Ausangate Circuit with Rainbow Mountains


Here you will find an overview of all basic informations, if you want to hike the Ausangate Circuit with the one day detour to the Rainbow Mountains.

Short description:

Nevado Ausangate (Mount Ausangate) is a glacier which is a 3hour bus ride east from Cusco. With 6384m, it is the fifth highest mountain in Peru and also sacred to the natives, which hold a multi-day ceremony around end of may. The Circuit is a multi day trip, which goes over for passes at about 5000m. A extra day detour can be added to hike to the rainbow mountains, which are frequently visited by tourist groups from a connected road.
The area is quite remote, due to the altitude and exposed area, you won’t see many hikers. Highlights are the several views of the Mt. Ausangate, the ever changing vegetations, the quietness and little alpaca farm towns.

General Information:

  • Distance: around 92km (with detour of Rainbow Mt. 10km more)
  • Days: 4-5 (depending on your fitness, one extra day for rainbow mountains detour)
  • Climate: November: Occasionally rain/hail showers for 1-2h, Temperatures between 20C during the day to 0C at night
  • Start: Tinqui
  • End: Tinqui
  • Highest Point: 5080m / 16,666ft
  • Wildlife: Alpacas, wild horses, dogs (CAUTION: those dogs will be very aggressive if you are getting to close to the property that they are suppose to protect. We had our hiking poles always ready to you as protection.
  • Permit: 10 soles at the checkpoint in Tinqui and 10 soles for rainbow mountains

If you are short in time or don’t like road walks, you can pay a driver to get to Pacchapata and back to Tinqui. It costs around 40 soles each.

Before the Trek:
– If you have just arrived at Cusco, you will already feel the elevation. Give yourself at least 2-3 full days of acclimation.
– Tell your family/friends where and when you leave
– If you want to take a privat driver, go to the pick up the day before
– Enough food plus an backup meal
– If you want, buy some little toys or a baseball for kids in the towns (it is better then giving them candy)
– Prebooking the camp sites is not really necessary when you hike independently
– Write down some Spanish phrase like greetings, questions (Water, food, camping)
– Since Iron is necessary for your blood production (link), it is helpful to assure that your levels are in a normal range. Due to the lower ratio of oxygen in the air, your body is in the need for more in the blood and will adept your hemoglobin levels, since that is responsible for collection and transferring the oxygen to your organs. If you supplement with iron, be sure to add some Vitamin C, since it helps with the absorption of the body. Also, please see that only as advice and either way, you should check with your doctor before heading to Peru due to vaccinations. More information to altitude sickness can be found here. So be aware of the symptoms, have medication for emergency, drink and eat enough.

We bought a map in Cusco in a small book store. You can find them in the center of the old town. There are also several outdoor store which might have some.
Additionally, you can download our GPS Track from here. I used it as backup and for the detour to the rainbow mountains.

Ausangate Circuit.jpg


How to get there:
There are buses, which are leaving Cusco from 5am to 12am daily and costs 9 Soles each per ride. The bus leaves from here. Ask for auto-bus Tinqui and you will directly be brought/show to the bus. During our time, the buses left every hour.

As you arrive in Tinqui, you can either start hiking or get a driver to drive you to the next town. From there, if you hike counterclockwise, you can hike easily to Upis, the first possible campsite.

How to get back:
Depending which direction you are hiking, you can either get a cab to Tinqui or hike down the road. Its a long way and not very pleasant but it is up to you 🙂
The last bus to Cusco leaves at 4:30pm but you can also ask the driver on the way to Tinqui. There is as well a hostel in Pacchanta if you won’t make it in time.

– Food: We payed each around 100 soles at the grocery store for meals and snacks for 5 days (Orions supermarket should have all you need)
– Transport: 9 soles each bus trip and around 40 soles each for the cab
– Camping: 5-15 soles each
– Permit: 10 soles each at the Checkpoint in Tinqui

The trail conditions are pretty good. If I were hiking it again, I would use trail runners this time. The climbs to the passes are the most challenging parts, even being acclimatized from the week before.

– Upis: Its probably your first stop. There is a huge flat area next to a stream where you can set up your tent. As we arrived, a men came over and offered to sleep in one of his huts for 10 soles each. As a storm was rolling in, we happily accepted his offer.
– Quietness: For most of the time, your going to be the only one on the trail. occasionally, you will see some Alpaca farmers. It was an amazing feeling being a spectator of how the life looks like here.
– Layers: What fascinated me the most were the different colors of the ground in the layers in the mountains. Rainbow mountain is of course the most famous part but you can already get a feeling on the mountains around.
– Vegetation: The ever changing vegetation was as well a highlight for me. There were plants only growing on a certain altitude or area.
– Alpaca herds/farms: Every day, we saw or walked through herds of alpacas. Funny looking and a bit afraid of you when you are getting to close. The last day we camped at a farmers property and watched him setting up his alpacas to head to town to sell his organic dung 😀
– Mountains/Glaciers: On our last day, the weather treated us with blue clear sky and as we hiked up to the last pass, we saw the whole range of mountains and glaciers around us. Just magical

What to bring:
– be prepared for all kind of weather, especially before or after the dry season. So bring warm, water repellent clothes and a warm jacket (big down jacket) since the nights are cold. During our hike, my 3 Season tent and 0 degree Sleeping bag were enough for me.
– Trash Bag!!! Due the increasing amount of guided tours, the trash on the trail is a serious problem in my opinion. Locals do not really care as well, so its on us to pick up some litter additionally to carrying our own trash. Please help as well. You are able to throw trash at the car park to the Rainbow mountains away.
– Water Filter and iodine tabs: Due to mules and monkeys on the trails, its safer to filter all your water you get from streams. There are also no little stores, so you have to rely on the streams
– Toys: It is a great gesture to bring small toys like baseballs for kids. I heard that pencils and paper books are also gladly appreciated but as hiker i know as well that pack weight is important
– Altitude pills: You probably thought about it but just in case 🙂 The trails stay over 4000m, so symptoms of altitude sickness are likely to happen.