Camp at Peru’s Big Red Lake on the Ausangate Circuit
Most travellers heading to Peru will have their heart set on joining a trip to Machu Picchu, but if you’re after an adventure a little more off the beaten track, consider joining a tour of the Ausangate Circuit.
The Ausangate Circuit Trek
There’s no better way to get an appreciation of the stunning Andean scenery than by walking through it and, while the Inca Trail is famous for a very good reason, it can be nice to get away from the throngs of tourists and soak up the amazing mountain views – and sights like the Big Red Lake, but more about that later – in a bit more solitude.
So where is the Ausangate Circuit and what can you expect to find on a trip here?
Getting There and Setting off
We’ll start with the basics of where the Ausangate Circuit actually is. It circles the mountain of the same name in the Cordillera Vilcanota range, which is located to the north of Cusco. It is easily accessible from the city most famous as the starting point of the Inca trail and because Cusco sits 3,326 m above sea level, it’s a great place to set out from as you can spend a couple of days here first acclimatising to the high altitude.
There’s loads to see in Cusco, as it was once an Inca city, so there are remnants from this fascinating society dotted around its streets. In the 16th century, churches and other colonial buildings were constructed when the Spanish invaded the area, so there’s an interesting mix of architectural styles.
The Trek: The Basics
The Ausangate Circuit takes around six days to complete and you’ll reach 5,200 m at the highest point of your trek, when you climb Palomani. There are some tough stretches on the route, so you’ll need to by physically fit if you want to tackle the hike and enjoy it! You’ll be camping every night in some spectacular locations, so you can wake up each morning to a new breathtaking view.
Where You’ll Camp
Upis is one of the early campsites and it certainly boasts some breathtaking views. Looking down the valley you’ll see the Ausangate peak straight ahead, with rolling meadows in between and a spring nearby. It’s not only the location that makes this camp memorable though, but also the ceremony performed by your guides, who ask for a blessing from the mountain god Apu and leave an offering for safe passage around the circuit.
One of the most impressive places you’ll camp is by Jatan Pucacocha, which is also known as the Big Red Lake. It gets its English nickname thanks to the colour of the water, which is often tinted red by sediment that runs off the mountains with the snowmelt. It isn’t just the lake that makes this a beautiful place to stop, but also the surrounding scenery. Jatan Pucacocha sits at 4,600 m below the western icefall of Ausangate – a truly dramatic setting.
The following evening, you’ll pitch your tents in a place called Pampacacha, not too far from the Ausangate Base Camp. You’ll certainly want to rest after your ascent of Palomani earlier in the day and there’s no better place to unwind, as you’ll be surrounded by vistas of the glacial moraine, after which the camping area is named.
There is lots to see along the way as you follow the Ausangate Circuit – these are just some of the highlights. If you’ve tackled the Andean trek, let us know what you particularly enjoyed about it.
Edited By: CampTrip.com