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Red lagoon Cusco
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Red lagoon or chocolate lagoon in Cusco

The Red Lagoon is one of the most recent tourist attractions in Cusco. It is a beautiful lagoon nestled in the snowy Ausangate at about 4,787 meters above sea level. What is peculiar about this lagoon is its red color, as if it were blood. However, at certain times of the year the color of its waters is similar to chocolate. Traveling there is not easy due to the high Andean geography and the hike that must be done. It still promises to become a popular destination in Cuzco.



Red Lagoon
Red Lagoon of Ausangate

The red lagoon

  • The Red Lagoon is one of the most amazing natural formations in Cusco. It stands out for its reddish coloration caused by the proliferation of clay and the algae that inhabit its waters.
  • Depending on the time of year and the position of the sun, the waters of the lagoon can vary in a shade similar to chocolate. That is why it is also known as the chocolate lagoon.
  • Another name by which the lagoon is known is ‘Yawarccocha’, a Quechua word that means ‘Blood lagoon’. It is located on the slopes of the immense Ausangate snow-capped mountain, the highest in Cusco.
  • Due to the steep geography where it is located, to get there a hiking trail of several days was needed. However, today, as new asphalt routes are enabled, it is possible to make the visit in a single day, starting from the city of Cusco.

Where is it?

  • The red lagoon is located about 87 kilometers in a straight line from the city of Cusco.
  • It belongs to the Andean community of Chillca, in the district of Pitumarca, province of Quispicanchis.
  • Geographically it is located at the foot of the snowy Ausangate (Vilcanota mountain range), at an altitude of 4,800 meters above sea level.

How to get there?

To get to the red lagoon from the city of Cusco, the trip must be made in the following sections:

  • From Cusco to the district of Pitumarca by public transport (buses leave from Huayruropata Avenue). The trip is 105 kilometers and takes approximately 3 hours.
  • From Pitumarca to the Hatun Phinaya sector by public transport or collective taxi. The trip is approximately 40 kilometers and takes 1 hour.
  • From Hatun Phinaya sector to the red lagoon on foot. The trip is only 6 kilometers. This last section can only be done with a walk and takes approximately 2 hours.

The snowy Ausangate

  • The snowy Ausangate is the highest in Cusco. Its top reaches 6,384 meters above sea level. As a result of the thaw on its slopes, there are beautiful lagoons of shades that vary from blue to turquoise.
  • It is part of the Vilcanota mountain range, famous for being a tributary of the Vilcanota river, the same one that runs through Machu Picchu.
  • The most important tourist attraction near the snowy Ausangate is the mountain of the 7 colors, also called Vinicunca .
  • The Ausangate mountain is a mountain full of mineral sediments such as limestone, sandstone, marl, silicates, argillites and, above all, clay. This last material is what gives the ‘Yawarccocha’ lagoon its reddish hue.

When to go?

  • The dry season (from April to October) is the best time of year to visit the Red Lagoon. During those months the rains are not frequent. This makes walking easier. In the rainy season, especially in January, February and March, the constant river rains can cause problems during the route.

The hike

  • The final walk to the red lagoon is demanding. You travel 6 kilometers through mountain ranges where the snowy Santa Catalina stands out.
  • The first section is in the Hatun Phinaya sector located at 4,500 meters above sea level. From there you continue ascending by trails of ichu and stone. In these sections you can see alpacas and llamas, the characteristic camelids of the Andean communities.
  • The last kilometers are very steep. It takes a lot of effort to complete the hike. In the lagoon the visitor will reach 4,800 meters above sea level.

Is it dangerous?

  • The hike is demanding but safe. Although it is possible to go on your own, the safest option is to go with a tour organized by a Cusco tourism agency.
  • For a much safer visit, it is advisable to bring hiking shoes, warm clothing in layers, a trekking pole, a poncho in case of rain, snacks, rehydrating drinks and everything in a comfortable backpack.

Climate

  • The Red Lagoon is located in a region with a cold climate. The maximum temperature (during the day) can reach 12ºC. while the minimum temperature (during the nights) can drop to -10ºC.

Other similar tourist attractions

These are some similar tourist attractions:

  • The Red River – As its name indicates, this river turns red during the rainy season in Cusco (from November to March). Local people often call it ‘Yawar mayu’ (red river in Quechua language). It is located in the Vilcanota mountain range, a 2-hour walk from the town of Pitumarca. The reddish coloration is due to minerals, mainly clay, abundant in the high mountains.
  • The red valley of Pitumarca – Just a 2-hour walk from the town of Pitumarca is this valley dyed red by the clay soil of its mountains. It offers one of the most incredible landscapes of Cusco, the closest thing to visiting Mars. The place reaches 5,020 meters above sea level. In the distance you can see the immense Ausangate snow-capped mountain. The visit can be done with a tour or on your own. It is estimated that each day the Red Valley receives 500 visitors.
  • The 7 lagoons in AusangateAt the foot of the imposing snow-capped Ausangate you can see a set of beautiful lagoons that, together, form the ‘Circuit of the 7 lagoons’ . These are the Pucacocha lagoon, the Patacocha lagoon, the Alqacocha lagoon, the Qomercocha lagoon, the orco otorongo lagoon, the Chinese otorongo lagoon and the blue cocha lagoon. The residents of the town of Pacchanta organized a walk through each of these blue and turquoise lagoons. You can go on your own or with a tour.



Learn more about this gap

  • Another way to visit the red lagoon as well as the other tourist attractions surrounding the Ausangate mountain is by hiking for several days. You can request a tour with a tourism agency or simply do it on your own. If so, remember to bring the necessary items such as warm clothing, hiking shoes, and cash.
  • During the route to the red lagoon it is also possible to appreciate the typical animals of the Andes Mountains. The llamas, alpacas, vizcachas, the Andean condor, the parihuana and more stand out.
  • Although it is a tourist attraction that offers an incredible landscape, there are not many visitors who dare to visit the red lagoon. Because of this, on the day of your visit you will probably have the place almost to yourself. It is an excellent option to the classic tourist attractions of Cusco.

 

By Ticket Machu Picchu – Last updated, July 15, 2021