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Tips for Hiking Rainbow Mountain in Peru + How to get to Vinicunca

Rainbow Mountain or Vinicunca is a colorful sedimentary mountain in Peru with a peak of just over 5,200m (17,060 ft) and a starting altitude of 4,326 m (14,189 ft) with an elevation gain of 1,500 meters (2,000 feet). Due to the high altitude we recommend to at least acclimate for three days in Cusco, Peru before going on a day trip to Rainbow Mountain. Machu Picchu might be the reason why many tourists decide to visit Cusco, but Rainbow Mountain should not be missed.

Find all: Hotels in Cusco

Hiking Rainbow Mountain is not easy, but it is worth it. The constant change in the weather conditions, the high altitude and its distance makes this a challenging hike. Even with that in mind, we encourage you to visit this natural wonder. You can rent a donkey or go on your own pace. It is still an off the beaten path attraction even though it is becoming more and more popular.

Tips for Hiking Rainbow Mountain in Peru + How to get to Vinicunca

Where is Vinicunca in Peru? and How to get to Rainbow Mountain?

You can get to Rainbow Mountain by taking a tour, on your own or by public transportation or by completing a 6-day hike called the Ausangate Trek in the Andes.

If you choose to do the six day hike you do not need a permit unlike the Inca Trail. In fact, you will see very few hikers on this trail. You will not have bathrooms nor hotels along the trail, so you have to stay at local houses or camp.  We did not do the hike and instead took a tour from Cusco. We were limited in time but we have heard that the views are unforgettable.

The Rainbow Mountain is in the Willkanuta Mountain Range, nestled in the greater Andes Mountains and just a three hour drive east from Cusco.

When is the best time to visit Rainbow Mountain?

The best time to hike Ausangate and to visit Rainbow Mountain is during the dry months between May and September. The shoulder months of April and October often have good weather as well. We visited in mid-December and we were really lucky that the weather was clear and dry.

Rainbow Mountain Peru Day Trip from Cusco:

➳ Important Update: Now, you can visit the Vinicunca and the Palccoyo Mountain in one Rainbow Mountain day tour. The difference between these two mountains is that Vinicunca is more popular and it is located at 5,200 meters with a strenuous 3 hour steep hike but has several rainbow mountain tops while Palccoyo is located in lower altitude and it is mostly flat and an easy 1.5 hour hike but with less mountain top.

We opted to take a day-long tour from Cusco to visit Rainbow Mountain. South America is so different than Europe and North America, in that it is better to buy your tour in person. It allows more negotiation and you can save big bucks, as often online tour prices are inflated, because they can. We choose to book a flight to Cusco and go for the adventure and it was so much better. We got a full package including Rainbow Mountains, Machu Pichu, and the Incas Sites for less than $200 per person.

Read More: Hiking the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu

We were picked up at our hotel in Cusco at 3:30 am to head towards Rainbow Mountain. We arrived around 6:30 am and ate breakfast, while the guide explained our itinerary. The scenery was beautiful already, surrounded by gorgeous mountains and beautiful green plains. After breakfast we started our hike, we had the chance to rent a horse both ways for 70 soles (≈$20 USD).

Read More: Boutique experience in Cusco: El Balcón Hotel

Jazmin ride the horse for 5 minutes thinking the horse will take her to the peak but it did not happen.

Jazmin rode the horse for 5 minutes thinking the horse will take her to the peak but it did not happen.

It is worth hiring the horse if you have any problems hiking long distances at a high altitude. Please keep in mind that even if you rent a horse you will still have to hike around 1km to the top of the mountain. During the hike there will be moments where you cannot ride the horse and will need to walk up or down the mountain as well.

The hike itself is 9 kilometers each way with 700 meters in elevation gain. It is a 3 to 3.5 hours hike and during the last 30 minutes you might need to stop to catch your breath every few steps.

Rainbow Mountain in Peru

After the long hike you get to see a beautiful range of mountains full of colors. You cannot stay on the top longer than 30 minutes as the air is too thin and can cause headache or altitude sickness. After taking pictures and enjoying the view you hike back to the bus along the same path.

The hike was one of the hardest we have ever done, and Steven has previously done a 42km one day hike with 2290 meters elevation gain, so do not take this trip lightly.  There are several points where you just have to stop for several minutes to regain your energy.

We ate lunch at the bottom and then headed back to Cusco. The ride back to Cusco is about 3 hours and you will be back around 5:00 pm, leaving you ready for a comfortable bed and a long nights sleep.

rainbow-mountain plains

We took a tour to Rainbow Mountain. The tour companies in Cusco work with third parties which is why we are sharing the contact info of our tour guide, Carlos, to Rainbow Mountain. He was kind, prepared and always ready to help. In fact he stayed with Jazmin the whole way giving her strength to keep going. You will find different prices for this tour from 80 soles all the way to 300 soles. So shop around for the best price and the best guide.

What to Pack for Rainbow Mountain?

Rainbow Mountain weather is unpredictable, one day it can be super sunny and the next day it can be a snowstorm. So, all we can say is be prepared, it is better to have more layers and take them off, even if this means you will have to carry them, than being super cold and not being able to finish the hike.

What we think is a must to pack on your hike to Rainbow Mountain:

Where to Stay in Cusco Before Hiking Rainbow Mountain?

We stayed at the Balcon Hotel in Cusco. It was the perfect hotel for a good night sleep before our big hike and also it was amazing to relax after such a challenging hike.

Tips for Hiking Rainbow Mountain:

  • Bring Water and drink it constantly
  • Bring sunscreen and USE it
  • Bring a Granola bar/ chocolate bar and eat after the hike
  • Get coca leaves
  • Acclimate yourself in Cusco before going on the hike
  • Stay at the top for no more than 10 to 15 minutes it is super high
  • Bring toilet paper and a gatorade

Rainbow Mountain Hike

Discover the spot where a rainbow fell out of the sky and melted into the Andean landscape on this guided hike of Vinicuna, the spectacularly beautiful Mountain of Seven Colours.

For more details, click here!

Tour Contact information:

Tour Guide: Carlos Javier Vargas

WhatsApp: +51 984 788383 or +51 934 983471

Email: [email protected]

More articles from Peru that might interest you:

Read More: Boutique experience in Cusco: El Balcón Hotel

Read More: Hiking the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu

Read More: Walking Guide of Cusco

Read More: Day trip to the Sacred Valley and its Incas Sites from Cusco

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Everything you need to know to plan your trip to Rainbow Mountain from Cusco. The perfect day trip to rainbow mountain. What to do and how to get to rainbow mountain. The complete guide to hike the Rainbow Mountain in Peru The complete guide to hike the Rainbow Mountain in Peru

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How have I never heard about this?!? Thanks so much for sharing. I can't wait to visit this beautiful place.


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