Peru is a country filled with amazing and unique landscapes, and the Red River in Cusco is just one of them. Known locally as Palquella Pucamayu, this 5-kilometer-long waterway derives its color from the red sandstone filled with iron oxide. This mineral-rich sedimentary rock is washed down the slopes when it rains, making the water take on a distinctive red or pink tone. Here is a guide to exploring this surreal and dreamlike location.
How is the Red River formed?
The Red River is formed by rainwater runoff from nearby Rainbow Mountain Palcoyo, which is a vibrant valley with soil layers of different mineral contents that have become visible through erosion. During the rainy season in Peru, the river takes on its distinctive red or pink tone. During the rest of the year, the river water level is much lower and its color is a more typical muddy brown tone.
Where is the Red River in Cusco?
The Red River is located in the province of Canchis in the region of Cusco, about three hours southeast of the city of Cusco. The source of the river is located in the nearby valley of Arco Iris Palcoyo Mountain, which together with the other mountains in the region form the Vilcanota Mountain Range.
How to see the Red River
The best way to see the Red River is as a stop on a tour to nearby Rainbow Mountain Palcoyo, which is a less crowded alternative to the popular Rainbow Mountain Vinicunca. This area is still undiscovered by tourists, and only a few companies bring tours to the area. Most people who visit the area tend to come on day trips from the city of Cusco.
For those who want to extend their adventure into this beautiful part of the Cusco countryside, there are several other interesting things to see in this area, including the classic Vinicunca Rainbow Mountain, the fascinating Q’eswachaka Inca rope bridge, and the majestic Waqrapukara ruins.
The best time to visit
The Red River of Cusco is only visible during the months of Peru’s rainy season, which lasts from December to April. If you want to see this impressive pastel-colored river for yourself, one of the best times to visit is in April, when the rains have started to dissipate but the river water level is still high.
What to bring
Palcoyo is located at a high altitude, so visitors should come prepared with clothing suitable for the cold, including warm layers, a coat, a hat, a scarf, and gloves. Although the road through Palcoyo is not as difficult as the one to Vinicunca, it can still be muddy, so it is a good idea to bring some decent hiking boots as well. Finally, it is important to be familiar with the treatment of altitude sickness and to carry some coca leaves or pills to help treat the symptoms.
A visit to Rainbow Mountain Palcoyo, along with the nearby Red River in Cusco, is a must for those who want to experience something unique and see some of the most interesting and beautiful landscapes of Peru. Start planning your own once-in-a-lifetime adventure today!