Peru: Ausangate Rainbow Mountain Camping Trek with Machu Picchu

Prepare yourself for five days of jaw-dropping high-altitude trekking in this small but intense mountain range south of the Cusco region of Peru. You will feel completely enveloped in these Andean giants as you conquer five high passes over 16,000ft, one over 17,000ft. Traveling in the opposite direction of other trekkers, we find ourselves mostly alone except for our access to and connection with the indigenous population. This is what makes this trek a substantive one; the people and community overwhelm us with their kindness and grace and our passionate, knowledgeable guiding staff educate us on the ways of these remote communities. Traveling as the ancient Incas did, with llamas as some of our pack animals, we wind our way in a rainbow shape around the base of massive Ausangate Mountain and its impressive glaciers.

Our trek takes us around the opposite, northern, side of the mountain introducing us to a myriad of other towering massifs- each one more impressive than the last. On this trek we never sleep below 15,000ft, which means cold nights but also pristinely clear air, even cleaner streams, lakes and mountain panoramas that just won’t quit. With the culmination of your trek you will feel a sense of serene contentment and a closeness with Pachamama- Mother Earth- that you won’t soon forget.

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10 things to know about trekking to Machu Picchu.

Trip Highlights

  • Five days of jaw-dropping high-altitude trekking in a remote part of the Andes
  • Conquer five high passes over 16,000ft, and one over 17,000ft
  • Wander through the famed Machu Picchu at the end of your adventure

Trip Summary

$3295 (based on 6)
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Day 1
Arrive Cusco

Tonight we have a group briefing and dinner. This is a chance to get to know your guides and fellow guests and an opportunity to address equipment and other questions.

Day 2

Cusco was “the navel of the world,” the Incas said. We will walk through a variety of urban archaeology sites as well as visit the most important temples and landmarks in and around the city. Today's tour will serve as both historic orientation and an important acclimatization to altitude.

Day 3
Half-Day Acclimatization Hike

This morning we travel a short distance to the upper reaches of Cusco. Our vehicle will drop us at the head of a valley where we'll start a gradual descent. As we wind our way down this moderate terrain, we will start to notice the remains of ancient Peruvian aqueducts. We continue following these ingenius canal systems to the ruins of the village of Inkilltambo. Here we will get a chance to look at a fairly extensive ruins just outside of Cusco and is an excellent example of how Incan archeological sites can be found around any corner in Peru!

Day 4
Rainbow Mountain to Ananta Camp

We have an early start as it is a 4-hr drive from Cusco to Kairahuire, our starting point. On the way we will stop for breakfast in a local restaurant then continue our drive through the back roads up into the valleys that lead us up into the Ausangate range. Our adventure begins at Kairahuire at 15,400ft where we slowly make our way up to Rainbow Mountain. This popular destination is known for its painted slopes and it's no wonder it draws tourists from all over. Take in the beauty from where our trail crests the mountain slope at our first landing spot at roughly 16,000ft, or test your your stamina by climbing another 500ft to the highest vantage point - either way you will know you have officially arrived in the Ausangate region! Next we continue down for a recuperative hot lunch in our dining tent; after which we tackle your first major pass at 16,400ft. Reaching the top the pass we glimpse beautiful Wasaqucho mountain (17,831ft) directly across from our vantage point. We also get the pleasure of our own private Rainbow Mountain hidden just beyond the pass; here we can enjoy the rich multi-colored slopes, markedly devoid of the crowds. From here we descend another 1.5- 2hrs to our camp nestled comfortably in the valley. We meet our camp crew, having already set things up and ready for tea time and snacks before a four course dinner. Tonight we sleep nestled in a valley and glimpse the beautiful starts and Milky Way overhead.

Day 5
Ananta - Pucaqocha Pass- Ausangate Cocha

Today we rise for breakfast and visit our hosts: Margarita and Marco are indigeneous to the area, have farmed and raised their kids here and speak only the local language of Quechua so your guide will translate. Next, we will round up our llamas and head for the first of our two passes today. After about 1.5hrs we come to the top of the most dramatic pass of our trek- the Pacuqocha Pass. Here you will realize the genius in choosing to hike in this direction, for as we reach the crest of this pass the massive glaciated slopes of Ausangate Mountain erupt suddenly before us. From our vantage point at 16,200ft they appear within touching distance. Here one is reminded of how truly small we are on this earth. Continuing downhill we meander the slopes dotted with llama and have a late snack by one of many moraines at the base of Ausangate. Leaving the lake at around 15,300ft, our final push for the day is a moderate uphill to our second pass of the day at 15,700ft. From here the descent is somewhat sharp to the most idealic camp spot of our trek at Ausangate Cocha- an expanse of meadow along the sides of the beautiful Ausangate lake.

Day 6
Ausangate Cocha- Palomani pass - Hampa

We start early to maximize the day and hope for good weather from our surrounding mountain gods for our highest pass of the trek. This morning we will gain 2,000ft as we wind our way along the countour of the southern side of Ausangate. Depending on our pace, we will make it to the top of this massive pass in about 2 hours. If the weather cooperates, we will have time to relax up top and ruminate on our accomplishments thus far as the expanse of glaciated mountains unfolds around us. Afterwards, we descend very gradually, continu- ally following the slopes of Ausangate and curving around the southern slopes. After a wonderful hot lunch at Huchuy Finaya we will continue onwards to camp. The best discovery of the day is the amazing emergence of a whole new glacier-covered mountain expanse that unfolds before us. Tonight we camp nestled on three sides by multple peaks above 20,000ft.

Day 7
Hampa- Ninaparayoq

Today we follow the Hampa Valley, nestled just between Ausangate and our newly discovered mountains. We set out from camp hip-hopping amongst mountain meadows that, depending on the time of year, can be near fully absorbed in mountain run-off. Some of these grassy bogs contain streams that are deeper than they first appear and occassionally we can spot some mountain trout hiding beneath. The valley is also a great place to spot wildlife, so look out for vizcacha, vicuñas and bobcats. Our ascent is much more gradual and full of hopeful moments as the rises and falls play with our anticipation. However, we ultimately overcome more than one false pass and make it to the top of the final high pass of the trek. Views of the mountains from ths pass are unbelievable as they seem to explode from the valley floor. We continue winding our way up and around to the north, ultimately descending into a plethora of mountain lakes and, finally, the northern side of Ausangate- we now have a view of the complete opposite side of the mountain. Taking advantage of this perspective we stop for a comprehensive hot lunch then continue on to Ninaparayoq and Azul Cocha (Blue Lake), passing some natural spring lakes along the way. Tonight we stay, yet again, at the base of Ausangate but with a whole new viewpoint.

Day 8
Ninaparayoq - Pacchanta- Aguas Calientes

We have a relaxed start to our day as most of our hike is downhill and is a short distance. We will climb only 100 feet out of camp to get to a great vantage point where we reach a forest of rock stacking. Add a rock of your own and say goodbye to beautiful Ausangate as you won't see it from this perspective again. We will make a short descent into the village of Pacchanta and head straight for the the well-deserve pot of gold at the end of this rainbow trek: the hot springs. Soak in the spring-fed baths with the mountains towering in the distance while you await your final celebratory meal: a pit-barbeque- very traditional in the mountains- known as a Pachamanca. After lunch we will transfer via private vehicle to the train station in Ollantaytambo. Here you will board a train to Aguas Calientes, the small town at the base of Machu Picchu where you will have a long- awaited shower and restful sleep in a bed before visiting the famed Machu Picchu in the morning

Day 9
Machu Picchu/The Sanctuary

At dawn, you begin your journey to Machu Picchu with a short and rollicking uphill bus ride. Then, it happens: you walk into the life-changing experience of seeing this lost city for the first time. Sit in awe at the expanse of ruins in this mystical, improbable setting. An expert guide walks you through principal sites, placing the whole in context, but there's also time for solo examination, exploration and contemplation. As you enter the “Sanctuary” (as locals refer to it), the morning sun rises over the iconic Sun Gate and washes the structures and terraces with resplendent light. Prepare to be awed by the imposing and skillful architecture of the Watch- tower, the Temple of the Sun, and the royal Inca residences, among many others. Take a moment to quietly sit and listen to the wind...or to meditate and absorb the mystical energy that envelops you. Your imagination will soar as you contemplate the history of Machu Picchu and its mysterious origins. Some may even choose a hike to Huayna Picchu or subject themselves to one final phsycal feat by climbing Machu Picchu Mountain. Either way, you will be touched by a feeling of peace and rejuvenation which will linger even as you journey back to civilization. Departure by train and vehicle to Cusco; overnight at hotel prior to departure.

Day 10

Head home!

Dates & Pricing


Double Occupancy
  • May 18
    May 27
    $3295 USD
  • Jun 8
    Jun 17
    $3295 (Full) USD
  • Jun 22
    Jul 1
    $3295 (Full) USD
  • Jul 20
    Jul 29
    $3295 USD
  • Aug 10
    Aug 20
    $3295 USD
  • Sep 1
    Sep 10
    $3295 USD
  • Sep 16
    Sep 26
    $3295 USD
  • Oct 5
    Oct 5
    $3295 USD

Above Costs Include:

  • All domestic airport transfers as per the program by private vehicle
  • All meals indicated on the daily itinerary
  • Hotels in Cusco and Aguas Calientes on a sharing basis
  • Private half day hike to Cusco by the Inkilltambo archeological site
  • Guided city tour of Cusco
  • All meals and accommodations while on trek
  • Accommodation, meals, insurance, equipment, transportation and allowances of guide and porter
  • Shuttle bus tickets from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu
  • Machu Picchu entrance tickets (1 day)
  • Inca Rail round trip tickets to/from Aguas Cali- entes (Inca Train service)
  • Entrance fees to all historic sites and ruins

Cost Does Not Include:

  • International flights to/from Peru
  • Domestic flights to/from Cusco
  • Gratuities for support staff
  • Activities not listed on the itinerary
  • Any meals not indicated on the daily itinerary
  • Tickets to Huayna Picchu or Machu PIcchu Mountain
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