Located just a three hour drive from Cusco is the Red Valley, Peru, in the district of Pitumarca, Canchis Province. The city of Cusco is a popular location for many travellers to visit. It was once the powerful centre of the Inca Empire and they believed it to be the ‘naval of the world’. Now its wealth of history and close proximity to the lost city, Machu Picchu, draws tourists to it year round from all over the world.
It is possible to do a one day hike through Red Valley and return back to Cusco for the evening. Here are five reasons why you should consider this incredibly beautiful three hour hike.
1. You can combine the Red Valley with a tour to Rainbow Mountain
Rainbow Mountain has blown up in popularity in recent years due to its colourful mountainside doing the Instagram rounds. There are hundreds of tours offered daily to Rainbow Mountain from Cusco and it can be overwhelming. If you are in two minds as to whether or not to go, we’d suggest doing it as a way to get to the Red Valley which was far more superior in colour and beauty. To get to the beginning of the Red Valley hike we actually walked up to the summit of Rainbow Mountain and then along the nearby mountain ridge and down into the valley below.
2. The vibrant clashes of colour
A red, iron-rich soil covers the valley and gives it a vibrant glow, regardless of the weather. As we were travelling in January, one of the wettest months in Peru, we saw the valley under a range of different lighting. So high in the mountains, the weather changes rapidly; what was initially a brooding blanket of cloud had turned to glorious sunshine by the end of our hike.
The valley’s fertile earth provides a great place for fauna and at times during our hike the intensity of the green with the red felt surreal. It was like looking out across a dream landscape.
3. Feel like you’ve time travelled back to the time of the Incas
The valley’s nutrient rich earth drew the attention of the intelligent Inca Empire. Scattered across the mountainside are ancient farming terraces, similar to those at the site of Pisac in the nearby Sacred Valley. As you walk through the valley, it almost feels like you have travelled back in time to when the Incas where walking the lands. Their imprint is everywhere, from the stone terraces to the abandoned shelters.
The Inca’s structures were so effective and well built, that some of these marvels are still used today and we saw the odd farmer walking to tend their crops.
4. Meet a furry new friend
As well as growing crops, local farmers use the fertile land for grazing their llama and alpaca herds. As you walk you will be met with big-eyed curiosity from these furry animals.
In the city of Cusco it is quite common for traditionally dressed local woman to sit with their alpacas waiting for tourists to pay for the photo opportunity. It was refreshing to see these animals in nature, some with their young, just peacefully grazing across the lands.
5. Lose the crowds of Cusco and Rainbow Mountain
Despite its close to proximity we found that very few visitors to Rainbow Mountain make the effort to walk over the ridge and take on the extra hike through the Red Valley. When we were there we only saw one other tour group. We spent the the rest of our three hour hike enjoying our escape from the tourist crowds of Cusco.
If these five reasons have inspired you to take on your own hike through the Red Valley, Peru, take a look at our post with instructions on booking a one day tour from Cusco.
We spent two months in Peru and have several other blog posts about our time in the country. If you’re continuing your travels in Peru take a look at them for inspiration.