What is Rainbow Mountain?

Rainbow Mountain is a popular mountain in Peru made up of 14 different colorful minerals, which gives it its rainbow appearance that we all love and what entices us to visit. It’s also called Vinicunca (pronounced like Winnie-koon-ka) which is a word originating from Peru’s native tongue Quechua, which translates to “colored mountain”

When was Rainbow Mountain discovered?

Rainbow Mountain was only discovered in 2013 because it was permanently covered in snow, which melted and uncovered this magnificent mountain.

Where is Rainbow Mountain?

Rainbow Mountain is located in the Andes mountain range over 3 hours away from Cusco.

How do you get to Rainbow Mountain?

You MUST book a tour through an official, reputable tour group to be able to visit Rainbow Mountain. Individuals are not permitted to go on their own.

  • Where do I book a tour?

    You have many options to book a tour to Rainbow Mountain. You can use sites like Get Your Guide or Viator to book your tour. Or you can find a tour company in Cusco and book directly through them. Either way, you just need to book a tour.

  • What types of tours are there?

    Tours can be a single full-day tour to Rainbow Mountain, a multi-day Ausangate trek which includes Rainbow Mountain, or a multi-day tour that includes many of the Cusco region's top sites -- like Machu Picchu, Humantay Lake, and Rainbow Mountain.

    Every tour is different, so be sure to look into the specifics before you book on what’s included and not included.

About the Tour I Booked

This is the tour I booked on Get Your Guide which was $25 for everything except the park entrance fee, which was an additional 25 soles, roughly $6.50.

Optional, Not Included:

Tipping. Restroom fees. Paying for pictures with llamas or alpacas. Passport stamps. Food and drinks on the hike. Any method of transportation up and down the mountain (besides walking).

Learn More & Book It

More Rainbow Mountain tours to choose from

There are so many different reputable tour groups to choose from. Find the one that's right for you from these options or more. You can find ATV and motorbike tours as well.

How far above sea level is Rainbow Mountain?

While Cusco is already well above sea level at 3,400 meters / 11,200 feet, Rainbow Mountain is even higher up in elevation.

In fact, the parking lot which will be the base of your hike is at 4,800 meters / 15,800 feet. At the top of the mountain, you reach up to 5,200 meters / 17,000 feet.

Button label

What time of year should you visit?

There’s no right or wrong answer -- it truly depends on your preferences and the experience you hope to have.

  • Rainy Season

    January and February are considered the rainy season. Chances of rain and snow are higher than other times of year.

    When I was there, I experienced snow, sleet, fog, and sunshine all within about 2 hours. Our tour waited for the snow to melt and fog to clear before we headed back down the mountain. If not, we would not have seen the colors. Also the colors weren't as vibrant as you see on social media because of the weather I experienced.

  • Dry Season

    March to November is considered the dry season. Rain, snow, and fog are less common but can still happen. The most ideal months to visit and see the bright vibrant colors of Rainbow Mountain are June through August.

    Even though these are sunnier months to visit, keep in mind that you will be at 5,000+ meters above sea level, so colder temperatures can be expected.

Keep In Mind

Ideal weather cannot be guaranteed.

You may choose to go in the dry season but still encounter rain or snow. Or you may choose to press your luck and go during the rainy season and have incredible weather or very poor weather.

Things to Know Before You Go

Collapsible content

Altitude sickness - symptoms, treatment, & prevention

Learn about the symptoms, how to prevent them, and how to treat them.

It's recommended to spend at least 2-3 days acclimatizing to the altitude before doing strenuous activity. Cusco is already well above sea level. Spend a few days exploring the city before branching out to sites and hikes that are farther above sea level.

As for some basics on altitude sickness symptoms, it can range from headaches and body aches, to nausea and vomiting, to as serious as death.

And as for a few basics on prevention, you can drink Coca tea, chew Coca leaves, or find other ways of ingesting Coca (like candies). My tour guide had our group rub a Coca infused oil on our hands and smell the fumes before we started the hike up to Rainbow Mountain.

Pro Tip: If your tour includes breakfast before the hike, and there is Coca tea available, drink at least a cup.

If you're afraid of heights

This may not be the activity for you.

To get to Rainbow Mountain, the first 2 hours of the drive is on mostly normal paved roads, although bumpy and rough sometimes.

But once you get about an hour and a half away, it turns into dirt roads on the cliffside. They are narrow and honestly feel like a one lane road at most times but are for two-way traffic, with one vehicle being the one at the cliff's edge.

I'm not usually afraid of heights in a vehicle on curvy mountain roads, but this was a little terrifying in my opinion. What eased my mind was that the driver of the tour drives these roads all the time.

If you get motion sickness in the car

This may not be the activity for you.

The entire drive is bumpy, even in the cities.

The final hour and a half before you get to Rainbow Mountain is a VERY bumpy ride. The roads are not well-maintained, so there are many times where your driver has to practically stop for ditches in the road or avoid potholes. Plus it's super bumpy and I was thrown up out of my seat countless times.

I just tried to enjoy it but I don't get motion sickness in the car.

What to pack

Cash -- bring soles, especially coins.

Layers -- Because it is so high in elevation, it will be colder at Rainbow Mountain than Cusco.

Sunscreen -- Even if it's a cloudy day, or there's precipitation of some sorts, bring sunscreen and put it on any exposed skin. You are much higher in elevation, so the sun's rays will be stronger. At lunch after our tour, many people (myself included) had sunburn starting to set in on their faces already, just about an hour and a half from leaving the mountain. And if I'm being honest, my face has never been burnt as badly as it was after visiting Rainbow Mountain. About 2/3 of my face blistered.

Gloves -- your hands will be out of your pockets quite a bit, so make sure to pack gloves to keep them warm. I promise you'll thank me for this. I ended up using my extra pair of hiking socks.

A winter hat -- You'll want to keep your head and ears warm during the hike up to the top and while you're at the top. It's much colder and a heck of a lot windier if you go all the way to the top of Vinicunca.

What not to pack

Drones -- they are not allowed in the park.

Umbrellas -- they are not allowed in the park.

Things to Know During Your Tour

  • Time to hike

    It will take around 60-90+ minutes to get to the top depending on your physical fitness and ability to adapt to the altitude. It will take about an hour to hike back down.

  • Slow & steady wins the race

    Because you are at such high altitudes, the air will be thin and it will be harder to catch your breath. It’s not a race to the top by any means, so take your time and enjoy the hike up and down.

  • You don't have to hike

    You can pay to ride horses, motorbikes, or ATVs up and down. Motorbikes and ATVs only take about 10 minutes to get to the top I believe all of this can be paid for in person.

Other Things to Note

Food and Drinks: At the top of the mountain, there are people selling food (both snacks and meals), drinks, and alcohol. Yes, you can buy a beer (cerveca) at the top of the mountain! How cool!

Llamas and Alpacas: If you plan to take a picture with any of the llamas or alpacas -- which who doesn't want to do that -- you're expected to pay the owner.

Passport Stamps: If you want your passport stamped with Rainbow Mountain -- or really anything, it doesn't have to be your passport if you want to save room for other places -- you have to pay 2 soles. You can have your passport stamped at the top or bottom of the mountain.

Restrooms: The only bathrooms you will find at Rainbow Mountain are at the park entrance and the park parking lot. You will be expected to pay 2 soles to use the facilities, and there is not a way to wash your hands. Bring some toilet paper yourself just in case (from what I've read, sometimes they don't have it) and bring hand sanitizer or you just have to embrace the germs.

Want a copy of this travel guide to save for later when you're planning a trip to Rainbow Mountain?

Enjoy your time at Rainbow Mountain!!