JOURNEY TO THE TOP: HIKING THE RAINBOW MOUNTAIN IN CUSCO
The Rainbow Mountain, also known as Vinicunca or Montaña de Siete Colores, is a breathtaking natural wonder located in the Cusco region of Peru. This stunning mountain has become increasingly popular in recent years due to its unique geological features and vibrant colors.
Have you ever imagined seeing a rainbow mountain in the middle of the Andes? Nature was very kind to give the region of Cusco the most beautiful sceneries in the world, including Vinicunca. This incredible mountain is also known as “Siete Colores”, “Cerro Colorado” and in English as “Rainbow Mountain”.
The imposing mountain Vinicunca presents this tonality due to the erosion of sedimentary stones, the same ones that are formed without any intervention of the man, are compared with a terrestrial rainbow. It is located within the Vilcanota mountain range; Vinicunca is located between 4,710 and 5,200 meters above sea level.
Vinicunca is located in the district of Pitumarca, in the province of Canchis, very close to the snowy mountain Ausangate (sacred mountain). Its high Andean area makes it be surrounded by camelids like alpacas and vicuñas, an incredible turquoise lagoon and varied fauna. Also, you will be able to appreciate the flight of the majestic condor, an animal in danger of extinction.
The mountain is composed of sedimentary rock layers that were pushed up by tectonic activity, and over time, the iron oxide in the rocks has oxidized and created a rainbow of colors.
To reach the Rainbow Mountain, visitors must take a day trip from Cusco, which usually includes a 3-4 hour drive followed by a 2-3 hour hike. The hike is challenging, with steep inclines and high altitude, but the stunning views along the way make it all worthwhile.As visitors ascend the mountain, they are treated to breathtaking views of the surrounding peaks and valleys. The colors of the Rainbow Mountain become more vibrant with each step, and the panoramic views from the summit are truly awe-inspiring.
Along the way, hikers will pass through traditional Andean villages and see local people going about their daily lives. This provides a unique cultural experience and a chance to learn more about the traditional way of life in the Andes.
It’s important to note that the Rainbow Mountain is located at high altitude, reaching up to 17,000 feet (5,200 meters) above sea level. This can be a challenge for some visitors, and it’s recommended to acclimate to the altitude in Cusco before attempting the hike. To ensure a comfortable and safe hike, it’s important for visitors to dress appropriately and bring the necessary gear for the Rainbow Mountain trek. This includes wearing warm clothing, such as layers and a windproof jacket, as temperatures can drop rapidly at high altitude. Sturdy and comfortable footwear with good traction is also essential for the steep and rocky terrain.
In addition to proper clothing and footwear, visitors should also bring plenty of water to stay hydrated and snacks to fuel their energy during the hike. It’s important to pack out any trash and not litter to preserve the natural environment and respect the delicate ecosystem of the mountain.
By being prepared with the right gear and respecting the environment, visitors can fully enjoy the beauty of Rainbow Mountain while also minimizing their impact on the local ecosystem.
What to Bring:
Before embarking on the hike, it’s important to pack appropriately for the challenging conditions. Be sure to bring plenty of water and snacks to keep your energy levels up during the 6-hour round-trip hike. Other essentials include:
- Hiking shoes or boots with good traction
- Warm layers, including a waterproof jacket and hat
- Sunscreen and sunglasses
- Trekking poles (optional, but helpful for the steep terrain)
- Cash for the entrance fee and any souvenirs
How to Dress:
The weather in the Andes Mountains can be unpredictable, so it’s important to dress in layers and be prepared for any conditions. We recommend wearing moisture-wicking clothing to keep you dry and comfortable during the hike. Here’s a breakdown of what to wear:
- Base layer: moisture-wicking shirt and pants
- Mid-layer: fleece or down jacket
- Outer layer: waterproof jacket and pants
- Headwear: hat and sunglasses
- Footwear: hiking shoes or boots with good traction and comfortable socks
- It is advisable to travel from April to August.
- Take equipment such as: hat, small backpack, comfortable sneakers, jacket to cover, sunscreen, trekking stick, blanket and water to hydrate.
- It is important that the traveler acclimate to Cusco and travel a few days before to avoid “soroche” or altitude sickness, here we will give you some tips.
- Buy food in the city of Cusco or Pitumarca / Cusipata, those are the only places where you will find stores to buy groceries or water.
The mountain Vinicunca or mountain of colors has become an important tourist attraction, visited by thousands of national and international tourists. As it is receiving so many travelers a year, a contingency plan is needed to protect it so future generations can enjoy it.
In conclusion, the Rainbow Mountain is a truly unique and unforgettable natural wonder that should be on every traveler’s bucket list. While the hike can be challenging, the stunning views and cultural experience make it a worthwhile adventure. So, if you’re planning a trip to Cusco, be sure to add the Rainbow Mountain to your itinerary!
Believe it or not, the rainbow mountain exists and is located in Cusco. Enjoy Vinicunca and its wonderful colors!