As a trekker and adventure seeker you may have already experienced the beauty of hiking through the Peruvian Andes, and if you have not done so yet, then get ready to plan your next excursion as you are in for a wonderful and rewarding journey.
If you have already taken a vacation to Peru then you will not be surprised to know that Peru is the most revisited country in all of South America. So what keeps bringing people back? Some say it is the succulent cuisine and rich culture; others say it is the biodiversity and pristine nature.
The answers may vary, but you can rest assured that all visitors have more than one reason to return. For most hikers who visit Peru, their replies tend to highlight the unique and enchanting experiences they say you can “only encounter in Peru”.
The most common trek in Peru is the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, however as an experienced hiker you are probably seeking an adventure that you can say was truly off the beaten path and that not too many brave souls have dared venture before you. Well if you are that type of adventurer then put Ausangate as your next destination. This counter clockwise trail will take you around one of Peru’s most beautiful and sacred mountains.
Situated in the Coridillera Vilcanota range of the Andes Mountains, Ausangate’s snowcapped peak reaches its zenith at 20,945 ft (6,384m). The Coridillera Vilcanota is one of Peru’s largest glaciated systems and divides the altiplano (Peruvian highlands) from the Amazon Rainforest. Ausangate is located 60 miles southeast of Cusco and is visible from the city; it is also visible from the Amazon regions of Puerto Maldonado and Manu.
Where to Start?
Before starting the trek it is advisable to check with South American Explorers in Cusco, as they will be able to give you updated hiking information regarding the trail as well as assists you with making arrangements if you have not already confirmed with a tour operator.
There are buses that depart Cusco daily that head to the village of Tinqui, where the trek begins. It is highly recommended to organize this trip with a reliable tour company who can offer you logistical support and professional assistance.
There can be some variations in terms of the exact route taken there and back but along the way you will definitely see beautiful mountain lakes of various colors, pristine valleys, and even get to enjoy some natural hotsprings. Of course, you will also have the awe-inspiring view of Ausangate mountain as you come closer and closer to this sacred peak.
When you get to Lake Ausungate you may even get to see ice crashing into the lake as it melts from the glaciers above. The highest point of the trek reaches an impressive (and challenging) 17,060 ft (5200m). Among the wildlife you may see along your way include vizcacha (a chinchilla like creature), vicuñas, and a variety of birds.
When is the best time to trek to Ausangate?
The best time is during the dry season between May and November. At this time, you will have the most optimal conditions and the best visibility. It is not recommended to hike during the rainiest months, between December and February.
Any special dates or events to consider?
The annual pilgrimage and celebrations of Qoyllur Ritti are held every year one week before Corpus Christi, in either late May or early June. This 3 day pilgrimage explores the foothills of Ausangate and is one of the most revered and sacred celebrations in the region. It is an amazing experience but also attracts crowds of people to the area.
Make sure to acclimatize in Cusco before starting your trek. Spend at least 3 days getting adjust; the more time you can spend acclimatizing the better. The Ausangate trek is a Class C trek, however it is at very high altitude and conditions can be extreme.
James Bridgeford II is an avid photographer and travel writer originally from Kansas City, USA who has spent the last 5 years living in South America. He loves finding places off the beaten path and living amongst the locals. James wrote this article for Peru for Less, experts on tours and trekking in Peru.