According to the Andean culture’s worldview, the mountains are gigantic, living deities which protect their territories and live in communion with all other beings: people, animals, clouds, water, etc. The name of these colossal beings are Apus. Every one of them has a special power. If you come to Peru by plane, it won’t be difficult to see at some point, through your window, the immense Andes mountain range that dazzles locals and foreigners alike with the power of its shining, white glaciers. Today, we’ll learn about 5 glaciers relatively close to the city of Cusco that you can enjoy on different trekking routes, mountain climbing or simply looking at them from some strategic viewpoints.
1. Ausangate (6,384 MASL / 20,944 FASL)
This is the fifth highest mountain in Peru. It’s situated about 100 kilometers southeast of the city of Cusco. According to the Andean worldview, Ausangate and the nearby lakes provide the masculine energy that fertilizes the Pachamama, or Mother Earth. Every year, toward the north side of this mountain, the biggest and most important celebration of the Andean world takes place – the pilgrimage to the Sanctuary of the Lord of Qoyllur Rit’i. Many people consider the mountain Ausangate to be Cusco’s guardian. You can see it from Cusco, itself, to the south, looking down the La Cultura avenue.
2. Salkantay (6,271 MASL / 20,574 FASL)
Salkantay is probably the most striking mountain in the Cusco region because, even though it’s not the highest, it’s the most outstanding because of its prominence (2,540 m), only beat by the highest mountain in Peru, Huascarán (6,768 MASL altitude and 2,776 m prominence). Andean legends are told that Salkantay and Ausangate were brothers who tried to save the land from a great drought. Salkantay went toward the north, finding the Amazon, and Ausangate went toward the south, close to the altiplano. You can see the Salkantay snowcap in the bus route from Cusco to Lima near the balmy town of Limatambo. Besides this, Salkantay Trekking offers a huge variety of tours that will allow you to connect with this powerful, sacred mountain. Plan your trip here now!
3. Verónica (5,893 MASL / 19,334 FASL)
This is the highest snowcap in the Urubamba mountain range, a piece of the Andes range, close to the Sacred Valley of the Incas. This beautiful glacier forms a pyramid reaching skyward to the northeast of the Inca city of Ollantaytambo. Since the pre-Colombian epoch, it’s been known by many different names: Willka wiqi (Sacred Tear), Wayna willka (Sacred Youth) and Eternal Father. You can see this gorgeous mountain as you adventure through the Inca Trail (Plan your trip here now!) or from the train window during the journey from Ollantaytambo to Aguas Calientes.
4. Sawasiray (5,818 MASL / 19,088 FASL)
This glacier is also found close to the Sacred Valley of the Incas in the province of Calca. There’s a legend about this mountain: it recounts that Sawasiray was a handsome young man who conquered the heart of Pitusiray, the daughter of the kuraka (governor) Orqo Waranqa, whose lands were being punished by a great drought. In an effort to save this place, the kuraka offers his daughter, Pitusiray, in marriage to whoever is able to bring water to his land.
Sadly, a young man named Kuntisiray wins, and the kuraka obligate Pitusiray to marry him. However, the love that Pitusiray and Sawasiray share is very deep; this drives them to escape, releasing the wrath of the kuraka Orqo Waranqa and Kuntisiray, who punish them by turning them, eternally, into mountains. You can see this dazzling mountain when you do a tour of the Sacred Valley(Plan your trip here now!) or a trek to Huch’uy Qosqo (Know more here!).
5. Humantay (5,473 m.s.n.m. / 17,956 FASL)
Also known as Wamantay en Quechua. This lovely colossus of snow is famous for housing the turquoise Humantay lake at its feet, a surprising natural paradise. It’s located just beside the imposing Salkantay mountain, and because of this, some say that it’s Salkantay youngest son. To see this glacier, you can take a tour to Humantay Lake (Plan your trip here now!) and take advantage of the trip to spend a beautiful night star-gazing from the comfort of your bed in Sky Camp.
Make the most of your trip to Peru to see nature that, as you’ll realize afterward, will connect to your inner self. Let yourself be astounded by the magnitude and strong presence of these colossal, snowy giants, and bring home memories that you’ll never forget. The glaciers of Cusco await you!