The Ausangate Trek is the highest trek in Peru. It takes you through some of the country’s wildest scenery, and is the perfect opportunity for travelers to get off the beaten track. Here is Mark’s account of his time on the trail.
Complete guide to the Highest Trek in Peru
Trail of the Apu
A lodge-to-lodge trek around Mount Ausangate has been on my bucket list for some time, so I was thrilled to experience it recently. I had very high expectations, and I’m delighted to report that it exceeded them.
The Ausangate Trek takes place in the Cordillera Vilcanota, a breathtakingly beautiful mountain range approximately four-hours south of the city of Cusco. This region receives comparatively few visitors than the more well-known treks closer to Machu Picchu, but hikers are rewarded with privileged – and often private – panoramas. We witnessed towering snow-capped peaks, turquoise glacial lakes, and the other-worldly landscapes of Vinicunca and Red Valley.
Altitude and acclimatization is a very important factor in this region. The entire 26 mile (42 kilometer) trails sits at elevations of between 4,290 meters (14,000 feet) and 5,150 meters (16,900 feet).
With these altitudes in mind, the recommendation is to allow for a minimum of 2 nights in the Cusco region before embarking on the trek. Many hikers opt to complete the hike after completing alternative treks near Cusco at lower altitudes.
Our trek began at our hotel in Cusco. After meeting with our guide we were driven several hours south along the Vilcanota River towards the hamlet of Japura. Following a tranquil river-side picnic lunch, the first day of hiking consisted of a short and steady stroll to our first lodge at Chillca Tambo. This was a gentle and enjoyable warm-up ahead of the more challenging full-day hikes to come.
Onwards to Vinicunca
In the days that followed, the Ausangate Trek took us closer to the towering peaks of Mt Mariposa, Santa Catalina and Apu Ausangate. Often, our only company on the trail was our charming and always-smiling support team and their sturdy pack of llamas.
Speaking of the Ausangate Trek support team, they were a true highlight of the trip. Throughout our adventure, they took great pride in sharing with us their ancient traditions, including a demonstration of traditional textile weaving techniques. We even took part in an authentic blessing ceremony where coca leafs were offered up to Apu Ausangate, the sacred mountain that overlooks the region.
The final full day of the trek brought a much anticipated visit to the increasingly famous Vinicunca, or ‘Rainbow Mountain’. Our expert guide timed our visit perfectly, ensuring we were able to avoid the crowds and enjoy the dramatic landscapes all to ourselves.
At the end of each long day, the cozy lodgings offered a comfortable base from which to soak in the incredible views. The accommodations, equipped with warm beds and a roaring fire, were the perfect place to unwind and recover from the hike. And with no electricity or internet connection, the opportunity to spend a few days off grid was a true blessing.