already incredible.
I wondered, if the view down here is so amazing, how Laguna Paron will look from above. We were so excited. We got some coca leaves and started the walk.
ABOUT THE PARAMOUNT TREK
The Paramount trek is a very hard trek if you are not used to any sport. However, what might cause you even more troubles is the altitude. It is really important to be positive and don’t think about how you might get sick. If you feel like you lack air and run out of breath, stop immediately. I can’t stress that enough. Stop and wait until the feeling is gone and you can breath normally. This is not a game of who is stronger and faster. So put your pride aside and take care of your health. It doesn’t matter how fit you are, if you are not used to the high altitude, you can get sick, too. And don’t forget to drink plenty of water.
On the hike to Paramount viewpoint you will have 3 major stops, of course each with amazing views. Depending on how you feel, you can choose where you want to end the trek. Many people just go to the first stop. Of course, we wanted to go all the way to see Paramount.
After 25 minutes we made it to the second stop and the view was so beautiful. Here, some of the people from our group decided to stay as they didn’t feel well. The view on Laguna Paron was already amazing.
THE LAST STOP
After little break and few snacks, we continued through very steep and rocky way. You need to watch out for stones and sometimes check if they are not moving. We jumped from one rock to another one until we got to the top, the altitude of 4500 m.s.m.n.. Check out this picture to get a feel how it looks there. It is definitely not an average forrest hike.
We felt really happy that we made it to the highest point and could see Paramount Peak. It felt really great. What is really amazing about Laguna Paron, is that with the constant change of weather, the colour of water is changing as well. Every time the sun came out, everyone cheered because the water got a real Caribbean colour. It reminded me of the Caribbean water in Mexico.
However, if you think the worst part is behind you, I have to disappoint you. The worst part is to get down. It took much longer to get down as going up. The reason is that the way down is very steep and the rocks can be slippery and move. You also have a better grip when going up. So be careful on what rocks you are stepping. The problem is that there is not a real path down. Only a few parts where you see a path. Otherwise you have to think for yourself which way is the best. But don’t worry, If I got down in 1 piece (and I am really not a hiker or climber :D) then you will definitely make it as well.
On the way down I got a very strong headache, due to the altitude which is really normal. Please remember that when you going up and starting to get a headache, stop immediately. It is much worse and more dangerous to continue ascending with a headache.
I hope you will enjoy your trek to Laguna Parona. It was definitely worth the effort and the muscle pain after the trek.
DISCLAIMER: We paid the accommodation and the tours at Akilpo Hostal ourselves. However, if you use our link to booking.com to book your stay at Akilpo Hostal we will earn a little commission at NO EXTRA COST FOR YOU.
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