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Rainbow Mountain | Peru

Updated: Jul 4, 2023

Planning to visit Rainbow Mountain in Peru? In this article, you will find everything you need to know when traveling there!

I visited Rainbow Mountain in June 2022 and it was truly one of the most magical day trips of my life. But there are definitely a few things you need to know before visiting to make sure your trip is perfect!

The official name of Rainbow Mountain is Vinicunca Mountain.

I will cover:

  • How to get to Rainbow Mountain?

  • How a visit to Rainbow Mountain really is?

  • My first and most important tip - Red valley

  • Things to know and be ready for when visiting Rainbow Mountain

  • So how the mountain got its colors?

  • What is the difference between Polcoyo Mountain and Rainbow Mountain?

How to get to Rainbow Mountain?

Most probably you are planning your trip from Cusco as that is the base city from where most day trips and excursions happen.

Unfortunately, there is no direct bus that goes to Rainbow Mountain as there aren't too many things around.

Interestingly enough, the mountain revealed itself and was 'discovered' by locals just around 10 years ago!

So this is definitely a tour to do with an agency as they will provide the transfer to the sight. The drive will be from 3 to 4 hours and you probably will start very early in the morning. Rainbow Mountain is around 80km from Cusco and the road distance is even longer! If you do not want to go with a group then you can take a taxi. In Cusco, you will be able to arrange one the previous day but of course, because it is quite a far way then it will cost around $100. Or you can also check Bookaway and see if there are any transfers available.

The entrance fee per person is around $3.00. Of course, if you go with an agency all that should be included in your tour fee.

How a visit to Rainbow Mountain really is?

Firstly, be ready for a little hike! It is around 1 hour long hike to get to the actual top of the mountain where all the best views are.

If you are not really a hiker, there are horses at the entrance that you can hire, who will take you almost to the end. For the last little steep bit up you will anyway need to hike yourself (approximately 15 minutes). A horse ride will cost you around $30.00.

My first and most important tip - Red valley

If there is one tip you need to take away from this article, it is to make sure you tell your guide to take you to the Red Valley as well! It does require a little detour from the path on your way back so make sure you leave before the group as it will require at least extra 30 minutes. But trust me it is so so worth it!

Also, in this part, you definitely have to hike yourself, no horses.

It is a part of the mountain that is not that popular but just look at these views ⬇️

Usually, tour agencies do not include this viewpoint but please talk to your guide and ask him if it is possible for him to guide you there! I did my tour with Peru Travel Company and our guide William was amazing and took us there.

Things to know and be ready for when visiting Rainbow Mountain

  1. Altitude - Rainbow Mountain's elevation is more than five thousand meters above sea level (5.200). This is one of the highest points in Peru! So with this, also comes issues of altitude, especially for those who come from sea-level locations. Firstly, either way, it will be harder to hike, you will feel short of breath and your head might get a bit dizzy. So please, take it slow, do not rush the hike! Breathe in and out and keep a steady pace. Also, you can use some of the local remedies, like chewing coca leaves or sniffing 'Ague de Flores' which is a local remedy made from plants that I personally really liked, used, and felt like it really helps me. Chewing coca leaves did nothing for me but each person is different so you need to try what works for you. Definitely spend a day in Cusco before doing this day trip to acclimatize.

  2. Cold - With high elevation also comes cold. If it is a windy day it can get really cold up there so make sure you have some extra layers with you. I say extra, because during the hike you will be alright, but it is the top where you will wish you had had that extra jumper with you.

  3. Things to have with you: So as per above - something against altitude sickness and an extra warm jumper. Also, have some cash money with you to buy some snacks and water as the day will be long. Or prepare some snacks with you and definitely have some water also.

  4. Be ready for a hike - Just a warning! The hike is not hard as it is not too steep (apart from the last part of around 15 minutes) but the high altitude will make your hike harder as it will be harder to breathe. So what usually would have taken you 40 minutes to hike, now will take you at least an hour!

So how the mountain got its colors?

As I mentioned before, this mountain is a relatively new sight because it was actually hidden by nature for a very long time! The mountain always had these beautiful colors but it was hidden under a thick layer of sand. Then after many years of wind blowing off the sand, the mountain finally revealed itself only now in the 21st century!

So what the colors are from? In total this mountain consists of 14 different minerals. One of the most interesting ones is gold! Yes, the mountain also has gold on it! Others are calcium, iron, different types of magnesium, sulfur, and others.

This is a great article to learn more about Rainbow Mountain: 15 Colorful Facts About Rainbow Mountain in Peru

What is the difference between Polcoyo Mountain and Rainbow Mountain?

If you are planning a trip to see the colorful mountains, you probably have seen people recommending Polcoyo Mountain as a great alternative!

I just want to add here in this article, that Polcoyo Mountain is closer, and the hike or area where to explore is a much shorter hike, but trust me, it is not as impressive as the original Rainbow Mountain. There is a reason why there are so many tourists visiting Rainbow Mountain. It is a truly unique place and unfortunately, Polcoyo mountain is just a good but not as great alternative. I have seen the pictures and yes, Polcoyo mountain will have fewer tourists and it is easier to do on your own, but it is not a Rainbow Mountain.

To see my Rainbow Mountain trip, check out this video:


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