Trek Peru’s Ausangate Circuit and Rainbow Mountain


Global Adventure - Trek the Ausangate Circuit past the Rainbow Mountains in the High Andes of Peru

Trek for 9 days where few travel other than soaring condors and the elusive vicuña, through the remote, stunning high-altitude landscapes of Peru’s ‘Sacred Mountain’ of Ausangate. Our itinerary includes custom side trips to the ancient archaeological site of Warapukara and the Vinacunca ‘Rainbow Mountain’, and four days to acclimatize and explore around the colorful historic Andean city of Cusco before we set out. We’ll be accompanied by experienced local guides, and will camp each night with a support crew carrying our overnight gear and providing tasty meals, so that you only need to carry a daypack. NOTE: The Member Fee shown is for the final payment.

COVID-19: Learn about our most up-to-date guidance for participants and leaders on our COVID-19 Response page. All participants and leaders must agree to the COVID-19 Code of Conduct before participating in this Mountaineers activity.
  • Strenuous/Very Strenuous
  • Challenging
  • Mileage: 59.0 mi
  • Elevation Gain: 16,230 ft
  • High Point Elevation: 17,060 ft
  • Pace: 1.5 mph

We will gather at our comfortable hotel in Cusco, Peru (convenient connections through Lima, Peru) on Sunday Sept 25, 2022 and spend the next 3 days acclimatizing and exploring the area, before transferring 3.5 hours southeast in private vans to the starting point of our Ausangate trek, Tinqui at 13,123’.  After our trek we will transfer back to Cusco for one last night (on Friday October 7, 2021) and participants can fly out on Saturday Oct 8, 2022 or schedule other explorations to the Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu, the Peruvian rain forest or other parts of Latin America. 

Itinerary Highlights:    This supported trek will take participants into the remote, stunning landscapes of Peru’s ‘Sacred Mountain’ of Ausangate (read more here about the community and cultural traditions built around "Apu Ausungate").  Our journey will include custom side trips to the ancient archaeological site of Warapukara and the Vilcanota ‘Rainbow Mountain’ (not normally included with commercially available Ausangate circuit treks), with the colorful historic Inca capital city of Cusco as our gateway.  Don't let just my words convince you that this trek is not to be missed - watch this 4 minute video and you'll be wanting to pack your bags tomorrow!  

After resting and enjoying Cusco on our own on our arrival day, we'll start with three days of acclimatization day-walks up to 13,500’ from our hotel in Cusco, including a walk past the four famed Inca Ruins of Tambomachay, Puca Pucara, Q'enqo and Sacsayhuaman just above the city; one to the Chacan cave (called the Temple of the Rainbow because of the small waterfall inside the cave that reflects rainbow rings off the sun’s rays), and the Temple of the Moon, a natural rock structure with a man-made altar on which the full moon shines at certain times of year;  and a second to  amazing views high on the peak of Pachatusan.  

Then we’ll transfer to the trailhead for a two-day hike to the ancient archaeological site of Warapukara (some say it rivals Machu Picchu!), camping nearby and then returning to Tinqui for the second night. Then we’ll set off for 7 more days of trekking around the sacred mountain of Ausangate. Partway around the circuit, we’ll take an extra day from the same camp to visit the Vilcanota ‘Rainbow Mountain’ with its stunning ribbons of color.  We’ll end the trek with a night at the natural hot springs at Pacchanta before driving back to Cusco for one more night.  See an approximation of our route on GaiaGPS  here.

This is a high-altitude trek that remains above 13,000’ for 8 nights and crosses 3 passes over 16,000’ (highest at 17,060’ on the 5th day out from Tinqui).  Trekking days have been kept mostly modest, under 8-hour days (shorter days when we have more altitude to gain during the day).

The group will be supported by Apus Peru, a local operator with a great reputation and years of experience leading this and many other treks in the Cusco area.  Depending on the size of the group (min 8, max 14), we may have 1-3 guides, as well as porters and donkey drivers to carry our overnight gear, food and dining-cooking equipment.  We will be carrying daypacks and camping every night.  You will truly enjoy our trekking crew arriving at your tent door at dawn with hot wash water and hot tea, coffee or hot chocolate!

Assistance can also be provided with booking of a private three-day Machu Picchu-Sacred Valley cultural tour after the main trek, with guides, Vistadome train transport and stays in nice hotels in Cusco, Ollantaytambo and Aguas Calientes provided by Apus Peru.  Contact the trip leader if you'd like more details!

Time of Year:   The trip dates in late September are at the end of the dry season in the Peruvian Andes, near the end of the coldest part of the year - a perfect time when rainfall is still low, daytime temps are still mild, but tourist swarms have gone home.

Lodging:   In Cusco we will stay in a lovely boutique hotel within convenient walking distance of sightseeing around the town.  On the trek we will be camping, with tents, cooking and food taken care of by our support crew (you will bring cold-weather clothing and sleeping bag).

Food:   We’ll enjoy wonderful local cuisine around Cusco and three tasty filling meals each day on the trek (including hot breakfast and dinner).  Vegetarian diets can be easily accommodated but other dietary preferences may be considerably more difficult during the trek.

Leader’s Experience:   Cheryl Talbert has led many Mountaineers hikes and several Mountaineers and private backpacks, treks and cultural trips around the U.S. west and worldwide, including successful high altitude treks in Nepal, Bhutan and Sikkim and three previous high-altitude treks in Peru.

Trip Rating:   This itinerary is rated very strenuous, because of the remoteness, cold and high altitude.

Participant Requirements:   Must be a current Mountaineers member with an up-to-date waiver on file. While the route is well graded and marked, this is a very challenging trek that includes very cold temperatures and exposure to high altitude for several days.  In addition, the route is very remote, so although we will have multiple exit options during the route, exit (by horse) to a road and back to a medical facility will be difficult and slow.   Therefore, participants must be experienced with strenuous mountain trekking and have the gear and experience to pack properly for very cold mountain conditions, as well as the maturity and judgment to recognize and be forthright about illness or injury symptoms before they become significant problems.  The Mountaineers require that anyone participating in a high altitude trek must participate in a training class on safe travel at altitude and on safe decisionmaking in outdoor adventure (both classes will be organized for the whole group well in advance of the trip).  Medical history will be requested from all applicants and anyone who has a history of altitude illness or other medical conditions potentially exacerbated by cold or high altitude may not be approved to participate in the trip or may require a doctor’s written approval.  Each participant will be required to hold international medical treatment insurance as well as emergency evacuation insurance sufficient to get them home in case of an emergency medical issue during the trek.

Participants will be encouraged to take Diamox (with the approval of their doctor) to reduce the likelihood of serious altitude illness.  Participants will also be expected to demonstrate a positive attitude and the ability to get along well with groups for extended periods under demanding conditions with few amenities (such as showers and laundry) for multiple days at a time.   NOTE:  Your leader makes most of the arrangements and provides logistics support during the trip, but is NOT a tour guide!  As a Mountaineers group we will operate as interdependent, capable travelers making our way together and helping one another succeed and be safe. 

Trip Price Detail:   $2900 including all lodging, transportation, guide and most meals.  (this is a small increase from 2020 to cover the possibility that our price will go up.  As the date gets closer we may be able to refine and adjust the final payment). Our outfitter may appy a surcharge if the currency exchange rate fluctuates more than 10% and any such surcharge would be passed along to participants. Your airfare (~$1700), travel insurance ($75-350), tips (~$100-150 per person) and a few meals in town (<$100) are not included. 

Registration Instructions:  If you were not on the 2021 roster, please submit the application form which will automatically be sent to the leader.   After the leader’s approval, go to the trip listing and click the REGISTER button to pay the 50% deposit and hold your space on the roster.  Registration will close on June 30, 2021 or whenever the roster fills. A place on the roster can only be held with payment of the deposit.   As soon as you are registered, please complete the trip agreement and release form.  The final payment due date will be announced by the leader as the outfitter’s payment schedule is finalized.


Supplemental Information

Cancellation Policy: If you cancel more than 15 days in advance of trip departure, you will be eligible for a refund of your deposit less a $650 cancellation fee plus the cost of any incremental hotel nights you may have requested that are nonrefundable.   If you cancel 14 days in advance of trip departure or less, you will not be eligible for a refund.  (The cancellation penalties may be waived if someone takes your place on the adventure 15 days or more before departure, but the agreed refund would only be paid after the new person is fully registered.)


Trek Peru’s Ausangate Circuit and Rainbow Mountain

Required Equipment

Required Equipment

After receiving your deposit, the leader will send out a series of letters or emails providing information to help participants succeed on the trip, including recommended and required gear, recommended maps and guidebooks.


Trip Reports