The Huayhuash Circuit in the Andes mountains of Peru is known to be one of the most beautiful and inspiring treks in the entire world.
Unlike some other treks out there, the Huayhuash Circuit has multiple variations and it can be done in anywhere from 3 to 12+ days. Depending on your hiking interest level, your available time, and what you want to see on the trek, you can build out a route that will suit you best.
This guide in particular is going to layout long and short Huayhuash Circuit trek options to choose from to better help you decide what is the ideal choice for your trip. I will talk through many of the various possibilities and give some detailed overviews on what the day by day routes will entail.
By the end of reading this through, you should be well on your way to choosing a trekking option that works for you.
What's in this article?
- 1) Huayhuash Circuit Trek Route Overview
- 2) Huayhuash Circuit Map
- 3) Huayhuash Trek Starting Point
- 4) Huayhuash Trek Ending Point
- 5) Huayhuash Circuit Route Insight
- Huayhuash 11 Day Route Main Option
- Huayhuash 10 Day Route Main Option
- Huayhuash 9 Day Route Main Option
- Huayhuash 8 Day Route Main Option
- Huayhuash 7 Day Route Main Option
- Huayhuash 6 Day Route Main Option
- Huayhuash 5 Day Route Main Option
- Huayhuash 4 Day Route Main Option
- Huayhuash 3 Day Route Main Option
- Huayhuash Circuit Route Recap
1) Huayhuash Circuit Trek Route Overview
If you are thinking about taking part of the Huayhuash Circuit, you may have heard of anything from shorter 3 day options to longer 10+ day options, and everything in between.
But you may be asking yourself what are the differences between all of these, and what is (and is not) included in certain treks vs. others. It can be confusing to understand the layout of the circuit and why some treks are longer or shorter than other treks.
In addition to that, you may very well come across two route itineraries of the same length but that are not identical in nature. This is because there are several variations, combinations, and add-ons that can be included throughout these treks.
The purpose of this guide in particular is to give you a sense of how to choose the perfect route for your trip. Whether you want to go all out and enjoy a complete Huayhuash Circuit, or if you are just fine taking part of a shorter option, I will lay out many different options to choose from.
So, if you end up going about the trek on your own, with a private guide, or with a group tour, this overview is sure to help you out. By reading through these route options, you will be able to more clearly understand and speak to what type of route you will want to take part of for your own Huayhuash Circuit trek.
2) Huayhuash Circuit Map
To start though, it is very important to get a good understanding of the layout of the land. Without understanding the map of the Huayhuash Circuit, it will be very difficult to truly understand the various route options.
Below I have included a map of the Huayhuash Circuit that includes all the important aspects of the area to familiarize yourself with. Check out these helpful guides to learn more about the Huayhuash Trek map and Huayhuash GPX route.
On the map, you can see the various campsites and villages listed out, along with the main route on the red line. Some of these campsites may have alternate names, which I have listed out below. These include:
→ Llamac (village & end of trail)
→ Matacancha / Cuartelwain / Quartelwain (campsite & start of trail)
→ Mitucocha (campsite)
→ Carhuacocha (campsite)
→ Queroapalca (village used for short treks)
→ Huayhuash (campsite)
→ Viconga (campsite & hot springs)
→ Pampa Cuyoc / Elefante (campsite)
→ Cutatambo (campsite)
→ Huanacpatay (campsite)
→ Huayllapa (village)
→ Huatiac (campsite)
→ Qashpapampa / Gashpapampa (campsite)
→ Jahuacocha / Incahuain (campsite)
→ Rondoy (alternate finish)
Now, no matter what type of route you choose from, you will not be staying at every one of these campsites and villages. But there will be a few different factors that will indicate how things will end up lining up for you.
A few additional things to note about the map & routes in general:
» On most days of the circuit, there will also be a mountain pass to ascend before heading down to the next campsite for the night. You can see those listed out on the route as well.
» In addition to the main route, there are also other trails too. These include some easier alternate routes (purple line), the Trapecio Pass route (green line), and also the “ruta alpina” route (yellow line).
» The ruta alpina (alpine route) is a much more intense trekking & climbing experience. So, for 99% of people, the full ruta alpina will not even be an option. However, on days 1 & 2 of the route (between Matacancha & Mitucocha, and between Mitucocha & Carhuacocha), there is the opportunity to take part of a couple safer, more frequented parts of the ruta alpina.
I will not be diving into the ruta alpina in this particular Huayhuash guide, but be on the lookout for other helpful articles up on the site that will cover it in more detail.
Also don’t forget about travel insurance!
Trekking insurance is an absolute must when taking part of the Huayhuash trek. There really is no reason not to purchase insurance coverage for your time on the trail. This can especially be true for those with little experience being at 10,000+ feet in elevation.
In a situation where you get altitude sickness and need to be medically evacuated, you sure don’t want to be stuck with a $2,500+ bill. Instead, all you need to do is purchase travel insurance that covers you up to 20,000 feet in elevation.
That’s right, you will need to make sure that your specific travel insurance covers “extreme / high altitudes”.
If you want to be certain, go ahead with a policy from World Nomads that includes elevation up to 20,000 feet
3) Huayhuash Trek Starting Point
For all intents and purposes, the official starting point of the hike is Matacancha / Cuartelwain. If you are taking part of a group or private tour, OR if you are going on your own with a private driver, the first day of hiking will begin here.
However, if going on your own with public transport, you will be getting dropped off in Llamac. From Llamac you then will need to walk a dirt road to Matacancha / Cuartelwain for 4-5+ hours. So, for some people, the first “hiking” day is from Llamac to Matacancha / Cuartelwain along the dirt road.
To make things simple, I will consider day 1 as the hike starting in Matacancha / Cuartelwain (and heading to the first campsite from there).
If you happen to need that extra day of hiking prior because you got dropped off in Llamac, that will just need to be an additional day of trekking to take into consideration for your overall route.
→ Learn more about how to get to the Cordillera Huayhuash
4) Huayhuash Trek Ending Point
There are two main possibilities on where to end your trek – either in Llamac or in Rondoy (a 30 minute walk from Matacancha / Cuartelwain).
Most people leave the last campsite at Jahuacocha and make their way over the Pampa Llamac Pass to Llamac. From there, they would either be driven back by private transport or hop on a public bus/collectivo to Huaraz (with the last transport leaving Llamac around 11AM).
However, there is also the possibility to take the scenic route over the Sambunya Pass. This route gives trekkers the chance to leave the trek on a higher, more panoramic trail. Instead of ending up right in Llamac though, the route ends in Rondoy (which is just prior to the start of the trail in Matacancha / Cuartelwain).
If you set up private transport, there should not be an issue to get picked up in Rondoy and head straight back to Huaraz. If you are going on your own and are relying on public transport, that means you must walk another ~4 hours from Rondoy, along the dirt road back to Llamac (or catch a ride with a local, like I did!). Odds are you will not reach Llamac in time for the last bus, so you may need to stay the night as well.
Note that these starting/ending points are for most, but not all routes.
5) Huayhuash Circuit Route Insight
Before diving into various route options, I did want to give some insight on some of the highlights / places that may be included on some routes but not others. By better understanding these, you should be in a better spot to make some decisions.
Mirador Tres Lagunas – this is the famous three lake viewpoint that is located between Carhuacocha and Huayhuash. Nearly every route listed here will include a visit to the famous view.
Viconga Hot Springs – at Viconga, you will not just find a normal campsite there. Instead, you will also find three hot spring pools (two for bathing and one for washing). Not all routes go through Viconga, but it is a definite highlight and a relaxing place to spend an afternoon.
Trapecio Pass – one of the top viewpoints of the trek is from a top the Trapecio Pass. However, the pass is not included on all itineraries. That is because it is more of a short cut (and would cut out the Viconga Hot Springs). If you want to enjoy the view, don’t mind skipping the hot springs, and you want one less day of hiking, then the Trapecio Pass may be for you.
San Antonio Pass – this is one of the highest points of the Huayhuash Circuit if you end up making it there. It also offers one of the top viewpoints of the entire trek. However, be aware that it is a very dangerous descent down to Cutatambo from the top.
On some routes it may be possible to add an ascent up the San Antonio Pass from Cuyoc and then back down the same way. So, this will let you enjoy the views without the dangerous descent.
Santa Rosa / Jurau Pass – a safer alternative to the San Antonio Pass but one that offers a slightly lesser view. If the San Antonio descent scares you off, then this is the one to choose from instead.
Quebrada Sarapococha – there is an option to explore the Quebrada Sarapococha for a day trip from Cutatambo. This would add an additional day to your route in general as you explore the lakes, glaciers, and viewpoints that make up the valley. I have included the Quebrada Sarapococha on the longest 11 day route option.
If you would like to spend the day hiking the Quebrada Sarapococha, you can expect to hike anywhere from 6-8+ miles depending on exactly how far you want to explore. I had a more relaxing day just doing the back and forth ~6 mile hike to Laguna Sarapococha.
Huayllapa – the main village along the route is Huayllapa, with many routes passing by it on the day 6-7 range. Some routes skip staying in Huayllapa though and go straight up to a campsite at Huatiac. If you want to stay in a bed for a night and/or restock food, then staying in the village itself would be a good option for you. Note that the main route does not go through Huayllapa, rather it is about a 20 minute detour off the circuit.
You will see with many of the treks listed below that I have included a stay in Huayllapa for the night. However, if you want to spend one less day on the trail, I have put in some notes about staying in the Huatiac campsite instead.
Below is a high level view of explaining on how staying in Huatiac will save a day:
• Cutatambo or Cuyoc to Huayllapa (7.3 miles / +100 feet elevation gain)
• Huayllapa to Qashpapampa (8.5 miles / +4,100 feet elevation gain)
• Qashpapampa to Jahuacocha (6.0 miles / +1,970 feet elevation gain)
• Cutatambo or Cuyoc to Huatiac (10.7 miles / +2,700 feet elevation gain)
• Huatiac to Jahuacocha (10.7 miles / +3,000 feet elevation gain)
At the end of the day, you should always be able to add /remove Huayllapa from the route as you see fit.
Sambunya Pass – I touched upon this earlier, but instead of taking the route directly down to Llamac at the end of your hike, the more scenic route heads up to the Sambunya Pass (and Rondoy Pass), before dropping down to Rondoy to end the trek. Choosing an exit may depend on whether you have transport set up / whether you are fine with spending a night in Llamac at the end of the hike.
If you rather head up and over the Sambunya Pass, expect the hike out to Rondoy to be about 7 miles and 2,300 feet of elevation gain (+ potential mileage hiking back to Llamac).
Let’s now get into the actual route options. I will start with the “long routes” that will last anywhere from 6 to 11 days. These will be some of the more all encompassing options. From there I will also touch on shorter “mini Huayhuash trekking routes” between 3-5 days.
Please note that these are just a handful of options to choose from. There are certainly more mixes and matches to come up with. But these are some of the most viable options out there. Also note that all distances and elevation gains are not exact but rather based on my own route & some high level research of others.
→ Learn more: check out the Huayhuash Circuit packing list for everything you need on the trail
Huayhuash 11 Day Route Main Option
First off is a standard 11 day route that we can then build off of for the rest of the potential itineraries. The route shown below is a complete Huayhuash Circuit trek option that encircles the full Cordillera Huayhuash.
Many tour companies / Huayhuash itineraries will show this exact route as an 11 day option. It is a comfortable and rewarding route that has nearly everything you can want during an experience.
Shorter 10 Day Alternative: if you don’t mind skipping Huayllapa and want to spend one less day on the circuit, you can go from Cutatambo to Huatiac on day 8 and then Huatic to Januacocha on day 9, before heading out to Llamac on day 10.
Huayhuash 10 Day Route Main Option
Getting down to a 10 day Huayhuash route is pretty simple. The only difference you will see below vs. the 11 day option is that the extra night in Cutatambo is removed. This will therefore also remove the day to explore the Quebrada Sarapococha.
Shorter 9 Day Alternative: if you don’t mind skipping Huayllapa and want to spend one less day on the circuit, you can go from Cutatambo to Huatiac on day 7 and then Huatic to Januacocha on day 8, before heading out to Llamac on day 9.
Huayhuash 9 Day Route Main Option
If 10+ days sound too long to you, then there are some shorter options are as well. The route below will leverage the 10 day option above & then skip the San Antonio Pass / Jurau Pass & the Cutatambo campsite.
1) On day 5 when you arrive in Cuyoc, you can have the option to do a side trek up to the San Antonio Pass when you arrive at camp. This would still have you seeing those views, but without the dangerous descent down to the other side.
Shorter 8 Day Alternative: if you don’t mind skipping Huayllapa and want to spend one less day on the circuit, you can go from Cuyoc to Huatiac on day 6 and then Huatic to Januacocha on day 7, before heading out to Llamac on day 8.
Huayhuash 8 Day Route Main Option
When we get down to an 8 day Huayhuash Circuit trek, things will need to change a bit more in order to fit a route into the shorter time period.
This is where the Trapecio Pass comes into play. If you take a look at the map, the Trapecio Pass essentially is a shortcut between the Huayhuash campsite and the Cuyoc campsite.
So, instead of going from Huayhuash to Viconga and then Viconga to Cuyoc (over 2 days), you can just go straight from Huayhuash to Cuyoc (in 1 day).
Shorter 7 Day Alternative: if you don’t mind skipping Huayllapa and want to spend one less day on the circuit, you can go from Cuyoc to Huatiac on day 5 and then Huatic to Januacocha on day 6, before heading out to Llamac on day 7.
Huayhuash 7 Day Route Main Option
A 7 day option will combine days 1 & 2 of the trek. Essentially starting in Cuartelwain on day 1 and making the trek all the way to Carhuacocha. So, this will be a pretty long hiking day right off the bat.
It is not something I would recommend for most people as it does not give much time to get acclimated to the trek, and hiking 7+ hours on the first day is quite the task.
1) You could technically combine the first two days on any of the other routes mentioned above too to shave off a day
Shorter 6 Day Alternative: if you don’t mind skipping Huayllapa and want to spend one less day on the circuit, you can go from Cuyoc to Huatiac on day 4 and then Huatic to Januacocha on day 5, before heading out to Llamac on day 6.
Huayhuash 6 Day Route Main Option
A 6 day option will also combine days 1 & 2 of the trek. In addition to that, to fit the circular route into 6 days, I have also excluded Huayllapa from the itinerary and added in the Huatiac campsite that I have been mentioning as an option.
Huayhuash 5 Day Route Main Option
Now, as we move over to some shorter options, we are getting to a point where a loop around the Cordillera Huayhuash will just not be possible.
When we get down to five day options, we are no longer talking about a loop around the Cordillera Huayhuash mountain range. Instead, the route will just focus on certain aspects of the range.
Note that this route does not start at Cuartelwain. Instead it will start in Llamac and end in an alternative town called Queropalca where prearranged transport can take you back to Huaraz. In some ways, the route is going backwards a bit.
Huayhuash 4 Day Route Main Option
The 4 day option laid out below is a slimmed down version of the 5 day route. Instead of visiting both the Jahuacocha and Carhuacocha lakes, it will just focus on the Carhuacocha lake region and the Mirador Tres Lagunas.
Huayhuash 3 Day Route Main Option
Lastly, I have included a couple 3 day route options. The first one focuses on Carhuacocha and the second one focuses on Jahuacocha depending on which area you may be of most interest in.
Huayhuash Circuit Route Recap
As mentioned earlier, there are so many ways to mix and match your Huayhuash route based on how many days you have for the trek. If you are going with a group tour, odds are those types of itineraries will have a bit less flexibility.
On the other hand, if you are going on a private tour or if you are heading out on your own, you should have more say in what type of route to ultimately take part of.
If you have any questions about any of the routes above, or if you had another idea in mind, feel free to write them in the comments below. Happy to help put together the best Huayhuash route for your trip!
Don’t forget to check out the other Peru itineraries and guides up on the site. Have fun out there and safe travels!