Rainbow Mountain: To Visit or Not to Visit
Rainbow Mountain: To Visit or Not to Visit
If you are traveling in Peru or preparing your trip to Peru, you must have heard about Rainbow Mountain. To many, Rainbow Mountain is, without any doubts, one of the highlights of Peru and one the most beautiful 1-day hikes in the Cusco region. A tour to Rainbow Mountain should definitely be on your Peru bucket list!
However, there are some interesting issues you want to read about, before booking the Rainbow Mountain Tour. You find them at the bottom of this article. So, to make the right decision – and, to make the most out of your tour if you decide to go! – read this blog: Rainbow Mountain: To Visit or Not to Visit.
What is Rainbow Mountain?
Vinicunca, aka Montaña de Siete Colores or Rainbow Mountain, is a mountain in Peru nearby the Cusco region that gets the name from the impressive, beautiful rainbow-like coloring. Sedimentary mineral layers form the reddish colors you see on the mountain that has been exposed by erosion. Impressive!
For many years, only people on the Ausangate Trek were as privileged as to see the fantastic Rainbow Mountain. But since the beginning of 2016, travel agencies in Cusco started to offer the tour to the Rainbow Mountain as a (16 hour!) one day tour from Cusco, including a 4-hour hike to the top of the mountain.
What to Expect? Some details.
The 16-hour day trip to Rainbow Mountain starts very early in the morning in Cusco, around 3:30 am. The transport to the departure point is a 3 to 4 hours bus drive from Cusco. Therefore, the actual hiking starts around 7.30 a.m. at an altitude of over 5000 meters above sea level. You will arrive at the top somewhere between 11.00 and 11.30. On your way back, after the hard work and at lower altitudes, lunch will be offered. You will be back in Cusco between 19.00 and 20.00, depending on the weather and other circumstances.
*** Why visit Rainbow Mountain? ***
Here are five reasons why to visit the Rainbow Mountain when you are traveling in Peru.
1. It is not an easy but beautiful and unique hike
The hike to the top of the Rainbow mountain is a magnificent hike through a beautiful valley where you will see many llamas and alpacas in their natural habitat, as well as local people. The scenery is absolutely unique. The impressive Ausangate peak can be seen from a long distance; while hiking you can enjoy the view of its magnificent glacier.
2. The view on top of the Rainbow Mountain
Finally, after an incredible 6 km hike and some large stairs, in the end, you will reach the top of the Rainbow Mountain at 5020 meters. The view is (both literally and figuratively) breathtaking! The broad stretched valley is full of beautiful colors. It is the perfect place to sit down for a while and enjoy the magnificent view and take some pictures or videos and to relax.
3. Valle Rojo
El “Valle Rojo” or Red Valley” is an enjoyable additional hike you can do if you would love to see more than Rainbow Mountain only. If your agency offers this option (ask your guide!) and if you still have some energy left, go!
Instead of going back the same route as you came up, the Red Valley trail keeps going around the mountain and takes you down into a valley full of colorful hillsides, rivers, llamas and local stone dwellings. The colors are the result of mineral deposits mixed with red sandstone and a beautiful addition to the Rainbow Mountain hike.
Not many tourists go to the Red Valley, and that makes it unique. Rainbow Mountain quickly became one of the most popular day tours in the Cusco region, and the truth is that you will be with other hundreds of tourists going up to the top with you. But this is not the case in the Red Valley.
4. Horseriding on your way to Rainbow Mountain
If you are not an experienced hiker – and also if you are not well acclimatized at all – consider renting a horse, that will bring you almost to the top of Rainbow Mountain (except for the last 300 meters). The ride on the horse will be guided by the local owner of the horse.
It is the perfect way to enjoy the magnificent view of Rainbow Mountain while having a smooth ride and become one with mother nature. The price of the horse may vary a bit but count on approximately $ 30.
5. Amazing Wildlife!
During the bus ride to the Rainbow Mountain from Cusco, you will find the local farmers with herds of llamas and alpacas. While hiking, you will see hundreds of wild llamas, and alpaca’s in the valley.
If you’re lucky, you will see vicuñas too; vicuñas – family of the alpaca and lama family – are smaller and more elegant. Vicuña wool is one of the most expensive in the world.
In addition to that, these animals are adorable!
*** Why NOT visit Rainbow Mountain***
1. Is the Rainbow Mountain a harsh trek?
It would not be fair to say that the Rainbow Mountain hike is an easy hike. Add to this, that you are hiking in a very high altitude and that you had a short night (remember the tour starts at 3.30!). If you are healthy and (somehow) experienced, and well acclimated, no problem.
If not, you need to think well if this is the right tour for you. Travel agencies in Cusco are not always fair, and it’s not correct to say that ‘anyone’ can do the Rainbow Mountain trek (easily).
Do not forget:
2. Can the Rainbow Mountain Trek be done throughout the year?
We recommend you consider doing this tour between March and November or December (depending on the weather). Be cautious with going in the rainy season, as some travelers have reported bad experiences due to the rain.
When it rains on Rainbow Mountain, the trail and the surrounding areas become slippery and some parts difficult to walk on. Also, the views are not that good and some people who have seen stunning photos (on Instagram, of which some got too many filters), get disappointed. Something else to seriously consider is that in the rainy season, the environment is getting (even more) damaged by too many hikers.
But if the weather is decent, you’re acclimatized, and in good physical condition, then do go ahead and consider this trek. If you have realistic expectations about how colorful the mountain actually is, perhaps you’ll be pleasantly surprised when you arrive at the viewpoint.
3. Is the Rainbow Mountain indeed a special and relatively unknown trek in the Andes?
Special, yes. Unknown, not anymore. You might meet hundreds of fellow-travelers visiting the beautiful Rainbow Mountain. Some agencies in Cusco expect that soon the local government and local communities will start with regulations (and probably a higher entrance fee), to regulate the number of visitors. This might be necessary to protect the natural environment of this stunning place in Peru.
Thanks to Koen Wolf (text and photos)
And Daniel Wood (photos)
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More questions, or, do you want to reserve your spot on the Rainbow Mountain trek?