5D / 4N: Cultural Immersion in the Pilgrimage of the Lord of Qoyllorrit’i  

Pilgrimage for the Señor De Qoyllorrit´i & Rainbow Mountain (Vinicunca)

5D/4N : Departing from Cusco, from the 15th to the 19th of June 2019

Qoyllorrit´i, which means star of snow in Quechua, is the name of one of the festivities celebrated by the Catholic Church, preceding Cusco’s Corpus Christi. The pilgrimage and associated festival was named an intangible cultural heritage event by UNESCO in 2011, and is considered the most important pilgrimage in the world of Andean religion. The ritual is associated with the fertility of the earth, and the adoration of the Apus – as mountains and tutelary gods.

The celebration takes place in a dip between the Sinanqara and Qolquepunku mountains, at approximately 4,800 meters above sea level. The external symbol that drives the pilgrimage is that of an image of Christ painted on a rock. Nonetheless, the underlying objective of the journey is to connect and integrate man into the surrounding nature, creating a unique ceremony that wonderfully combines Christian and Andean rituals.

The pilgrimage is accompanied by large groups of musicians and dancers, and the festival consists of a series of processions and dances around the sanctuary of the Señor de Qoyllorrit’i. The main event, however, is led by the ukukus who are in charge of keeping pilgrims in line, and who are the only ones who ascend to the top of the mountain with their flags and crosses.

Detailed Itinerary

DAY 01: CUSCO - PITUMARCA – VINICUNCA - RAINBOW MOUNTAIN - PITUMARCA – OCONGATE| INC: - B/L/-

Pickup from your hotel at 4:00 a.m., from where you will begin the approximately two-hour journey south-east, from Cusco to the Pitumarca community. Upon arriving here, you will be invited breakfast, after which your journey continues for another hour until arriving at the rural community of Vinicunca, located at 4,722 meters above sea level. From here, you begin the hike to the famed Rainbow Mountain – located at 5,030 meters above sea level – where you will have the time to enjoy the incredible views of surrounding valleys and the impressive Ausangate Mountain, which is part of the Vilcanota Range, and the tallest mountain in the region of Cusco.

After spending some time reveling in the beauty of this incredible spot, return to Pitumarca for a well-earned buffet lunch. Following lunch, you will make your way to your hotel – the Ausangate Lodge, located in the Ocongate district – where you will spend the night.

DAY 02: OCONGATE – MAHUAYANI – SANCTUARY| INC: - B/L/D

Breakfast at the hotel.

Morning: Depart from your Ocongate hotel via the Interoceanic Highway’s Section 2, and take the time to appreciate the gorgeous Vilcanota Mountain Range and its Ausangate Mountain as you make the journey. After about one hour of transit, you will arrive at the district of Mahuayani. This small village, located off the highway, is the meeting point for thousands of pilgrims who come together during the festivities, and it is here that the 9 kilometer long, horseshoe-shaped pilgrimage begins. It is only after one walks these kilometers that they can make their way into the epicenter of the celebrations.

The sanctuary of the Señor del Qoyllorrit’i is located in a stunning spot, surrounded by snow-peaked mountains. The hike takes you on an uphill path, on which you will encounter 14 crosses along the way, the last of which marks the Sanctuary.

Upon arriving, take some time to set up camp before enjoying the rest of the afternoon free. The presentation of activities at the Sanctuary is impressive, as is the huge number of pilgrims who attend the celebration year after year. At night, you have the chance to attend mass at the Sanctuary, at either 18:00 or 20:00. Overnight camping at the Sanctuary.

DAY 03: SANCTUARY – SINANCARA / QOLQUEPUNKU | INC: - B/L/D

Spend the say watching and partaking in the ceremonies and experience the syncretism between the Catholic and the Andean religions. Those interested will be invited to join in on a hike to the Sinanqara or Qolquepunku Mountains.

 

DAY 04: SINACCARA-YANACOCHA (Main day of festivities)| INC: - B/L/-

After an early wakeup, those who are interested can ascend towards the top of the mountain to receive the hundreds of ukukus who noisily descend from the glacier from where they spent the night as a sign of their devotion. Their flags and multicolored costumes begin to gleam in the light of the sun’s first rays, and invite onlookers to reflect on the extraordinary superposition of the ancestral Andean worship traditions, with those of the catholic faith.

Traditionally, the ukukus would descend from the glacier with big blocks of ice on their backs. However, in light of global warming and the dramatic shrinking of the glaciers, this custom was abandoned a few years ago, and replaced by the symbolic retrieval of small ice chunks in little bottles.

After breakfast you will have some time to gather your belongings and prepare for the hike back down to Mahuayani, which will commence as soon as the festival activities come to a close. Transportation will be waiting for you in the town of Mahuayani to take you back to the Ausangate Lodge in the Ocongate district for the night.

Optional: Night walk to a gathering spot, where you will join dancers and pilgrims to watch the sunrise. D. A. Attention and logistic support on the hike.

DAY 05: TAYANKANI-CUSCO | INC: - B/-/-

A quick sunrise breakfast before being transferred to the Intillocsina zone – close to the Tayankani district – where you will encounter dancers and pilgrims who have walked for the entire night carrying their crosses and different symbols of faith to this spot to watch the sun rise.

After watching the sun rise, bid farewell to the sanctuary of the Señor de Qoyllorrit´i, who will not be celebrated again until next year. The Andean dance troupes will continue to dance until arriving at the Tayankani district, where the pilgrimage ends.

Return to Cusco around mid-day.

FEES

Price per person in USD
Accommodation Double
Ausangate Lodge and two-person shared tents 1,042.00

 

Includes:

  • Transfers airport / hotel / airport
  • Bilingual guide (Spanish and English)
  • Tour of the Seven Colored Mountain
  • Transport
  • All aforementioned meals
  • Two-person tents
  • Dining and kitchen tent, as well as cooking staff
  • Mattresses
  • Pack mules
  • First aid kit
  • 2 night’s stay at a hotel in the Ocongate district

Does not Include

  • Air fare
  • Extra hotel expenses
  • Transfers in Lima
  • Cold weather clothing, sleeping bag
  • Personal hygiene items
  • Hotel dinners
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Additional tours
  • Personal security
  • Gratuity, extras, taxes

IMPORTANT

We recommend having two days to acclimatize to altitudes that surpass 3000 meters.

  • We do not recommend this tour for people who are in poor physical condition, or those with certain disabilities.
  • This route is in an area very removed from one’s everyday urban normality.
  • The minimum altitude is above 3,200 meters above sea level, which is why participants must take necessary precautions, especially those who are prone to altitude sickness.
  • Eat light, especially at night.
  • Do not over exert yourself if you are not feeling well.
  • Drink as much bottled water as you can, even when not feeling thirst.
  • You must be comfortable with the fact that you will not have access to a shower, perhaps for various days.

Conditions:

  • Commissionable price per person
  • This is a shared service
  • The tour is subject to space limitations
  • The tours are subject to unforeseen changes in itinerary and/or development

SOME RECOMMENDATIONS FOR QOLLOR RIT´I

  • This is NOT your average weekend getaway.
  • The minimum altitude is over 3,200 meters above sea level, which is why participants must take necessary precautions, especially those who are prone to altitude sickness.
  • On clear days, the weather is hot, but in the afternoons the temperatures drop, and at night, it gets very cold.
  • The wind is always cold, so we recommend always having a wind breaker on hand.
  • This route is in an area very removed from one’s everyday urban normality.
  • Drink as much bottled water as you can, even when not feeling thirst.
  • You must be comfortable with the fact that you will not have access to a shower, perhaps for various days
  • Eat light, especially at night.
  • Take coramina glucose pills and/or Sorochipils (if allergic to aspirin) just in case of altitude sickness.
  • Normal sleeping bags do not work for the Andes. Take a sleeping bag for -5°C weather, at least.
  • Respect the flora and fauna.
  • Respect the traditions of the locals.
  • Take hiking boots and a back-up pair of shoes to wear at the campsite, or in case the boots get wet.
  • Take hiking staffs if you desire.
  • Take lots of socks, as you will likely want to change them after hikes.
  • Fleece pajamas and/or thermal underwear.
  • A rain poncho, and thick pants (preferably hiking pants)
  • A warm jacket (preferably a down jacket)
  • Sun glasses
  • A light sunhat to hike in, and a wool or fleece hat for the evenings
  • Gloves for the cold
  • High-SPF sunblock
  • Chapstick
  • A headlamp or flashlight
  • Personal hygiene items
  • Any pills or vitamins you might need
  • A camera
  • Extra batteries for your flashlight/headlamp
  • A small backpack or camelback for the hike