Trek Peru’s Ausangate Circuit and Rainbow Mountain

The Ausangate Trek is a 43 mile backpacking trip, accessed from the historic Inca capital of Cusco, that runs through one of the most beautiful landscapes in the Andes, circling the 'sacred mountain' of Ausangate. The route passes small villages, glacial lakes, towering snow capped peaks, and herds of alpacas. Side trips include the ancient pilgrimage site of Qoyllur Rit’I and the Vinicunca ‘Rainbow Mountains’.

Of the many stunning treks available in the Andes of Peru, the Ausangate is one of the most remote and in some ways the most unique due to  the ancient religious history of the area and the proximity of the 'Rainbow Mountains' of Vinicunca.    Ausangate mountain itself is considered a holy mountain (or mountain spirit) by local Peruvians and is the deity of Cusco. Since pre-Inca times the mountain has been a place of worship and offerings and this tradition continues today.  The mountain is also notable for the Qoyllur Rit’I Festival which is held nearby at the end of May. The festival draws over 10,000 pilgrims each year and celebrates the mountains spirit and the apparition of Christ on the mountainside.

Traversing the Cordillera Vilcanota, the trek takes hikers over several high passes (with multiple days over 15,000' and high passes near 17,000'), down into low alpine valleys and through traditional Peruvian villages. You’ll see snow capped peaks, herds of llamas, glaciers and turquoise lakes, all set within an incredibly beautiful mountain range. You will also get the chance to see the Rainbow Mountains of Vinicunca!  And all easily accessed within close reach of the historical hub of Cusco and side trips to Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley.   Unlike the Inca Trail, no permit is needed for the Ausangate trek and you’ll likely not see another trekker.  

The trek can be done on your own but this adds a high degree of risk due to the need to carry overnight gear at high altitude and deep cold.  A number of reputable outfitters operate out of Cusco who provide support (including tents, food and some overnight gear) so that you only need to carry a daypack.  The Ausangate trek is also one of the few treks in Peru that offers the option to ride a horse. Operators will provide the horses and extra horses will also be brought to carry your gear and equipment.  (Be aware, though, that certain sections of the trek are so steep that you’ll need to get off and walk beside your horse. If you are not a confident rider then trekking only tours are also available.)


  • Suitable Activities: Backpacking, Global Adventures
  • Seasons: Year-round, May, June, July
  • Weather: View weather forecast
  • Difficulty: Strenuous/Very Strenuous
  • Length: 43.0 mi
  • Elevation Gain: 7,000 ft
  • 16,900 ft
  • Land Manager: Land Manager Varies
  • Parking Permit Required: see Land Manager
  • Recommended Party Size: 12
  • Maximum Party Size: 16
  • Maximum Route/Place Capacity: 16
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  • Trek the Ausangate Circuit past the Rainbow Mountains in the High Andes of Peru

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