Peru’s Ausangate Trek is a high altitude trek near Cusco. The eighty-kilometer hike circumnavigates the Ausangate glacier. It is packed with spectacular views. Each day the scenery is overwhelming be it by glacier-capped peaks, colorful lakes or colorful mountains. And the best thing is, that despite the good infrastructure, it remains remote with only a few hikers on the trail. It is the lamas and alpacas that rule the land on the Ausangate circuit. The Ausangate trek has been our favorite hike in Peru. Read more on the route, tips and our overall experience of the Ausangate trek.
Ausangate trek: Map and GPX
The map below shows the Ausangate trek including a side trip to Rainbow mountain and Red valley.
*Download GPX on IOS devices via safari.
- 80 km (including side trip rainbow mountain and red valley)
- 55 km (without rainbow mountain)
- highest point: 5100 m
Average duration Ausangate trek
- 4 days hiking (Ausangate trek) and 5 days hiking including a side trip to the rainbow mountain.
Start and finish of the Ausangate trek
- The complete Ausangate circuit starts and finishes at Tinki. Most people hike the Ausangate trek counterclockwise, but both directions are possible. We recommend to hike the Ausangate counterclockwise and finish the hike in Pacchanta. Pacchanta has basic tourist infrastructure (hostels, shops, and restaurants) and you can take a dip in one of the hot springs at the end of your trek. The route from Pacchanta back to Tinki is less interesting and you can take a taxi.
Difficulty Ausangate trek
- The hike itself is fairly difficult, even without a guide and carrying all your gear yourself. The trails are in good condition and the climbs are gradual. What might make this trek difficult is for those not well acclimatized. The majority of the hike is above 4500 meters, with passes up to 5100 meters. All the campsites are between 4300 – 4700 meter altitude.
Itinerary Ausangate trek
|Day||Route||Distance (km)||Altitude campsite (meters)|
|1||Transport Cusco to Tinke|
Hike Tinki to Upis
|2||Upis to Anantapata||15||4700|
|3||Anantapata to Rainbow mountain and back to Laguna Ausangatecocha||22||4650|
|4||Laguna Ausangatecocha to Qampa||13||4600|
|5||Qampa to Pacchanta||19||4300|
|6||Transport back to Cusco||0|
Getting there: Transport to the start of the Ausangate trek
Hiking without a guide means you have to organize transport yourself. The Ausangate trek begins in Tinki, a small village around 100 km east of Cusco. The bus ride from Cusco to Tinki takes about 3.5 hours. Busses go every 30 minutes and leave from the bus station on Avenida Tomasa Tito Condemayta, next to Coliseo Cerrado.
Water, food, and accommodation
- There are no shops or restaurants on the route. Only in Tinki and at the last stop in Pacchanta, there are basic shops and a restaurant.
- There is plenty of water available throughout the route, however, with the high number of alpacas and lamas it is recommended to bring a water filter.
- There are designated campsites with basic facilities (water, toilet) along the trail. Locals prefer hikers to make use of these campsites to minimize the impact on nature. There are a few luxurious lodges on the route, but these are private and not open to independent trekkers.
Most organized tours for the Ausangate trek cost around 500 dollars per person. If you hike the Ausangate trek without a guide and independently, a visit to Ausangate doesn’t have to be expensive. In total, we spent 40 dollars. This includes transport, campsites, and food. Below you will find an overview of our costs per person:
- Bus ticket: Cusco – Tinki: 10 soles
- Bus ticket Return: TInki – Cusco: 10 soles
- Collectivo Pacchanta – Tinki: 40 soles
- Entrance fee Ausangate: 10 soles
- Entrance red valley: 10 soles
- Costs for the designated camping areas vary between 5 or 10 soles per tent or per person.
- Hostel in Pacchanta: ~15 soles per person
- Hot springs Pacchanta: 5 soles
Day by day description Ausangate
Day 1: Tinki to Upis
Hiking out of the Town Tinki the Ausangate mountain revealed itself quickly. It was teasing us with its prospect of glaciers, rainbow mountain, the red valley, colored lakes, and high altitude camping. The first day we hiked through yellow fields filled with lamas, alpacas and friendly dogs. At the end of the afternoon, we got to the base of the Ausangate glacier. We set up camp at camping site Upis, situated at an altitude of 4600 m. The first glimpse on the glacier made us curious about what this trek would have in store for us.
Day 2 : Upis to Anantapata
The lamas and alpacas kept looking curiously at us while we were getting closer and closer to the Ausangate glacier. The morning consisted mainly of a long climb. Happy to reach the top, we felt on top of the world, with the words ‘arriba Peru’ written with stones on the pass. The next valley showed us a completely different scenery. Glaciers were exchanged for yellow valleys, it almost looked like a painting. Since we decided to visit the rainbow mountain and the red valley, we deviated from the main Ausangate trail and hiked to Anantapata from where we would hike to rainbow mountain the next day. After a long day, we were happy to set up camp and watch the stars.
Day 3: day hike to the rainbow mountain and the red valley
We left our tent with belongings at Anantapata, and only carried a small daypack to visit the rainbow mountain and the red valley. Our initial plan was to leave very early to get to the rainbow mountain before sunrise and before all the other tourists. But because temperatures at night get far below zero, we failed to get out of the tent in the middle of the night. Eventually, we left at 7:30 for the rainbow mountain.
We arrived at the rainbow mountain at 9:30 and we were not the only tourists up there! We escaped the crowds as soon as possible and continued our hike to the red valley. We enjoyed the beautiful views of the red valley. After 3 hours we hiked back to our tents. We packed everything and continued our hike to a camping spot at Laguna Ausangatecocha.
Day 4: Laguna Ausangatecocha to Qampa
The mornings at 4600 meters altitude can be cold and we were grateful for the early sun rays hitting the tent. This day we had to cover ‘only’ 12 km and one 5000 meter pass. A very relaxed day.
This day we crossed one of the highlights of the Ausangate trek, the chocolate lake. The color of the water is something we had never seen before. The combination of the mineral-rich glacial meltwater and the shavings of the reddish rocks underneath the glacier causes the dark red-brown color. The color of the lake, the glacier and the rock field towards them made a huge impression on us.
Day 5: Qampa to Pacchanta
We had to cover one more 5000 meters pass to finish the Ausangate trek. The first part of the day was beautiful. Unfortunately, we were unlucky with the weather which meant that the last part was all about getting to Pachanta as quickly as possible. Here, we enjoyed a good dinner in the restaurant, found a nice hostel and took a jump in one of the hot springs.
Background information Ausangate and rainbow mountain
Ausangate glacier: Ausangate (6385m) is the highest peak of the Cordillera Vilcanota. Most glaciers in Peru are retreating at an alarming pace. The Ausangate glaciers have been retreating rapidly since 1975. In 40 years’ time, the Ausangate glacier declined ~50% in area. The glacier is currently decreasing by 1% per year.
Colors of the rainbow mountain: The different colors of the rainbow mountain are due to different minerals in combination with the varying environmental conditions when the sediment was deposited. Red-colored sediment often indicates iron oxide and a dry climate when the sediments were formed. While iron minerals in wet conditions result in varying shades of green. When hiking the Ausangate trek, the rainbow mountain is not the only place where you will see these stratigraphic layers. On different parts of the trek, you can see the same pattern of colored layers.
Tips for Ausangate trek
Include a side trip to the Rainbow Mountain and Red Valley?
If you already hike the Ausangate trek, we think it is worthwhile to add the extra 25 km detour to visit the rainbow mountain and the red valley. Having said that, the rainbow mountain is incredibly popular, and you can expect a lot of tourists. We arrived at the rainbow mountain at 9:30 and the place was already packed with tourists. In the high season (June – September) be at the rainbow mountain before 8:30 or after 13:00 if you want to escape the crowds.
But only a 15-minute walk from the crowded rainbow mountain, you get to the red valley. With its vastness and intense red colors, we found the red valley even more impressive. The red valley made this side trip all worth it!