If you are looking for the ultimate adventure, the Ausangate Trek is by far one of the best treks in Peru!
Reaching altitudes of up to 5400m, the Ausangate trail offers an ‘off the beaten track’ experience boasting turquoise glacier lakes, snow-capped peaks, rainbow mountains, hot water springs, and much more!
I personally embarked on a 7-day Ausangate Trek and have put together this guide with everything you need to know before you go!
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WHERE IS AUSANGATE MOUNTAIN
Ausangate Mountain is located in the Vilcanota Mountain Range in Peru.
From Cusco, it is approximately a four-hour drive to reach a small village called Tinki which is the starting and finishing point for most Ausangate Treks.
WHERE TO BOOK AUSANGATE TREKS
There are dozens of tour operators and trekking companies located in Cusco to book the Ausangate Mountain Trek and believe me, it can be a hard decision on who to book with.
However, in my experience, you definitely want to find a Peru trekking company that is highly experienced and reputable. Most importantly, you’ll want to feel safe while also having an incredible experience.
I personally joined a 7-Day Ausangate Trek with Killa Expeditions which, in my opinion, is the most reputable adventure tour company in Cusco.
Myself and eleven other keen trekkers embarked on the 7-Day Trek which included Rainbow Mountain, and it was hands down one of the best experiences I have ever had.
Killa Expeditions offer a range of different Ausangate Treks including 5-day, 7-day, and 9-day treks. Head over to the Killa Expeditions website to find a trek that best interests you and book online.
Lakes and waterfalls on the trek
THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
Before trekking Ausangate, see this list of things to know before you take off:
- Altitude – 3,700m to 5,400m
- Terrain – glacial, rocky trails and high passes
- Acclimatization – 2 to 3 days in Cusco is recommended prior to trekking
- Distance – 5-day trek/7-day trek (67km) & 9-day trek (100km)
- Difficulty – strenuous, lengthy, and high altitude
- Weather – rain, wind, snow, hail, and sunshine (best time to go is from March to November)
- Food – all food and drinks are included during the trek, along with porters and chefs
- Accommodation – tents, mattresses, pillows, and sleeping bags are provided upon request
Day one of the trek began with a 6 am hotel pick-up from Cusco for an approximately four-hour drive to a small village called Tinki, which is the starting point of the trek.
About halfway to Tinki, we stopped at a viewpoint that overlooks a vast valley in the region and we were each given a boxed breakfast to fuel our bodies.
We arrived in Tinki and unloaded the bus with our bags, trekking gear, tents, and supplies to hand over to the porters who then mounted all the gear onto the horses.
It was all about to begin and I was honestly a little nervous as I had never before done a trek that lasted longer than three days nor at high altitude.
Furthermore, our guides pumped us up with a motivational speech and before you knew it, we were off along the trailhead towards Ausangate Mountain.
The first part of the Ausangate circuit trail eases in along a path that gently ascends as it leads away from civilization and into the mountains. We came around a bend to see the lunch tents already set up by the porters and chefs!
They had prepared a 3-course meal with some hot tea, ready for us to indulge. In saying that, every meal on the 7-day trek consisted of 3-courses including tea, coffee, juices, fruit, snacks, and fresh drinking water!
It was luxurious, to say the least, and I was very impressed by the efforts that the Killa Expeditions staff went to in order to make us all feel satisfied.
After lunch, we continued hiking for another two hours or so through vast fields of green, passing by scattered stone houses and herds of alpacas.
Our campsite was located in a place called Upis for the night and we arrived just in time to take some photos of a flowing river with the almighty Ausangate peak in the backdrop! There are also hot springs here if you wish to take a hot dip.
Dinner was served shortly after sunset, which was absolutely delicious, and then the porters offered us hot water bottles to take inside our tents for extra warmth during the night. Safe to say that day 1 of 7 was off to a great start!
Must Read → 3 Week Peru Itinerary
Prep talk before the trek
Day 1 on the Ausangate Trail
Our campsite on Day 1
Day two of the trek began bright and early for breakfast at 6 am before continuing on the Ausangate circuit trail at around 7 am.
A three-hour hike up to Arapa Pass which sits at 4,800m and incredible views of Maria Huamantilla Mountain and Ausangate Mountain can be seen from here.
From the Arapa Pass, we then descended across some epic trails through the valley and down to our lunch spot which was set up beside one of the glacier lakes, boasting a small waterfall at one end.
I was already starting to feel the burn in my legs and headaches from the altitude sickness, but I had some electrolytes and panadol to keep me going.
After lunch, we then hiked for a further two hours over the Pucaccocha Pass and down to Pucaccocha Lake which was formed by a melting glacier.
I was in complete awe of my surroundings on this particular afternoon, as around every corner we came across scenes that reminded me of ‘The Land Before Time’ and ‘Jurassic Park’.
See the pictures below and you’ll know what I’m talking about!
The camp was already set up by the time we had all arrived and again, another 3-course dinner was dished up that was very much appreciated.
Read My → Macchu Picchu Mountain Guide
Glacier lake and waterfall
Campsite on Day 2
By day three of the Ausangate hike, I felt as though we were well and truly off the beaten path, deep inside the mountains of Peru, and truth is, we actually were!
It was an incredible feeling of solitude and being detached from phones, laptops, and electricity for the week was great!
After a hearty breakfast, we were all pumped to see what day three had to throw at us! Well, it was off to a steep climb for around two hours to the Puca Pass which sits a 5,050m.
This was by far one of my favorite mornings. Rolling hills, jagged peaks, turquoise lakes, and the Rainbow Mountain ranges were just some of the phenomenal sights that can be seen from the top of Puca Pass.
The lunch spot was a further two hours descent into Chilca Valley, passing more beautiful lakes and lush green landscapes. After recharging our batteries here, it was time to hustle over the second mountain pass for the day and down to Yanacocha Lake to where the campsite was set up.
With Rainbow Mountain a further one-hour hike away from the campsite, we were given the option to make it there for sunset and also for sunrise the following morning.
As Rainbow Mountain had been on my bucket list for years I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit it twice!
So we dumped our bags off in the tents and made the one-hour trek to Rainbow Mountain, making it just in time to catch the sunset!
Was it worth it?! Hell yeah! There was no one else in sight which is a rare opportunity at this location, as it is the second most visited site in Peru, after Macchu Picchu.
Feeling completely wrecked after a massive day of trekking on day three, arriving back at the tents in one piece was a godsend. I had a quick feed for dinner and then went straight to bed.
Full Blog Post: Rainbow Mountain Peru
Turquoise lakes on the Puca Pass
On top of Puca Pass
Beautiful lakes on the trek
A super early rise for everyone on day four to make the same one-hour hike back to Rainbow Mountain for sunrise. To our surprise, there was 2 to 3 cms of snowfall overnight, covering the trail and surrounding mountains in a light dusting of snow.
This meant that Rainbow Mountain was going to have an extra color too! And sure enough, when we arrived at the viewpoint it was one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen!
A light dusting of snow had fallen over Rainbow Mountain, though some colors were still poking through. Myself and the rest of the squad were absolutely mind blown at this incredible sight! Although there wasn’t really a banger sunrise, the snow-capped Rainbow Mountain made up for it.
Again, we had the entire mountain to ourselves for a couple of hours before the herds of tourists started to arrive and this is when we made our departure to the next spot.
Our guides took us on a short detour into the Red Valley for a quick photo and then we continued our hike to Quesouno for lunch.
With full bellies, the adventure pushed on for a couple more hours upstream to the beautiful Ausangatecocha Lake and this is where we set up camp for the night.
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Snowy Rainbow Mountain
Rainbow Mountain Ranges – Trekking Ausangate
The Red Valley – Ausangate Peru Trek
Trekking to Quesouno
A herd of curious alpacas
I must admit, getting up on day five was a bit of a struggle. All of my muscles were sore, headaches were forever existent and a lack of motivation was present. However, with the support of the other trekkers, all of which were good mates by this stage, they encouraged me to keep on keeping on.
After breakfast, we began a steep climb for two hours to the Palomani Pass and the highest peak of the trek at 5, 400m above sea level!
A panoramic viewpoint awaits at the top with extensive views of countless mountain peaks in the Cordillera Vilcanota region and a birds-eye perspective of Ausangatecocha Lake.
The trek continues down into Huchuy Finaya Valley where we stopped for lunch before making our way to Comercocha to camp for the night.
The snaking river on the way to Comercocha is absolutely amazing and this trail boasts incredible views of the distant Las Dos Gemelas, also known as the Two Twin Mountains.
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Our horseman and his sturdy steed
Two Twin Mountains
Our camp at Las Dos Gemelas
Day six is essentially the last big day of trekking through the Pampacancha Valley along a rocky trail with some of the best mountain views on the trek so far! There is also an abundance of wildlife through this valley, so keep your eyes peeled.
The last leg of the trek goes up and over the Qampa Pass offering insane views of the Three Peaks and Pacchanta Valley.
From here the final descent begins between Ausangate Mountain and Two Twin Mountains, passing by glacial moraines, vibrant lakes, and snow-capped peaks and eventually emerging at the campsite a few hours later.
The best part about this final campsite in Pacchanta is the thermal hot springs and also a convenient store to buy snacks and cold drinks etc. A well-deserved soak in the hot springs will set you back 10 Soles.
Our guides gave us the option to either be picked up by the minivan the following day from Pacchanta or trek a further three hours in the morning back to Tinki Village and be picked up from there.
It was an easy decision from the entire squad as we were all very exhausted from the trek, so we opted to finish here at Pacchanta and take the easier option of the mid-morning van pick up.
Furthermore, we bought a bunch of beers, had a dip in the hot springs, and celebrated our completion of the 7-day trek.
Celebratory beers with the squad
Pacchanta hot springs
Feeling slightly tired and hungover, we managed to heave ourselves out of our tents for one last breakfast.
The van arrived at around 9 am and we thanked our guides, porters, and chefs for their amazing services before taking off on the long drive back to Cusco, stopping in at a small lakeside town for lunch.
Overall, I rate this trek with Killa Expeditions a 10 out of 10 and highly recommend it for anyone that is searching for the best trek in Peru!
WHERE TO STAY IN CUSCO
Cusco has hundreds of accommodation options to choose from, so I have narrowed it down to a few of the best places to stay in Cusco to fit the needs of budget backpackers, luxury travelers, and everyone in between.
See the list of accommodations below that I personally recommend:
Luxury: JW Marriott El Convento Cusco
An unforgettable stay at any Marriott Hotel around the world is never a bad choice. This particular Marriott boasts beautiful interiors with antique exposed bricks and it’s just a few minutes walk to the main square, Plaza de Armas. The rooms are elegantly styled featuring cable TV, wifi, a minibar, and a private bathroom. Oxygen-enriched rooms are also available for those who struggle with high altitudes.
Mid Range: Tambo del Arriero Hotel Boutique
A charming colonial boutique hotel located in the Nueva Alta neighborhood, a short walking distance to the San Pedro Market and Cusco’s main square. The rooms are spacious and cozy featuring a TV, iPhone docking station, free wifi, work desk, warm heating, and some even boast a private jacuzzi.
Budget: Frankenstein Hostel
There are countless hostels in Cusco but there is only one Frankenstein Hostel. This is where I stayed during my time in Cusco and I can’t recommend this place enough for its unique ambiance and central location! Ludwig, the owner, was very welcoming as soon as I set foot in the door and made me feel right at home. The hostel lives up to its ‘Frankenstein’ name with spooky ornaments hanging in doorways and from staircases. Ludwig is also a nature lover and has many plants growing in the internal courtyard and he even has his own terrarium. There are cozy private rooms available at a very affordable price and breakfast is included.
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Another option for accommodation is to stay at an Airbnb, which generally has some great deals.
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MORE CENTRAL & SOUTH AMERICA TRAVEL GUIDES
- Mexico: 4 Week Mexico Itinerary
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- Peru: Backpacking Peru – 3 Week Itinerary
- Bolivia: Things To Do In Bolivia
- Brazil: 2 Day Rio De Janeiro Itinerary
- Argentina: Things To Do In Argentina
- Chile: Things To Do In Chile
LONELY PLANET PERU
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Thanks for reading this article and if you have any questions at all about trekking Ausangate, please leave me a comment below this post and I will get back to you as soon as I can.