All You Need To Know About Rainbow Mountain

Written by Orange Nation Perú June 12, 2023

What is Rainbow Mountain

Rainbow Mountain is the best tourist attraction to visit in Peru after Machu Picchu. This natural phenomenon stands at a breath stealing 5,200 meters (17,060 ft), in the Vilcanota Mountain Range. This newly discovered must-see destination only grabbed the world´s attention in 2015. It was discovered when snow melted off the mountain and revealed the vibrant and stunning colors of gold, lavender and red that lay beneath. This natural beauty was formed by weathering conditions and the minerals found in the soil. Its dynamic colors create this marble effect that glows in the sun and a sharp contrast when its laden with snow. Find out the best information about the Rainbow Mountain Trek bellow.

How to get to Rainbow Mountain

Since its discovery, tourism has flourished in this isolated region of Cusco. Thousands of visitors trek to Rainbow Mountain, the Red Valley and the Ausengate Mountain. There are a number of different tours to choose from when visiting Rainbow Mountain. The shortest and easiest way is to do a day tour with a travel agency, either by joining a group or doing a private tour. These day tours sometimes include a short hike to the nearby Red Valley. It can also be done as part of a multi-day trek to Ausengate for the hiking enthusiasts. For the adrenalin junkie, there is a perfect tour to partake in, which includes a thrilling quad bike ride with expansive views of the Red Valley and the majestic snow-capped mountain peak of Ausengate.

The mountain is at very high altitudes, the option to hire a horse from the locals once you arrive at the trailhead makes the hike achievable for almost everybody.

Public transportation to the trailhead is unsafe and unreliable. The journey takes about 3 hours to the isolated village of Pitumarca. This is then followed by an hour drive to the trailhead. The hike itself is about 1.5 hours at high altitudes. We recommend choosing a reputable tour operator, so you don´t have to deal with the logistics of local transportation.

Rainbow Mountain Trek from the perspective of the locals.

There locals refer to this mountain as Vinicunca or the montaña de 7 colores (seven-colored mountain). They regard it as a holy site and its closely located to the even more revered Ausengate mountain. The mountainous people of Peru have always found spiritual divinity withing the mountains. Ausengate is considered as an Apus in the region and at certain times of the year, pilgrims climb up to the top to give thanks to the life gifted by the mountains. With the discovery of Rainbow Mountain the locals have respected the spiritual energy they believe is given off by this mountain.

This geological wonder of Rainbow Mountain or Vinicunca sits in the remote region of the Andes Mountains, among locals that still follow a traditional way of life, with their own indigenous religious beliefs.

The altitude and acclimatization

Rainbow Mountain sits at 5,200 meters(17,060 ft). The trail begins in Llacto at (4,638m/15,216ft) above sea level. Therefore the hike itself starts at very high altitudes and is a gradual 1 hour ascent to the top. The climb is not particularly intimidating and it can be easy to underestimate the challenges and effects the altitude creates. Because of the high altitude, its imperative to acclimatize to the altitude in Cusco or the Sacred Valley for 2 or 3 days before embarking on this trail. Next, walking in a considered pace will help avoid the extreme affects of altitude sickness. Also, remember to listen to your body, take short deep breaths and rest when you need to. Hiking is never a competition, its a personal journey of discovery and enjoyment.

Choosing a tour operator that is experienced with rainbow mountain tours is gold. Firstly, they will know to bring a can of oxygen incase you suffer from the most extreme symptom of altitude sickness, which is loss of oxygen. They also carry with them the local remedies for altitude sickness like coca leaves. We recommend consulting your doctor before leaving home, about what medication to take to combat altitude sickness. Your guide will not recommend or administer any medication because they are not licensed medical personnel.

Weather: Best time to hike Rainbow Mountain

The best time to hike Rainbow Mountain is during dry season, which is between April to September. During the dry season its less likely to rain, daily sunshine is a norm and the weather is a lot more predictable. It is an easier hike without the rain and unfortunately, colors are not as prominent under grey skies. There are also chances of thunderstorm that occur without warning that high up in the mountain during the rainy season. However, seeing views of the mountain slightly covered in snow gives a different perspective. The snow creates a sharp contrast between the white and bright colors of the mountains that peak through.

You should still be well prepared for all weather, even if you go during the dry season. At the top of the mountain, it can get chilly with little warning and light rain showers can occur. So bring things to protect you from the harmful sun rays like sunglasses, a poncho for the rain and an extra jacket for when the weather gets colder.

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