Explore this remote treasure in Peru located outside of Ayacucho where tours run daily and are considered the best option for making a day trip to these turquoise colored pools.
What are the Aguas Turquesas?
Aguas Turquesas as the name means is turquoise water which flows through white rimstone pools below a canyon here. The water contains a high concentration of minerals creating a silky blue and green coloration. Depending on the time of year and recent weather conditions the water can take on a different color and level of clarity.
The pools and canyon have been around for many years but it wasn’t until recently in early 2010's that the residents in the area put the word out and that tours started coming.
Where are the Aguas Turquesas Millpu Pools?
Although the name refers to Millpu, the pools are located outside of the town of Circamarca in the District of Huancaraylla, a remote area off the typical tourist path. The easiest city to start a trip to the Millpu Pools is Ayacucho.
How do you get there?
The most popular way to visit the Millpu Pools are by way of tour starting in Ayacucho. Where it is possible to visit without a tour group, it will be logistically difficult if doing so as a day trip and could leave you stranded in remote towns.
Regardless of whether you want to visit with or without a tour, Ayacucho is your best bet for starting.
Getting to Ayacucho shouldn’t prove to be too difficult, it’s a large city located between Lima, Cusco, and Ica which has bus routes going through multiple times every day from those main cities. Bus times from Lima and Cusco are 10 hours and 14 hours respectively and cost in the 50-100 soles range.
Ayacucho also has a national airport which you can use to cut down on long bus travel times.
Once in Ayacucho, tour companies are located on the south side of Plaza de Armas Ayachucho and welcome walk-in patrons. Head to these the day before you plan to head to the Millpu Pools to reserve your spot and the tour will leave around 8am from the same place the next day.
If adamant on visiting independently, your best bet is looking for a colectivo to Circamarca which is the closest town to the pools.
Departure Time: 8am (approx.)
Depart From: Plaza de Armas Ayacucho
Arrive to Millpu: 12pm (approx.)
Depart Millpu: 3pm (approx.)
Arrive Ayacucho: 7pm (approx.)
Cost: 85 soles (approx.)
What’s Included: Transportation, Lunch, Entrance Fee (5 soles)
Tour Size: Up to 8 people is typical
What to expect on a tour?
Many people including myself that prefer independent travel use a tour to visit the Millpu Pools because of the difficulty of arranging transportation. A tour is likely to be the most cost-effective way to visit the pools as well.
The tours start from Ayacucho at 8am in the morning and heads south on a 4-hour drive towards the pools. Tours typically make two stops along the way, the first for breakfast at roadside restaurants, the second at a town called Pampa Cangallo.
I couldn’t tell you any significance of the town Pampa Cangallo because the tour was in Spanish but it does have a well-kept town square that we explored on our own for a 15-minute break.
After departing from Pampa Cangallo, the next stop will be the Millpu Pools. There is a new road to shorten the time to Circamarca the small village next to the pools.
New may not be quite accurate, still being built is the better term. Our van driver kept having to get out to shovel gravel being dumped by construction vehicles so that we could pass through. A questionable and exciting journey on the mountain hugging road.
Once at the Millpu Pools you’re free to explore on your own making the tour a great option. The path walking in passes trout hatcheries which use the mineral water from above in the fish production. Once you reach the stairs you’ll be elevated above the canyon with a great view of the pools.
The path follows the 20 plus turquoise pools from above with two paths that descend to the base of the canyon. No swimming or walking on the white rimstone edges are allowed (new rule as of 2021), you can sneak this but expect a traditionally dressed Peruvian women from above to shout at you.
Once everyone is done exploring tour groups regroup at the trout hatcheries for an included meal of trucha frita – fried whole trout, rice, and fries. After you’ll head straight back to Ayacucho and arrive shortly after dark.
What to bring?
Travel Sunscreen – The entire area surrounding the pools are exposed to the sun and tours operate at prime afternoon hours
Proper Footwear – Plan to have good footwear for walking up dirt and rock canyon paths
Raincoat – Good for suns, wind, and rain protection in Peru’s varying weather climates
Water Filter - For tasting some of the best water available
What's a good alternative visiting option?
If you’re looking to have more of an experience at the pools you can consider an overnight camping option. While not very popular, if you have gear there are a number of campsites located outside of Circamarca and even right at the base of the Millpu Pools.
This is a good option for those trying to visit independently to have more time to arrange transportation or can be combined with a tours transportation.
What are my final thoughts?
The Millpu Pools are an awesome place to explore but can be a time-consuming trip with all things considered. I would only recommend visiting if you have multiple weeks in Peru and looking to get off the typical tourist path.
The pools are a heavy tourist spot but more for Peruvian nationals rather than international backpackers.
The pools can also be very hit or miss on color. I had a clear green color during my visit yet plenty of the photos that I’ve seen unedited have a bright silky blue color. I’ve even seen photos with no sign of mineral color in the water so plan on unpredictable conditions.
A good tip is to check Instagram recent posts in the area before going to get an idea of what it’s like.
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