Even though Vinicunca or Rainbow Mountain was discovered a few years ago, it has become the second most visited site in Peru. People flock here from all over to see the stunning colors that are etched in the mountain side. I had the fortune of visiting here, last summer and it was one of my favorite places I have ever been. There is a lot to figure out when going on the Rainbow Mountain hike so here you will find all the information you will need for your journey.
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Table of Contents
Guide to the Rainbow Mountain Hike
What is Rainbow Mountain?
Vinicunca or Rainbow Mountain is a stunning multi-colored peak situated amongst the Andes. The peak itself was only discovered in recent years after the glaciers on top melted. The mountain gets its striped rainbow colors from the variety of minerals in the sediment.
Since it was discovered a few years ago, tourism has exploded to this sight. In order to reach the top, you will need to climb up 1500 feet to reach a total elevation of 17,000 feet where the mountain sits. Tours to this site leave daily from Cusco, 2 hours away.
When should I go?
In general, the best time to visit Peru is during their dry season, which lasts from March through November. If you want to see blue skies and experience nice temperatures then the winter months from June-August are best. We went in July and although it was a bit chilly, the skies were clear, the sun was shining, and the mountain was beautiful.
What do I pack?
Similar to most hiking trips, you are going to want to pack a lot of lightweight layers and good walking shoes for the Rainbow Mountain hike. On our trip up the mountain I wore a Patagonia nano puff, a sweater that I purchased at the market in Cusco, an athletic shirt, hiking pants, and merino wool socks. I was really cold in the beginning of the hike, but by the time we reached the top I had shed some layers because I was sweating.
Things to Pack:
- Extra Snacks & Water
- Hiking Pants
- Merino Wool Socks
- Pagonia Nano Puff or other Lightweight Jacket
- Beanie or Winter Hat
- Hiking Boots
- Thermal Layer
How can I prepare?
One of the most important ways to prepare for the hike is to acclimate to the altitude. You should stay in Cusco for a few days before attempting the climb. If you go too early, you risk the chance of getting altitude sickness on your journey.
You can also bring some coca leaves, which you can pick up in Cusco, chewing on that will help prevent altitude issues. The hike is also rather steep and you will be climbing 2,000 feet up, so I suggest you train a little bit before your travels. You could take some walks, go on a hike, or work on the stair master at the gym. It will be much easier if you have been staying active.
What are the best tours?
There are plenty of options for Rainbow Mountain tours and many locals will offer guided excursions up the mountain. I highly suggest booking with Rainbow Mountain Travels (not sponsored), which was recommended by a friend and our hostel as well. They leave earlier than most tours, so you will find that the mountain is pretty empty on your walk up. The guides speak English and are very knowledgeable.
Ours even offered for us to smell “llama pee,” which you put on your hands and sniff to prevent sickness. Most important, our guide made sure that we were all feeling alright and they had oxygen tanks in case anyone needed them. We also had the option to hike the “Red Valley” on the way back down and it was a sight that I wouldn’t want to have missed! They were an amazing tour provider and I would go on the tour all over again!
What should I expect?
Even if you don’t go on a tour with Rainbow Mountain Travels, you should still expect to leave on your tour incredibly early. Our tour began at 3 am, where they picked us up and then we drove a couple hours with a stop for breakfast. Most tours will include both lunch and breakfast for all hikers.
The climb up to the top of the mountain is about an hour with 1500 feet of elevation gain, but once you get to the top you will realize why it is worth it. Rainbow Mountain is spectacular and it will blow you away. Getting pictures without people in them can be difficult, but the guides will give you plenty of time for photo shoots. After a while, the guides will tell you it’s time to go down the mountain.
Our tour had a 30 minute extra stop to Red Valley, which costs $7 a person. Then, we proceeded down the mountain and drove back to Cusco with a stop for lunch. This tour is long and takes most of the day, but it was my favorite thing that I did in Peru.
Did you find my guide to Rainbow Mountain Hike helpful? Let me know in the comments!