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Discover Quelccaya: The Largest Tropical Glacier In The World

Home / Travel Blog / Discover Quelccaya: The Largest Tropical Glacier In The World
Discover Quelccaya: The Largest Tropical Glacier In The World

Peru has different natural destinations ideal for living an unforgettable experience. One of them is the Quelccaya glacier, located in Cusco Peru, which is considered one of the wonders of the country.

 

Quelccaya is a majestic glacier, ideal for practicing adventure sports and appreciating nature; Numerous species of fauna such as alpacas, llamas, and vicuñas live in it, which are of great importance for the nearby populations of this area. It is made up of U-shaped valleys, glacial striations in the volcanic rocks and beautiful lagoons in the Vilcanota mountain range.

 

This white giant is also called the Quelccaya Ice Cap, with a length that exceeds 17 km, an area of ​​44 km² and an ice layer 200 m thick. It is located in the southeast of Peru at more than 5000 meters above sea level and sits on the Vilcanota mountain range, being an extension of the Andes mountain range.

 

What is a tropical glacier?

Glaciers are the largest freshwater reserves on the planet. They are a source of water for agriculture, industrial activities and domestic uses. In addition, tropical glaciers are especially sensitive to climate change, due to the specific climatic conditions in the tropics. The small lagoons around the glacier are also proof of the decline, as they occupy depressions left behind by the retreating glacier.

 

Location:

The Quelccaya Glacier is located in the southeast of Peru, in the Vilcanota mountain range. To reach this glacier, the walk lasts two days and begins in the Phinaya community which belongs to the Pitumarca district of the Canchis Province.

 

Altitude:

The largest tropical glacier in the world is located at 5600 m.a.s.l. and the temperature reaches below zero at night.

 

Discover the incredible Quelccaya Glacier

The Quelccaya glacier is located in the southeast of Peru, in the Vilcanota mountain range. It is characterized for being the most extensive tropical glacier in the world due to its 5,600 meters of height and 44 square kilometers of extension, approximately. In addition, it is one of the favorite destinations for professional climbers, who come to conquer their peak.

 

For its part, this tourist attraction is of great importance for the region since it feeds the Vilcanota River and the Sibinacocha Lagoon. However, this glacier has shrunk drastically in recent decades due to climate change. For this reason, environmental authorities are working to control this problem.

 

An unmissable scene

Cusco is one of the most surprising destinations in Peru. Here there are incredible places such as the Quelccaya glacier, which is ideal for practicing adventure sports and appreciating nature.

 

Numerous species such as alpacas, llamas and vicuñas inhabit this majestic glacier, which are of great importance to the nearby populations of this area. Likewise, it is made up of U-shaped valleys, glacial striations in the volcanic rocks and beautiful lagoons.

 

On the other hand, in this territory you can carry out some leisure activities such as trekking and ice climbing or "mountain climbing", which have been carried out in this area for some years. It is recommended to be accompanied by a guide to avoid any inconvenience.

 

Meet the peasant community of the snowy

The Quelccaya Glacier is a great supplier of water that feeds the Macapatilla - Santa Bárbara rivers, whose waters drain into the Vilcanota River. In addition, it is a large aquifer reserve that continuously releases water as it melts.

 

Today its waters are a source of life for the populations that live downstream, as they use it for drinking and basic hygiene, as well as for irrigation and maintenance of fields and wetlands.

 

Near the Tropico Glaciar Quelccaya live some peasant communities, who, through their knowledge and traditions from their ancestors, seek the conservation of this sacred place. According to some of its inhabitants, Quelccaya is of great importance for their rituals of gratitude.

 

Likewise, during your visit to this wonderful glacier you will be able to meet and interact with some of these communities and acquire several of their handicrafts made with Alpaca. You will also have the opportunity to listen to the different myths and legends that are part of their oral tradition.

 

Apu Quelccaya as a water supplier

The Quelccaya Glacier is a great supplier of water that feeds the Macapatilla - Santa Bárbara rivers, whose waters drain into the Vilcanota River. In addition, it is a large aquifer reserve that continuously releases water as it melts. Its waters are used by the population that lives downstream, who use it for drinking and basic hygiene, as well as for irrigation and maintenance of fields and wetlands.

 

The legend of Machu Runa, protector of Quelccaya

Legend has it that an old man the "Machu Runa" dressed in a white poncho protects the surroundings of the snow so that no one comes close to destroy it. When strangers see him, they flee from the place, while the inhabitants of the nearby communities present offerings to him with great respect. This legend is transmitted for generations, in this way, we can preserve the magic of our Andean worldview.

 

Why is the Quelccaya glacier important?

For some decades, scientists, residents and tourists have detected the reduction of its ice cap, a product of global warming. For this reason, the environmental authorities have set off their alarms to combat this phenomenon, turning it into a protected area.

 

This territory is of great importance for the water sources that feed thousands of peasant families in the region, due to its large aquifer reserves that continually release water as the glacier melts. In addition, it is a field of research for those who study the effects of climate change in this part of the country, as is the case of Professor Lonnie Thompson of Ohio University.

 

Although the Quelccaya ice cap has shrunk in recent decades, it is still one of the largest glaciers in the world. However, its protection and conservation must be a joint task. For this reason, if you are going to visit Quelccaya, we invite you to do responsible tourism.

 

The Quelccaya Glacier facing Climate Change

This magnificent tongue of ice is considered a world thermometer to measure global warming and the melting of glaciers, as it is a field of research for those who study the effects of climate change on the mountain ranges. Studies published in Scientific Reports determined that this glacier will disappear in the next 30 years if global greenhouse gas emissions are not radically reduced.

 

Responsible tourism in Quelccaya

This magnificent great snow-capped mountain is considered a world thermometer to measure global warming and the melting of glaciers, as it is a field of research for those who study the effects of climate change on the mountain ranges.

 

For this reason, the environmental authorities have set off their alarms to combat this phenomenon, turning it into a protected area.

 

This territory is of great importance for the water sources that feed thousands of peasant families in the region, due to its large aquifer reserves that continually release water as the glacier melts. In addition, it is a field of research for those who study the effects of climate change in this part of the country, as is the case of Professor Lonnie Thompson of Ohio University.

 

Although the Quelccaya ice cap has shrunk in recent decades, it is still one of the largest glaciers in the world. However, its protection and conservation must be a joint task. For this reason, if you are going to visit Quelccaya, we invite you to do responsible tourism.

 

What sports can be practiced in Quelccaya?

In this territory you can carry out some recreational activities such as trekking and ice climbing or "mountain climbing", which have been carried out in this area for some years. It is recommended to be accompanied by a guide to avoid any inconvenience.

 

How can you get to Quelcccaya?

Find your flight to Cusco, then you have to travel from the city of Cusco to Sicuani by road; from Sicuani to the last town on the route, which is Phinaya. Along the way you will connect with the wonderful landscapes of the region. After arriving, you will have to take a 2-day walk to the glacier, if you do not want to walk you can go by mule that you can rent from the inhabitants of the towns in the area. Along the way you will find camping areas so you can spend the night and resume the walk the next day.

 

Recommendations to visit the Quelccaya glacier

So that your experience in this magical destination is perfect, here are some tips.

 

1. Choose the right clothing

For outdoor activities it is necessary to be prepared for the weather, so it is essential to wear the right jacket, it must be waterproof and windproof. Likewise, waterproof shoes suitable for trekking and, above all, comfortable ones should be worn.

 

2. Protect yourself from solar radiation

Even if the weather is cold and you do not feel the sun directly, it is necessary to protect yourself, because in this place the radiation is very strong. For this reason, we recommend that you wear a good sunscreen with a UV filter of factor 30 or higher. Also, do not forget special sunglasses for these climates.

 

3. Includes the necessary accessories

For this adventure in the largest glacier in the world, it is necessary to carry a backpack with the following accessories:

  • Whistle
  • Nylon multi-purpose rope
  • Compass
  • Map
  • Lantern
  • Knife
  • First aid box
  • Flashlight with new batteries or spare batteries
  • Cash
  • ID card or passport
  • Lip Moisturizer
  • Repellent

4. Don't forget the camping gear

If you are going to camp in the middle of the glacier, you must bring the necessary utensils to spend a pleasant night.

  • Double roof tent.
  • A special mattress for trekking to combat and isolate the cold from the ground. In addition, you can bring a cover to place between the tent and the ground.
  • Hooded sleeping bag.
  • A small stove, special for camping.
  • Kitchen accessories for heating, eating and drinking.

5. Bring a camera

If you are going to tour the majestic Quelccaya glacier, you cannot forget to bring a good camera. Here you will be able to portray the most beautiful landscapes from the heights of the glacier. You will also have the opportunity to record your experience in the middle of this mountain and share it with your friends and family. If you want, you can take a wide angle lens to record all its beauty.

 

Finally, we recommend that you carry out all the activities under the supervision of an expert, in order to avoid any setbacks.

 

#TheDate

  • Cusco is considered the capital of the Tahuantinsuyo Empire, which has a great historical and architectural legacy.
  • The Quelccaya glacier is considered by the inhabitants of the high Andean zone as one of the main Apus of the Vilcanota mountain range.
  • Quelccaya is a perfect attraction for hiking and enjoying its enigmatic landscape.
  • To tour the Quelccaya you can rent a mule.
  • Glaciers are a source of water, energy and agriculture.

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Many are the routes that take you to Machu Picchu, but none is like the Inca Trail Tours, the most famous pedestrian path in the Americas. After flying from the capital of Perú, Lima, you will arrive in Cusco to walk for four days along a path through forests and dense fog, millenary stone steps and discovering the ruins of ancient fortifications and Inca cities, and all the time enjoying majestic views.

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