Peru is known for its epic vistas and world-class hiking, and also Peru’s Cordillera Huayhuash circuit is becoming a well-known trek among outdoor enthusiasts. The Cordillera Huayhuash is less-visited and less touristic than the nearby Cordillera Blanca with its Santa Cruz trek and day tours to Laguna 69. Once we heard about the Huayhuash circuit and saw some spectacular pictures of near-vertical summits, glaciers, and turquoise lakes we instantly knew: We have to go there! And, it is even better than we could imagine. Hiking Cordillera Huayhuash has been an unforgettable experience

Cordillera Huayhuash

The sheer beauty, vastness and geological diversity of the Cordillera Huayhuash are overwhelming. You just can’t help but feel the force of nature and be grateful to behold such a wonder.

Map and GPX Huayhuash trek without a guide

The Huayhuash trek has one main trail circumnavigating the high peaks of the Cordillera Huayhuash. There are various trails to extend, shorten or alter the main route. Our trek of in total 118 kilometers ended up lasting nine days, and the itinerary we chose was perfect! Find more background on our chosen itinerary below.

Distance and length of Huayhuash trek

  • 110 -130 km (depending on variations)
  • highest point: 5050 m
  • 7-10 days

Start & finish the Huayhuash trek without a guide

  • Most people start the hike in Matachanca and finish in Llamac. You can hike the Huayhuash in both directions, but it is recommended to hike the Huayhuash in a clockwise direction. The only resupply point on the trail is the village of Huayllapa, which is more strategically located hiking the Huayhuash in a clockwise direction.

Difficulty Huayhuash trek without a guide

  • Huayhuash trek is considered a difficult hike. The majority of the hike is above 4000 meters, with multiple passes over 4500 and 5000 meters. The altitude combined with over 100 km of distance and some steep sections makes it a challenging hike.

Our itinerary Huayhuash trek without a guide

1MatacanchaCancana Punta (4700m)Laguna Mitucocha (4250m)
2Mitucochaalpino circuit to Laguna Alcaycocha (4780m)Carhuacocha (4200m)
3Carhuacochapaso Siula (4810m)Huayhuash (4340m)
4Huayhuashpaso del trapecio (5020m)Huanapatay (4500m)
5Huanapataypaso santa rosa (5050m)Siula Grande Base Camp (4500m)
6Siula Grande Base Camplong descentHuaylappa (3500m)
7Huaylappalong climb to altitude of 4650mGashpapampa (4500m)
8GashpapampaYauche pass (4800m)Jahuacocha (4050m)
9Jahuacochaover Pampa Llamac (4300m)Llamac (3200m)

Recommendations for the Huayhuash route

There are various options to extend, shorten or alter the route. Based on our experiences, we recommend deviating from the main trail at the following places.

  • Paso del Trapecio: Hike over Paso del Trapecio instead of following the trails to the thermal springs. We believe this is one of the most beautiful parts of the Huayhuash trek. The giant snow-capped mountains are so incredibly close, that you can almost touch them! After crossing the pass, the landscape changes completely. Surrounded by impressive volcanic rock formations you will cross various turquoise lagoons.
  • Paso Santa Rosa: Take the Santa Rosa pass instead of the San Antonio pass. From the campsite at Huanapatay, the Santa Rosa pass looks quite challenging, but it is easier than the San Antonio pass which has a very steep descent. Apparently, the view on Siula Grande is slightly better from the San Antonio pass, but the route over the Santa Rosa pass brings you even closer to glaciers and turquoise lakes. We took the Santa Rosa pass and are happy that we did.
  • Visit Siula Grande Basecamp: We took a detour to visit and camp at Siula Grande basecamp. If you want a good view of Siula Grande, this is the place. We camped at Siula Grande basecamp and could see pieces of ice falling off the glacier and we heard the ice cracking during the night.
outdoor photography peru

Paso el Trapecio. Breathtakingly beautiful

– Huayhuash trek

Hike the epic Huayhuash trek in Peru without a guide 1

View from the Santa Rosa Pass with on the background Siula Grande

– Huayhuash trek

Hike the epic Huayhuash trek in Peru without a guide 2
Enjoying the view at glacier lake towards Siula Grande Base camp

Getting there: transport to the Huayhuash trek

The Cordillera Huayhuash is around 150 kilometers south of Huaraz. Many independent hikers take a bus to Chiquián and change buses to go to Llamac. From Llamac it is a two hours hike along a mining road to begin the trek in Matacancha.

Tip: Ask various tour organizations in Huaraz to join for their transport. In the high seasons, organized groups leave every day from Huaraz to the Cordillera Huayhuash, and often have space left for independent trekkers. We eventually organized our transport at Andean Kingdom, in front of Casa de Guia.

For 50 soles per person, we were picked up at our hostel and dropped off at Matacancha. This option is much cheaper than organizing a private car (~400 soles) and it saves a lot of time and hassle to get to the bus station and switch buses.

To get back to Cusco, you can take a bus. A bus leaves every day at 11:00 AM from Llamac. But again in the high season, there are groups coming and going. We waited for 20 minutes in Llamac and got a private jeep ride back to Huaraz for 50 soles per person.

Tips for the Cordillera Huayhuash trek without a guide

Before leaving for Huayhuash

  • Check trail conditions: Visit Casa de Guias in Huaraz before going on a hike in the Cordillera Huayhuash. They provide free information and tips on possible hikes in the region and have the latest information on trail conditions. Since we were planning to go off the official Huayhuash circuit and follow some alpine tracks, the guides could provide us with all the information we needed on possible routes, recommendations, and difficulty of the trails.
  • Get a paper map: The Huayhuash hiking trails are well indicated on online map navigation apps of OSMand, MapOut and However, to get a good overview of the circuit and the location of the dedicated camping areas, paper maps of the Cordillera Huayhuash are available (45 soles) at Casa de Guias in Huaraz.
  • Money: Try to get cash in small denominations of soles. ATMs, which are available in Huaraz, provide 100 soles notes, which are difficult to break when paying in the Cordillera Huayhuash The communities along the trail each charge 10-40 soles fees for entering and camping. Depending on the itinerary the costs can be up to 235 soles (status 2019). A full list of up-to-date fees is available on the Huayhuash website.
  • Watch the documentary: “Touching the void, 2003“. Before we left for the Huayhuash trek we watched the gripping documentary ’Touching the void’. It is based on a true story about two climbers summiting mountain Siula grande and their survival. If you are planning to hike the Huayhuash, we can highly recommend watching this documentary.
  • Acclimatize: Most of the route is above 4000 meters. To fully acclimatize it is good to stay a few days in Huaraz (at 3000m) and make a few days hikes to get used to the high altitude. Popular day hikes in the region include Laguna 69 and Laguna Paron.

Gear considerations for Huayhuash

  • Sleeping bags: Temperature dropped far below zero degrees. Our sleeping bags with extreme limits up to -9 °C were clearly not warm enough. Especially the nights camping at 4500 meters were cold
  • Gear in Huaraz: There are several outdoor shops in Huaraz where you can buy or rent high-quality outdoor gear if needed.
  • Water: Consider bringing your water filter in the inner tent during the night, and pack electronics warm inside the tent because the cold drains the battery (we didn’t and our water filter broke)

Hiking Cordillera Huayhuash trek independently or supported?

There is an option to organize a donkey at the start of the Huayhuash trek (20 – 50 soles per day). The donkey joins the guided groups, while you can hike the Huayhuash trek on your own. In this way, you can still be remote and hike on your own pace with your own gear but you will have the benefit of a lighter backpack.

Upon arrival at the designated camping area, you collect your gear from the group. The only downside of this option is that you have to camp at the same places as the organized group. We were happy to have the freedom to make a detour to Siula Grande or adjust our plans if desired, this is not an option when you go supported.

Impressions of Hiking Cordillera Huayhuash

Trekking Cordillera Huayhuash
Huayhuash – the first kilometers are already beautiful!
Peaks Coridllera Huayhuash
Day 2: We followed the Alpine circuit. After a difficult climb the views were stunning!
Campspot Cordillera Huayhuash
Day 2: Camp spot with a view!
Hike the epic Huayhuash trek in Peru without a guide 3
Day 3: Mountain peaks of the Cordillera Huayhuash. 
Snow peaks in Cordillera Huayhuash
Day 6: According to climbers, the snow in Cordillera Huayhuash and surroundings is special, it can create snow chimneys and almost vertical slopes
Trekking Cordillera Huayhuash
Day 7: Tough day climbing from Huayllapa
Campspot last day to Llamac
Day 8: Camping spot a the last night

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  1. Bonjour,
    J just read you review about Huayhuash and j d like to know how are the paths.
    J d like to do this trek but with a trolley with one weel (a bit like with a Carrix) but j need to know if the paths (ways) are very rocky or a bit rolling. For information, we easy use our trolley around the Ausangate trail.

    Thanks for your answer.

    1. Hi Yoann,

      That sounds so cool! In comparison to the Ausengate trail the paths are less smooths (more rocks) and at places steeper and narrower.

      If you hike the Huayhuash with a trolly I would recommend to follow the main route ‘the donkey trail’. This one is also used by the donkeys for transportation.

      In comparison to our route description it is about 80% the same except for example the visit to Siula Grande and Passo Trapecio. If we would go back to Peru we would feel comfortable to cycle the Ausengate, but not Huayhuash.

      I hope this information helps to consider your options. There are some great videos on YouTube on the Huayhuash that might better help you to estimate feasibility.

      Enjoy beautiful Peru!


      Pim & Nienke

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