The Rainbow mountain or Vinicunca" mountain, is one of the iconic Cusco hikes and is a must-do day trip if you’re in the Cusco area and have some extra time! Rainbow Mountain and the red valley are a series of high Andean landscapes full of rainbow colors and there are also hills and peaks of red color like a reddish desert which makes it one of the most impressive landscapes of the Peruvian Andes and that make for some of the most beautiful and other-worldly photography on Earth. The hike is not long (8 km round trip hike), but it is all above 5100 m so, while it is challenging for that reason, it is also one of the best day hikes in Peru!
Amazing Andean landscapes
Beautiful Rainbow Mountain colors
Breakfast, Lunch, and snacks are included
Snow-capped mountains, peaks, and valleys
Pick Up from your hotel in Cusco
Tour led to this remote region by Expert Guides
See llamas and alpacas and local Andean farmers along the route
At 5,200 meters (17,060 feet) above sea level, Rainbow Mountain’s altitude is more than half that of Mount Everest. Those who wish to see this beautiful site for themselves must be prepared for a difficult 3-hour hike at a high altitude. Weather conditions can also complicate the journey, with both blistering cold temperatures and intense UV rays due to the elevation. But while getting there might be a little tough, the extraordinary view once you reach the top will make it all worth it.
Tours to Rainbow Mountain leave from the city of Cusco, the former capital of the Inca Empire and the closest major city to Machu Picchu and many of Peru’s most famous attractions. After departing from Cusco your tour will take you on a 2-hour drive south of the city to the town of Pitumarca. Not far from here is where you’ll find the Rainbow Mountain trailhead to start your hike.
Snow used to cover the colorful lines of Vinicunca, however, due to climate change, the snow covering the hills slowly melted away. Locals say the mountain was discovered in 2013, and since then, thousands of visitors looking to take a peek at the multicolored mountain make the difficult trek to see the site.
The hike to Rainbow Mountain will usually take around 3 hours depending on your speed and level of physical fitness. The trail itself is mostly flat until the final ascent, but the high altitude is what makes it challenging. Because of the strain that high altitude can cause on the body, it’s generally recommended to walk at a relaxed pace (which you’ll want to do anyway so that you can enjoy the natural beauty around you). For those who prefer not to hike, there are usually horses available for rent along the trail. However, they can only bring you to the end of the flat part of the trail where you’ll have to dismount and climb the final stretch on foot to reach the summit.
The local people that live near Rainbow Mountain also keep herds of llamas and alpacas, so you’ll have the chance to see many of these furry creatures along the way. Once you reach the summit’s lookout point you’ll have sweeping panoramic views of not only Rainbow Mountain but also the nearby Red Valley.
The Peruvian Andes are subject to two distinct seasons: the dry season, lasting from roughly April until October; and the rainy season, lasting from November until March (with the months of heaviest precipitation being January and February). April and October are also pleasant since it's usually when the seasons are transitioning.
Because of its high altitude and icy air, the rainy season in the region often turns into snowfall at Rainbow Mountain. Visitors to Rainbow Mountain should come prepared with clothes for all weather, as conditions can also change quickly.
The possibility of experiencing altitude sickness is one of the most common concerns for visitors to Rainbow Mountain. Altitude sickness is caused by a lack of oxygen at higher altitudes and can set in at altitudes above 2,500 meters (8,000 feet) above sea level, putting Rainbow Mountain’s altitude of 5,200 meters (17,060 feet) well above the minimum elevation where it can occur.
The symptoms of altitude sickness (known as “soroche” in Peru) can include headache, vomiting, dizziness, tiredness, and shortness of breath. In rare cases, these symptoms can develop into more serious illnesses. Due to the strain placed on the heart by lower oxygen levels, those with a history of heart problems should not hike Rainbow Mountain. If you are not sure whether or not you should hike Rainbow Mountain, make sure to discuss your concerns with a doctor before coming to Peru.
Always take the time to acclimatize to the altitude for a day or two before attempting to hike Rainbow Mountain or complete any other strenuous physical activity.
Consult with your physician at home for any suggested medications you can take to ease your acclimation at high altitudes.
Drink coca tea, an herbal remedy for altitude sickness used by local peoples for thousands of years.
Avoid heavy meals, alcoholic beverages, and smoking cigarettes.
Make sure you keep well-hydrated.