Living Culture

Qoylluriti Pilgrimage

This pre-Hispanic and Catholic shrine is located southeast of Cusco at an altitude of 4878 meters (16,000 feet) beneath a glacier on Mount Sinajara.Although there are several fiestas of a religious nature in Cusco during the same period, there is no more important place in the Andes than Q’oyllor Riti.

This is more than a festival; it is a, made by thousands of indigenous people who come from all over the Cusco region, often walking for days or even weeks. The celebrations are a blend of the ancient Inca religion dedicated to Pachamama, or Mother Earth, represented by the mountain, and Christianity, represented by the miraculous apparition of the image of Christ at this site in the 18th century.The rites and ceremonies performed here are of a unique nature and represent the authentic Andean religion still practiced today in this part of Peru – a fusion of two cultures.

The basic premise of the ceremonies enacted is contact between mankind and nature, represented by the mountains and water, in the form of ice, the principal elements of Andean spiritualism. Thousands of young people go to Q’oyllor Riti dressed as the mythical Ukuku, a creature that is half man and half bear. Dancing to ancient rhythms, elegantly dressed young girls make offerings and some hope to meet a husband and start a family. The Ukukus climb the glacier and bring back blocks of ice on their backs which they will take to their communities to be venerated as holy water.

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Cusco / Mahuallane / Q'oyllor Riti

We will leave Cusco by private transport to Mahuallane, a journey of approximately three hours through high mountain scenery. En route to Mahuallane we will visit Andahuaylillas, located in the fertile river valley of the Vilcanota. The village is famous for its unique church with its beautifully decorated interior adorned with paintings and murals of great artistic value as well as fine woodcarvings. The church has been called the Sistine Chapel of the Americas. The interior of the Church of San Pedro of Andahuaylillas is filled with baroque art. It contains many beautiful paintings of the Cusco School. The main altar is decorated in gold leaf. The church is particularly famous for its murals, which cover every available space on its walls and ceiling.

Hike to Q’oyllor Riti (4 hours)

Accompanied by thousands of pilgrims, we will walk to Q’oyllor Riti. We will make camp that evening on the edge of the area where the ceremonies take place, surrounded by thousands of people who have come from all over the Cusco region. The music from hundreds of dance groups competes for attention and reverberates off the surrounding mountains, as pilgrims wait patiently to enter the crowded, candlelit chapel to see the image of Christ. Campsite

Distance by road: Cusco – Mahuallane 127 kilometers / 78 miles (asphalted road) 3 hours

Trekking distance: 8 kilometers / 5 miles (gradual ascent); 4-5 hours (including many stops to take pictures)

Altitudes: Cusco: 3400 meters / 11,154 feet; Mahuayane 4083 meters / 13,392 feet; Q’oyllor Riti: 4649 meters / 15,248 feet. Campsite: 4600 meters / 15,088 feet

Meals: lunch, dinner

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Day 2: Q'oyllor Riti Full Day

We will have the opportunity to participate in and observe the traditional religious festivities taking place throughout the day.

Altitudes: Q’oyllor Riti church 4649 meters / 15,248 feet. Campsite: 4600 meters / 15,088 feet

Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner

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Day 3: Q'oyllor Riti Full Day

Today offers the opportunity to take an optional excursion in the early hours of the morning to the glacier to watch the ceremonies that take place there, returning before 9am. After breakfast we will be observe the final great ceremony, the procession of the Lord of Q’oyllor Riti, before returning to Mahuallane at midday for the drive to Cusco.

Trekking distance to the glacier:  1.7 kilometers / 1 mile (steep ascent); 2 hours uphill and 1 hour downhill (including many stops to take pictures).

Trekking distance; return to Mahuallane:  8 kilometers / 5 miles (gradual descent); 4 hours (including many stops to take pictures).

Distance by road:  Mahuallane – Cusco 127 kilometers / 78 miles (asphalted road) 3 hours

Altitudes:  Q’oyllor Riti: 4649 meters / 15,248 feet. Glacier: 4935 meters / 16,187 feet. Mahuayane 4083 meters / 13,392 feet; Cusco: 3400 meters / 11,154 feet. Meals: breakfast, lunch.

Included:

Private bus.
  English-speaking tour guide.
Food: Breakfast, lunch, and dinner as described in the itinerary.

Not-included:

Any meals not included in the itinerary
Personal expenses like souvenirs
Alcoholic drinks

What to bring on the trip?

  • Passport.
  • A daypack.
  • Warm clothes (for the Andean area).
  • Rain jacket
  • Long sleeved shirts (cotton).
  • Shorts for walking (optional)
  • Hiking boots.
  • Cap and sunglasses.
  • Walking poles (optional).
  • Insect repellent.
  • Sun block cream
  • Water bottle for the first day. (We will refill it with boiled water).
  • Binoculars for bird watching enthusiasts.
  • Flashlight
  • Digital camera

Travel Details

  • Duration: 3D / 2N
  • Dificulty: Gentle
  • Location: Cusco – Peru
  • Customizable: Yes
  • When to go: May 27th to 31th (Variable)
  • Travel Style: Living Culture.
  • Destinations: Cusco.
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