OverviewEl Misti is an active volcano towering over the white city of Arequipa (2380m), the second largest city in Peru. This area was an important settlement area since before the Inca. The Spanish founded the city in 1545. Since the region has a history of earthquakes and eruptions it was only a matter of time before Arequipa was impacted. It was severely damaged in 1600 and then rebuilt. El Misti, thankfully, hasn’t had a major eruption since the 1400’s. In 1998 several mummies were discovered inside the crater rim of the volcano, confirming its sanctification under the Incas.
El Misti is known as a tourist mountain because many travelers to Arequipa see this spectacular mountain and decide to give it a try. Five to ten people a week climb up its dusty slopes. In general one needs two days to make it to the top, for that reason a tent, etc. are necessary. To make it in one day one should be perfectly acclimated and in high physical condition.
On June 23, 2001 a major earthquake whose epicenter was about 110 miles from Arequipa hit Peru. The magnatude 8.4 earthquake killed at least 102 people and caused major damage in Arequipa.
Getting ThereTo get to Arequipa you have two main choices: road or air. Arrival by plane is possible from Lima, Cusco, Puno or La Paz. From Lima the flight is about 70 minutes and costed about $100USD (2005). If arriving by bus be prepared for a long ride. Arrival by train from Cusco or Puno is no longer possible... For more information on how to get to Arequipa, check the Volcanoes of Arequipa page.
Places to Stay
Once in Arequipa, best area to settle is around the Plaza de Armas. Plenty of hostels and restaurants are in this area. Hostal “La Reyna”, Calle Zela Nro 209, (Telef. / Telefax:+51-54-286578 hostalreyna[at]yahoo[dot]com) is an affordable hostel with great view of Sta. Catalina Convent and downtown; It hosts also an ascent arranging agency (also gear rental).
To the Mountain
Because there are just dirt roads to the foot of El Misti you may need a 4x4 to reach the trailheads comfortably (to hire a driver with a 4x4 check this ascent arrangers page). Hiking to the trailhead from the city (south west approach) is no longer recommended due to the risk of traveling through some rough neighborhoods.
Climbing and Routes
No climbing or camping permits are needed. You can camp where you want.
El Misti can be theoretically climbed any time of year but December and January are the very cloudy months and visibility is often reduced to just few meters. The busy season is May to early September.
Most climbers take two days to complete the climb. If you are acclimated you can make it from trailhead to summit and back in a long day. Since water isn't found on the mountain the longer you take to climb the more weight you will carry.
Aguada Blanca (NE route)
This is a route reachable in 3 hours by 4x4. The trailhead is approximately at 3700m. Camp is a 4 hour hike to 4600m. The summit can then be reached in 5 to 6 hours. There is bad scree in a few places. The descent to the trailhead is about 2 hours.
Grau (S route)
This is the normal route reachable in 1 hour by 4x4. The trailhead is at 3400m. A hike of 5 to 6 hours gets you to Campo Pirámides Alto at 4610m. It is then 5 hours to the summit and 2 hours descent, mostly on scree, to the trailhead.
Delantera (SW route)
This is the historic route accessible by 4x4 to the trailhead at 3400m (Los Pastores) A hike of 5 to 6 hours gets you to camp at 4700m. It is then 5 hours to the summit and 3 hours descent to the trailhead.
IGN sheet Characato 33-t, 1:100,000
GuidesLocal guiding services are listed on the page specifically dedicated to Arequipa Guided Ascent Arrangers.
Other Nearby Mountains & AttractionsEl Misti is part of a mountainous landscape known as Volcanoes of Arequipa also comprising Ampato (6288 m), Solimana (6093 m), Chachani (6057 m), Coropuna (6425 m), and others.
Southern Peru has many famous tourist attractions including Machu Picchu, Cusco, Colca Canyon, Nasca, and Lake Titikaka.
- U.S. Geological Survey
Earthquakes in Peru.
- The Andes - A Guide for Climbers
John Biggar's book. 2nd ed.
- NASA Visable Earth - El Misti
"This three-dimensional perspective view was created from an Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) Digital Elevation Model combined with a simulated natural color ASTER image, acquired July 13, 2001. It shows El Misti volcano..."