Snow-capped peaks, painted mountains, pristine lagoons of every colour, and perfect starry night skies. I described hiking heaven, right? And the 5-day Ausangate Rainbow Mountain Trek in Peru is just that. Except, in reality, it’s even better.
The Ausangate Trek in Peru is one of the most beautiful multi-day hikes in the world. To be immersed in such outstanding natural surroundings, day in and day out, is an experience of a lifetime. In addition, the 5-day Ausangate Trek takes in stunning sights like Rainbow Mountain and the Red Valley. Just two exceptional elements of this stellar trail that have to be seen to be believed. Ausangate is an astounding place, and hiking the 70km long trail around this sacred mountain won’t fail to leave a lasting impression.
In this guide, we’ll look at what the 5-day Ausangate trek in Peru entails and include a GPS map and brief trail description for each day. We’ll also look at different length trail options and whether to hike as part of a tour or independently. We’ll answer some FAQs, touch on a suggested packing list and throw in a few bonus tips for the Ausangate Trek.
The Incas believed in sacred mountains, which they named ‘Apu’s’. Ausangate was one of those sacred mountains. The spirit of Apu Ausangate is considered the keeper of the entire Cusco region.
Today, just as the Incas would have done, communities that dwell in this magnificent mountain region still make offerings to Apu Ausangate, Peru. Showing respect and admiration to the apu, they hope to ensure protection from the spirit of the mountain over their daily lives.
Each year, the ‘Star Snow’ festival (Qoyllur Ritti) is celebrated on the slopes of Ausangate. Thousands descend to make the pilgrimage to the temple of Sinakara, where a painting of Christ appears on a rock.
For regular hikers and nature lovers like you and I, the Ausangate Trek is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, that will leave you in awe and wonderment, and see exactly why the Incas revered this mountain.
Ausangate Trek Map
Ausangate Trek Overview
The 5-day Ausangate Trek is a 70km long, high altitude, challenging and downright incredible hike. With much effort comes much reward and Ausangate in Peru more than delivers on that front. If you want to experience nature at its untouched finest, tread one of the world’s greatest hiking trails and basically enjoy unplugging for a few days, then the 5-day Ausangate Trek is most definitely for you.
Below, I’ll describe the experience Dan and I had as part of a tour. But, don’t worry, the trail is near exactly the same if you hike solo, so we’ll give more details below on how to conquer Ausangate in Peru independently, if that’s more your thing.
Ausangate Trek 5-Day Preview
- Type: One-way
- Distance: 70km
- Time: 5 days
- Accumulated elevation gain: 3,149m
- Difficulty: Hard
- Trailhead: Upis
Ausangate Trek Trail Description
Day 1: Cusco – Tinqui – Upis
- Type: One-way
- Distance: 7km
- Time: 2 hours
- Accumulated elevation gain: 245m
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Trailhead: Upis
With an early start from Cusco, the journey to conquer Ausangate begins with a 3-hour mini bus ride to the community of Upis, just a little past Tinqui (Tinki). Here, you’ll be given breakfast outside Upis School before starting out. Expect sweet school children to hover in expectation of a little food, which you should most definitely share with them. They looked delighted with a juice box or pack of crackers. Our brekkie was pretty decent and to be honest, was a great sign as to how well we’d be looked after for the duration of the trek.
We set out at a very steady pace for what would be a relatively easy first day. All that is required for day one is a very short 7km to base camp. The trail steadily climbs but at an incline that is very discreet. The trail feels somewhat flat in parts. All the time you’ll have your eyes fixed on the outstanding form of Ausangate. Possibly the only thing to tear your gaze away will be the fields of alpacas you pass through. So Peru! I’d recommend making the most of enjoying the alpacas. We hiked for one month in Huaraz and were surprised that the only animals we saw on the trails were cows. No llamas or alpacas out that way.
Anyway, once at base camp, it’s time to relax for a couple of hours. If you’re anything like us, you’ll likely feel as though you haven’t earned much of a rest at this stage. However, sit back and enjoy the views. The campsite sits at 4,500m, so, it’s important to be well acclimatised. Otherwise, you’ll be feeling pretty ropey here, and it’s just the beginning. We chilled in our tent til’ lunch, and then we headed out to enjoy Upiscocha as an out and back.
It felt great to hike some more on day one and get our first taste of the spectacular glacial lakes that litter the slopes of Ausangate Mountain in Peru. The short out and back to Upiscocha takes around 45 minutes each way.
It’s another gentle ascent towards Upiscocha. The trail is mostly defined but a little rocky in parts. The lake itself is stunning. A grey-blue body of water extends all the way to the glacier at the far end. You may spot a few icebergs floating around too. Upiscocha is a serene and tranquil place. Our group sat and enjoyed the views to ourselves before following the same trail back to basecamp.
There are hot springs located at the Upis Campsite too. So, after a fairly breezy day, there’s the option to end the day in warm thermal waters too. They cost S/5 per person ($1.50USD).
Day one. Perfection.
If you’ve read some of our other guides, you’ll know Dan and I love to speed hike. However, speed hiking at high altitudes would not be recommended. Slow and steady wins the race in this part of the world and we very much wanted to enjoy every moment of the 5-day Ausangate Trek in Peru, and avoid feeling unwell. Speed hiking would have to wait for another day.
WHAT’S SPEED HIKING? It’s hiking at a quicker pace than usual, covering more ground and having a pretty good workout at the same time. Find out more about speed hiking here.
Day 2: Upis – Anantapata
- Type: One-way
- Distance: 14km
- Time: 8 hours
- Accumulated elevation gain: 923m
- Difficulty: Hard
- Trailhead: Campamento Upis
Awaking at 6am to the sound of ‘Amigos, Coca Tea?’ will forever be one of my favourite parts of multi-day treks in Peru, with Ausangate being one of the best. Obviously, the high altitude can be challenging, so drinking coca tea is super helpful. And to have it delivered to your tent is pretty great. After all, the biting cold and freezing temperatures can also be tough in the morning. So, wrapping nippy fingers around a hot mug of tea, whilst cozy and warm in a sleeping bag, is a soothing experience.
Hiking commences around 7.30am and it’s off to explore deeper into the mountain range. Taking the Ausangate trail from camp, the trek heads towards the Abra Arapa Pass. At 4,850m, it’s the highest point of day two’s trek. However, our guide was keen to take us on a shortcut, which would see us hike to 5,000m and experience better views. Of course, we all agreed. The more exceptional views the better, eh.
The trail up the rolling mountainside was a surrealist landscape. The ground turned a slight yellow-ochre colour. It was reminiscent of our hiking in Iceland, in particular, Langmannalaugar, and that was otherworldly for sure. As was the Uyuni Tour in Bolivia.
Surrounding you are snow-capped peaks and views that will take your breath away. Standing at 5,000m above sea level feels like a real achievement and witnessing the beauty of Ausangate, up close and personal, is an unbelievable experience. And heck, this is only the beginning of day two!
From here, the trail gently descends down the Queullacocha Valley and rejoins with the original Abra Arapa Pass trail. You’ll pass by Pucacocha Lake, where we stopped for lunch. And what a lunch spot that was.
After lunch, the Ausangate Trek begins to wind up the mountainside. Here, you’ll experience the sheer beauty of the Apacheta Pass. As you climb higher, the views of Ausangate Mountain and the colourful lakes dotted below, are incredible. Stopping for photos is an absolute must. Plus, it’s a welcome break from the steep ascent to the Apacheta Pass. This pass marks the highest point of the usual route of day two at 4,900m.
From the Apacheta Pass, you’ll see just how colourful the landscape of the 5-day Ausangate Mountain trek can be. Rainbow mountains of reds, yellows and greys seemingly cloak every other ridge. This hike is truly exceptional.
After enjoying the views, and your efforts, you’ll see the trail is clearly marked down into the valley, and it’s time for the final steps of the day towards Anantapata for basecamp no.2.
Day 3: Anantapata – Huchuy Phinaya
- Type: One-way (with an out & back to Rainbow Mountain and Red Valley)
- Distance: 26km
- Time: 10 hours
- Accumulated elevation gain: 1,337m
- Difficulty: Hard
- Trailhead: Campamento Anantapata
Day three is by far the hardest of the entire 5-day Ausangate Trek. Today is the day you’ll visit Rainbow Mountain. But, you’ll have to get up early to fit it in. We highly recommend adding the Ausangate Rainbow Mountain trek to your itinerary, it’s utterly incredible.
With our alarms set for 3am, we were up, dressed and brekkie’d up for a 4am start on the hike. It was cold. Like super cold! My fingers were numb gripping onto my trekking poles and the chilly air seemingly made the high altitude slightly harder to breathe in as we ascended Warmisaya Pass to 4,985m. You’ll spend the majority of the Ausangate Trek to Rainbow Mountain under headtorch. So, don’t forget it.
Our aim was to arrive by sunrise. We literally missed the goal of being at the viewpoint of Rainbow Mountain by a matter of minutes. But, it didn’t matter. Watching the orange glow over the surrounding mountains in Ausangate and the sky carousel from black, through purple, pink and finally to yellow was quite something. It certainly spurred the legs on.
Ausangate Rainbow Mountain
Arriving at the viewpoint of Rainbow Mountain at 5,200m above sea level is an unforgettable moment. Especially after a long 3-hour hike. What makes this moment of the 5-day Ausangate Trek even more special is the fact you may well have this viewpoint of Rainbow Mountain to yourself. Our group did. You see, by hiking for sunrise, you’ll arrive at Rainbow Mountain well before any of the popular day tours arrive from Cusco. And let me tell you, Rainbow Mountain can get very busy. Pre-pandemic you were looking at thousands descending on the mountain every day. By arriving at sunrise, you’ll have unimpeded views and a much more tranquil experience. We absolutely loved it.
The Red Valley (Valle Rojo)
Before we’d even set out on the Ausangate Trek in Peru, Dan and I had heard about the Red Valley and knew it was possible to visit as part of seeing Rainbow Mountain. We knew we had to make the trek to see this incredible landscape for ourselves. I mean, mountains that are pure red!
Speaking with our guide the night before, he said it was definitely possible, if we were feeling strong enough. Where there’s a will, there’s a way, amirite! So, from Rainbow Mountain, we made the extra 5km out & back to visit the Red Valley. It really wasn’t much to add on to the Ausangate Trek considering the exceptional place we were visiting.
Surprisingly, out of our group of 11 trekkers, only four of us made the short trip to the Red Valley. Day three is a big day with lots of hiking for sure. But, I implore you to visit the Red Valley. It’s a truly incredible landscape that is just as epic as Rainbow Mountain, and the rest of the Ausangate Trek. It really has to be seen to be believed. I’ve no doubt in my mind that Dan and I will be back in Peru one day and be looking to take on some of the trails that run through this crazy-coloured valley!
After enjoying the morning at Rainbow Mountain and the Red Valley, it’s a case of retracing your steps along the Ausangate Trek, back to basecamp for lunch. The hike back up Abra Warmisaya will likely feel tiring on the return. But, it’s nice to see it in the daylight this time around.
After refuelling from a rather huge morning of hiking, the 5-day Ausangate Trek continues from Anantapata Camp. The afternoon will see you reach the highest point of the entire Ausangate Trek. The Palamani Pass reaches an altitude of 5,200m. It’s a slow ascent that saw a number of our group rely on horseback to reach. Such is altitude sickness. We stopped for a quick rest at Ausangatecocha before digging deep for this final uphill of the day.
Luckily, the trail to the pass is neither too steep nor difficult to walk. It’s simply a case of one foot in front of the other until you reach the summit. Thankfully, the views along the way are not only stunning but a welcome distraction from any discomfort on reaching the top.
The Palamani Pass (Abra Paloman) reaches 5,200m sea level. It can be pretty cold and windy at the top, understandably, but the 360 views are out of this world.
Dan and I discovered there are more rainbow mountains up here. They’re literally everywhere. It feels like quite the achievement to reach this high and feel well enough to enjoy it. I guess I have Dan to thank for his excellent Cusco itinerary, ensuring we’d taken all necessary precautions to give us the best chance of not suffering any altitude sickness. Let’s just say we’d spent three weeks hiking in Cusco before taking on Ausangate.
From the Palamani Pass, it’s an easy trail down to Campsite Machaywasi, heading towards the small community of Huchuy Phinaya. At 4,600m, it’s another high-altitude night of sleeping, but hopefully, by now you’ll be adjusting nicely.
Day 4: Huchuy Phinaya – Azul Cocha or Pacchanta
- Type: One-way
- Distance: 23km
- Time: 8-9 hours
- Accumulated elevation gain: 641m
- Difficulty: Hard
- Trailhead: Huchuy Phinaya
Day four is another long day but thankfully easier than the day before. Setting out from camp, the trail initially follows the river down through the valley. You’ll notice the river has a pink tinge to it. At the head of the river is a pinkish-coloured lake. It’s known as the ‘red lake’ and is possible to visit as an added out and back. However, I’ve only seen this done by independent hikers who take an alternative route down from the Palamani Pass. That route heads to the camp spot at Machuraccay Lodge. From here, you can make the out and back.
Truth be told, Dan and I didn’t know about the red lake until after hiking Ausangate. We wish we had known and had visited, it looks insanely good. Make sure you factor in a visit, there’s always time if you want there to be. Alternatively, more and more tour companies are now offering the Red Lake as a day tour from Cusco.
At the bottom of this valley, the trail bends to the left and then it’s a very gradual but long climb up to the Jampa Pass. At 5,100m above sea level, it may not be the highest point of the 5-day Ausangate Trek, but it’s not to be sniffed at either. Luckily, the gradual ascent makes the height feel somewhat simpler to scale. As do the outstanding views along the way.
Reaching Jampa Pass
Upon reaching the Jampa Pass, we quickly threw all our layers on. This side of Ausangate feels more exposed and windy. It was definitely very cold, even with the sun beaming down on us.
From the viewpoint, you’ll notice different coloured lakes below, with towering snowy mountains rising up behind. Rainbow mountains subtly blend into snowy peaks and the whole outlook is completely mindblowing. Only the cold weather encouraged us to move on, otherwise, I’m sure Dan and I would have spent hours glued to this spot. I’ve no doubt you’ll feel the same.
Descending the pass, we arrived at our lunch spot and enjoyed warming up in the midday sun and taking a well-earned rest.
Ausangate 7 Lagoons
After lunch, you’ll continue on to Azul Cocha Campsite or straight to Pacchanta. Ordinarily, the tour would have stopped for camp at Azul Cocha, but our group had decided to hike day five at the end of day four, so we could enjoy the thermal baths at Pacchanta a little earlier. This added just 4.5 km to the day. Given it was predominantly downhill, it was easy enough.
Descending from the mountain trail you’ll pass the famous 7 Lagoons of Ausangate. Another excellent day trip alternative for seeing Ausangate. The viewpoint from Otorongo campsite is so beautiful. The Ausangate 7 lagoons include Azulcocha, Otorongo, Pucacocha, Alqacocha and Q’omercocha, Orqo Otorongo and China Otorongo. They are sacred lakes and you are not allowed to swim in them.
After enjoying the lakes, it’s onwards to Pacchanta. Like I said, an easy downhill to what feels like civilisation again.
Day 5: Pacchanta – Cusco
- Type: One-way
- Distance: 4.5km
- Time: 1.5 hours
- Accumulated elevation gain: Nil (250m downhill)
- Difficulty: Easy
- Trailhead: Azul Cocha Campsite
As we’d already reached our end destination on day four, the morning of day five was at our leisure. Above are the stats should you be hiking from Azul Cocha Campsite.
Rather than wait around twiddling our thumbs until 10am for the transport back to Cusco, Dan and I decided to revisit the thermal baths. This was not only a great way to kill some time, but it also allowed us to enjoy the warm waters at a much quieter time. With just a handful of others taking a dip, we were able to sit and rest our well-hiked bodies in some true peace and quiet. Plus, enjoying one last view of the mighty mountain range we’d just hiked around was pretty special too.
Ausangate Hot Springs
The hot springs at Pacchanta cost S/5 per person for, I guess, pretty well as long as you like or as long as you’ve got. There are changing rooms and toilets and usually, there are refreshments to buy, on-site. There are plenty of pools to choose from, all with different temperatures and to be honest, I can’t think of a better way to finish off a multi-day trek.
Then, it’s time to head back to Cusco, where you’ll arrive back sometime mid-afternoon feeling completely satisfied with the previous five days. What a place. And what an unbelievable 5-day trek around Ausangate.
The Ausangate Trek was by far one of our favourite hikes throughout our travels in Peru. The hike can only be rivalled by the beauty of the Cordillera Blanca and all the amazing hiking from Huaraz. Huayhuash anyone?
To experience such immense beauty with a fraction of the numbers you’ll see on the Inca Trail or Salkantay Trail to Machu Picchu was incredible. Literally, most days we saw no one else but the other people in our group. In that sense, it was very similar to the quiet trail we experienced hiking to Choquequirao, another of our favourite hikes in Peru. I guess we favour quieter trails, eh.
If you’re looking for a challenging, high-altitude hike, with scenery you’ll never forget, then the Ausangate Trek in Peru has to be it. It’s nature at its absolute finest.
Alternative Ausangate Treks
There are definitely many variations on how to tackle the Ausangate circuit. Your choice may depend on whether you’re hiking in a group or solo. Or, simply, how much time you have to spend on a multi-day hike. Although the 5-day Ausangate Trek with Rainbow Mountain certainly means you’ll see the very best of this splendid mountain range in Peru, there are alternative options. So, hopefully, there’s something to suit you. Let’s take a look at some of the other popular options for experiencing Ausangate.
Ausangate Trek 6 Days
If hiking independently, you’ll likely spend six days on the Ausangate Trek to ensure you see all the main attractions and highlights along the way. Carrying heavy gear hiking solo is much harder than wearing just a daypack on a group tour. You’ll hike fewer hours and kilometres each day, but, you also have the freedom to explore a little more too. Even with the extra load, make sure to not miss out on Rainbow Mountain and the Red Valley.
There are tour companies who offer a 6-day + Ausangate Trek with and without Rainbow Mountain too.
Ausangate Trek 4 Days
A 4-day Ausangate Trek with Rainbow Mountain usually takes a more unique route than the 5 or 6-day treks. The trail is centred around seeing Rainbow Mountain and the Red Valley, which actually sounds pretty incredible. With this route, you’ll only trek past one side of Ausangate Mountain.
Essentially, the route begins in Upis as normal and involves the same out and back to Upiscocha lake before spending the night at Upis Campsite. Day two ascends the Arapa Pass before descending to Pukaqocha, for night two. Day three involves hiking to Anantapata and up the Warmisaya Pass, experiencing Rainbow Mountain at sunset. Wow. Then finally, day four sees you hike to Rainbow Mountain for sunrise, then through the incredible Red Valley to Llactoc, where you can then head back to Cusco.
Ausangate Trek 3 Days
To experience the Ausangate trek in 3 days, you won’t be hiking around the whole mountain. Instead, you’ll likely include Rainbow Mountain and cover a similar itinerary to the 4-day Ausangate and Rainbow Mountain Trek. The exception is that you only hike to Rainbow Mountain for sunrise, and you exit the mountain range after Rainbow Mountain and return to Cusco from there. No hiking through the Red Valley.
Ausangate Trek 2 Days
Admittedly, the Ausangate 2 day trek is more likely to be centred around Rainbow Mountain. Incredible as this will be, you’ll see just a fraction of Ausangate up close. I can’t help but feel you’ll be missing out on so much of what makes Ausangate worth visiting. So, if it’s Ausangate you want to see, I really wouldn’t recommend this option. However, everyone’s itineraries and hiking ideals are different. And so, this may be your best option. And if it is, it will still be an incredible experience.
If you search around, you’ll see there are many different two-day itinerary options. Some include full hiking, and some are more tailored to viewpoints, such as hiking to Rainbow Mountain and then being driven to the 7 Lagunas of Ausangate to enjoy them on the second day.
Ausangate Day Trip
An Ausangate Trek for the day can be a number of things. It could be a visit to Rainbow Mountain, or, it could be a hike to the 7 Lagunas of Ausangate. There’s also the option to hike through the Red Valley, or, hike to the Red Lake as a day trip. All of these options can be seen on the 5-day Ausangate Trek. However, a day trek to these stunning lakes, or colourful mountains, would still be a fantastic way to get a taste of the breathtaking beauty of the Ausangate landscape. Especially if that’s the only time you can afford to spare, or, aren’t keen on a multi-day hike. Many tour companies in Cusco will offer these outstanding day tours.
Ausangate Trek Tour
As previously mentioned, Dan and I opted to take on the majestic Ausangate Trek in Peru, guided. Although, it’s certainly not the cheapest way to experience this multi-day hike. But, it is very convenient and, I must say, we were hugely impressed by the quality.
For the best tour experience, we highly recommend Apu Andino Travel Peru. It’s an excellent, family-run tour operator in Cusco that offers premium tours and tour packages and is one of the best Ausangate trek companies in Cusco. Dan and I had an incredible time on the 5-day Ausangate Trek to Rainbow Mountain with Apu Andino. The tour package includes roundtrip transportation, 3 hot meals a day plus water and snacks. Your tent, sleeping bag and a fleece liner are all provided. They are even all laid out for you at the end of each day. Also, you are provided a duffle bag to fill with your belongings for the duration, which is carried by the mules. Basically, all you need to think about is getting up each morning and hiking. The rest is very much taken care of for you.
Our Ausangate trek guide was knowledgeable and experienced. He herded the group with ease around the circuit and answered each and every question thrown his way.
Admittedly, an Ausangate tour is a very luxurious way of hiking this mountain, but also the most common. Out of the very few people we did see on the trail over 5 days, we only met one couple who were hiking independently, the rest were part of other tour groups.
The challenge of hiking Ausangate solo sounds incredible. But, if the thought of carrying a heavy pack for five to six days or more is a little extreme, then a group tour is your best friend.
Ausangate Trek Cost
Apu Andino Travel Peru charges $600USD per person for this trek. It’s a lot of money, but, you are extremely well looked after. As always though, get in touch directly with the tour company to check for the best Ausangate trek price at the time of your visit. You’ll find the team at Apu Andino Travel Peru to be very forthcoming and helpful with any questions and information.
To book the Ausangate 5-day Trek, simply contact Apu Andino Travel Peru on Whatsapp (+51 984 609 485 or +51 984 067 472). Otherwise, drop into their office in Cusco (Centro Commercial Imasumaq, Office #216) to find out more information. Also, feel free to check them out on Facebook and Instagram.
Ausangate Trek Solo
Unlike the usual popular Cusco-based hikes, such as the Inca Trail, the Ausangate Trek doesn’t require any permits. Much the same as the Salkantay Trail. Also, if you’re an experienced hiker, then you can take on the Ausangate Trek without a guide. Many people do. But with that being said, make sure to have access to offline maps, like Maps.Me, and preferably, a GPS map of the trail too.
There are entrance fees to hike Ausangate, Rainbow Mountain and the Red Valley, so take that into account. But, the fees are fairly minimal.
So, if you’re keen on this multi-day hike, but want to do so independently, let’s take a look at how to take on the Ausangate trek solo.
How to Get to Ausangate From Cusco?
It’s very easy to reach the trailhead for Ausangate from Cusco. You will need to take just one bus from Terminal Paradero Livitaca to the town of Tinqui (Tinki). The bus terminal is opposite the Coliseo Cerrado for your reference. Bus tickets generally cost S/15–20 ($4–5USD) and the journey time is 2.5–3 hours. Buses depart from 5am every day and leave twice an hour.
Once at Tinqui, the most likely option is to walk to Upis, where the trailhead is. You may be able to negotiate a taxi for this section and save your legs for the actual trail, but it is not guaranteed. So, assume you’ll be walking and that a taxi will be a bonus.
The walk between Tinqui and Upis is around 5–6km. At Upis you may be required to pay the S/10 ($2.50USD) entrance fee into Ausangate. It depends if anyone is collecting that day. Then, the trail is yours to hike in as many days as you wish. Enjoy!
Returning to Cusco From Ausangate
You should end your trek in the small town of Pacchanta. From here, you can either get a taxi, if willing or available, to take you back to Tinqui. Or, you can walk to Tinqui. The walk back to Tinqui is a very easy downhill and takes around 3 hours. Then, just hop on that bus back to Cusco.
Total Cost of the Ausangate Trek Without a Guide
The cost of hiking independently is considerably less than taking part in an organised group tour. When you weigh up the price of the buses, entrance fees, food and gear, you’re looking at little more than $50USD per person. Still, hiking Ausangate solo requires a decent level of fitness and good acclimatisation. With Ausangate, trekking the mountain passes with heavy packs and all your gear is hard work (I definitely felt it on the Santa Cruz Trek in Huaraz) and so much more planning and consideration needs to be taken into account. But, having this epic trail and mountain vistas to yourself most days is an experience like no other.
It’s important to acclimatise properly before heading off on the Ausangate Trek in Peru. Altitude sickness (AKA Acute Mountain Sickness) is a common illness experienced by travellers and hikers alike heading to high altitudes. The main symptoms of AKA include headache, shortness of breath, nausea, lightheadedness, dizziness, indigestion and loss of appetite. It’s impossible to predict who will get altitude sickness. Even if you’ve avoided altitude sickness before, it doesn’t guarantee you won’t get it the next time!
You’ll read many different tips online about how to avoid altitude sickness. But, the most important way to reduce your chance of getting altitude sickness is to simply avoid going up too high, too fast! As a general rule of thumb, you shouldn’t go higher than 500 metres a day, once you’re beyond 2,000 metres above sea level.
In practice, if you fly into Cusco (3,400 metres above sea level), you should have three rest days before you explore or hike. This should give your body enough time to adjust and acclimatise. In theory, by the fourth day, your body should be able to better tolerate around 3,900 metres (500 metres higher than Cusco). So, by this time, you should have a better chance of feeling well on the Ausangate Trek (over 4,000 metres). As I mentioned previously, Dan and I left the Ausangate Trek at the end of our time in Cusco, having already hiked the Salkantay Trail, which I think helped a lot.
Besides this, there are other tips to help manage and reduce the chances of symptoms at high altitudes in Peru. Firstly, don’t rush around. Walk slowly and take it easy. Secondly, eat lighter meals. Don’t eat meals too fast and drink plenty of water. Factor in coca leaves, tea and sweets. The locals will tell you this helps with dealing with altitude. Finally, there are altitude sickness tablets (such as Diamox) available. But, if you acclimatise properly, progressively reaching higher altitudes slowly over time, you shouldn’t need these.
Ausangate Trek and Rainbow Mountain FAQs
What is the Ausangate Altitude?
The Ausangate Trek altitude predominantly sits within 4,200–5,200m above sea level. Also, bear in mind that you are not eased into the high altitude over a number of days. The hike begins at 4,200m and does not drop below for the entire hike. It’s your responsibility to ensure you are acclimatised before starting this hike, which I highly recommend you do.
How Much Does the Ausangate Trek in Peru Cost?
If hiking independently, entering the Ausangate Mountain range will cost S/10 ($2.50USD). In addition, if you choose to hike to Rainbow Mountain and the Red Valley, expect an additional S/10 for each. If you add on the cost of food for the duration and possible rental of gear, you’re looking at around $50-100USD.
If you choose to take a tour, prices for a 5-day Ausangate Trek in Peru can range between $500-800USD. The price will also depend on whether you’re part of a group or choose a private tour. Expect to pay considerably more for private.
What is the Ausangate Elevation Gain?
The highest part of the Ausangate circuit is the Palamani Pass at 5,200m. The climb up to this pass is gradual and the views from the top are exceptional. The most elevation gain we clocked in one day was 1,337m. This was on day three of the hike.
What is the Ausangate Trek in Peru Difficulty?
Given the long days of hiking and the high altitude of the Ausangate Trek, we would rate this hike as difficult. But, if you’re well prepared, acclimatised and fit, you shouldn’t experience any real difficulty and you’ll get to enjoy every day.
Dan and I ensured we were fully acclimatised before embarking on the Ausangate Trek and we had the best time. No day felt too difficult although there were certainly challenging parts. That being said, some other trekkers in our group were not well acclimatised and felt the effects of the high altitude from the off. We really felt for them, especially me who has experienced altitude sickness in the past. I can’t imagine spending 5 days on a trek and feeling unwell, having to use a horse to get from camp to camp and basically not enjoying Ausangate.
So, basically, the real difficulty is the altitude. Master that and the rest will fall into place.
What is the Ausangate Trek Weather Like and When is the Best Time to Hike?
In Peru, and in this part of the world, there’s a dry season and a rainy season. The dry season runs from May to October and so your chances of experiencing rain are much lower. But, the dry season also coincides with winter! So, the sunshine keeps temperatures high during the day, while temperatures can really dip during the evening. This means camping overnight can be a rather chilly affair. We bought thermals to wear at night and they worked brilliantly. Along with five other layers of clothing on top!
The rainy season is from November to April. If you hike Ausangate during these months you can expect frequent rainfall. The landscape looks much lusher though and any waterfalls will likely be pumping. Snowfall can occur which can cover the trail. Generally, it’s not recommended to hike Ausangate during December, January and February for this very reason.
Remember, mountain weather can be unpredictable, and Ausangate is no exception to this. Specifically, though, Dan and I hiked in June, purposefully choosing the start of the dry season, and had glorious weather for the entire 5-day Ausangate Trek. Yes, the nights were cold, but that’s preferable to being wet.
Are Inca Sites Found on the Ausangate Trek in Peru?
Although Cusco-based hikes usually have a wealth of Inca sites to explore, Ausangate has no archaeological sites. But, it really doesn’t need them. The Ausangate Trek is ALL about nature. It never gets boring and every day gives you a glimpse of something new. Rainbow mountains, red valleys, different coloured lagoons, wildlife and seeing Apu Ausangate from many different angles. Simply incredible.
What Makes the Ausangate Rainbow Mountains in Peru So Colourful?
The incredible striped colours of Rainbow Mountain are caused by specific mineral compositions in the rocks. They include sulphur, iron, calcium and magnesium, helping to produce the brilliant pinks, reds, greens, whites, yellows and browns that we see at Rainbow Mountain.
What is the Name of the Rainbow Mountain That is in Cusco, Peru?
Rainbow Mountain is known by a few different names, such as Montaña de Siete Colores and Montaña de Colores. But, the most common is Vinicunca.
Where are the Ausangate Mountains?
Ausangate is the largest of the mountains in the Vilcanota Mountain Range. It is also the fourth highest mountain in Peru. Surrounding Ausangate you’ll find the snowy peaks of Mariposa (meaning Butterfly) and Caracol (meaning Snail).
Ausangate Rainbow Mountains
As you hike Ausangate, you’ll see there are rainbow mountains everywhere, not just the main attraction of Vinicunca. However, did you know Vinicunca is a relative newbie to the Cusco tourist trade, having only really been ‘discovered’ back in 2015? Rainbow Mountain used to be covered by a permafrost. But, the effects of global warming and the melting of snow caused the incredible appearance of Rainbow Mountain to be uncovered. And of course, this amazing multi-coloured wonder took off. In fact, Rainbow Mountain can attract up 3,000 visitors a day!
What Are the Ausangate Trekking Options?
Click here to check out the alternative Ausangate treks section for more information on this. There are plenty to choose from. But, obviously, our recommendation is the 5-day Ausangate Trek to see the whole mountain range.
What is the Meaning of Ausangate?
There is a legend of two brothers named Ausangate and Salkantay. During a drought that was severely affecting the Andean people, the two brothers set out in search of food. Heading in different directions, both brothers found the food to help their people. Salkantay had headed north, whereas Ausangate headed south, to the highlands. Whilst away, Salkantay fell in love. Committed to his people, he left his love to return with food for the Andean people. Though Salkantay was left heartbroken.
Both brothers were ultimately transformed into the huge peaks we now see in Ausangate and Salkantay Mountains. But, the tears of Salkantay created Humantay Lake, with the rich turquoise colour said to represent his deep feelings over his lost love.
Places to Stay in Cusco
For the Ausangate Trek, you’ll likely be staying in Cusco on either side of the multi-day hike. So, where to stay in Cusco before and after the trek? Certainly, there are many options to choose from! To save you the headache, we’ve narrowed down the best budget, mid-range and luxury options.
- Budget – Secret Garden: a great choice for the budget traveller looking for a highly-rated dorm room. Secret Garden is conveniently located in the heart of Cusco. If you consider the price and quality of Secret Garden, it’s got to be one of the best value stays in Cusco.
- Mid-range – Fiesta Inn Cusco: Dan and I had a great experience staying here. Fiesta Inn Cusco is located just outside of the city centre, so, it’s nice and quiet. A buffet breakfast is included and the Wifi is fantastic.
- Luxury – Cozy Room Cusco: this bed and breakfast is a fantastic option for optimal comfort and rest. Ideal after a multi-day trek don’t you think? Cozy Room Cusco offers exceptional views of Cusco and the surrounding mountains. This highly-rated and popular B&B has excellent facilities, including a shared lounge and terrace to enjoy the mountain views. Yes, there are more luxurious options. But, you’ll pay a fraction of the price at Cozy Room Cusco and have just as good an accommodation experience.
Travel Insurance For Ausangate, Peru
It’s hugely important to have good travel insurance wherever you go in the world. But, it’s especially important when taking on some high-altitude hikes, like the Ausangate Trek in Peru.
We suggest World Nomads as a reliable, trustworthy and highly recommended provider. Plus, they even allow buying travel insurance whilst you’re already away, which may come in very handy. It did for us!
Five Hiking Essentials
Why do you need this?
See it in action
A 5-day trek requires comfortable, breathable and somewhat waterproof boots. We love the Moabs
This camera is lightweight and compact, so it's perfect for a multi-day trek. The Sony Cybershot RX100 VII takes high-quality photos and 4K videos
A waterproof jacket is a non-negotiable, particularly if you do the Ausangate Trek during the rainy season
If you're looking for a fantastic backpack for trekking, we recommend the Osprey Aether AG 70L backpack. The anti-gravity suspension makes the backpack feel super light and you can adjust the back support so it fits your body perfectly
A fleece is the perfect gear addition to help keep you warm at night. Trust me. The North Face TKA Glacier has a great warmth:weight ratio, so it's ideal for multi-day trekking
Five Camping Essentials
Why do you need this?
See it in action
A sleeping bag liner not only adds an extra layer of warmth, but it's also great for hygiene should you be hiring your camping gear
A headlamp is absolutely necessary during nighttime at camp
This compact inflatable pillow is an absolute game-changer for a comfortable night's sleep whilst camping. You won't believe how small it packs down!
Camping out in the wild never seems to get as dark as you think it might. A good sleep mask is a great idea
A portable battery pack will come in handy to charge your electronics during the 5-day Ausangate Trek
Make sure to also pack 2–3L of water each day, sunglasses, sunscreen and a hat for the trek to Ausangate and Rainbow Mountain in Peru.
For a more comprehensive hiking gear list, check out our 66 Travel Accessories That You Must Travel With. Otherwise, for a general summary of everything you’d need for a trip, visit our Ultimate Packing Checklist.
- Safety precautions for the Ausangate Trek: if you choose to hike independently, it’s especially important to use a GPS map for navigation, tell someone your plans and pack smart for mountain remoteness.
- Amenities: surprisingly, you’ll find toilets at many of the camp spots. Now, they may just be holes in the ground in a crude makeshift shelter, but, it’s better than the alternative.
- Doggos: whether you’re a fan of dogs or not, having them guard outside your tent all night, barking at the slightest movement from within, does start to get annoying. Just a heads up.
- Rainbow Mountain Trek: of course, you may want to experience Rainbow Mountain as a day trip from Cusco, without the effort of having to complete the entire 5-day Ausangate Trek in Peru. Check out our guide here for all you need to know.
More Hiking Suggestions
- Multi-day hikes in Cusco: For other incredible multi-day hikes around Cusco, you should definitely consider Choquequirao, Salkantay, the Inca Trail and the Lares Trek.
- Machu Picchu tours: if Ausangate is enough for a multi-day hike in Peru for you, check out our day hikes at Machu Picchu. They each offer incredible views of the Inca citadel. Huayna Picchu, Huchuy Picchu and Machu Picchu Mountain.
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