The Red Valley of Pitumarca, a magical destination in the Andes south of Cusco

The Red Valley of Pitumarca is a truly magical destination. It is located south of Cusco and is considered an ideal place to take the best photos for Instagram. The Red Valley is very close to destinations such as the colorful mountains of Vinicunca or Palcoyo. It is also close to the tourist districts of Pitumarca and Checacupe so it can be the perfect complement for trips to the South of Cusco. Likewise, in this article, we will learn how this valley was formed and the composition of the minerals that make it possible for us to have one of the most beautiful landscapes only a few hours from Cusco.

Couple posing in the Red Valley south of Cusco

The Red Valley of Pitumarca

It is a destination that everyone who visits Cusco should know. It gives visitors or tourists beautiful views and landscapes. In addition to a question about why the reddish color of both the mountains and the valley is formed throughout this place. The Red Valley can be visited whenever you want, but the current and safe way to get there is by making the trip with the help of travel agencies. But do not worry Therefore, it can be reached after a 4-hour trip from Cusco. If you want to make this trip on your own, it will be possible.

It is not very far away like Vinicunca Mountain. This exponentially increases the possibility of visiting it once you return from visiting the aforementioned mountain. But you can also do it independently. The Red Valley is located on a detour between the Phulawasipata road and the Vinicunca Mountain. In this sense, it will require an extra effort for those who decide to reach the Red Valley, after visiting the Rainbow Montain.

Visiting the Red Valley is ideal for lovers of panoramic landscapes who like to hike through the mountains. The views that this place offers are really beautiful and you will need to have a battery in your camera for the photographs to flow correctly. If you are already encouraged to go alone, we recommend that you will need to acclimatize in Cusco or leave this trip on the last day you will be in Cusco.

A destination among the Andes

Part of the Red Valley mountain range in Pitumarca

The Red Valley of Pitumarca is part of the Vilcanota Mountain Range, so it is part of the extensive Andes Mountain Range. Likewise, it belongs to the district of Pitumarca, which in turn belongs to the province of Canchis and the region of Cusco. Therefore, it can be reached after a 4-hour trip from Cusco. This, making some stops for breakfast or similar.

The weather will be quite frigid. We will be more than 5,000 meters above sea level. This can also cause other complications such as altitude sickness. Therefore, one of the best recommendations is that you do this tour when it is your last day in Cusco. This will help you have proper acclimatization before ascending to this altitude. After two days it is normal for the body to be acclimatized; it will also be necessary to consume plenty of fluids.

The temperature can drop to 0°C, especially during the early morning and night. Fortunately, the tours are done during the day, more precisely when the sun is over the mountains. In this sense, the climate that we will probably find will be between 7° to 12°Celsius. The temperature will increase as the day goes by. Try to travel between March and November, which is the dry season. For the rest of the months, it is likely to rain.

The walk to get to the Red Valley is only 2 to 3 hours, including the return trip. On the way to this place, it is possible to see the Red River, which precisely owes its color to the Red Valley. Likewise, the walk will be moderate. We will have to take a tour along the slopes of the snowy Ausangate, in this sense, we will see beautiful landscapes, some local birds, llamas, and the little vegetation that grows miraculously at this altitude.

Geographic formation of the Red Valley

The Vilcanota Mountain Range seems to have a special charm compared to the rest of the mountain ranges. It is in this mountain range where we can also find Vinincunca and Palcoyo. Mountains that have a special coloration or sedimentation. For this reason, they are known as the rainbow mountains, due to the different shades of colors they have. This phenomenon has little scientific explanation since chance had a lot to do with the formation of these places. Now, due to the thaws, more of these mountains that remained hidden for a long time can be found.

Many agree that the reason for these colors is because there are higher chemical coloring compounds than in other mountains. For example, in the colorful mountains, you can see a large amount of sandstone and limestone, which gives it a whitish color, there are also lavender tones due to the presence of clay sediments and calcium carbonates. The red color that also dyes the entire Red Valley is due to the abundant presence of argillites and clays. The Red River precisely acquires that color due to the release of large quantities of red earth or clay. Only in this way can it have that special coloration.

Likewise, when located at this altitude, it is possible to find landscapes with common mountains, especially when turning off the Pan-American Highway. The trip is long but comfortable. Especially when you decide to have breakfast in the Cusipata or Pitumarca district. Before traveling and if you have enough time, it will also be important that you choose between the dry season or the rainy season. Let’s look at this in more detail below.

When to visit the Red Valley?

The Red Valley contrasts perfectly with the blue of the sky

Choosing the date and time of travel is very important. Especially when long trips will be made by minivan or car that are combined with walks. Normally trips are made through travel agencies and they are in charge of preparing the entire itinerary. In this sense, the client only has to enjoy the trip by making the corresponding payment. If we want to answer the question in this section, we have to take two questions into account. One of them will be the season and the other the departure time.

As for the seasons and as we already mentioned, we can find two, the dry season and the rainy season. The first of them will be between March and October. This season is the safest because the lack of rain allows you to travel on solid roads and not on muddy roads. The rainy season occurs from November until February. During this season there is heavy rain, even snowfall, and sometimes the cold increases due to humidity.

However, visiting the Red Valley and even Vinicunca or Palcoyo during the rainy season is not complicated, we will probably encounter some difficulties, such as the road being wet or similar details, where in the worst case it will rain. But this should not impede because you can make the trip with prior investigation of the chances of rain during the day. Believe it or not, there are quite a few people who make the trip even in this season and have a comfortable trip.

How to visit the Red Valley of Pitumarca?

Transportation company “Los Rápidos” located on Huayruropata Avenue

By knowing the location, some can already plan how to get there. It is located just 5 hours from the city of Cusco. From Cusco, you can reach most destinations such as the Sacred Valley or Machu Picchu. The South Valley is no exception. On the trip to the south, you can also find other destinations and have incredible views of this landscape. The way to get to the Red Valley of Pitumarca is simple. If you do not want to make the trip with a travel agency, you can drive on your own, guiding yourself with Google Maps. There is a road to the hiking area.

The other way and leave from Cusco is by boarding the “Los Rápidos” transports. This transport company is located on Av. Huayruropata. The ticket usually costs between 12 to 15 soles. When boarding these transports we have to inform our interest in getting off at Checacupe. We will make a trip in the direction of Puno or Arequipa, that is, we will follow that road. After 2 hours and a few more minutes, we will arrive at Checacupe.

From Checacupe you can hire a taxi or bus service. If you are the only person, transportation will probably be expensive. But if you find enough people, the prices will drop, but you will have to share transportation. Another way to get there and in a similar way is to get off in the Cusipata district and also hire a transportation service. The Cusipata district is located before Checacupe.

Nearby and ideal destinations to complete your adventure

As we saw throughout this small article, it is possible to find different attractions near the Red Valley and the Pitumarca district. Next, let’s learn more about these places.

  • Vinicunca or Raimbow Montain: It is a quite popular destination in Cusco. To get there you have to walk for 3 hours. The landscapes are truly incredible.
  • Palcoyo: It is closer to the Pitumarca district. To get there you only have to walk for an hour. The landscapes are beautiful and similar to Vinicunca.
  • Machu Pitumarca: This is an archaeological site that was invaded and ruled by the Incas. In addition, it is located very close to the snowy Ausangate.
  • The Temple of Pitumarca: It is a colonial construction. During the evangelization, different temples and churches were built to fulfill this task. It is very attractive and has a large size.
  • The Temple of Checacupe: This is one of the most beautiful temples. It has decorative details typical of the 16th century, typical of the Andean Baroque.
  • The Inca bridge of Checacupe: It is a construction that is restored every time. In addition, it is possible to find a republican and a colonial bridge nearby. The place where the bridge is seems like it stopped time.


By Imachupicchu – Last updated, October 24, 2023

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