As an avid trekker and outdoor enthusiast, the vast offerings of Peru and the Andes Mountains are a dream come true. Occasionally I find myself overwhelmed by the options I have at my fingertips, but when I arrived in Cusco for the first time there was no doubt in my mind what my priority adventures were – the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu and a trek to the beautiful Vinicunca, Rainbow Mountain Peru.
A Hike to Vinicunca Rainbow Mountain Peru
Vinicunca is a mountain pass located about a four hour drive south east of Cusco, in the opposite direction of Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley. Known more commonly by travelers as the Rainbow Mountain Peru and by locals as La Montaña de Siete Colores (mountain of seven colors) or Cerro Colorado (colored hill), the geographical wonder is famous for its rainbow tonality- a surreal natural phenomena of mineral deposits streaked across sandstone rock.
In an area claimed to have one of the most impressive mountain sceneries in the Andes, Vinicunca is in close proximity to the snow capped Ausangate, the highest and most sacred mountain in the Cusco region.
Rainbow Mountain Peru can be accomplished as either a part of longer trekking routes such as the lodge to lodge Ausangate trek or a shorter trip focused on Vinicunca. According to your outdoor interests and personal time constraints, trips range from two to nine days and are available with luxury camping accommodations, or as lodge to lodge treks.
One day tours are widely offered from Cusco for backpackers and Aracari strongly recommends against this. The mountain pass is at high altitude, and on a multi day trip you have more time to acclimatize which is essential to factor in. Furthermore day trippers take the same route up and down, usually visiting at the same time jostling for the view, while longer routes can better avoid the group tours. Equally as important, multiple days give you more time to explore one of the most pristine mountain ecosystems in the world – Rainbow mountain is definitely not the only highlight of this area!
Take in the natural beauty of the valleys leading to the Rainbow Mountain Peru and the Cordillera Vilcanota
In an effort to take in as much nature as possible in the beautiful Cordillera Vilcanota but very tight on time, I opted for a two day/one night trek to the Rainbow Mountain Peru.
I was collected early in the morning from Cusco for a four hour drive beginning in the Vilcanota Valley. Not a morning person myself I slept the first part of the ride, but when I woke up I was delighted by the mountain views and llamas just outside my window. We made a brief stop at the Colonial Church of the Immaculate Conception, and then proceeded to ride through the Pitumarca Valley and alongside the Japura Gorge.
We then arrived in the small town of Chillca, where we were greeted by members of the community and the llamas and horses that would be carrying our things along the trek. Our first day was a fairly easy hour and a half hike to the tambo, or Andean Lodge, were we would stay the night. That evening we had a delicious Peruvian meal prepared from fresh produce, and enjoyed some authentic music by Chillca’s locals.
The ascent to the famous Rainbow Mountain Peru viewpoint
After a filling breakfast the next day, we waved goodbye to the warm people of Chillca and journeyed to the Caurahuire community. From here we began to ascend Vinicunca, only a few hours away from a beautiful view of the Rainbow Mountain Peru.
The path was not steep, nor seemingly difficult, but due to the altitude I was walking a bit slower than normal. Over the course of about three and a half hours I saw pastures of alpacas, valleys of stones, and had a lovely conversation with my Peruvian guide, Maurice.
The views along the way were incredible, and Maurice explained to me that the route we were walking is named ‘Camino del Apu Austengate.’ As mentioned, it is located close to the highest and most sacred mountain in the Cusco region, the Apu, which means bearer of life or guardian. While I observed the surrounding mountains on the trek I couldn’t help but appreciate why Pachamama, mother earth, is worshiped and understand how the route got its name.
Finally we reached the view of the Rainbow Mountain Peru. It was beautiful, and extremely cold at the top. I spent about 15 minutes admiring the incredible natural colors of the mountain and examining the geological wonder in front of me before it started hailing ice, and wind began penetrating my rain jacket. That being said, I was travelling in rainy season and if you have flexible travel dates would recommend a visit between May and October.
We decided to descend just a bit before enjoying a delicious picnic lunch. From our lunch spot we had a much more agreeable climate and could still take in the view of Rainbow Mountain Peru. After lunch I of course had to snap a few selfies before finishing the walk and embarking on the three hour drive back to Cusco. Upon arrival in the city, I couldn’t help but smile as I scrolled through my photos from the trek. I would highly recommend a trek to Rainbow Mountain Peru to any travelers looking for amazing views and a bit of adventure.
An important consideration for trekking at high altitude
While the views are breathtaking, the altitude can also quite literally take your breath away. The Rainbow Mountain Peru is located at 5,200 meters (17,060 feet). Higher than any peak in the continental USA, it can take a toll on the lungs of even the most experienced trekkers. That being said, it is important to spend some time acclimatizing at high altitude- relaxing in Cusco or taking in the mountain air from a beautiful lodge- before trekking to the Rainbow Mountain Peru. When travelling with Aracari, we take all necessary precautions and assure that your adventures are as safe as they are exciting.
Ready to experience the beauty of nature as well as a new culture on one of our luxury tailormade trips? Please contact Aracari or email email@example.com and we can include trekking to the Rainbow Mountain Peru in your custom itinerary.