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Seeing red! The bizarre river in Peru that turns the colour of BLOOD every winter

It looks like Mother Nature has rolled out a red carpet.

As its name suggests, the spectacular Red River in Peru is a startling shade of scarlet, appearing as a red streak running through the Vilcanota mountain range in the country’s Canchis province for several months of the year.

It has become something of a hit on social media, with one TikTok video – which has been viewed more than half a million times – describing the river as something that ‘doesn’t feel real’. In the comments, TikTok user ‘Owlhousefan_Lumity’ remarked that the water looked like ‘blood’, while user ‘rockstar’ compared it to flowing wine. 

What causes this bizarre phenomenon? The Red River gets its crimson colour from the red sandstone in the region, which is filled with iron oxide.

When it rains, this mineral-rich rock is washed into the riverbed, turning the water red or pink. This makes Peru’s rainy season, from November to April, the best time to visit its banks as there is more rain run-off, local tour operator Kallpa Travel reveals.

The waterway appears in the Vilcanota mountain range in Peru’s Canchis province. Image courtesy of Kallpa Travel

In contrast, it can appear in ‘the unattractive colour of muddy brown’ during the dry season, tour firm AB Expeditions says.

The river’s waters only run red for the first three-mile (5km) section from its source near the valley of Arcoiris Palcoyo Mountain. 

Eventually, the river combines with other streams and small rivers, becomes more diluted and loses its brilliant colour, tour operator Machu Picchu explains. 

The river’s waters only run red for the first three-mile (5km) section, from its source near the valley of Arcoiris Palcoyo Mountain

‘These numerous small tributaries end up flowing into the Vilcamayo River, which crosses the Sacred Valley of Cusco and passes through the famous citadel of Machu Picchu,’ the company explains on its website.

It continues: ‘Further down, this river is known as the Urubamba River before passing through the middle of the notorious Pongo de Mainique canyon as it enters the jungle and finally feeds into the mighty Amazon River.’ 

Known locally as Palquella Pucamayu, the river’s name originates from Quechua, which is the main language of the Inca Empire and an official language in Peru, tour site Cusco Native reveals.

The first half of its name ‘Palquella’ means ‘small branch’ while ‘Pucamayu’ means ‘red river’.

Lots of tour operators take travellers to the river – which lies some three hours southeast of Cusco city – as part of a day trip to visit the nearby Vinicunca Rainbow Mountain, a much-photographed, multicoloured peak that’s 5,200m (17,100ft) above sea level. 

Alternatively, independent travellers can journey by bus and then by taxi towards the river bank. 

Tour company AB Expeditions notes that it’s not the only reddish-hued river in the region – it says that there’s another, lesser-known river that experiences the same phenomenon during the rainy season near the Palcoyo Rainbow Mountain in the district of Combapata. 

While these rivers are unusual, there are other red bodies of water to marvel over around the world.

One famous example is Tanzania’s Lake Natron, which gets its ruby-red tone from bacteria in the water. Another is Blood Falls, a curious red waterfall that was discovered in the McMurdo Dry Valleys region of Antarctica in 1911. 

Source : Daily Mail