Rainbow Mountain, also called Vinicunca or in Spanish “Montaña de los 7 colores”, is a remarkable scene and is one of the most visited natural attractions in Peru. As you hike up you’ll notice the unmistakable patterns of red, yellow, green and orange on the surface of the mountains creating a stunning array of rainbows against the blue of the sky. If you love adventure and wonderful natural scenes you cannot miss visiting the rainbow mountains. Here’s what involves a trip to these mountains and everything else you need to know about these beautiful mountains. 

About Rainbow Mountain

Rainbow Mountain was practically undiscovered until 2015 and only started to accept tours in 2016. The mountain’s colors were hidden for centuries under thick layers of snow and ice, but then it started to melt away. Today it’s one of the most popular sites visited by tourists in Peru, after Machu Picchu, with thousands of tourists arriving every day. 

This mountain is located in Cusco about 100 kilometers (62 ml) away from the city. The tectonic forces that produced the Andes mountains lead to volcanic activity and the formation of rare and varied mineralogy. In particular, the colors you will see at Rainbow Mountain, Peru was formed by different layers of sedimentary mineral that were compacted one above the other and have been exposed by erosion. Its altitude is around 5,200 meters (17,060 ft) above sea level. To put it in perspective it is only a tad lower than Mount Everest’s base camp. 

About the Trek

The hike is about 7-8 kilometers long with an elevation of about 1200m (3937 f). The hike itself is not particularly difficult. For most of it, it’s a gentle upward slope. However, the altitude makes it harder, even the most experienced hikers have some trouble with the air becoming very thin. So give yourself at least a few days for your body to acclimate to the altitudes of Peru. If you are already acclimatized and in reasonably good shape it is not too difficult. Many also choose the option of taking a horseback ride instead of hiking, since it is inexpensive and you are able to save your energy. There are 2 routes to reach the top of the mountain of 7 colors. The first and the most difficult last about 3 hours of walking. The second and easiest trek is the Palccoyo trek gives you a view of Rainbow Mountain in a walk that usually takes less than an hour.

In the trek, you can expect to gradually ascend through a gorgeous pastoral scene complete with tiny villages and friendly locals. You’ll have the chance to encounter curious animals in this area such as llamas, alpacas, vicuñas, guanacos, viscachas, horses, sheep, and some species of birds. You’ll also get impressive views of the Ausangante Glacier, along with the colorful landscapes in the distance. 

How to Get There

Peru Hop Bus

This is the most recommended way to get to Cusco and the mountains. The hop on and off the system at different stops allows travelers to gradually adjust to altitude while traveling through Peru. 

Bus 

You can also take a normal bus to Cusco. These journeys are often direct, so they can be very long. 

Flying 

It is not recommended to fly. You can do it only if you are incredibly short on time. Not only do you miss seeing all of the amazing views and destinations, but you are also putting yourself at a high risk of altitude sickness. Going from sea level to 3,400m in such a short space of time does not allow your body to adjust. 

Tour

Many people prefer to take advantage of tour packages which include transportation, food, a guide, oxygen, and other amenities like our Rainbow Day Hike. There are also multiple day tours, which are a bit more challenging but are a more quiet circuit with fewer hikers. They take you past snowcapped mountains and glaciers for breathtaking views. This overnight trek lets you explore snow-capped peaks and star-filled skies, while on this 4 Day High-Altitude Experience, you’ll experience everything these mountains have to offer with a 4-day expedition.

Weather

The best time of the year to visit Rainbow Mountain is during the dry season from March to November. Regardless of what time of year you visit make sure to check the weather outlook. Try to go during the sunnier hours, so you can see the colors of the mountains as clear and bright as possible. 

What to Wear

The weather at such high altitudes can be sometimes unpredictable so be sure to wear light layers and bring a wind-proof jacket in your pack. Pack a light rain poncho or ensure that your jacket is waterproof.

Comfortable and waterproof hiking shoes are a must. Ensure that you carry an extra pair of socks in your pack in case your feet get wet. There can be mud, gravel, and rocks along the typical hike through these challenging but beautiful mountains. 

Safety

You may want to take oxygen with you or take advantage of a tour company that carries oxygen along on the hike up the mountain. It’s important to know the symptoms of altitude sickness, so you can take precautions and know when it’s time to take a break.

The symptoms are:

These symptoms are associated with acute mountain sickness (AMS) which is the mildest form. Going further can be dangerous and even life-threatening. So, remember to walk at a comfortable pace and rest if you need to. Stop and seek oxygen immediately if you think you may have altitude sickness and you aren’t traveling with a guide who carries oxygen along in case it’s needed.

The best prevention measure is to spend at least a few days exploring the Cusco region before your excursion. Other than altitude precautions, remember to use sunscreen since Peru has the highest average level of ultraviolet light on the planet.

What to Bring 

Is the Trek worth it?

In short, yes!  The trek may be challenging, but you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking scenery along the way and a unique opportunity of seeing the gorgeous colors of Rainbow Mountains. You’ll be immersed in nature and in the local pastoral culture of Cusco. Plus, views on these mountains are like no other in the world. You’ll create memories that you’ll never forget!