Peru – Rinconada (highest town on Earth & the Peruvian Yungas)

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Jun 26, 2013

I know a lot of people like sites with records. I just visited a few weeks ago Rinconada, the highest town on Earth. Strange that LP doesn’t include this town. Footprint has a few words about it but no details how to get there, where to sleep, etc. Not only Rinconada is interesting in this part of Peru (between Lake Titicaca and Puerto Maldonado) but the Peruvian Yungas is worth to see also.

Peru - Rinconada highest town on Earth Peruvian Yungas

RINCONADA (5100 meters, hab. 40 000)

Rinconada at 5100 meters above the sea is the highest town on Earth. In the 1990s Rinconada was a small permanent settlment but in the last 20 years it grew to a mammoth town from garbage and of course, gold. Today at least 40 000 people live here, mostly miners and their families. Rinconada has no tourist facilities but it’s worth to see how people work on the top of the Andes.

Rinconada has no tourist attraction but the mines under glaciers are interesting. To visit the tunnels you need permission from the contravistas. You find them in the town hall but it’s better get permission in Juliaca.

The town itself has a commercial street with restaurants and a few basic accomodation but it’s not recommended to stay here, not only about the altitude but Rinconada is the most dangerous town in Peru. Locals say after dark the streets are full of thieves and murders. It’s a gold mine and people sometimes have amount of money. If you want to sleep close to Rinconada, Ananea is a better choice.

ANANEA (4800 meters, hab. 5000)

Ananea lies 15 kilometers from Rinconada at 4800 meters. It’s a smaller mining town with a few very basic accomodation. The best is Hospeaje Leon (Tel.: 950-751-601, r per person 20S) at the market. Beds are quiet good but rooms are not clean. It has shared toilet but no shower (usually people don’t use bathroom here). To visit the huge minfield is prohibited and seems less interesting than Rinconada.

Getting there & away

Rinconada (4 hours, 20S) and Ananea (3,5 hours, 20S) has 24 hours combi service from Juliaca market, a few corners from the main terminal. Combis leave when they full, there are departures in almost every 2 hours, even at night. From Ananea the to Rinconada the combi ride is 3S.

If you are heading for Puerto Maldonado you have to go back to Juliaca and change there. Now there is a paved road via Macusani and the bus ride takes only 10 hours (40S). A more adventurous trip is get off at Pampilla (2,5 S), another small mining settlement 7 kms from Ananea, and change for Sandia there. In Crucero you have to get off again and wait for a car heading for Macusani. This trip is not recommended because there is usually no transportation by road conditions and if you don’t get a ride you have to stay in Crucero (no accomodation is available).

For Sandia (15S), San Juan del Oro (25S) or Putina Punco (30S) catch a bus or combi coming from Juliaca at Pampilla.

THE PERUVIAN YUNGAS

Behind the snowy peaks a paved road snaking down to the Tambopata Nature Reserve. This is the highest paved road in Peru at 5000 meters high and definietly the most scenic in the entire Peru. The first village after the pass is Cuyo Cuyo. It has an attractive main square and nice adobe buildings. One hour later you arrive at Sandia, the biggest town in the valley. It has various basic accomodation but nothing to see.

The road between Sandia and San Juan del Oro is scenic and the paved road ends here. A dirt road heads for Putina Punco in a narrow valley. This 2 hours drive is far the most beautiful in Peru. It’s not without danger, mortal accidents registered here almost every month but the busride is worth the risk. The entire route is 10-12 hours by bus from Juliaca.

Putina Punco and around

Putina Punco is an important coffee and mandarin town at altitude 1000 meters. It’s sometimes hot, sometimes cool but almost always cloudly. In the village itself there is nothing to see but the surrounding is great and Putina Punco is a great base to explore. Once in Putina Punco the best place to stay is Hostal Enriquez (s/d without bathroom 15/25S) on the main street. There are more basic option on the same street.

2 kms from the village the road crosses a river. On the other side of the river you see an abandoned house. A trail starts behind the building and heading for Tunquimayo. The 4 hours hike to the village is spectacular and recommended if you want a full day excursion.

Just above the village, 40 minutes of a steep climb you arrive at a noname guacharo cave. It’s hard to find by yourself, so look for Ronal Apaza (tel.: 951-144-085) in the Bauhaja-Sonene National Park office. Here if you want to get further in the national park you have to pay the hectic 150S admission.

Peru - Rinconada highest town on Earth  the Peruvian Yungas

Behind Putina Punco numerous small vilages are in the national park. The last end of the road is in Victoria from where you can raft down all the way to Puerto Maldonado. In Cuzco various travel agencies organize 7-10 days rafting trips for 1500-2000 US$. If you want to save money search for Fredy Espinoza (tel.: 813-811) in Arco Punco (40 minutes by collectivo, 4S). He can organize a cheaper raft tour on Tambopata.

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