The Red River in Peru - Sam Corporations

The Red River in Peru

The Red River in Peru is one of the new tourist attractions of Cusco region. It is located to the south, in the famous Vilcanota mountain range (close to the Palcoyoc Rainbow mt). As its name indicates, the water of this river turns red during the rainy season (mainly in January, February and March). The rest of the year it is not possible to appreciate this phenomenon. Although there are few who know this place, it is one of the most interesting landscapes in Cusco.

Where is the Red River in Cusco?

Red River is located in the Canchis Province of the Cusco region, about three hours southeast of the actual city of Cusco. This entire province sits in the shadow of the great Mount Ausangate, one of the tallest peaks in the country and an important Apu (Mountain God).

The source of the Red River is in the nearby Palcoyo Rainbow Mountain valley, which along with the other mountains of the region make up the Cordillera Vilcanota. This chain is itself a part of the wider Andes mountain range which runs along the whole spine of South America, forming the longest continental mountain range in the world.

The Origins of the Red River In Peru

The redness of the river is due to a high content of iron oxide that washes off the surrounding mountains during the rainy season. With both Rainbow Mountains nearby, as well as the Red Valley, the rain-induced soil erosion charges the river with different quantities of mineral-rich sedimentary rock. The intensity of the red depends on recent rainfall volumes. Sometimes the river is blood red, and other times it is pink. This makes timing the visit crucial.

Other places to visit close by

The Red River is about 30 miles away from the city of Cusco and makes a great day trip. However, if looking for more adventure, the Red River also articulates well with other popular destinations nearby like Rainbow Mountain or the Red Valley. Cusco Journeys offers sustainable travel options with professionals who are committed to responsible and ethical ecotourism.

Palcoyo Rainbow Mountain

For those who would like to experience something unique and see some of Peru’s most interesting and gorgeous landscapes, a visit to Palcoyo Rainbow Mountain along with the nearby Red River in Cusco is an absolute must. Start planning your own once-in-a-lifetime trip to Peru and make sure to include this incredible off-the-beaten-track destination in your itinerary.

Vinicunca Rainbow Mountain

This is the most well-known and most visited of the two rainbow mountains. It can be reached by hiking for as little as one and a half hours. This kaleidoscopic spectacle is at over 17,000 feet in altitude.

See the detailed itinerary here!


The famous multi-day hiking circuit of Ausangate is close by and can be connected to Vinicunca for those keen to hike. If not, Ausangate can be viewed conveniently by vehicle. Ausangate is a snow-capped Andean Mountain of epic proportions.


On the Apurímac River, two communities come together to do what has been done since Inca times, and that is rebuilding the suspension bridge. This passage was a vital part of the once vibrant Inca Trail system. Ancient techniques of braiding native grass into ropes are used to reconstruct the suspension bridge every year. Qeswachaka is about 4 hours’ drive from Cusco.

Be Prepared for the Altitude

As Palcoyo Rainbow Mountain is situated at a high altitude, you should carry warm clothes for the cold weather. Although the trail through Palcoyo is not as difficult as the one which leads to Vinicunca, it can get muddy (during the monsoon season); so it will be a better idea to carry a pair of hiking boots as well. Last but not least, if you are susceptible to altitude sickness, be sure to carry some coca leaves or pills to help you deal with the symptoms.

Plan your trip to the Peruvian highlands during the rainy season and visit this unique wonder that’ll give you a dreamlike experience.