Ausangate, the rainbow mountain deity

Spectacular walks, stunning geology and home to one of Peru’s most gripping indigenous traditions, Cusco’s highest summit has it all.

Hiking Ausangate is strenuous and requires good acclimatization — and is an experience you will never forget.

Apu is the Quechua word for divinity. It is also used to describe important mountains, like Ausangate, the highest in the Cusco region, a clear sign of the religious significance of this peak for the local people. Every year, up to 40,000 of them trek high up its steep flanks for the famously colorful Q’oroyiti (“the snow star”) ritual. Yet Ausangate is also a perfect place to get away from the crowds and experience spectacular Andean wildernesses for those willing and able to make the effort.

Also known as the Rainbow Mountain for some of its vivid uplifted rock strata, Apu Ausangate is home to various high-altitude trekking options. The most famous is the circumnavigation of the mountain, which can take up to a week. But there are shorter options, from day treks to two-day, three-day and four-day options, depending on your energy levels. The walks will give you spectacular views of the Andean landscapes, including bofedales or wetlands (just below the glaciers) and puna, a kind of heathland. You will also see the local people, who still live by herding llamas and alpacas, much as their ancestors did long before the Spaniards arrived.

It’s important to be acclimatized for Ausangate. The high point of the trek around the mountain is more than 16,000ft, while most of this and the other local trails are above 13,000ft. We therefore recommend that you consider Ausangate after your time in Cusco and visiting Machu Picchu and perhaps also Lake Titicaca, which will give a chance to acclimate.

There are a series of delightful mountain lodges in the area. We can also arrange for you to camp, with all mod cons, of course, including porters and a cook. Nevertheless, it is important to understand that Ausangate is a remote wilderness and you will be sacrificing a certain level of comfort and luxury to be here, and the altitude should not be underestimated. The lodges, for example, has hot water, thanks to solar panels but it is far from the mains grid and lighting at night is mainly by candle. But, we think, you will find it thoroughly worthwhile.

To include the Ausangate trek as part of your unique, individually tailored Peru itinerary, contact the Peru Empire Company at or on +51-1-700-5100 or, if you are in the US, 347-713-7030/34.


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