Mt. Ausangate, sacred peak of the Incas
The annual Qoyllur Rit'i Festival is a traditional gathering that takes place below the massive glaciers of Ausangate.
Photo by Holly Wissler & Bill Abbott
Trip Details at-a-Glance
|Lodging:||6 nights in hotels, 9 nights full-service camping|
|Meals:||All meals included except 4 lunches, 3 dinners|
|Activity:||Hiking / Trekking, Archaeology, Cultural Adventures|
9-day trek on steep trails, 5-8 hours a day, altitudes between 12,300-16,700 feet
- Trek the circuit around sacred Ausangate, the most revered peak in Inca mythology
- Participate in the ancient Andean festivals of Qoyllur Rit’i and Cusco’s Corpus Christi
- Explore incomparable Machu Picchu, the “Lost City of the Incas”
Choosing the Right Trip
We work hard to help you choose the right trip for you, paying attention to your individual interests, abilities, and needs. If you have questions about the level of comfort or any of the activities described in this itinerary, please contact us.
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We are proud to have an exceptionally high rate of repeat travelers. For more information, we would be happy to put you in touch with a client who has traveled with us.Email Area Manager
Once you have signed up on the trip, we send a complete packing list, relevant health information, and required travel documents.
This is one of our special Repertory Trips offered every two to five years. Future dates have not been set for this trip, but you can see the “Itinerary at a Glance” and the “Full Detailed Itinerary” below (there may be small changes to the itinerary for the future departures, and prices will be finalized closer to departure). Contact us to receive early notification of the trip dates. These special trips fill very quickly once the exact dates are set!
Mountains were sacred to the Incas, and one of the most revered is mighty Apu Ausangate (20,945'), an Inca holy peak and spiritual hub of the traditional culture that thrives within its powerful shadow. On our nine-day trek around Ausangate, we venture close to this glittering sacred peak, camp at turquoise glacial lakes nestled in high Andean valleys, hike trails amid grazing herds of llamas and alpacas, savor extraordinary views of stunning peaks and glaciers, and meet traditional Quechua people in some of their most remote highland settlements. Our trek’s grand finale is the annual Qoyllur Rit’i Festival, where we join with the thousands of pilgrims who gather at the base of one of Ausangate’s glaciers to seek the blessings of the mountain gods. On our post-trek return to Cusco, capital of the Incas, we enjoy the colorful celebration of Corpus Christi, when the statues from Cusco’s churches are carried through the streets to the ancient cathedral. WT Trip Leader Andrea Heckman has a doctorate in Latin American Studies in Antropology and Art History, with a specialty on the Quechua people and culture of Ausangate. We invite you to join us for an incomparable expedition in the high Andes and a fantastic immersion into one of the America's most fascinating ancient cultures.
Itinerary at a Glance
For a more complete description, Download Full Detailed Itinerary
After arriving in Cusco (11,200'), the archaeological capital of the Americas, we enjoy a walking tour of the city for a glimpse into the ceremonial heart of the Inca Empire. The next day we explore Saqsayhuaman, the majestic Inca fortress overlooking Cusco, and hike from the ruins down into Cusco.
Sacred Valley of the Incas / Pisac / Machu Picchu / Cusco
We head to the Urubamba Valley, the “Sacred Valley of the Incas,” and up to the town of Chinchero. After exploring its beautiful church, we hike down through a series of wooded canyons and into a vast landscape overlooking the Sacred Valley, which spreads out below us in a stunning panorama. Return to Cusco for overnight.
Ausangate Trek / Qoyllur Rit’i Festival
From the village of Tinki (12,300'), we set off on our rigorous, nine-day high altitude trek in the Ausangate Highlands, following herders’ trails through high grasslands and passing huge glacial moraines and lakes of unbelievably vivid hues, framed by grand mountain vistas in all directions. We may see vizcachas (marmot-like creatures) and perhaps rare vicuñas, wild relatives of the llama and alpaca, and condors are sometimes spotted soaring in the sunny skies over these peaks. Each night we enjoy fantastically scenic campsites, some on the edge of sapphire lakes within sight of active, calving glaciers. This high realm is home to highlander farmers who raise potatoes and tend huge flocks of colorfully tasseled llamas and alpacas; they are also expert weavers whose textile designs represent their cosmology in abstract form. We will have ample chances to meet these staunchly traditional people and gain a glimpse into their fascinating world. On Day 11, we drive to the site of the ancient Andean festival of Qoyllur Rit’i and spend the following day observing the activities. This annual pilgrimage to a remote mountain shrine at the foot of a glacier below sacred Ausangate dates to pre-Columbian times and is now interwoven with Catholic symbolism. The festival attracts thousands of people and is complete with mask dances, musicians, Christian devotees, and shamans invoking favors from the mountain gods. We return to Cusco on Day 13.
Cusco / Corpus Christi Festival
After a final day to explore Cusco, we enjoy the activities of the Corpus Christi Festival, held on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday (Day 15 of our journey), when the statues of the saints in Cusco’s churches are carried through the streets in colorful processions to the main cathedral. Depart on Day 16 via Lima.
For a more complete description, Download Full Detailed Itinerary
If you would like to continue your adventure, we offer the following extension:
- Cusco and Machu Picchu Extension (6 days)
What the Trip is Like
This trip is rated Level 6, Strenuous. Most hiking is between 9,000 and 14,000 feet, and the maximum elevation reached is about 16,600 feet, on the crossing of the Palomani Pass. For the most part, you can hike at your own speed; the group will spread out along the trail during our 6 to 8 hours of hiking. Trail conditions can be primitive, and there is a good bit of up-and-down (often 2,000- to 3,000-foot gain or loss in elevation per day). We are up in the high Andes, and mountain weather is always fickle, so there will be days when it may be cold. The days can also be brilliantly sunny but nights are always cold at these altitudes. We recommend that you make a special effort to get in top physical condition for the trip.