Palcoyo, a mountain of Colors south of Cusco

Palcoyo is one of the new natural destinations south of Cusco. Getting to this place is much easier than getting to other natural destinations. So it is ideal to visit with the whole family, with most of the trip being on the road and it is possible to do it with any vehicle. Likewise, Palcoyo is known as the new Mountain of Colors since it also offers beautiful views and the characteristics that can be found in Vinicunca. Both mountains are located near Cusipata and Pitumarca. Next, let’s learn more about the differences and especially how to get to Palcoyo, the new natural destination just a few hours from Cusco.

View of the Mountain of Colors of Palcoyo

Location of Palcoyo Mountain

Palcoyo is located south of Cusco, precisely in the Pitumarca district. Therefore, you must continue the trip along the road that connects Cusco with Puno or Arequipa. When you reach the district of Checacupe, turn off and continue the road to Pitumarca. You should know that Pitumarca belongs to the province of Canchis, an important region dedicated to commerce and now tourism thanks to its natural attractions. The province of Canchis, for its part, belongs to one of the 13 provinces of Cusco. This entire province and region became popular for the Montaña de Colores, the Red Valley, and the church or temple of Checacupe, which is one of the most beautiful in all of Cusco.

The first difference that Palcoyo has with its similar Vinicunca is that the walking time along the trail is shorter and easier to do. To get to Palcoyo Mountain, you only have to take a short 2-kilometer walk. This walk is on a short upward slope and then continues along a flat section. When you reach the viewpoints you can find some people with llamas and alpacas with whom you can take a few photographs. Of course, having the incredible landscape of the colorful mountains behind.

Likewise, you can ascend through the viewpoints until you reach the stone forest. From this place you have a privileged view of the place and the entire valley that is formed by the presence of the mountain range. Geographically, Palcoyo is located within the Vilcanota Mountain Range, a mountain range that crosses large territories involving Puno and Cusco. In addition, it forms the highest snow-capped mountain in Cusco, which we refer to as Ausangate. The Ausangate is located relatively close to Palcoyo and Vinicunca, so on some tours, you can take a tour of all these places, of course in several days, and camping in the open.

Also, mention that the Ausangate snow-capped mountain has an altitude of 6,372 meters above sea level. For its part, Palcoyo is not far behind with its 4,900 meters above sea level, leaving only a few meters of altitude below the Vinicunca mountain, which reaches 5,200 meters. In this sense, to visit these places you have to dress warmly, especially wearing layered clothing. This is because when walking it is likely that the body will warm up, but the environment will remain cold, the drastic temperature change could be harmful. Palcoyo, however, and as we already mentioned, offers a more comfortable and easier experience to do.

Brief history of Palcoyo

Panoramic view of the mountains that accompany Palcoyo

The mountain range of the Cordillera del Vilcanota was formed more than 200 million years ago. During this long formation process, different atmospheric and geographical changes occurred. It took millions of years to find planet Earth as we see it now. Surely during that period, this unusual arrangement of the chemical sediments that gave color to the Palcoyo mountain occurred. This coloration phenomenon in the mountains can be seen in more detail in Palcoyo and Vinicunca.

The incredible thing about this phenomenon is that the minerals were naturally arranged in a separation that allows them to be distinguished in lines that border the mountain. These minerals or sediments, responsible for the coloring, are the following minerals:

  • Clay and orphanage with retina, which gives it a red to pinkish color.
  • Limestone and quartz sediments give it a whitish color.
  • Clay with calcium and silicates gives it a lavender to purple color.
  • Pure clay or with a few additives of other minerals gives it a red color.
  • Earth sediments with ferromagnesian give it a green color.
  • Calcareous sandstones and sulfur mixtures give it yellowish, golden, and even mustard colors.

For many geologists and experts it is quite peculiar that the particles of these earthy sediments have acquired this shape. The delimitation of colors is the main characteristic that also gives a unique beauty to all the mountains in this place. The formation of these colors is likely to have occurred when temperatures varied drastically. Most of these mountains began to be covered with snow and temperatures surely dropped to minus zero, stopping the passage of minerals. The snow formed an immovable layer that maintained the mountains in this way. That is, in the process of its formation, time paralyzed and the mountains maintained those characteristic colors.

This is mentioned because some of these mountains were discovered after climate change which generates a drastic variation in temperatures. Some snow-capped mountains began to lose their glaciers abruptly, which made it possible to visualize the shapes of some of the mountains. Although it may seem positive, it is worrying that the melting of all these places is occurring at a rapid rate, since the snow-capped mountains are the main source of water for the high Andean regions throughout Peru and other countries.

How to get to Palcoyo Mountain?

Road to the viewpoints of the Colored Mountain of Palcoyo

The easiest way to get to Palcoyo is by following the road that connects Cusco with the route to Arequipa or Puno. On this road is the district of Checacupe, from there, the trip continues towards Pitumarca (others recommend making the trip to Combapata, from where you can also find transportation). To get to Palcoyo, it will be essential to get to Pitumarca, otherwise, it will likely take you longer than normal to make the trip to this colorful mountain.

Currently, it is possible to make the trip with the assistance of a travel agency or on your own. If you decide to make the trip with a tourism or travel agency in Cusco, you will only have to pay the full price of the tour. They will be in charge of offering you breakfast, lunch, and essential transportation. While the possibility of making the trip on your own is sensible, there is a lower financial expense and it is possible to do it at the time you like or that best suits you. However, you have to be attentive to all the needs that will be needed to get to Pitumarca first and then to Palcoyo. A necessary factor will be obtaining transportation.

On the other hand, mention that the walk is easy to do. The transportation will leave us just 2 kilometers from Palcoyo. This route has to be done on foot. The walk is not complicated, the first kilometer is an ascending section, after which it continues on practically flat terrain. The walk is not complicated, so it is recommended to do this tour with the whole family. Of course, it will be necessary for them to acclimatize to have a better experience. As we will see below.

Why is Palcoyo an excellent option?
Visiting natural destinations away from the city is one of the best ways to de-stress. The routes allow for long walks of more than an hour. During these paths, you can appreciate the beauty with which nature works to paint the entire landscape with beautiful mountains accompanied by blue skies. The case of Palcoyo allows you to enjoy everything mentioned with the ease of walking for fewer hours and getting to know an incredible natural destination.

Palcoyo is the destination for all the people of the world

Panoramic view of the Mountain of Colors of Palcoyo

It seems that Palcoyo appeared as an alternative for the visit to Vinicunca. Getting to this first colorful mountain in Peru is complicated because you need to walk approximately 7 kilometers in total. Of course, counting the round trip route. In the case of the visit to Palcoyo, the visit can only be made by walking a total of 4 kilometers. The walk is not complicated and you can take breaks in certain places to ease the burden or discomfort of altitude sickness.

This tour is ideal for older people and children, although altitude sickness is a problem, an entire family can do it. You would only have to do prior acclimatization in Cusco for a couple of days. In Cusco, you can do different activities such as visiting museums or the Sacred Valley and even knowing, in advance, a part of the South Valley section, visiting Tipón, Pikillaqta, and the most beautiful church in Peru, the Andahuaylillas church.

A recommendation on this topic and if the trip is made with the whole family, is that the trip be made with an agency. If this is not possible, the second positive option would be to find private transportation or rent a vehicle to make this trip. Sometimes people who make these trips without travel agencies encounter problems finding transportation. This can hinder both the planned time for the visit and the time of return. When making these trips to natural places, it is important to have transportation on hand. Especially when you have other plans or have little time.

Recommendations for visiting Palcoyo

View of the colorful mountain range in Palcoyo

Keep in mind that the trip to Palcoyo can only be done in one day. But, to do it at a time that allows you to have your food at a suitable time, it is recommended to make the trip early. If you are going to leave Cusco, it will be important that you leave before 4:00 in the morning. If you have your vehicle, you can make the trip from 5:00 in the morning, taking into account that you will be able to have breakfast in the place you want and also have the availability to make the direct trip to the starting point of the walk to Palcoyo.

  • The trip is only one day, carry a small backpack.
  • Bring some snacks and fruit.
  • It will be essential to carry water.
  • Recharge the battery of your cell phone and your camera well.
  • Even if it is a cold place, wear a hat or cap.
  • Use sunscreen.
  • You can also use a hat and a wool scarf.
  • Try to wear appropriate hiking shoes.
  • you must carry extra money. Before making the walk to Palcoyo, you can find some souvenirs and sales of drinks or snacks.
  • It is necessary that you carry a rain poncho.
  • It is possible to visit the Red River.
  • You can also visit the Checacupe church or temple.
  • Other nearby places are the districts of Combapata and Tinta.


By Imachupicchu – Last updated, February 9, 2024

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