It would be difficult to find another hike across South America that could beat the beautiful Huayhuash Circuit. This route will take you through dizzying cliffs, snowy peaks and surreal lagoons. Most people do it with an organized tour as it can take up to 10 or even 12 days to complete the entire circuit. However, my friend Jabi and I decided do it on our own, without guides and on a budget. Pure adventure!
We completed the circuit in 9 days. I have to say it was not easy. Everyday we walked for many hours carrying more than 30 kilos of food, water, camping equipment, clothes, etc. But one thing is for sure, I would definitely do it again. It was one of the best hiking experiences of my life.
Trekking the Huayhuash circuit on a budget during 10 days, without guides:
We take a van from Huaraz to the village of Llamac. From there we walk up to the campsite of “Quartelhuain”, where we spend the first night.
On this day we cross the “Qaqanan pass”, at 4,700 meters, with beautiful views of the valley. After that, we descend to the “lagoon of Mitucocha”, where we camp.
We cross the “Carhuac pass”, at 4,650 meters, and then descend to our campsite in the “Carhuacocha lagoon”.
We cross the “Carnicero pass”, at 4,600 meters, and then descend to our campsite in the beautiful “lake of Carnicero”, at 4,300 meters.
We climb the “Portachuelo de Huayhuash” pass, at 4,750 meters. Later, we walk around the “lagoon of Viconga” and get to the campsite at 4,480 meters.
We cross the highest pass of the trek, “Punta Cuyoc pass”, at about 5,000 meters. We descend through the valley of “Huanactapay” to the campsite.
We continue through the valley of “Huanactapay” before we get to the campsite of “Huatiac”.
On this day we cross two passes. First, “Punta Tapush” at 4,750 meters and then “Punta Yaucha” at 4,800 meters. We camp close to the beautiful lagoon of “Jahuacocha”.
From the lagoon of “Juahacocha” we cross the “Llamac pass”, at 4,300 meters, to reach the village of Llamac and get back to civilization.
Budget for trekking the Huayhuash circuit independently:
During the hike you can camp in designated areas. There are 9 different communities along the circuit and all of them charge 25 soles as a camping fee. Being low season, there were almost no people and we only paid in two communities. So, we just paid 50 soles!
I liked this hostel in Huaraz: Casa de Ana B&B. Amazing terrace on the top.
TRANSPORT. HOW TO GET TO HUAYHUASH
There are a few vans from Huaraz to Llamac every day. The price is 20 soles, although we were charged 25 soles because of our gringo faces, I guess.
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FOOD AND DRINK
This is the hardest part of the trek. If you go without guides or porters, you have to carry all your food for 9 or 10 days. So, carefully plan what you’re going to bring because the first few days it can be very heavy. In some villages you can buy some cheese, but you will not find much more. We spent about 7 dollars a day on food.
There is no need to carry a lot of water, you will find thousands of streams along the trek.
WEATHER. WHEN TO GO
The best season is from May to September, when there is little rainfall.
We went in November and although we had some rain and snow, it’s also possible to complete the trek. But I’m not saying it’s easy.
TIPS FOR HIKING THE HUAYHUASH CIRCUIT ON A BUDGET
This trek passes through areas over 5,000 meters, so it is very important to do a good acclimatization. We completed the Santa Cruz trek first as part of our acclimatization.
Get a good map in Huaraz before going up to the mountain. You can also find many good maps online that you can print.
If you go on your own, it is important to have experience reading maps. It may be easier to orientate yourself in the dry season, as the paths are better marked.
During the rainy season, some paths were a bit complicated to understand. The rains created small rivers that came together with the original paths and it was a little confusing… it looked like there were a lot of new paths. Moreover, sometimes the mountains are completely covered by clouds, making reference points difficult to follow.
We got lost a couple of times and it was no fun. You need to be an intermediate experienced mountaineer to do it on your own during the rainy season.
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Next Read: Climbing Iliniza Volcano in Ecuador
Did you like Trekking the Huayhuash circuit without guides? Please, leave a comment!
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Hi, I’m Miguel; Adventure traveler, scuba diver and hiking lover. I have been traveling the world for the last 12 years and I hope my experiences, photos and hiking routes inspire you to travel the world too.
Steph Dyson says
Sounds great and looks like a beautiful hike! Did you guys take GPS with you or just use a map? I love hiking but find it so frustrating here in South America that the maps are generally terrible (was the one you got any good?) and the trails not very clear so it’s very easy to get lost. It really puts me off walking as I’m always worried I’m going to get lost in the middle of the mountains somewhere…!
Hi Steph! we just had a map. but this one was really good! The trails is not very clear sometimes and takes about 10 days to complete.. so, yeah..it’s not the easiest… but.. they sell good maps in Huaraz.. the nearest city… anyway… do not go by you own.. get some buddies… otherwise it would be too risky i think… well.. any doubt just let me know!
Jesper, The Biveros Effect says
Looks like an amazing hike, with that nature around. 🙂
Yes it is!! Thanks for the comment!
Thirty kilos each?! I just did my first backpacking trip carrying about nineteen kilos over six days — I can’t imagine having had even one more kilo in there! Good on you. This hike looks absolutely incredible. Definitely saving this for my upcoming South America trip at the end of the year!
Hi Katie, thanks for the comment! yeah.. 30 kilos. food for 9-10 days plus all the gear and clothes for really freezing nights at more than 4.000 metres high..It’s an amazing route.. you should do it!!! take care!
Thanks for sharing your experience. It is amazing! How cold it gets during night? What degree sleeping bag did you use? Four-season tent?
Phill Dunlevy says
Thinking of doing the Huayhash next year with a group of friends all fairly experienced walkers, 6 in total and not 20 something’s…more like 50 something’s but we love the challenge. I have been appointed organiser and trying to explore all options instead of employing some big city based touring company to organise. Can you recommend reliable local guides out of Huarez or even better a small local company – keep the money in the local community and keep our costs down. Anything you can advise is a help, much appreciated. Cheers. Phill
Hi Phill, how are you? that sounds like a great adventure. Unfortunately, I did everything on my own, without guides, agencies, etc so I don’t have any contacts. However, there are many local agencies in Huaraz and it won’t be difficult to find some reliable guides. Safe travels.
Thank you for this helpful guide ! I’m hoping to start the circuit in a few days solo, hoping a decent map and gps on my phone help me from getting too lost ?
Awesome Emma, enjoy, have fun and stay safe! Bring extra batteries for the phone, like a power bank so you don’t run out of batteries. A GPS is really important here.