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El Misti Arequipa – Trek Up A Spectacular Active Volcano In Peru

Alison Macallister

El Misti Volcano is the most iconic feature in Arequipa’s landscape. This volcano is the first thing you will notice when arriving in the White City.

‘El Misti’ means ‘The Gentleman’ in Spanish. Indeed, the towering form gives airs of regality and wisdom. It's easy to understand why Ancient Incans viewed Peru’s volcanoes as powerful gods. For adventurous tourists, the conical mountain is an inviting challenge.

Thinking about trekking up Arequipa’s El Misti? You will find all the info you need in this article. Plus, I’ve thrown in some interesting facts about El Misti Arequipa - this majestic, and still active volcano.

El Misti Arequipa - Trek Up an Active Volcano in Peru

Where is El Misti Volcano?

The crater of El Misti volcano is only 17km / 11 miles from the city of Arequipa in southern Peru. Arequipa, Peru’s second-largest city, is surrounded by volcanoes. Other than El Misti, visitors can also visit other noteworthy volcanoes like Chachani, Ampato, and Pichu Pichu.

To get to El Misti, you need to base yourself in Arequipa. Unfortunately, there are no international flights to Arequipa. You can get there on a local flight from Lima or Cusco. You can also reach Arequipa by car or by bus from other cities in southern Peru.

Please Note: It seems close, but do not try to hike to El Misti Volcano from Arequipa. The route may be quick, but it will take you through some risky neighborhoods. It’s better to stay safe and take the longer routes to El Misti.

El Misti Arequipa Volcano Facts

Here are a few quick facts about El Misti Arequipa that you might not have known before.

El Misti is an active volcano.

El Misti is a Peruvian stratovolcano located near Arequipa. Stratovolcanoes are made up of layers of lava and materials from previous eruptions.

The cone stands at 5,822m (19,100ft) above sea level. At the top, there are three circular craters. The innermost of these craters has actively fuming gas vents.

El Misti last erupted in 1985. Even though El Misti is technically still active, it is considered safe to summit. Before the 1980’s, the last major eruption on El Misti was between 1430-1480.

el misti volcano

Incan Mummies were found on El Misti Volcano.

In 1998, 6 Incan mummies were discovered near the inner crater of El Misti Arequipa. These were uncovered during a month-long archeological expedition.

The human remains are believed to have been from sacrifices. Human sacrifice was a common practice during the time of the Incas. The ritualistic practice was performed to appease the spirit of the volcano. The bodies were well preserved by ice.

Valuable artifacts were found alongside these mummies. You can see these artifacts in Arequipa’s Museo de Santuarios Andinos.

You can find snow on the peaks of El Misti.

Before the 1990s, El Misti Volcano had a permanent coating of snow on its peak. With temperatures increasing due to global warming, the permanent snow cap has disappeared over time. These days, you will only see snow on its peak during the winter months.


Trekking El Misti Arequipa - Routes up the Volcano

There are three main routes up El Misti Volcano which I will discuss in greater detail below:

  • Grau Route (South)
  • Aguada Blanca Route (Northeast)
  • Pastore's Route (Southwest)

Grau Route (South)

This is the most popular way up El Misti Arequipa. The trailhead (3,400m / 11,155 ft) is only half an hour by 4X4 from Arequipa. It takes between 4-6 hours to get to Pirimides camp (4610m / 15,125 ft). On day two, it's a 5-hour hike to the summit while the descent only takes 2 hours.

Aguada Blanca route (Northeast)

This route starts near the Aguada Blanca reservoir (4000m / 13,123 ft). On this route, you will first ascend for 4 hours to make camp at Monte Blanc (4,800m / 15,748 ft). The next day, you should be able to summit El Misti Arequipa in 5-6 hours

Please Note: A permit is necessary to reach the Aguada Blanca Trailhead. Allow a few days to get this in order.

Pastore's route (Southwest)

This trail starts from an altitude of 3,300m / 10,827 ft. After hiking for 6 hours, trekkers camp at Nido Aguilas (4,500m / 14,764 ft) . It takes another 5 hours of trekking from the camp to the summit with a 3-hour descent afterwards. Pastores used to be the popular route, but in recent years, there have been frequent robberies along the trail. For this reason, I would not recommend this trail in particular.

How Difficult Is Trekking Misti Volcano?

The hike up El Misti Volcano is no walk in the park. The entire trek covers about 16 miles / 25 kilometres.

The ascent is slow and strenuous. The terrain has steep slopes with lots of loose stones. The pathway to the summit has sheer drops down thousands of feet. I wouldn’t recommend hiking El Misti unless you are very fit. You also should have some experience of mountain climbing before attempting a trek up El Misti Arequipa.

Around 10-15 people start the trek to El Misti's summit each week. However, many people experience issues with the high altitude, and only a percentage of climbers reach the summit of this volcano.

Most people trek El Misti Volcano over two days. If you are 100% acclimatized and in exceptional physical condition (i.e. a professional mountaineer), you can make the summit in a single day without too much trouble.

See more in our hiking training guide to better prepare yourself for El Misti Arequipa. 

Looking for another short trek? Here are my 3 favourite tours in and around Arequipa: 

See more short Arequipa trips and tours.

Trekking Tours Up El Misti Arequipa

There are only a handful of operators selling the El Misti Arequipa Trek at the moment. Most companies require a minimum of 3 people to make the trip. Make sure you hike with an experienced company. Incaventura and Carlos Zarata Adventures have good track records with this particular climb.

Hot Tip: When choosing an El Misti Volcano Trek Company, whichever company you choose should put your safety first. A good way to gauge honesty and find out more about trekking policies is by asking the tour office about how many people successfully summit El Misti Arequipa. If they tell you anything near 100%, they are lying through their teeth! Don't book through a middleman, go directly to an agency trek and, if possible, speak to a guide to get as much info as possible.

Most El Misti Arequipa trekking companies will collect you between 6-8 am from your hotel. Depending on which route you take, it is a 1-hour drive to the trail. You will then make the ascent to camp which usually takes 5-7 hours.

On day two, you will rise very early (between 1-2 am). You will leave your belongings at camp and only carry a bottle of water during your trek. The last haul to the summit is difficult. If you make it, you will get to the top before 9 am. From here, you will have the most amazing 360-degree views of the volcano and beyond. The sense of achievement at this point will last you a lifetime.

After spending some time on the peak, you will then head back to camp. Collect your things and trek down to the base of the volcano. Getting down is much faster (± 4 hours) as you will mostly slide down sandy slopes. You should get back to Arequipa around 3 pm that same day.

Trekking tours up El Misti Arequipa cost between $80-$200 per person, including dinner and breakfast. You will need to pay extra to rent trekking poles.

El Misti Arequipa

Can you hike up El Misti Without a Guide?

Usually, I’m all for self-guided treks in Peru. However, I’d recommend hiking El Misti with a professional operator mostly for the sake of safety and practicality.

The volcano is above 5,000m / 16,404 ft and there is a high risk of falling victim to altitude sickness. The effects of altitude sickness can be extreme and even life-threatening. There is no correlation between age, fitness and other important factors, making it impossible to predict how your body will respond to high elevations. Hiking without backup oxygen and a trained first-aider is risky.

See more in our guide on the best ways of dealing with acclimitisation and altitude sickness while trekking through Peru.

Secondly, reaching the foot of the volcano is near impossible without a tour. You need a 4x4 to get to the trailhead. You could rent a vehicle and get to Aguada Blanca Reservoir, but this would be very expensive.

Don't worry about hiking with a crowd. As previously mentioned, only a few people attempt this summit each week. Unless you are an expert mountain climber with all the right equipment, it's better to go with a guide up El Misti Arequipa.

If you're looking for an excellent unguided trek in Peru, check out our guide on hiking the Salkantay solo

What Equipment Do You Need To Trek El Misti Arequipa?

You will need to carry all your food and equipment when climbing El Misti Arequipa. Each person should take at least 4.5 litres of water. Most companies you book with will provide a tent, sleeping bag, and mat.

It is cold at high altitudes, so you will need a good jacket, thermal layers, and gloves. Some tour operators will give you gloves and a jacket for the trek.

See more in our main guide on what to pack for hiking trips in Peru.  

Trekking poles are absolutely essential because the rocky slopes are slippery. One wrong step could send you sliding down the volcano!

None of the routes up the volcano are technical, so you do not usually need special equipment to summit El Misti. The only exception is during the wet season. During these occasions, you will need Crampons and an ice axe if it has been snowing on the volcano.

Looking for another short trek? Here are my 3 favourite tours in and around Arequipa: 

See more short Arequipa trips and tours.

Alison Macallister

With a degree in Nature Conservation and experience working with wildlife including the Big 5, Alison works as a guide for a 5-star reserve. She enjoys sharing her passion for all things nature-related. She enjoys hiking, horseriding, 4x4 driving and kayaking.

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