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Three Golden Crosses: The Paucartambo viewpoint in Cusco

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Three Golden Crosses: The Paucartambo viewpoint in Cusco

The Three Golden Crosses viewpoint offers one of the best sunrises in the world. It is located a few hours from the town of Paucartambo, 105 kilometers by road from the city of Cusco. But this natural spectacle does not happen every day of the year. It only occurs on the winter solstices, that is, on June 20, 21 or 22. If you are lucky and there are no clouds at dawn that prevent you from seeing the landscape, you will enjoy one of the best natural spectacles in Peru.


Viewpoint of the Three Crosses, Paucartambo

One of the most beautiful districts located in Cusco is Paucartambo, a name that comes from the Quechua phrase Pawqar Tampu, which means "colorful tambo". It is a cultural center with an immensity of flora, fauna and ancestral customs. It is located at approximately 2,900 meters above sea level, next to the Mappacho River and has several tourist attractions, one of the most recognized being the famous Mirador de las Tres Cruces.


Three Crosses: The Eastern Balcony

This is how the Mirador de las Tres Cruces is also known. This is one of the few places in the world where you can see the winter solstice in detail. The main attraction is not only the landscape that can be seen from there, but -as we mentioned- the sunrise and its great variety of colors. It is possible to contemplate the tonalities in the sky, the light and the shape of the sunrise in a very different way than what one is used to. It is not for nothing that thousands of tourists visit this place every year to admire this incredible natural spectacle.


On the other hand, from the viewpoint you also have a wonderful view of the Ausangate mountain range, a snow-capped peak that adorns the Paucartambo River. The landscape is also made up of the majestic Apuqañaqway mountain, which the locals call “protector of Antisuyo”.


It is right in the local community where the legend of the sunrise from the Mirador de las Tres Cruces is told. It is a very special story for the local population, since it narrates that those who pass through the area go to the nearby snow-capped mountains to cleanse their souls thanks to the light that crosses the area. In addition, they point out that the Sun had the properties of cleaning bad feelings and emotions such as hatred, envy and anger.


During the National Holidays celebrations, the local authorities organize events at this tourist site. Many of them respond to the history and ancestral culture of the Incas. For example, before dawn the haywasqa takes place, which means "payment to the earth." It is a custom from pre-Hispanic times in which dances are performed and tribute is paid to nature. For this, a ritual is elaborated in which the Andean priest, or Pako, worships the Sun god and Mother Earth, or Pachamama, a goddess that represents fertility.


What is the white lightning phenomenon?

In Tres Cruces de Oro the so-called 'White Lightning' takes place. This natural phenomenon occurs when the sun appears on the horizon and light passes through the humid atmosphere. The result is a kind of mirage, where the sun is distorted in a very special way.

The effect is that of three suns, one of which jumps from one side to the other. It is known that this strange phenomenon only occurs in two places in the world: Japan and Cusco.

The white ray can best be seen on the winter solstice (June 20, 21, or 22). However, you are not always lucky. If the sky is very cloudy, you will only see the cloudscape.


Where it is located?

Tres Cruces de Oro is located in the town of Challabamba, province of Paucartambo, 105 kilometers by road from the city of Cusco.

The viewpoint is located at 3700 meters above sea level (m.s.n.m.).

From the viewpoint you can see the snow-capped mountains of the immense peaks of Nevado Ausangate and the first green areas of Manu. Paucartambo is 109 kilometers from the city of Cuzco.


How to get?

The bus ticket to the city of Cusco costs 60 soles, while the journey takes approximately 22 hours.


After arriving in Cusco, you must take the paved road to travel 109 km southeast of the city. There are collective cars that will transport you to Paucartambo for about 20 soles per person, and you will arrive in four hours. From there it is 45 km to the Abra de Acjanaco, at a height close to 3800 meters.


Travel with tour or without tour?

The trip from Cusco to the Tres Cruces de Oro viewpoint in Paucartambo can also be done with a private tour.

These services are generally 2 days and include: transportation, lodging, food, tour guide, and a visit to archaeological sites such as the chullpas of Ninamarca. The tours ascend to the viewpoint doing a short trekking route.

For travelers who wish to make the trip without a tour, the cost of entry to the viewpoint is 10 soles (3 USD). It is mandatory to be accompanied by a park ranger. Additional costs are transportation, food and lodging.

Because the viewpoint is located in the Manu National Park, with an additional cost, you can visit other natural attractions in this natural park.


How's the weather?

Paucartambo has a temperate climate with hot days and cold nights. The Tres Cruces de Oro viewpoint is on the border of the Peruvian jungle and the Andes. Tourists should bring a hat, sunscreen, mosquito repellent, and warm clothing in case night falls.

The best time to visit the viewpoint is in the dry season (between April and October). During those months, the days are clearer and there is less chance of rain. The temperatures oscillate between 20ºC. and 6ºC.


Paucartambo, the Manu and other tourist attractions of Cusco

The Tres Cruces de Oro viewpoint is not the only tourist attraction in the place. You can also visit other sites in Paucartambo and the Manu National Park:

In Paucartambo – There are several pre-Inca and Inca sites in the area: the Watoqto archaeological complex, the Ninamarca chullpas, the Mauk Allaqta archaeological complex and the Kosñipata petroglyphs.

In Manu – The Manu National Park is located on the border of the departments of Cusco and Madre de Dios. The most important attractions are the Pusharo cultural historical zone (cost 50 Peruvian soles) and the Manu river area (cost 150 soles).


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