Since Rainbow Mountain exploded onto the world’s tourisim stage in 2015, the incredible varicoloured mountain has become one of the busiest and most popular attractions in Peru. But, what you may not know, is that hiding right next door, and I mean, just a stone’s throw away, is another equally impressive and mind-blowing natural landscape. Hello, Red Valley Peru! And, even better, a tour of the impressive Red Valley is super easy to do from Cusco, Peru, and can even be combined with a trip to Rainbow Mountain.
Also known as Valle Rojo, this vast martian landscape feels like trekking on another planet. In case you were in any doubt as to whether the name lives up to the place, I can assure you it does. The reds and oranges that rise up in every direction are a truly breathtaking sight. My jaw dropped as I took my first few steps onto this alien terrain. To add to this hot colour pallette is a beautifully cooling contrast of greens and greys, where vegetation grows in what is surely an impossible soil.
This is the mind-blowing Red Valley in Peru, and you really have to see it to believe it.
Incredibly, despite how close Red Valley is to Rainbow Mountain, many, if not most visitors, do not visit on their trip to Peru. They likely don’t even know about it. So, if you’ve never heard of the Red Valley in Peru, you’re not alone. Allow me to clue you up.
In this guide, we’ll cover what Red Valley in Peru is, where it is, how to visit from Cusco, what to take as well as the best time of year to visit.
Table of Contents
What is the Red Valley in Cusco, Peru?
The Red Valley in Cusco, Peru, is a seemingly endless landscape of rouge-toned mountains, stretching in every direction. The colour, which seems too extraordinary to be real, is caused by mineral deposits in the earth. Namely, iron. Ah okay, it all makes a bit more sense now.
Unlike the colours of Rainbow Mountain, which are much more muted than many edited images would have you believe, the Red Valley really is bold, bright and downright beautiful.
Where is the Red Valley?
You’ll find the Red Valley covering a substantial patch in the Vilcanota Mountain Range in Peru. It sits southwest of the city of Cusco, on the boundary of the Cusco and Puna regions. And of course, it makes up a teeny part of the magical Andes.
Overlooking the Red Valley is the outstanding Ausangate Mountain (more on that below) and it’s located slap bang right next door to Rainbow Mountain.
How to Visit the Red Valley
So, how to get to this new planet I hear you ask? Well, it’s actually incredibly easy to visit the Red Valley. Whether you choose to day trip or multi-day hike, your visit will be an unforgettable experience. Let’s look at the options below.
FYI – There is a small cost of S/10 ($2.50USD) to visit Red Valley in Peru.
Rainbow Mountain and Red Valley Tour
By far the easiest way to visit the Red Valley in Peru is via a day tour to Rainbow Mountain from Cusco. In fact, you’ll find more and more tour operators now offering a Rainbow Mountain and Red Valley tour package. This means two incredible natural attractions in one phenomenal day. Great bang for buck!
Traditionally, on a Rainbow Mountain tour like this, you’ll pop up to Rainbow Mountain first, and then return to the trailhead via a hike through Red Valley. This is a much better option than simply a Rainbow Mountain hike on its own, which is what most visitors will do on a day tour. The Red Valley is a simple add-on when visiting Rainbow Mountain. So, make sure to see both if a Rainbow Mountain trek is on your Peru itinerary.
For more info on this day trip, including your hiking options, how to get there and whether to visit independently or as a tour package, check out our guide on 3 Incredible Ways To Hike Rainbow Mountain.
Another option for visiting Red Valley is to take on one of Peru’s best multi-day hikes – Ausangate. Admittedly, this is how Dan and I visited Red Valley and it was utterly incredible. As part of the 5-day trek, we embarked on a sunrise hike to Rainbow Mountain on day three. Before we left on the trek, we’d asked about the possibility of seeing Rainbow Mountain and Red Valley Peru, and adding it to the tour. Luckily, we were told this was possible.
After reaching Rainbow Mountain, only four of us, from our group of 11, continued the short 5km out and back to Red Valley. Of course, the sunrise hike to Rainbow Mountain wasn’t easy, but Dan and I can’t help but feel that the seven people in our group who didn’t hike to the Red Valley, completely missed out on something unique and super special.
If you hike Ausangate, be sure to ask about the Red Valley add-on. You won’t regret it. It makes an already very special hike, even better. For more information on seeing Rainbow Mountain and Red Valley in Peru as part of the Ausangate trek, be sure to check out our guide, here.
Red Valley Hike
The final option we’ll look at is a straight-up hike through Red Valley in Peru, with no other add-ons. Currently, as of 2022, this option is still to gain traction. As previously mentioned, reasons for this include the Red Valley still being relatively unheard of, and, the growing popularity of simply combining Peru’s Rainbow Mountain and Red Valley as a day tour. Two birds, one stone. It’s a hard proposition to turn down.
Still, it’s possible to find the right tour company or guide to hike the Red Valley with. During our Ausangate visit to Red Valley, our guide informed us of many hiking trails through the Red Valley. I’ve no doubt Dan and I will be back one day to tackle some of these and immerse ourselves completely in this mind-blowing place. Hopefully, it won’t have gained the popularity levels of Rainbow Mountain by then. But, I’ve no doubt it eventually will.
If you’re keen to hike only in Red Valley, your best bet is to ask around with local tour agencies once you arrive in Cusco city, and see what options you have. The easiest route to complete begins from the same trailhead as the Rainbow Mountain trek. But, upon nearing the climb to the Rainbow Mountain lookout, you’ll take a trail that veers to the right and cuts across the mountainside. Follow this to the entrance of the Red Valley. From here, the trail weaves through the magnificent crimson landscape, returning to the trailhead in just a couple of hours.
Best Time to Hike Red Valley in Peru
Just like its famous neighbour, Rainbow Mountain, the best time to visit and hike the Red Valley is during the dry season. In Peru, this runs from April to November. During this time, your chances of experiencing rain and other adverse weather conditions are relatively low. You’ll likely have sunnier days, and we all know that the sun helps to make the colours pop. Perfect for this vivid landscape. The very best months are June to August, but these coincide with peak season, and therefore, more tourists. Although, currently, that’s not so much of an issue for the quiet trails to Red Valley in Peru.
A visit during the wet season means a much higher chance of rain and low clouds, obscuring your views. Not ideal to soak in the expansive views of the Red Valley. Still, you might get lucky. So, if your visit to Cusco and Peru coincides with the wet season, you should definitely still go.
Mountain weather is unpredictable all year round. It’s not uncommon for Red Valley and Rainbow Mountain to be shrouded in cloud. Keep an eye on the weather. Also, during periods of really bad weather, the Red Valley may be closed for safety reasons.
It’s important to acclimatise properly before visiting the Red Valley in Peru. Altitude sickness (AKA Acute Mountain Sickness) is a common illness experienced by travellers and hikers alike heading to high altitudes. The main symptoms of AMS include headache, shortness of breath, nausea, lightheadedness, dizziness, indigestion and loss of appetite. Even if you’ve avoided altitude sickness before, it doesn’t guarantee you won’t get it the next time!
You’ll read many different tips online about how to avoid altitude sickness. But, the most important way to reduce your chance of getting altitude sickness is to simply avoid going up too high, too fast! As a general rule of thumb, you shouldn’t go higher than 500 metres a day, once you’re beyond 2,000 metres above sea level.
Red Valley Peru Altitude
Sitting at around 5,000m above sea level, acclimatisation is key to enjoying the Red Valley. If you’ve just arrived in Cusco, visiting the Red Valley straight away would not be a good idea. Instead, either spend a few days resting or, better still, start out with some lower elevation hikes or excursions to help build up your tolerance to the Red Valley altitude.
Dan and I planned our trip this way and didn’t experience any altitude sickness. But, of course, this is not a guarantee. After a couple of days’ rest in Cusco, we visited Moray Inca ruins, the Salt Mines of Maras and enjoyed the Huchuy Qosqo day hike trail, all before we headed to the much higher altitudes of Rainbow Mountain and Red Valley in Peru.
There are other tips to help manage and reduce the chances of symptoms at high altitudes in Peru. Firstly, walk slowly and don’t rush around. Secondly, eat lighter meals and don’t eat too quickly. Sip plenty of water throughout the day. The locals will tell you to take coca leaves, tea, or sweets. This may help with altitude too. Finally, there are altitude sickness tablets (such as Diamox) available. But, if you acclimatise properly, progressively reaching higher altitudes slowly over time, you shouldn’t need these.
Travel insurance is a non-negotiable if you’re doing high-altitude trekking in Peru.
SafetyWing is an excellent budget-friendly travel insurance provider. Personally, Beck and I have used SafetyWing’s Nomad Insurance many times to insure our trips. The Nomad Insurance is fantastic value for money with a smaller additional cost to add a partner. Unlike most other insurance companies, there’s an option to pay on a monthly basis, similar to having a prepaid phone plan. Better yet, there’s no lock-in contract. In addition, you can cancel at any time, which will take effect the month after.
For shorter trips, it’s also possible to use Nomad Insurance for trips lasting just days or just 2–3 weeks. Indeed, SafetyWing is cheaper than almost all other travel insurance policies and covers just as much and sometimes more.
SafetyWing is a modern travel insurance company that is certainly leading the way in terms of how travel insurance should work in the future. Use the widget below to suss out a quote today.
What to Wear and Pack
- Merrell Moab Mid Gore-Tex Hiking Boots: these hiking boots are super comfortable and lightweight.
- The North Face Venture Jacket: a fantastic windproof/waterproof jacket.
- Osprey Skarab 30L Day Backpack: a great backpack for hiking, which has plenty of space to store your gear.
- The North Face TKA Glacier Fleece Jacket: an excellent warmth:weight ratio fleece jacket that’ll help keep you warm.
- Columbia Convertible Trousers: a value for money pair of water-resistant convertible trousers.
You should also pack water, snacks, sunglasses, sunscreen and a hat. In addition, trekking poles come in very handy when climbing at high altitudes. If you don’t travel with your own pair, you’ll find you can either rent or borrow from most tour agencies.
For a more complete hiking gear list, check out our 66 Travel Accessories That You Must Travel With. Or, for a summary of everything you’d need for a trip to Peru, read our Ultimate Packing Checklist.
No doubt you’ll be keen to explore more of the Cusco area. After all, there’s plenty to do from Cusco besides the Red Valley. The city was the Inca heartland and the surrounding mountains were known as the Sacred Valley. It’s an incredible area to explore. These are a quick pick of some outstanding hikes to do as you travel the Sacred Valley in Peru:
Best Things to Do in the Sacred Valley Peru
- Inca Trail: the classic way to reach Machu Picchu. Be sure to book your permit nice and early as trekking spots fill up months in advance.
- Short Inca Trail: A nice alternative to the ‘classic’, taking fewer days, if you’re short on time.
- Choquequirao Trek: a challenging yet outstanding hike to a smaller, but no less impressive, Machu Picchu style citadel. Choquequirao was one of our fave treks in Peru!
- Salkantay Trek: hailed as the best alternative to the Inca Trail, this multi-day trek is phenomenal in its own right. Seeing Salkantay Mountain and Humantay Lake during this hike is breathtaking.
- Machu Picchu tours: whether you hike or choose public transport to reach Machu Picchu, be sure to book online, in advance, for any of the Inca site’s three incredible trails – Huchuy Picchu, Huayna Picchu and Machu Picchu Mountain.
Have you hiked the Red Valley in Peru? Share your experiences in the comments below to help other travellers plan their trips.