Ausangate means snow star and this 4-5 day trek around the sacred mountain of Ausangate is undoubtedly one of the most varied, stunning and adventurous in South America. Add to that easy access from Cusco and hot springs on the first and last days; and you have a fantastic trek for your Peru vacation.
This Ausangate circuit is wilder, more dramatic and much less touristy than the Inca Trail making it ideal for lovers of hiking and travelers looking for adventure in Peru.
A Wilderness Trek
The Ausangate Massif is in the Vilcanota mountain range, one of the most remote and harsh regions of Peru. A new road makes means the access town of Tinqui is just a 4 hours drive from Cusco. Once off the road, you are into a wild area where alpacas outnumber humans and electricity and modern life has had little impact. Ausangate is recognized as one of the best treks in the world for its combination of traditional lifestyles and stunning scenery. Every day on this trek there are spectacular vistas with glaciers coming right down to the passes, turquoise lakes and jagged peaks. Day two features a high trail through an incredible desert landscape of pastel colours with the snow on Ausangate glistening beyond. Below there are rolling brown puna, and green marshy valleys populated with stone corrals and traditionally dressed children herding alpaca.
A Challenging Trek
Ausangate is a high altitude trek and not for the inexperienced or un-acclimatized. All of the trek, including campsites, are over 14, 300 feet (4400 m) and two of the four high passes are over 16, 400 feet (5000 meters). Nights are cold but days are generally bright and sunny especially between May and September. It is a harsh environment with few amenities. The upside of staying high is that the trek has much less ups and downs than usual in the Andes. Despite being close to Cusco, the remoteness of the area means that the Ausangate gets few visitors; making this a fabulous and rewarding adventure trek.
Ausangate is the biggest peak in the area and on clear days can be seen as an eerie white mountain as far away as Cusco. No wonder then that for the indigenous people of Peru, Ausuangate is a sacred mountain, or Apus. For local people, an Apus protects and provides sustenance. Ausangate is one of the most important Apus and considered the pakarina, or place of origin, for alpacas and llamas.
In the valleys around Ausangate live the incredibly spiritual Q’eros people. This Quechua speaking community claim to be direct descendants of the Inca and their remoteness has allowed them preserve many beliefs and traditions; so much so that the Q’eros have been officially declared a national treasure in Peru. The communities continue to reveer Pahcamama, mother earth, and Queros shamans are well respected throughout the Andes. These ancient spiritual beliefs are very much in evidence at the annual Qoyur Riti Festival. Held in May or June, the pilgrimage to a glacier at 15, 580 feet (4,750 m) draws huge crowds but very few tourists.
Other treks in Peru: