6 Amazing Things to See in Cusco that are Not Incan Ruins Series: Part One – Qoyllur rit’i

6 Amazing Things to See in Cusco that are Not Incan Ruins Series: Part One – Qoyllur rit’i

Miguel Angel Gongora MezaWant to discover more of Peru besides Incan ruins? Check out the first of the six amazing things to see in Cusco Peru this summer 2017 in this new series…stay tuned for the next stop!
(Photo: Miguel Angel Gongora Meza)
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People often wonder what there is to do in the Cusco area that is not Incan ruins. They say that one can only hear so much of Incan stories. For the most adventurous, the remaining options involve some degree of risk or adrenaline (river rafting, bungee jumping, etc.)

Fortunately for the rest of us, who thirst for something else, there are six fabulous festivities that no one should miss out when in Cusco this Summer. They are an excellent opportunity to blend with the masses and have a taste of the rich cultural and religious legacy of the Andean people.

1. The Pilgrimage to the Snow Star Mountain or the Lord of Qoyllur rit’i.

Every year in the Andean mountains south of Cusco, at the foot of the Urubamba and the Ausangate mountains, more than eighty thousand Andean people from as far as Bolivia and Argentina gather here to celebrate and worship the Snow Star Mountain or Qoyllur rit’i.

(Photo: Flavio Huamani Quejia)

The pilgrimage to the snowcapped mountains surrounding the Sinakara Valley remains resiliently more native Andean than Catholic syncretic. To immerse yourself into such a celebration is a privilege, a unique opportunity to take a journey into the past, and have a glimpse into the soul of the Andean people.

To them, the return of the Qullpa or storehouse constellation (the Pleiades) is the prelude to the celebrations of the Andean new year and the harvesting time.

A ritual like no other in the southern hemisphere is what people witness here, together with its syncretic components from both Andean and Catholic origins. The dualist interaction between the “Ukukus;” people dressed up in a costume that mimic the Andean spectacled bear, deemed by the locals as guardians of the mountains, and its counterpart the Christian cross, representative of the Spanish influence, provider of forgiveness and mercy to the people, makes this ritual fascinating. It is mindblowing how these elements shine a light to the glaring contradiction between these two mutually exclusive spiritual beliefs which act as two parts of the same whole, which makes this ritual absolutely impressive.

(Photo: Flavio Huamani Quejia)

Believe it or not, in the Andes, every single syncretic religious celebration is accompanied by copious amounts of corn beer and alcohol, but this one is unique and exceptional. At Qoyllur rit’i, alcohol is not permitted, the energy and fervor of thousands of people dancing to the beat of the “chakiri,” a kind of tantric song of profound mysticism is what serves as a vehicle to connect the people with the mountains and the stars.

Dates: From June 9 to June 14, 2017
Location: Mahuayani, Ocongate
Trip details: 3 hours by car from Cusco and 4 hours hiking from Mahuayani. The hike to Qoyllur rit’i starts at 4089 meters and ends at 4560 meters. Unlike the Inca Trail Trek or The Salkantay Trek, the hike to Qoyllur rit’i is a steady climb along 8 km or 5 miles.
Weather. Freezing. 25F -5C

-You can rent a horse ride to Q’oyoriti from Mahuayani. Prices differ based on supply and demand. Base price is S/.50 Peruvian soles or $16USD.
-If you are planning to stay at Q’oyoriti overnight, then you must be prepared for camping at high altitude. Proper camping gear is required, camping tents, sleeping bags, and sleeping pads are a must.
-Cooking at the campsite might be necessary if you are not adventurous enough to eat the food that local vendors sell.
-Toilets are very basic; you need to take your own toilet paper.
-Take bottle water for drinking and personal use. It is possible to buy it at the sanctuary itself but at higher prices.

Miguel is a Peruvian professional tour guide from Cusco, he has been leading tours throughout Peru for almost 20 years. Graduated from the Antonio Lorena Institute School of Tourism in Cusco, Peru, he has a vast knowledge of the rich cultural and ecological diversity of his beautiful country. Miguel specializes in leading tours to the Inca Trail and other alternative routes to Machu Picchu, such as the Choquequirao and Salkantay treks. Since 2003, he has traveled to the US and other countries to lecture about cultural appropriation and sustainable tourism. Miguel is a strong advocate of ecotourism and science. He values the role that tourists play in the development and protection of sensitive cultures and ecosystems and dedicates his work to raise the awareness of such players with the aim of furthering such a powerful tool. Also, he is the co-founder of Evolution Treks Peru a worker-owned travel company based in Cusco.


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