The Peruvian rainbow mountain is arguably one of the most famous sights in Peru today. Photos from the colorful mountain are often blown up in media and a popular sight on travel Instagrams. Safe to say, visiting Machu Picchu, Rainbow Mountain and eating some delicious Peruvian ceviche is musts when you find yourself in Peru. However, I must add that Peru has so much more to offer. Peru is one of my all-time favorite travel destinations, but more on that some other time. Here I will go in-depth on how to visit Rainbow Mountain from Cusco, Peru.
About the Rainbow Mountain
To clarify, the rainbow mountain of Peru is not the only rainbow mountain in South America. You can, for example, find the mountain of 14 colors in Jujuy, also nicknamed the Rainbow Mountain of Argentina. I definitely recommend visiting Jujuy to see the amazing sights there!
However, the most famous rainbow mountain, probably in the world, is the one in Peru. The Rainbow Mountains’ official name is Vinicunca. It’s popularly known as Rainbow Mountain, Montaña de Siete Colores(the mountain of seven colors) and Montaña de Colores(the colored mountain). The name is due to the mineralogical composition in the gravel on the mountain top, causing it to take on a range of colors. That way, it kind of looks like a rainbow with 7 colors.
Rainbow mountains location: 138km from Cusco
Rainbow mountain altitude: 5200 m above the ocean
Glacier: The area was covered in glaciers back in the day that eroded the area and made it look the way it is today.
The Mineralogical composition: The minerals in the gravel on the mountain make out 7 distinct colors. Among the minerals found are red clay, quartzose, sandstone, phyllites, and marlstone.
Where is Rainbow Mountain
The Rainbow mountain is located about 140 km from Cusco. The drive goes from the altitude in Cusco 3400 meters to about 4600 meters at the parking lot of the rainbow mountain. And the rainbow mountain is a part of the Peruvian Andes. The Andes mountain range stretch across big parts of South America from Venezuela in the north all the way to Argentina and Chile in the south.
The easiest way to go to the rainbow mountain is by joining a tour.
How to join a tour to the rainbow mountain?
There is no need to book a tour to the Rainbow mountain before you get to Cusco. The city is full of tour companies and the tour usually include more or less the same things. I recommend going ”tour shopping” in the streets of Cusco.
A Rainbow mountain tour from Cusco usually includes pickup, breakfast on the way to the rainbow mountain and lunch on the way back to Cusco. Be sure to as that your guide speaks English if you don’t speak Spanish. This won’t guarantee that they will speak English, but chances are higher. Hey, that’s just how South America works. In any way, there are usually a few people participating in the tours that speak a little Spanish. The Rainbow mountain tour doesn’t involve facts, and history telling, but basically just the food and transportation. It’s definitely good to have a guide though, due to the somewhat rural area.
Tips to book your Rainbow mountain tour
- Book your tour in Cusco.
- Don’t settle for the first and best tour office you visit. Ask around in different tour companies.
- Don’t be afraid to negotiate! That way you’ll be able to get a better price, as they start higher than they are usually willing to sell for.
- Ask that your guide speaks English
So what does a tour to the rainbow mountain cost? I would say that you can find a tour for everything from 17 dollars all the way to 80 dollars. So, as stated, look around and ask around in Cusco. The view is going to be the same!
If you anyway want to book your tour ahead of time, check out this tour to the Rainbow mountain, with a decent price and good reviews.
How to get to Rainbow Mountain Peru
So as already mentioned the rainbow mountain is about 140 km from Cusco where most people visit from. The most common way to visit the rainbow mountain is with a daytrip, starting early in the morning. It takes about 3,5 hours to drive from Cusco to the parking lot where the Rainbow mountain hike starts. The areas you’ll be driving through are quite rural as the tourism to the area is pretty new. However, there are small “restaurants”, and kiosks where you’ll be able to get food, drinks and whatever else you would need. Just be aware that the facilities are quite basic. You will probably be able to rent a car and drive to the rainbow mountain yourself, but its most likely not going to be profitable compared to the price of the tour, if you ask around.
How to get to the Rainbow Mountain viewpoint
The tour company will drive you to the parking lot where the rainbow mountain trail starts. The parking lot is on about 4600 meters altitude. From here you’ll have to get to the viewpoint by other means.
The top of the viewpoint of Rainbow mountain is at about 5200 meters altitude. You can either walk the whole way, this is pretty tough considering the altitude, but it is definitely worth it. Hiking all the way to the Rainbow mountain viewpoint makes it even more rewarding when you get to see the views if you ask me.
However, if you for some reason don’t want to hike up the rainbow mountain, or maybe can’t, you can rent a donkey or horse to take you closer. The owner or keeper of the animal will come with you. Still, you will not be able to ride all the way to the viewpoint but will have to walk the last bit yourself.
The hike should take you about 45 minutes to 1 hour, even though it’s just over 3 km remember that where talking about 600 altitude meters when you’re already at altitude. If you haven’t hiked in altitude before, just trust me that it’s pretty tough.
How to prepare to hike Rainbow Mountain, tips for hiking Rainbow mountain
So before hiking the rainbow mountain, I recommend that you take some time to prepare. Not just how you prepare for any hike. You might think that it’s not too challenging cause as stated, it’s just a 45 minutes hike, but keep in mind that it’s in altitude.
Take at least 2 to 3 days in Cusco to acclimatize, if not you’ll be likely to feel symptoms of altitude sickness. when starting on your hike to Rainbow mountain, if not before that. Stay hydrated and remember to eat enough before and during your visit. Altitude makes you feel hunger and thirst in a different way. Knowing the symptoms of altitude sickness and how to avoid it gets even more important on longer hikes and hikes stretching over several days. Still, be prepared and read more about how to prepare for high to altitudes.
As for hiking, it can feel though and it may feel impossible to even walk up the viewpoint. Take it slow and remember to breathe as the air is thinner at higher altitudes.
What to bring for your Rainbow Mountain trip
- Water– remember to hydrate.
- Snacks and food – it’s though for your body to be in higher altitude, even if your tour provides you with food, bring some extra snacks to keep yourself fueled for the day
- Sunscreen – even if it’s a cloudy day, the sun is much stronger at high elevations, remember to cover up and apply sunscreen! I even got a sun rash after my visit to the rainbow mountain, and I took precautions.
- Layer up and bring extra clothes – it’s colder in altitude and even though the hike will make you sweat you will most likely be freezing on the top. Bring a beanie, gloves, and scarf as well as a windbreaker jacket!