Most people head to Peru to hike Machu Picchu, but that's not the only legendary trek in the country. Not by a long shot. The Ausangate Peak is a monument of natural power and beauty, and many devoted hikers descend on the Ausangate region each year to hike the famed Ausangate Loop. You’ll see incredible mountains covered in bright shining snow, vivid alpine lakes that glitter like emeralds, alpaca herds, llamas, Andean deer, and small mountain villages. It is the trek of a lifetime.
It is required that anyone seeking to make the trek use one of the local guide services like Apus-Peru. You won't have to worry about getting lost or carrying huge amounts of gear as the guides do all the heavy lifting and planning. This is a sacred mountain, and a sacred region - who knows, maybe your trip will even take on some spiritual overtones...
Day 1: Cusco - Tinqui - Upis
Every tour will offer transportation from Cusco to Tinqui, which is a small village about three hours outside of the city. Once in Tinqui, your adventure begins with a four and a half hour hike to the campsites at Upis. Most groups stop after the first three hours to lunch when the sacred Ausangate Peak comes into view. This is a pretty easy section, but serves as an important way to acclimate your body to the altitude and physical exertion of the trek.
Night in Upis
At the campsite, there is a small natural hot spring. You'll sleep directly in front of the gorgeous Ausangate Peak surrounded on all sides by views of the snow covered mountains that stand within the Ausangate Valley. It's pretty incredible.
Day 2: Upis - Lake Ausangate Q’ocha
After waking up beneath the natural majesty of Ausangate Peak, you will pack up your things and begin the march toward Lake Ausangate Q’ocha. You must ascend into the Peruvian sky, and climb to the top of La Arpa Pass. But you have a lot of motivation because most groups stop for lunch on the other side.
In this area there are a few alpine lakes, Puqa Q’ocha and Q’oma Q’ocha embedded in the rock and ringed by snow laden mountains. It is a place of incredible views. The ascent gently continues on to the second mountain pass of the day, Apuchat. This is the home stretch -- after here the trail descends into the campsite of Ausangate Q’ocha.
Night at Lake Ausangate Q’ocha
The lake is a vivid turquoise color, fed by the snowmelt of Ausangate Peak. Camping here is an amazing experience. The sunset burns like fire in the sky and on the water. On a clear night, the moon and the stars reflect off the shimmering surface, creating a surreal natural impression of the alpine reality that surrounds you.
Day 3: Lake Ausangate Q’ocha - Q’ampa
Today it's early to rise, ascending towards the Palomani Pass. Prepare for an exerting climb as the top of this mountain is the highest point on the trek at 17,056 feet. Take deep breathes and keep drinking electrolytes as that altitude is no joke.
After summiting the pass you'll descend into a valley, the home of many “vizcachas” (furry Peruvian rodents). Some groups stop here to rest, catch their breath, and have lunch. The campsite at Q’ampa is only a three hour climb away, which offers rich views of the snowcapped mountains of Tres Picos and Puca Punta.
Night in Q’ampa
There is a small village not far from the campsites, where the locals are friendly but generally keep to themselves. Keep an eye out for wildlife as this region is full of Peruvian critters, both large and small. You might spot alpaca, llama, or get lucky enough to see a puma!
Day 4: Q’ampa - Pacchanta
From here, the trail climbs for another couple of hours into Q’ampa Pass. Along the way, you'll see several lakes of vivid color, like Qomerqocha Lagoon, and Andean deer loping about freely. The hike continues on for a few hours after lunch, before arriving in the village of Pacchanta. Most hikers opt to take a good soak in the thermal hot springs, and can even buy a well-deserved beer to quench their thirst.
Night in Pacchanta
This interesting Andean village is a great place to explore, and a lot of groups give their patrons extra time to explore. There are campsites nearby, or, visitors can choose to stay in a local hostel within the town.
Day 5: Pancchanta - Tinqui - Cusco
The hike back to the village of Tinqui is only three hours. Rest your weary feet, rehydrate, and enjoy some local food before climbing back on the bus to Cusco.