Ausangate trek without a guide (independent)

Ausangate trek is definitely one of the most beautiful treks that we have ever done. Nature never stops surprising you, every new pass, every turn makes your heart beating faster and you repeat again and again “It’s the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen!”. From now every trek we do we’ll compare with this one.

Ausangate trek, Cusco, Peru

Ausangate trek, Cusco, Peru

The trek starts in a small town Tinque, it’s very easy to get there by bus from Cusco. Bus leaves from Terminal Paradero Levitaca (easy to find on Google map), which is near Coliseo Cerrado, a modern stadium. Ticket costs 10 soles, it takes about 2,5 hours.

Luckily this time all our arrangements (shopping, planning) took one day, we already had bought everything for our previous trek (Choquequirao trek). In fact the most difficult part was to find a map, in the end we got it in a shop where we bought gas for the stove (map wasn’t very good).

View on Ausangate mountain from Upis hot springs. Ausangate trek

View on Ausangate mountain from Upis hot springs. Ausangate trek

What you’ll need for Ausangate trek

– tent;
– mat;
– sleeping bag;
– stove (without hot food and water will be quit difficult);
– gas for stove;
– pots;
– torch;
– fleece inner for sleeping bag;
– purification tablets for water;
– map;
– sunscreen;
– sunglasses;
– cap/hat/beany;
– lip balm (sun, wind and cold together make your lips very dry);
– adequate trekking clothes and shoes, during the day it is not cold but can be windy and rainy. And at night temperature can go to minus so a proper sleeping bag is must!

Amazing scenery on Ausangate trek

Amazing scenery on Ausangate trek

Food on Ausangate trek

First of all bring all the food with you, there is nothing and nowhere to buy. You can do last minute shopping in Tinque but everything there will be more expensive than in Cusco. What food we had (our standard trekking food set): noodles; cans of tuna, beans, corn; oats (for breakfast); boiled eggs (our favorite for hikes and long bus rides); cooked meat balls (in tap away container); bread; a bit of fruit and veggies; nuts; cookies; tea; chips; chocolate.Prices for food in the supermarket of Cusco are at the end.

Packing your backpack remember that after all you (and none else) will carry all your stuff so don’t make it too heavy.

On food we spent 90 soles, gas (2 tanks) – 50 soles, batteries (for torch, 4) – 8 soles, purifying tablets (6) – 15 soles. In total 163 soles for both of us, plus 20 soles for bus (return, per person) and 10 soles the entrance fee. Per person including everything we spent about 100 soles/30$. For instance for the cheapest tour you’ll pay about 250$, quite a big difference! Of course if you don’t have your own gear you’ll spend more for rental or buying (everything you need can be bought or rented in Cusco), but it still will be cheaper.

Puqa Qocha lake, Ausangate trek

Puqa Qocha lake, Ausangate trek

Ausangate trek

The trek itself is quite demanding, requires good physical condition and acclimatization. In fact all the route is above 4000m, with two passes over 5000m. So we’d recommend to do before one of the easier treks for example Salkantay or Choquequirao. The thing we specially liked about the trek is that there were no tourists, actually no people at all, some days we met one or two local shepherds.

Drinking water is not a problem once you have purification tablets, there are many lakes, rivers and creeks. Just be aware of alpacas and sheep’s excrement because tablets don’t help against them.

To prevent getting lost we highly recommend to ask the way every person you meet and to have GPS or old-style compass. If you meet a group with a guide just follow them, it’ll make you wandering around much easier;)

Map of Ausangate trek

Map of Ausangate trek

Now about our 5 wonderful sometimes tough days of trekking

Day 1. Cusco – Tinque – camping somewhere on the way

We tried to start our day as early as possible but we never succeed, we caught a bus to Tinque (3800m) at 9.30, it took less than we expected to get there, we arrived at Tinque around 12p.m., paid 10 soles the entrance and started walking. Almost from the beginning we got a bit lost, it’s tricky to find the way, there are no signs it’s better to ask locals. We missed the turn and walk 40min. in the wrong direction and had to go back as a result wasted 1,5 hours.

After 2 hours we were already quite tired from walking over 4000m with our heavy backpacks, so it started to look unreal that we’d be able to walk like that for 5 days (but we could). With all this hustle we didn’t make it all the way to Upis and decided to camp in a first suitable place. In fact the first night you supposed to sleep at Upis hot springs (4400m), about 4,5 hours walk from Tinque.

Our first night we spent at this place, with the view on Ausangate mount

Our first night we spent at this place, with the view on Ausangate mount

Day 2. 1st camping – Upis – Arapa pass – Puqa Qocha etc. lakes – 2nd camping

We started at 8.00, in 1 hour we got to Upis though this part of the route is not the nicest one due to the road construction, many trucks and workers. We were not very impressed by the hot springs and decided just keep walking.

After Upis the path finally turns away from the road, so we could enjoy the tranquility and the beauty of the mountains. On this stretch the path is quite clear and easy to follow. Then in 2 hours we reached Arapa pass (4850m). From the top of the pass slight down about 30-40min. to the first lake Puqa Qocha. Here at the view-point (mirador) we finally had lunch.

Puqa Qocha lake, first out of many impressive lakes on Ausangate circuit

Puqa Qocha lake, first out of many impressive lakes on Ausangate circuit

Around the lake we saw many vicunas (similar to llamas and alpacas but wild and very shy). Puqa Qocha is the first lake you hit after there will be many, all different colors and sizes.  Next lake Japu Puqa Qocha, glacier lake, both connected through the waterfall, just think water from the glacier falls into the lake, then from first lake through the waterfall it falls to the next one etc.

After walking for a couple of hours around the lakes we reached a valley and decided to camp there. Since we didn’t know how far it was to the camping (near Ausangate lake) and there was none to ask. So we just found a flat hidden from the wind place (it was alpacas enclosure) and pitched our tent. We walked about 7-8 hours this day. In fact if you start walking from Upis 8 hours will be enough to make it all the way to Ausangate lake, we were one hour short.

From our 2nd camping we had amazing views over the valley and the lake in the morning and bright pink-orange sunset the evening before.

Sunset at 2nd camping

Sunset at 2nd camping

Morning view from our “camping” over the lakes

Morning view from our “camping” over the lakes

Day 3. 2nd camping – Apachata pass – Ausangate lake – Palomani pass – 3rd camping

Next day we started at 8.00, right in the beginning we saw a local shepherd and hurried up to ask him the distance to Ausangate lake. Though he could speak very little Spanish (native language for local people Quecheu), after 5min. we almost understood what he was trying to say. Ausangate lake and the camping were less than an hour away. Tha path wasn’t very clear but knowing the direction it was easy to walk, enjoying some beautiful scenery, grey-green lakes and pieceful alpacas. After going over Apachata pass we finally reached Ausangate lake and the camping (with probably the only one toilet on the hike). Local family tried to charge us 5 soles we couldn’t understand why and decided not to pay. Probably they charge for camping but we didn’t camp there, we even didn’t use the toilet.

Glacier and grey lake somewhere on the way to Ausangate lake

Glacier and grey lake somewhere on the way to Ausangate lake

Getting closer to Ausangate lake, view from Apachata pass

Getting closer to Ausangate lake, view from Apachata pass

Right after the camping you start steep and long up to Palomani pass, up to 5200 m the highest point of the hike. From there you can enjoy incredible views! Don’t forget from time to time to look back and check stunning views over the valley and pink mountains.

Glacier Ausangate, melting into the lake

Glacier Ausangate, melting into the lake

To clarify the way up is quite tough due to high altitude and heavy backpack. So just take it easy and rest as much as you need. Sooner or later you’ll reach the top. Luckily you have a good excuse to stop on the way up a lot to enjoy the scenery. When you finally reach the top and look down to the other side of the pass at this instant you realise it was absolutely worth it. The view is wonderful, pink lake, colorful mountains, big glaciers. It’s difficult to decide which way to look!

Rainbow mountain from Palomani pass

Rainbow mountain from Palomani pass

After heaving lunch and resting a bit on the top of Palomani pass we started our descend.

The down is quite steep, you go all the way to the valley Jutumpata with pink lake and river. Soon you’ll reach Pampacancha village (4050m), keep going up the river Qampa until you see the campsite in the valley Qampa (4300m) with many viscachas (long tail rabbit) running around. Campsite consists of one building with solar panels (was locked) and nothing else. Total walking time 7-8 hours.

View over the valley from the top of Palomani pass. Ausangate trek

View over the valley from the top of Palomani pass. Ausangate trek

Day 4. 3rd camping – Quampa pass – Pacchanta village

The night before was very cold so when we woke up everything was covered with snow, including our tent, it looked beautiful. We definitely needed some hot coffee to warm up!

4th day morning, warming up after a cold night. Ausangate trek

4th day morning, warming up after a cold night. Ausangate trek

That day you suppose to reach Pacchanta village (4100m) about 5-6 hours walking. First you walk past a small village, keep left, after slight up you’ll see the valley with many alpacas, again keep left, walk along the valley till you reach the last pass Qampa (5000m), the last up in the hike. The scenery on the pass is a bit scaring, black rocks all over the place, even the weather changed from nice and sunny to windy and rainy. The walk itself is not that nice, rocky and slippery, when we passed the area we were relieved.

Scaring scenery of Qampa pass, felt like we were in Mordor

Scaring scenery of Qampa pass, felt like we were in Mordor

After an hour or so walk we got to a completely different area,  green hills, blue rivers, sunny and warm and looked like from Mordor we got to Hobbitland (I like The Lord of the rings). On the way we saw a portion of colorful lakes.

Straight from Mordor, after an hour walk we got to Hobbitland

Straight from Mordor, after an hour walk we got to Hobbitland

Finally we arrived at Pacchanta village and camped there, in fact 3km before the village, on a field near the river.  There are hot springs in Pacchanta as well, we decided to skip them, didn’t really feel like going there.

 

Day 5. Pacchanta – Tinque – bus to Cusco

Last bit of walking from Pacchanta to Tinque about 3 hours, you can catch a local “bus” all the way to the village. Then 2,5 hours in bus and you’re finally back to civilization, to Cusco. Here you can treat yourself with hot shower, good coffee, delicious chocolate cake and great pizza. By the way the best coffee (americano – 6 soles, cappuccino – 8 soles) and chocolate cake (10 soles) as well as sandwiches, lasagnas, milkshakes etc. at cafe Valenciana, av. El Sol. For good  pizza go to a small pizza place at Calle Meloc, up from supermarket Orion.

In total we spent a month around Cusco (after every hike had 3-4 days break) and stayed in 4 different hostels.

Locals going to Sunday market in Pacchanta

Locals going to Sunday market in Pacchanta

Where to stay in Cusco

Vip house garden hostel

23soles for a dorm bed. Likes: friendly stuff, early check-in (if beds are available), good breakfast, close to the supermarket, market and the center. Dislikes: first of all cold! Showers, toilet and kitchen outside, dorm is a bit small, no facilities in the kitchen.

Kurumi hostel

26soles for a double room with shared bathroom. Likes: cheap, close to the center. Dislikes: no kitchen, small breakfast, cold, bathroom and toilet outside.

WolkOnInn hostel

20 soles for a dorm bed, 60 for a double without bathroom. Likes: very cosy neat place, warm, very hot shower, fully equipped kitchen, good breakfast, close to the center. Dislikes: often host big groups, as a result kitchen not available, bathrooms always occupied, very slow Internet.

Hostal Tambo de Montero

60soles for a double room with bathroom. More hotel then hostel, no dorms. Likes: warm, private shower and toilet, kitchen, close to the supermarket and centre. Dislikes: no breakfast, rooms a bit dilapidated.

Plaza de Armas, Cusco

Plaza de Armas, Cusco

Prices for food in supermarket Orion in Cusco (soles/$)

– eggs – 5,2/1,5$ kg
– bread ciabatta – 0,25/0,07
– tuna (can 170g) – 5,50/1,6
– noodles – 0,9/0,2$
– beans (can 560g) – 5,50/1,6
– oats (290g) – 3,40/1$
– mince (beef) – 14 sometimes 9/4$
– tomato – 4/1,1$ kg
– onion – 2,8/0,8 kg
– garlic – 7,50/2,2$ kg
– mandarins – 6/1,7 kg
– avocado – 8/2,3$ kg
– mango – 4,50/1,3$ kg
– grape – 5,50/1,6 kg
– watermelon – 2,80/0,8$
– cucumber – 2/0,5$ kg
– pepper – 8/2,3$ kg
– yogurt – Gloria (120g) – 1,30/0,3$
– cheese Edam – 33/9,7$ kg
– cream cheese Philadelphia (226g) – 8,80/2,6$
– margarine (90g) – 1,20/0,3$
– min.water (2,25l) – 2/0,5$
– cookies (big pack) – 2,40/0,7$
– coffee (200g) – 7/2$
– tomato souce (200g) – 1,70/0,5$
– strawberry (at market) – 8/2,3$ kg

Scenery around Puqa Qocha lake

Scenery around Puqa Qocha lake

Alpaca's portrait

Alpaca’s portrait

Cooking lunch on the top of Palomani pass

Cooking lunch on the top of Palomani pass

On the way to Pacchanta, passing more colorful lakes. Ausangate trek

On the way to Pacchanta, passing more colorful lakes. Ausangate trek

Locals walking to Sunday market at Tinque

Locals walking to Sunday market at Tinque

LIKE IT? PIN IT!

ausangate-trek-pin

SIGN UP HERE to get email notifications of new posts.

FOLLOW THE ADVENTURE!!

ANY COMMENTS?

We would love to hear from you, so don’t be shy to comment give suggestions or ask questions!

36 Responses to Ausangate trek without a guide (independent)

  • Hey thank you for this great post. I payed at the south american explores club for the map of ocongate 1:100 000 50soles wich i think is to much for the quality. So look for somewhere else.

    • Hi, Ben! Thank you for reading! We got our map for free in one of the tour agencies in Cusco but it wasn’t great as well. Enjoy the hike!
      Cheers!

  • Hi Alya and Campbell,

    Thank you for all the information! It is lovely to read about your adventures here!!

    May I ask please, what tent and sleeping bag did you take with you to the trek?

    Thanks!

  • Hi, those are the best advices, they really helped me to make the 7 day/6 nights tour with a Rainbow Mountain visit. Thank you and keep going traveler!

  • Hello Leslie, I am looking at starting this circuit trek next week; want to meet up to consider teaming up?

  • Hi StingyNomads! Thanks for this trip report! I’m planning to do this trip (plus the Rainbow mountain if possible) and an evaluating my gear. Do you have any recommendations on tent types and stoves? (I have a Jetboil Flash and I’m considering buying the Mountain Hardwear Direkt 2 Tent.)

    • Hello, Samantha! Thank you!
      We bought all our gear in Cusco there is a big variety of gear shops there. Our gear was cheap and quite basic; 2 men Nationl Geographic Ottawa II tent – 40$; and a fake gas stove we’ve been using both since then. The most important for a tent it should be water proof and have enough pens so you can attache it to the ground to make it more stable in case of strong wind. More detailes about the camping gear we used you can find in this article http://stingynomads.com/what-to-pack-for-hiking-in-patagonia/.
      Considering the model you’re asking about I’m not sure how waterproofe it is since it doesn’t have a rain cover that goes over a tent. Looks like the gas stove you have uses standart screw in gas canisters you won’t have any problem in finding them in South America.
      Here you can find prices for camping gear that we bought/rented in Cusco. http://stingynomads.com/choquequirao-trek/
      If you have more questions don’t hesitate asking!
      Good luck!

      • Those prices are crazy cheap!!! Like, the socks… I just bought a pair of light merino wool socks for $14 on CLEARANCE at REI. What exactly qualifies as a fake gas stove?

        • Hi, Samantha! We didn’t buy wool socks in Cusco we bought just fake hiking socks and they were all right. To get the best prices you have to shop around a bit in Cusco we bought everything in local shops (except for the tent it was on special in a proper gear shop). We had no problem with our gas stove we’ve been using it since then after dozens of hikes it still works perfect. If you have more questions we’ll be happy to help!
          Cheers!

  • Hey stingies! I think we met down in Patagonia in Puerto Natales at the campsite before you guys set off for your next hitchhiking adventure. Well, it took me much longer but I’m in Cusco now and I finished the Ausangate circuit yesterday with a friend. Was great having your advise thanks for that. It’s rainy season and we were quite lucky with the wheather except for hail storm on day three and snow on day four. So we kept pushing and finished in four days to get out. Definitely one of my most amazing hikes too!
    Your blog is doing great! Just some issues with the mobile version like the pictures don’t show completely but nothing major 😉
    cheers and safe travels, Chris

    • Hello, Chris! It’s nice to hear from you! We’re glad you and your friend enjoyed the hike. Ausangate is still one of our favorites hikes. But Yes December to February is not the best season for hiking around Cusco. We hope you’ll have many more adventures in South America! And Thank you we’ll check what’s wrong with the mobile version of the site!
      Good luck and keep in touch!

  • Hello, I really wanna make the 5 day trekking. I´m plannig to go on February 2017, is it any problem because of the climate ?questio

    • Hello, Leslie!
      The weather can be a problem since December-February is the rainy season in that area, especially February so not a good time for hiking.
      Good luck!

  • Hola!
    Thanx for your great info. We are wanting to do the hike without a guide and camp out for say 2 nights. Is this easy to do? Are there places to camp near the top? Can you spend the night in the village? Is there anywhere to get fire wood along the way? It super hard to find any info about this online……
    Thank you!
    Georgie

    • Hi, Georgie! Thank you!
      To do the hike you need at least 4 days, 2 days isn’t enough. To hike and camp without a guide is quite easy and safe. What do you mean near the top? You go around Ausangate mount, it’s a circuit, you don’t go to the top, don’t think it possible. In Tinque and Pacchanta villages you can find accommodation (hostels, guest houses). There is no forest or trees on the hike, don’t think you can get wood for the fire there. Everybody uses camping stove for cooking. If you have more questions don’t hesitate to ask!
      Good luck!

  • Hi!
    I am thinking to do this trek without a guide and alone . I feel a little afraid because like you said the way has no signs so its easy to get lost there .I would like to know ,how oftten do you meet up with local people to ask about the right path and the distance ? and if in that place there is signal to use my cell-phone in all the way.
    Thanks

    • Hi, Ivonne! Thank you for your question!
      We met local people at least once a day sometimes more often, to ask anything was a bit difficult most people don’t really speak Spanish, they speak Quechua, just say where you want to go and they’ll point the direction. We had GPS signal on our phone everywhere, you always can check the right direction. We use Maps.me app it works offline and usually has even trekking trails, just make sure your phone has enough power, we had some problem with ours. Be ready to feel a bit lonely we didn’t see any other tourist. If you have more questions we’ll be happy to help!
      Good luck!

  • Great Trek. Thanks for the information. I’m thinking to do this trek solo too.
    Well, do you know the temperature at night? What was your sleeping bag temperature for?

    Thanks a lot again.

    • Hello, John!
      Thanks for your question! We did the hike in November, at night the temperature was from 0°C to -4°C. We both had down sleeping bags (you can rent or buy secondhand in Cusco) for -4°C comfort and fleece sheets, that we bought in Cusco, we never were cold. Hope we’ve answered your questions!
      Good luck!

      • Thank you for answer! I have a -5C comfort / -23 Extreme from Deuter, and I wouldn’t like to buy another. Well I’ll try to test first.

        Tell you later how it was!

        • Good luck! We’re sure you’ll enjoy! And don’t forget to tell us about your experience!

  • Hi,

    A friend and I are hiking the Ausangate Trek this June (next month). We’re open to doing so without a guide but ultimately prefer having one with a mule as an option. We are experienced backpackers but not in elevation, which is our concern. We will be in Cusco roughly 4 days before we begin this trek but it sounds like this reaches much higher altitudes. Thus, if we go without a guide and mule will Cusco acclimation be sufficient? What was your experience with the elevation?

    Secondly, I’ve found if we want to book a guide beforehand (online) it’s going to cost us at least $600/person. I’ve heard you can do this cheaper while in Cusco, what is your suggestion? Did you find in hostels there was much information on guides for a cheaper price ($250)?

    Thanks for the information!
    Matt

    • Hi, Matt!
      Thank you for your question! For this hike acclimatization is crucial, all 5 days you walk over 4000m, on the third day you go over 5000m pass, we spent 3 weeks in Cusco and had done two other hikes before (Salkantay and Choquequirao). 4 days should be enough though it’s very individual and doesn’t depend on your age or fitness level, to acclimatize better follow simple rules: drink a lot of water and coca tea (they serve it for free in all hostels in Cusco), don’t do any exersising, walking etc. take it easy, chill out in the hostel, don’t drink alcohol or much coffee and bring some pills for the high altitude e.g. Diamox.
      As to the prices it’s definitely cheaper to find a guide in Cusco, even to book a tour, we got some offers for Ausangate group tour (all inclusive) for 300$. If you want to find a guide with a mule it will be even cheaper in Tinque, the village where you start the hike, don’t know the price but I think no more than 100$ per person. If you have more questons, we’ll be happy to answer!
      Stingy Nomads.

      • Thanks! This is very helpful.

        One of the these days in Cusco will be a Machu Picchu day hike. So unfortunately this won’t be a “take it easy” day. The other 3 will be light city exploration. I already bought altitude pills and will advise my friend to do the same.

        That being said, I think finding a guide to carry some of our heavy stuff is the best bet to play it safe. Great article in case we don’t find that opportunity though!

  • Hello!
    Great article very helpful. Planning a trip to Peru and trying to decide between this trek and the Inca trail. I am curious if you had met anyone who had done both and if they compared them at all. Also did you see the rainbow mountains on this journey? You mentioned you could rent gear in Cusco does that include a tent and sleeping bags? Sorry for all the questions, thanks for all the info!

    • Hello Telsa, thank you for your question, we did not do the Inca trail, but I did speak to people that did and can give you my opinion and some options.
      -The first big difference is the Inca trail ends at Machu Picchu and Ausangate not.
      -The Inca Trail can only be done in a organized tour with porters, guides, cooks in a group costing about $400, Ausangate can be done independent and cost us less than $40.
      -Ausangate is a high altitude trek all above 4000m, you need to be well acclimatized or you can have problems, The Inca Trail is much lower.
      -The Inca Trail has more ruins, while Ausangate has no ruins but more impressive nature scenery.
      We did see the rainbow mountain in Palomani pass, but did not walk far enough to see the impressive rainbow you see on photos, you can see some colored stripes on some of our pictures.
      -We did the Choquequirao trek from Cusco, these much less known ruins was an amazing 5 day trek, you can see our entry on this trek. You can keep on going from Choquequirao to Machu Picchu to see all the ruins in an eight day trek.
      -Another option to get to Machu Picchu is The Salkantay Trek, we did this 5 day trek as well. Some beautiful scenery, easy to do by yourself, but many companies in Cusco offering organised tour, you can find for $190 all inclusive (also $40 Machu Picchu entry and transfers)
      Shorter acclimatization required for Choquequirao or Salkantay, both these trails are well marked and some food and campsites are available on the way.

      You can rent all gear at many different shops in Cusco, we bought full gear tent, stove, sleeping bag etc. in Cusco for $200 for both of us, see Choquequirao

  • Hi,
    I’m planning an the hike on the Ausangate circuit for August 2016. I was wondering what the state of the trails is; are they marked at all? Are they visible or is there considerable way-finding involved?

    Thanks,
    Simone

    • Hello, Simone!
      Thank you for your question! The trail has no signs or marks, most of the time it’s quite clear just follow the main/clearest path. Everytime you see a person ask the direction (Donde esta…?) and follow the common sense, the trail basically goes around mount Ausangate, it’s a loop. Just in case take a phone with a map and GPS to know the direction (we use the Maps.me app). Sometimes we felt quite lost but always found the right way.
      Good luck,
      Stingy Nomads.

Newsletter

FOLLOW THE ADVENTURE!!

BLOG AWARD
WHO ARE STINGY NOMADS?
DO YOU LIKE COMICS? CHECK OUT THIS ONE ABOUT US!! STINGY NOMADS COMIX
Our Journey Map
Interactive map of our travels!
LIKE US!
Follow