Private Journeys

Active Peru: The Ausangate Trek

11 days from £2,320pp

Peru

Itinerary

map marker Map

Day 1

Arrive Lima, transfer to hotel close to the Pacific coast.

You will be met at the airport and escorted to your hotel in the cliff-side Pacific residential and commercial district of Miraflores. The half-hour drive to the hotel through Lima’s outskirts and along the coast encapsulates the invigorating buzz of a modern-day Latin American capital.

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Day 2

Fly to Cusco.

On your transfer to the airport you’ll be taken on a whistle-stop tour of Lima’s principal attractions, including the vast Plaza de Armas flanked by the imposing cathedral and government palace. 

It’s a 1-hour flight to Cusco. It is said that the city was originally built in the shape of a puma; its position atop the precipitous foothills of the Andes is without doubt a commanding one. Capital of the Inca Empire and latterly a stronghold to the Spanish conquistadors, Cusco is not so much a blend of architectures as a defiant mix.

Today its many impressive original Inca walls display extraordinary craftsmanship, while the bustling squares are dotted with ornate baroque colonial churches. It’s a vivacious city, where shoeshine boys and postcard sellers jostle for your attention in cobbled streets lined with handicraft shops and cafés. In the evening, the town centre fills with people flocking to the many restaurants, bars and cafés.

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Day 3

Walking tour of the city and surrounding Inca ruins.

Today you’ll have a guided walking tour of the city, the centre of which is compact and easy to get around on foot. Beyond the city, its squares, museums, churches and markets, you’ll visit some impressive ruins on the outskirts at Tambomachay, Puca-Pucara and the monumental Sacsayhuamán, with its foreboding cyclopean fortress.

While the edges of Cusco are dominated by Inca dwellings, temples and fortresses, the historic heart (with the Plaza de Armas flanked by the cathedral and the church of La Compañia) reveal the indelible mark of the Spanish conquistadores.

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Day 4

Walking tour of highland Chinchero and Maras villages and Moray Inca site.

Drive through stunning countryside, against a backdrop of the snow-capped Andes to the high plains of Chinchero.  On market days the neat colonial plaza of the eponymous village is awash with colour and noise.

The nearby ruins - the country estate of one of the last emperors, Tupac Inca - overlook the Royal Inca Road which stretches as far as Chile in the south and Ecuador in the north.

Visit the agricultural terraces of Moray, an Inca site used as an experimental agricultural centre to develop complex farming techniques in order to increase their crop yields. It comprises numerous terraces carved into a large, natural amphitheatre, each one with a different microclimate from those above and below.

Continue to the Maras saltpans, a series of terraces where a natural source of saline water is evaporated by the strong Andean sun. In use since Inca times, the saltpans continue to be worked by the local community and present a unique sight, with their flat, white surfaces contrasting with the tawny and green landscape surrounding them.

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Day 5

Begin the Ausangate Trek, overnight basic lodge.

Start out on the high-altitude Ausangate Trek. (This is a shared service: there may be a few other trekkers travelling with you).

To the southwest of Cusco, the Vilcanota range is the last barrier between the old Inca Empire and the Amazon basin. Snow-clad Mount Ausangate, at 6,384m, is the undoubted king of this region.

This trek offers a wide array of attractions en route - glaciers, lakes, herds of llamas and alpacas, even vicuñas, picturesque villages and their traditionally dressed inhabitants. The trip takes you around Ausangate Mountain (not to its peak) and over three high passes.

At such high altitudes you may well be glad you are not camping. Instead you will stay at remote, simple but cosy mountain lodges, all of which have a large dining room, kitchen, and lounge by an open fire. Accommodation is in double/twin rooms and hot water bottles are placed in the bed. There’s a warm welcome from the staff and hot, nourishing meals appropriate for trekkers are provided.

Departing Cusco by bus, head south-east following the Vilcanota Valley, stopping  to visit the beautiful colonial church of Checacupe, before continuing the ascent of the Japura Valley that leads to the communities of Osefina and Chillca (4,370m) where you we will be met by the local community. It’s an easy day to start off, with only a couple of hours’ walking (3.3km).

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Day 6

Hiking the Ausangate Trek, overnight basic lodge.

After breakfast the trekking begins in earnest as you start the Apu Ausangate Trail. It’s a gentle hike for 3 hours along the glacier valley of Phinaya passing potato fields and herds of alpacas and llamas.

Head towards the glaciers of Santa Catalina, ascend along the trail passing the Pjachaj waterfalls.

After lunch there is the option of a challenging walk or an easier one. The latter involves just 2 hours’ walking at a slow-ish pace. Alternatively, there’s a 3-hour trek past moraine walls, glaciers and lagoons to a warm welcome at Machuracay Tambo (4,600m), right at the foot of the vast, ice-jacketed Mariposa mountain.

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Day 7

Hiking the Ausangate Trek, overnight basic lodge.

Today you cross the first mountain pass at 5,100m. You can climb to a viewpoint a lung-busting 100m higher up, affording other-worldly panoramic views of the surrounding region. Descend through scree alongside the glaciers, arriving at Ausangate Cocha lake for lunch.

In the afternoon, pass through a tapestry of red sandstone sediment formations where vicuñas and sometimes condors can be seen. You get so close to the imperious snow-stifled bulk of Ausangate you feel you can reach out and touch it. After another incredible day of hiking, arrive at your lodge, Anantapata Tambo (4,750m) for the night.

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Day 8

Hiking the Ausangate Trek, overnight basic lodge.

After breakfast, take the trail over another pass before dropping down to hike along the shores of Lake Kayrawiri, surrounded by rugged mountain peaks and a vast valley below.

Pass by kaleidoscopic striations of colours varying from bright red to psychedelic green and turquoise imbedded in the hillsides before reaching Cerro Laya Grande via the massive Glaciar del Inca, and the striking colours of the sediments of Yauricuna, a unique setting to enjoy lunch. 

Continuing after lunch you will see hundreds of Andean geese nesting in the cliffs of Anta, and the flatiron formations of Apu Labrayani, before arriving at Huampococha Tambo (4,800m) for the night.

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Day 9

Return to Cusco.

Waking up to great views of the mountains, you begin your final ascent over the pass, and from here you descend passing capricious limestone formations to finish the trail at Trapiche in time for lunch.

Return to Cusco by bus, journey time approximately 3 hours.

Day 10

Day at leisure, optional excursion to Machu Picchu.

You have a day at leisure after your trek. You may choose just to relax, but if you have not been to Cusco before, you will probably want to visit Machu Picchu, Peru's most famous and celebrated cultural icon. We will book all the services for you in advance, and the extra cost will be added to your holiday price.

Travelling by road and train, you travel to the ruins of the Lost City. As the River Urubamba enters its narrow gorge between thickly forested granite hills, there is room only for a single track, which hugs the right bank and passes through hamlets that are no more than a collection of shacks beside the railway. Close to the foot of the mountain on a saddle upon which the citadel was built is the bustling village of Machu Picchu, dedicated to serving the many visitors with artisan markets, bars and restaurants.

The majestic ruined city, reclaimed from tropical cloud forest, is reached by minibus up a sinuous road, or on foot up a near vertical rocky path. The American explorer Hiram Bingham discovered it in 1911, by which time it was completely buried beneath jungle vegetation. It is perhaps the ruins’ location, on a ridge spur amid forested peaks and above a roaring river canyon, that most ignites the imagination. You will have a guided tour of the ruins.

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Day 11

Fly to Lima to connect with international flight home.

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