#4 best hike in the world is …

Ausangate Circuit, Peru

Our favourite hike in Peru is still one of the least well known.

It’s wonderful, but dangerous.

Ausangate Circuit is 70km (43.5mi) plus sidetrips. It’s recommended only for confident, self-sufficient hikers experienced at high altitude. If you tolerate cold & altitude symptoms, the trails themselves are little trouble. Some route finding is necessary, but it’s entirely above the treeline with vast views.

Most groups hire pack animals, at least to get them up to the first pass. Worst case scenario — altitude sickness — you can ride your horse back down to lower elevation.

Why we love it:

  • PERU, all things considered, offers the best alpine hiking in the world
  • circle the sacred Ausangate massif (6372m, 20,905ft)
  • fantastic glacier views
  • remote, few trekkers, few people!
  • 4 high passes between 4757m – 5165m!
  • normally gorgeous sunny weather
  • thousands of alpacas
  • hotsprings at the start & finish of the trek
  • it is very inexpensive
  • travel Peru for as little as US$20 / day
  • unique Qoyllur Rit’i festival held nearby in May-June

    Considerations:

  • altitude sickness is a big risk
  • evacuation is difficult
  • no rescue service is available. You are on your own.
  • No Park officers. No campsites. No toilets.
  • acclimatization in Cuzco 3326m (10,912ft) is essential
  • 13-hour long nights in the tent
  • temperatures can fall well below freezing at night
  • be prepared for snow
  • storm could pin you in your tent
  • long, bumpy bus ride (5-8hrs) to & from trailhead or hire private transport from Cuzco

    Details on our Ausangate Circuit information page.

    Alpacas at Ausangate

    Alpacas and Ausangate

  • 15 Replies to “#4 best hike in the world is …”

    1. I entirely subscribe this point of view – Ausangate is an amazing trek, with very few people (at least as of 2004). I was doing the trek alone and still had no problems. However – beware of thieves in the Pacchanta area (numerous local people I found told me so). If trekking without arrieros, don’t camp there. At other sites, during the night you may well have people walking around your tent, looking for things you may have left out, so stick all your belongings INSIDE the tent – yeah, smelly boots too… I heard steps in nearly all campsites at night, even someone getting stuck in my guy lines. I camped ~200m bellow the Campo pass (mid-August). After sunset, the wind got nothing short of dreadful and I am still surprised with the fact that it did not destroy my 3-season, pretty good quality tent.
      Do it before it gets popular.

    2. I did this trek with two friends in July 2009. We actually did the Ausangate to Lake Sibinicocha variation. Thogh we were all experienced, we hired a local guide and pack driver so we could more enjoy our time in this magnificent place. Nights were cold and long, so the cook tent and lots of good, hot food was a huge bonus.

      We got our asses kicked around a bit by the altitude, but eventually adjusted. The weather was perfect. One mornign of snow under Qampa Pass that got a little scary, but cleared up. My only regret is that we didn’t bring climbing gear bo summit one or more of the 6k meter peaks that abound the area. Especially East of Ccascara Lagoon. Smoe choice mountains there that look very do-able given the time, supplies and good weather.

      The natives of these mountains were gracious and appreciative. We each spoke a little Spanish and so communicated with that. We saw Vicuna, and just after the 5100meter Condor Pass, an Andean Condor. A life highlight for me.

      This is a special trek through a special place. We saw two other hikers on our second day. Not another soul besides the native mountain Quechua. I can recommend Sungate Tours in Cusco. I hope this helps someone decide to go there and enjoy.

    3. I’m leading a group of friends later this year on this hike, who all have varying experience. My biggest concern is evacuation in the event of Altitude Mountain Sickness. Are there any quick routes “down” off the main circuit at any point on the route (eg in between Upis and Q’Ampa)?

      Thanks to anyone who can advise….

    4. Hi Nick.

      The hike is amazing but committing, too. There is no easy or quick way down between Upi and Qampa that I am aware of.

      One of our party got sick the night in Qomercocha (we started on the N side of Ausangate). The next day we were to climb up Qampa Pass. The guides were concerned, b/c once you head over that pass, you have to go up before you can go back down. A problem for someone suffering AMS.

      It was nice knowing we had a horse or two and some oxygen in case of emergency.

      Ultimately my friend felt better and the guides said they had an evacuation route (though not an easy one). The route followed the trail down the valley southeast past Qampa village and then south along the Chilcamayu River. There is a village there. Problem is, vehincle access is limited and I believe it’s off the grid. Eventually if you keep heading south you will hit the road to Phinaya. But even there it’s a long, long way to anywhere.

      That’s what I know. Someone else may know more. If you can go, bring a horse and some oxygen and make sure everyone’s good before you cross your first big pass. It really is a special place.

    5. I really want to do this hike but I won’t be in that area until the end on October. Would it still be possible to do the hike then or would the weather be too unpredictable?

      1. The weather is unpredictable even during the May-September dry season.

        Prepare for COLD. In June we had to chip the ice off the creeks in the morning to draw water.

        Altitude is a bigger factor than weather, even in October.

        http://www.besthike.com/southamerica/peru/ausangate.html

        I’d say GO FOR IT. In Cusco, on arrival, check in at the South American Explorers club. Ask for recent trip reports. If it looks too risky at that time, opt instead for some of the other GREAT Peruvian hikes, at lower altitude.

        Colca Canyon, to name one alternative:

        http://www.besthike.com/southamerica/peru/colca.html

    6. I embarked on a 6 days Trek around Sacred Ausangate Mountain with Ausangate Peru Company, This company is Owned and Managed by Edgar, He began his Company 10 years ago specializing in the Ausangte Trek, you will not meet a more honest or caring guide, he pays close attention to every detail of the trek includion hiking first rate horsmen and cook, the food is absolutely first rate and plentiful and sustaining for your days of hiking.
      I highly recommended Ausangate Peru Company, for the Ausangate Trek, they are reasounably priced and close attention to every detail mean you will not regret your choice.
      This is the website: http://www.ausangateperu.com

    7. I agree, its one of the best ones. I did it 7 days in May 2010, it was amazing. High altitude was a little problem, but we surpassed it. I felt it was quite safe, no one there at all. At one point the guide did suggest to keep our valuables in their tent instead of in our vestibules in case of robbery but we never felt like it was dangerous. It dropped below 0, cold is a factor. Food was amazing, guide rocked the kitchen. Do it if you can, its amazing!!!

      1. Hi Michael.

        My wife and I are thinking about doing the trek with Ausangate Peru company in June. What is the name of your guide that was so fantastic? Any other advise for the trek? Thanks

    8. Anyone know about the possibilities of hiking this in January? I’ve read that it’s the rainy season in Peru during this time so it may be difficult.

    9. In 2012 May, our group(10 persons) did the trekking in 5 days, Apus Peru provided the tour services. The circuit of the scared Ausangate mountain is really fantastic, snow-capped mountains, various colored lakes, numerous alpacas, Andean villages, etc, different view every step, the trekking is highly recommended.

    10. The Ausangate Circuit is a classic Andean trek that features glaciers, hot springs, turquoise lakes, and traverses four high altitude passes. I really love this place. The highest point of this place is Palomani Pass 5165 m (16,946 ft) and the lowest point is Tinqui 3800 m (12, 467 ft). This is one hike for which you will want to be well and truly acclimatized beforehand. The trek offers an array of wildlife including soaring condors, vicunas, bobcats and pumas. Camp sites are often beside beautiful blue lakes.

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