One of our top 10 hikes in the world
Hiking Ausangate (or Auzangate) independently is 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. Trekking guidebook essential.
AT A GLANCE
- circle the sacred Ausangate massif (6372m, 20,905ft), the highest peak in southern Peru
- 4 high passes between 4757m – 5165m!
- 70km (43.5mi) plus sidetrips
- almost everyone does Ausangate with a guide, but it’s quite doable independently if you are acclimated
- many options to extend this trek
- best months are the May-September dry season
- Tinqui is
5-8 hoursnow only about 3.5hrs by bus on a new road, about 100km S.E. of Cusco
- sidetrip to the “rainbow mountains” of Vinicunca
Why We Like This Hike
- PERU, all things considered, just might be the best alpine hiking in the world
- little hiked in the past, trails were under construction in 2013. Campsites with toilet facilities are being added.
- fantastic glacier views
- remote, fewer trekkers than at other Cusco hikes
- normally gorgeous sunny weather
- hotsprings at the start & finish of the trek
- it is very inexpensive
- unique Qoyllur Rit’i festival held nearby in May-June
- good fishing, we are told
- some llamas, and thousands of alpacas
- speak conversational Spanish if you want to do the trek on your own
- Ausangate is dangerous!
- altitude sickness is a big risk
- evacuation is difficult
- no rescue service is available. You are on your own.
- some route finding needed though trail signage is being added
- No Park officers.
- acclimatization in Cusco 3326m (10,912ft) is essential
- theft has been a problem in recent years, especially near Upis and Paccenta. Keep everything in your tent at night.
- 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
- warm clothes & an excellent sleeping bag essential
- batteries tend to die due to cold — keep them in your sleeping bag
- some hikers have reported being bothered by guard dogs
- There have been very few cases of hikers being robbed on the Ausangate Circuit, but we still tented discretely. Out of sight from the main trail. Often in sandy, dry water holes
- if you come upon seasonal herders, don’t give anything to children. We felt it was appropriate to give some food to mothers, however
- an independent hike is quite inexpensive
- travel Peru for as little as US$35 / day
- From Cusco you can take the Transportes Siwar bus (about $3 in 2017), or hire private transport to the trailhead
- you might be charged a $3 fee in Tinqui. Get a receipt.
- speaking some Spanish is essential though seasonal herders in the mountains may speak only their own language
- it is easy to rent gear, if you need anything, in Cusco for a few dollars a day for each item
- in 2017 a guided trek out of Cusco cost about $800 / person
- in 2018 a guided hut-to-hut trek with meals provided cost about $1600 / person.
- the traditional start is Tinqui and you can still start there. Most now start at Upis, saving about 12km of walking
- they start at one hotsprings … and finish at another hotsprings
- hike the Circuit in either direction, but the usual direction is better; starting towards Upis (counterclockwise).
- mountaineers might consider bagging a peak of two; most popular (we hear) are Huayruro Punco 5550m and Campa 5500m. Hire a guide if you are interested in either.
Here’s our independent route from 2005, somewhat different than the Lonely Planet recommendation:
… morning bus Cusco 3326m to Tinqui or Upis
night 0 = Tinqui 3800m
… relax, acclimatize to the higher altitude
… last minute purchase of basics
night 1 = across Arapa Pass (4757m)
… anywhere you like after crossing the pass. Near small tarns shortly after the pass is where we camped.
… this is the longest day, almost 1000m climb!
… if it looks too difficult, camp close to the Japata hotsprings before the pass & add an extra night
night 2 = across Arapacheta Pass (4850m)
… anywhere you like after crossing the pass
… continue as far as you can towards Palomani to shorten the climb next day
… this is a relatively short day.
night 3 = across Palomani Pass (5165m)
… anywhere you like after crossing the pass
… the highest pass was not as difficult as we expected… again, continue as far as you can towards Campa
night 4 = across Campa Pass (5068m)
… anywhere you like after crossing the pass. There are some lovely lakes to choose from.
… we bee-lined for the hot springs near Calachaca & stayed in a simple hostel there
night 5 = Tinqui or Cusco
The easiest and safest way to do Ausangate is with an adventure travel company:
- Andean Lodges
- Peaks and Places high end hiking & climbing tours
- United Mice
- Encuentros Peru Adventure
- Hike Ausangate (local)
- Apus Peru Ausangate (Australian / Peruvian management)
- OSM Tours
- Anyi Peru – Rainbow Mountains
- Action Peru Treks – Rainbow mountains 4 days
- Flashpacker Connect
- Peruvian Mountains
These companies have been stable while many other have come and gone. Leave a REPLY if you have personal endorsement of any others.
This section is for those who would like to do Ausangate independently.
Or … start independently. And decide in Tinqui.
- most trekkers hire some kind of pack animals, at least for the first day, to take them up to altitude. Over the Arapa pass (4757m).
- many hire guide or arriero (mule herder) in Tinqui, or organize that in Cusco
We had a recent recommendation for Cirilo Gonzalo Huaman out of Tinqui. cigohotrek (a) hotmail.com (Hike Ausangate ).
Recommended (in 2015) local horseman and guide, Hernan Quespe. Does not speak English, however. Hernan’s number is CL. 984134098. A local friend Enreque Pesaj CL. 942786698 does speak some English and might be able to translate for Hernan.
- hiring horses means you can ride out in case of emergency — a very good idea on this hike!
- very experienced hikers with a good guidebook can make the circuit without guide or animals. This is the cheapest way — carrying your own pack cost us less than US$50 / person for a week, to and from Cusco, hiking Ausangate in 2005.
- plan your trip in conjunction with the Qoyllur Rit’i festival, if you can. That’s our best advice. It’s amazing. One of the most colourful festivals in the world.
South American Explorerswas closed in 2017. We are not sure whether they will ever reopen.)
- local trekking tour companies in Cusco are of mixed quality
- Hostal Ausangate in Tinqui (Cayetano Crispin) supplies pack animals and is a good source of information
Best Trekking Guidebooks
- Trailblazer Inca Trail, Cusco & Machu Picchu 2018 (get the most recent edition)
- Lonely Planet Trekking in the Central Andes 2003 (out of print)
We LOVE that 2003 guidebook. But certainly wish LP would update.
Best Travel Guidebooks
- IGN 1:100,000 Ocongate (sheet 28-t) does not have the trail marked on it. You need Lonely Planet Trekking in the Central Andes guidebook map, as well. Buy the Ocongate map (when you get to Cusco).
- a new, modern hikers map was being researched in 2005. Was that ever published?
Best Web Pages
- Trail to Peak – A COMPLETE GUIDE TO THE AUSANGATE TREK
- machupicchutrek.net – Ausangate
- Ausangate Trek – about.com
- El Señor de Qoyllur Ritti festival – about.com
Best Trip Reports
- Ausangate Circuit 2018 – travel 2 walk
- Ausangate Circuit: Independent Hiker’s Guide 2017 – Cam Honan
- Ausangate Trek and Rainbow Mountain 2018 – Stingy Nomads
- failed attempt at Ausangate 2009 – destin8ion
- Ausangate trek without guide (Nov 2015)
- Searching For the Rainbow in the Mountain 2015 (sidetrip to Vinicunca)
- Ausangate & Rainbow Mountains – Adventure Junkies
- Ausangate e o Circuito de Trekking, acima dos 4.000 Metros 2015 (Portuguese)
- Ausangate – Photodiary of a Nomad
- Ausangate map photos 2010 – joemiddleton
- Ausangate 2006 – bob_braxton
- cycling Ausangate 2014
- Ausangate – PBase.com Geniza
- Q’oylla Ritti festival
Click PLAY or watch a 2018 adventure on YouTube.
Click PLAY or watch a 2014 guided trek on YouTube.
Click PLAY or watch a winter trek on YouTube.