Practiced originally on the shores of Hawaii, stand up paddle boarding (SUP) has become increasingly popular in recent years. Having heard a lot about it, I decided to try out the soft adventure sport on a stunning high altitude lake near Cusco. This adventure activity takes half a day and is best in the morning when the winds are calmer. Combine SUP with an afternoon visit to Incan ruins or other top adventure activities in the Sacred Valley.
Stand Up Paddle Cusco at Laguna Huacarpay
My experience stand up paddle boarding took place on scenic Laguna Huacarpay, just 40 minutes outside the city of Cusco. While not quite as tropical as Waikiki, the lakes around Cusco offer a beautiful and tranquil setting, ideal for first-timers like me to learn the ropes. After an initial safety briefing and time to put on a wetsuit, I was pushing off from shore and took to my feet, carefully gaining my balance and gently paddling forward.
‘This is easy,’ I thought, tempting fate to shove me into the glistening waters below me. Luckily I didn’t fall in, although, dangling my foot into the lake, I was pleasantly surprised to find the water at a manageable temperature.
A Great Activity for Families
The popularity of stand up paddle boarding is undoubtedly in part due to how super easy it is to learn. Anyone, of any age, can give it a go, making it an ideal activity for families looking for a little soft adventure. Joining me on the lake was a friend and his two daughters, ages 5 and 7, both of whom were very excited to be getting involved and, as it turned out, both expert paddlers themselves.
Acclimatizing to the Altitude
Unlike many activities in the Cusco area, Stand Up Paddle Boarding is not a sport that requires a great deal of physical exertion on a gentle, still lake (unless you want to push yourself to go faster!), therefore it can be gentle option to take on while acclimatizing to altitude or when unwinding on the days after a long trek.
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Wildlife Watching on the Lake
The high altitude lakes around Cusco also serve as natural habitats to a wealth of native birds and wildlife species such as herons, egrets and ibis. These can all be seen nesting and patrolling the banks of the lake within the abundant bushes of Totora reeds that grow in the marshlands close to shore.
These same Totora reeds have been used for centuries by the locals to make their very own traditional version of the Stand Up Paddle Board – an example of which we saw in use by a local fisherman who was busy making a living by catching trout and hunting for ducks around the lake.
Enjoying a Gourmet Lunch by the Lake
One of the highlights of my stand up paddle boarding experience was the delicious picnic lunch we enjoyed afterwards on the shores of the lake. After working up an appetite paddling on the water, we arrived to shore and were greeted with an extensive, gourmet picnic. It was a luxury setup in an ideal location with panoramic views of the natural scenery. The food was delicious, featuring dishes like stuffed avocado, and vegetable quiche. The staff was attentive to our needs and wine was available during the meal. What a way to end the excursion!
More Peru Adventure Travel Activities
Stand Up Paddle Cusco and Mountain Biking
If you are looking for a more extensive day of adventures including stand up paddle Cusco, Aracari can arrange a morning on the lake and an afternoon biking down the mountain. After trying your hand at paddle boarding, you would cruise on a mountain bike with views of the Urubamba Mountain Range, descending down into the pre-Inca salt mines of Maras.
Check out a similar stand up paddle Cusco experience at Lake Huaypo:
Hiking, Ziplining, and Horseback Riding
Aracari offers a variety of Peru adventure travel activities which can be included as a part of a larger, tailormade trip to Peru. Whether you are interested in trekking lodge to lodge among snow capped mountain peaks, ziplining to a pod hanging off the side of a cliff, or horseback riding near the second deepest canyon in the world, Aracari has the right experience for you.