Why Rainbow Mountain should be on your Cusco, Peru Itinerary

Why Rainbow Mountain should be on your Cusco, Peru Itinerary

If you're booking a trip to Peru, you're likely considering visiting Machu Picchu, one of the 7 Wonders of the World. To get there, you've got to first head to Cusco, Peru, which is a beautiful city in itself and worth spending some time in.

Cusco is a great launching pad for many day trips or multi-day trips in the surrounding area, and one of those is to Rainbow Mountain, also know by locals as Vinicunca (pronounced like Winnie-koon-ka).

A view of Rainbow Mountain in Peru

What is Rainbow Mountain?

Rainbow Mountain was discovered in 2013 after being permanently covered in snow, which has since melted and now allows people to visit this unique site. The mountain is made up of 14 different minerals, which give it its rainbow-like appearance.

Now a popular tourist attraction, this unique mountain is somewhere everyone should visit in their lifetime.

Here's why Rainbow Mountain should be on your Cusco, Peru Itinerary

It's a challenging but rewarding hike

Hiking up to see Rainbow Mountain was a bit more difficult than I was expecting. In reality, you're hiking up to about the same elevation as Everest Base Camp. 

Even just the parking is incredibly high up in elevation, coming in at 4,800 meters. Then at the top where you can see Rainbow Mountain, you are as high up as up to 5,200 meters. That's insanely high up!

Ashley hiking up Rainbow Mountain with snow covering the ground and people guiding horses in the background

For me, the start of the hike was the hardest. I learned quickly that I could not just hike like normal or breathe like normal. I tried to go my normal hiking pace and was quickly out of breath and had to stop. I was fine, but I needed to rest to regain normal breathing.

Once back to normal, I used the "slow and steady wins the race" mindset to get to the top, frequently stopping and taking my time to get to the top. Plus I also wanted to take in the beauty of the scene around me. That said...

It has incredible views

Ashley with a view of Rainbow Mountain in Peru in the background
A valley view at Rainbow Mountain in Peru with fog covering the tops of the mountains in the distance

When the snow stops and the fog clears, you get incredible views of Rainbow Mountain and the surrounding valley and mountains in the distance.

Ashley holding her arms and a hiking pole up in the air with green and red mountains in the background

Along the trail to the top, you will see various red and green mountains in the distance. On my way up, they were covered in snow, but on the way down, the snow had melted and you could see the beautiful colors of these mountains.

It's a unique experience

Aside from hiking up the mountain, along the way, you will see herds of llamas and alpacas grazing in the fields.

A valley view with llamas and alpacas grazing in the fields at Rainbow Mountain in Peru
Please respect the wildlife and let them be wild. If you do want a picture, keep your distance and use zoom. Or you can pay at the top to take pictures with ones that are intended to be used to take pictures with.
A close of alpacas grazing at Rainbow Mountain in Peru
That said, enjoy these cutie pie alpacas that I took a picture with at the top!
Ashley with two alpacas dressed in colorful attire at the top of Rainbow Mountain in Peru

You can get many Instagrammable pictures

Not much to say here, just some pictures to show you proof!
Ashley standing alone in front of Rainbow Mountain in Peru
Two alpacas dressed in colorful attire at Rainbow Mountain in Peru
Ashley standing with Red Valley in the background at Rainbow Mountain in Peru

Ready to book your Rainbow Mountain tour?

To get to Rainbow Mountain, you MUST book an official tour through a reputable tour company that has permission to visit Rainbow Mountain. Please do not try to go on your own. It is far from Cusco, and you risk being turned away at the gate.

You can book an official tour by using sites like Get Your Guide, Viator, and TripAdvisor. Or you can find local tour companies located in Cusco and book directly through them.

Here's the tour I booked and highly recommend:

 

 

Or you can check out any of these options on Get Your Guide, which I've found to be the most cost-effective: 

 

 

Where to Stay in Cusco, Peru

I recommend staying as close as you can to Plaza de Armas in Cusco in a place within your budget. Tours like the ones for Rainbow Mountain will only pick you up from a zone close to the center of the historic district near Plaza de Armas.

 

If Rainbow Mountain, the city of Cusco, or the country of Peru is on your travel bucket list, you can learn more about the area, the culture, day trips, and more here.

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