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Rainbow Mountain: 1 day trek

1. About the Rainbow Mountain

Its original name is Vinicunca or Winikunka which means “colored mountain” in Quechua. It’s called Rainbow Mountain because of its different mineral and rock components. The Rainbow Mountain is a beautiful and natural landscape you can’t miss when traveling to Peru. This natural wonder is located just a couple of hours from Cusco by minibus.The Rainbow Mountain was recently discovered for tourism, but it’s becoming one of the main attractions when visiting Peru.

2. Climbing the mountain

From the starting point, Phulawasipata, at 15177 feet above sea level, we walked for about half hour on an enjoyable and scenic walk, a relatively flat and easy part of the trail. If you don’t feel like walking, horses are available at any point of the trek for 80-10 Soles depending on how close you are to the mountain. There are also two restroom stops and some snacks, water and souvenir vendors. The first one is fifteen minutes into the climb, and the second one, about one hour into the climb.

After the flatter sections were over, the challenge began. As the road got steeper, our legs began to feel weak and we took rest breaks more often. This part seemed to last for a very long time since the altitude kept increasing until we reached the hardest but last section. It got harder and steeper, but with a little effort we managed to get to the first viewpoint at 16522 feet.

The view of the Vinicunca was breathtaking and made us forget completely about our struggle to get there. That, and the cute llamas and alpacas, that the locals brought with them. It absolutely exceeded our expectations. From there, you can climb and get to the highest viewpoint at 17060 ft, which we decided not to do this time. We were happy with the spot we were in; there was a beautiful view of the Rainbow Mountain and the Ausangate glacier on the other side, which made an captivating contrast.
The walk back was just as beautiful and somewhat challenging because of the change in altitude.

3. Transportations and services

Starting at 4:30am, the minibus picked everyone in the group at their corresponding hotels and hostels. Because of the time of departure, it’s guaranteed to be one of the first groups to get to the mountain. Tours operate every day (see here for more information). After approximately two hours we arrived at a big hut in a town called Pitumarca. Hot breakfast, drinks, and restrooms were included in the price. Also, you can rent hiking gear like walking sticks and buy snacks and cold beverages.

After the hike was over, we reunited with our group and drove back to the hut. Even though the road was bumpy and sinuous, that didn’t stop us from having a good and relaxing nap after the climb. We arrived at the hut where a traditional Peruvian buffet lunch (included in the price) awaited us. We ate and recovered from this adventure. Once our group was ready to go, we headed back to Cusco. On our way back, our tour guide, Carlos, gave us a detailed explanation about the history of the mountains, flora, fauna, and some interesting facts about it. He also answered any specific questions about the mountain and was happy to explain. We were dropped off near the Plaza de Armas, and each one walked back to their corresponding hotels and hostels.

4. Top tips and advice

  • Weather can change really fast once you are walking, so cover up real good since the morning is very cold. Once you get to the mountain, you can leave some layers on the bus, since you can get hot while hiking.
  • Make sure to bring a small backpack containing sunblock, sunglasses, water, snacks and toilet paper or tissues.
  • The ticket entrance for the Rainbow Mountain is 10 soles. Which is usually not included in most tours. (The tour we booked does include it)
  • Bring spare change in case you want a picture with an alpaca or llama. You can also get your passport stamped.
  • Chewing on coca leaves is helpful with the altitude.
  • Make sure to book your tour with a reliable agency that offers qualified guides, oxygen tanks, and first aid kit.

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