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Rainbow Mountain is beautiful! But it can be a struggle if you are not prepared.

Everything to Know About Visiting Rainbow Mountain, Peru

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Rainbow Mountain, Peru is one of the unique landscapes you will ever encounter. It is a must if you are visiting Peru. The beautiful colors of this mountain may be difficult to get to, but we can tell you that it is worth the climb. Here is everything you need to know when visiting Rainbow Mountain, Peru.

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What is Rainbow Mountain?

Rainbow Mountain, formally known as Mount Vinicunca, is a mountain in the Andes of Peru with an altitude of 5,200 meters above sea level. Just discovered a few years ago, It has become increasingly famous for its beautiful colorful layers and unique look.

Another name given to this colorful landscape is "Montana de Siete Colores", which means, Mountain of Seven Colors, and is due to its 7 different colors that are found throughout the many layers.

rainbow mountain, peru

Rainbow Mountain, Peru is unique because its many different colored layers.

The variety of colors are formed due to different environmental conditions and mineralogy when the sediment was originally deposited. Therefore then it is diagenetically altered.

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Where is Rainbow Mountain in Peru?

Mount Vinicunca is situated in the Peruvian Andes, in the Cordillera de Vilcanota. It is located 138 km south east of Cusco, and is about a 3 1/2 hour drive away.

How to Get to Rainbow Mountain, Peru

Rainbow Mountain is located just three hours in car from Cusco, making it a very popular day trip. You can reach this beautiful place by excursion, by rental car, or by private transportation/ taxi.

How to Get to Rainbow Mountain, Peru By Car

If you would like to have extra time and not be rushed at all, a good option would be to rent a car (highly recommended to get an SUV), or to hire a driver. There are plenty of rental companies inside the city, and there are also many taxi drivers that will be happy to take you, but at a pretty high price (around $100 USD).

The thing about driving, is that it is a long way, and the cell service is not great. The best part though, is that you can spend as much time as you would like there, and can also check out the other areas more deeply, such as the neighboring mountain "Red Neck Mountain".

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How to Get to Rainbow Mountain, Peru By Excursion

Many hostels and tour companies offer daily excursions to this beautiful place, so it is not hard to make it there. It is important to check all different companies, as the prices may vary. But the excursions are all pretty much the same. Avoid purchasing in advance online, as the prices are much higher.

Want to book your excursion in advance? Here is one we recommend:

The 10-Step Journey by Excursion to Rainbow Mountain, Peru

Want to book an excursion? This is what your day will look like (more or less):

1. Getting Picked Up

Almost every excursion starts at 3:00 am, as all of the companies try to "beat the crowds". In reality, the place is very popular, so you will definitely see other groups there. No matter how early they pick you up, all of the companies are doing the same. Transportation will pick you up from whatever hostel you are staying in, usually between 3:00 and 4:00 am.

rainbow mountain, Peru excursion

Most tours to Rainbow Mountain, Peru start at 3 am, so it is normal to see other large tour groups early in the morning.

2. Breakfast

After a couple of hours on the road, the first stop will be made for breakfast around 6:00. You will be served a typical Peruvian breakfast, and have the opportunity to purchase walking sticks, chocolate, and other things to prepare you for your journey.

3. Arriving to Rainbow Mountain, Peru

Upon arrival, you will be given information about the mountain, and have your guide lead the way. There is only one trail to make it up, and everyone goes at their own speed. The mountain itself does not seem like such a difficult trek.

However, we can say that despite how it appears, the hike up is one of the most difficult that we have ever done. This is due to the extremely high altitude.

Rainbow Mountain, Peru

The hike doesn't look very intense, but the high altitude makes it more difficult than it looks.

Make sure you don't do any intense activities the day before visiting Rainbow Mountain.

4. The Alternative Option

There is also the alternative of choosing to ride a horse. We don't suggest this, as it is not pleasant for the horse. It is also more expensive (about 80 soles), and makes the end less rewarding. In addition, the final part of the climb will still need to be done on foot, which is the most difficult part anyway. 

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5. The Trail to Rainbow Mountain, Peru

Along the way, luckily there are many cholas (typical Peruvian women) that sell water. chocolate, and even special minty paste to sniff in order to help with the altitude. The sugar in the chocolate helps with keeping energy up, and the water is very important to keep you hydrated,

cholitas, rainbow mountain

Luckily there are plenty of local women selling drinks and snacks to help you along the way.

High altitudes can make you feel extremely dizzy or sick, so anything made with Coca leaves will help immensely. You can eat sweets made from Coca, chew on Coca leaves, or bring a jug of Mate de Coca, which is a tea made from Coca leaves.

6. At the Top of Rainbow Mountain, Peru

Once you get closer to the top, the winds pick up significantly, and it can become more difficult to climb. It also can become a little chilly, but you will be rewarded with the most stunning views!

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There are alpacas around, but are guided by Cholitas, who will ask for money. We urge you not to encourage this kind of behavior, and to instead check out the wild and free alpacas at the bottom of the mountain.

top of Rainbow Mountain, Peru

At the top of Rainbow Mountain you'll find cholitas with alpacas to make money off of tourists taking pictures.

7. The Descent/ Red Valley

If you have already spent enough time visiting Rainbow Mountain, you can also check out the Red Valley! It is located right next to Rainbow Mountain, and just an extra 10 soles. The best way to see both though, is to go separate from a tour, as the time passes much more quickly than you would expect.

Red Valley in Peru

The Red valley is conveniently located right next to Rainbow Mountain, and can be combined for an extra 10 soles.

8. After the Trek/ Lunch

After your rewarding trek, the group will be brought back together, and everyone will go for lunch. It is buffet style, with a great assortment of local food and beverages. 

9. The Ride Back

After lunch, there will be two more stops on the way back, which are both beautiful viewpoints located on different lakes. They are not only nice to see, but definitely are a good way ton break up the trip.

ride from rainbow mountain

On the way back to Cusco you will stop at two different lakes with viewpoints.

10. Arrival Back to Cusco

The excursion will likely arrive back in Cusco for around 6-7 pm, dropping off each person back at his/her hostel.

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How to Prepare for Visiting Rainbow Mountain, Peru

Before you visit this great mountain, there are a few ways that you can prepare, in order to have the most pleasant experience. Here are a few ways you can make sure you are ready to tackle Rainbow Mountain, Peru.

Rainbow Mountain, Peru

Rainbow Mountain is beautiful! But it can be a struggle if you are not prepared.

Get Enough Rest

We made the horrible decision of going to Rainbow Mountain, Peru the day after we returned from Machu Picchu. We highly suggest having a full day of rest before, and going to sleep early, so that your body is in its most ideal state.

Adjust to the Altitude

If you have just arrived to Cusco, it is crucial that you do not do any crazy hikes until you are fully adjusted to the altitude, Cusco lies 3,400 meters above sea level, and it really takes a toll on your body upon arrival.

The high altitude can make you feel tired, dizzy, and extremely sick. As soon as you get there, make sure that you take altitude sickness pills. Drink lots of Mate de Coca, or chew on coca leaves. After a full day or two, you can then look at the fun hikes outside of the city.

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Bring Snacks and Water

As we said, there are plenty of stalls along the way, but it is always better to be prepared to have the essentials with you in advance. Chocolate, Coca candies, and lots of water are a must in order to keep you full of energy and properly hydrated along the way.

Dress Properly

When hiking, we definitely suggest wearing comfortable clothes, and good sneakers. Layers are a good idea, as it can be very hot at the bottom, but very chilly at the top. Bring either a blanket to sit on, or dark colors in case you would like to sit along the way. You wouldn't want to get your beautiful clothes all dirty!

Rainbow Mountain, Peru

Make sure to bring layers, as it's much colder and windier at the top.

Bring Cash

Once you start the excursion, there are no ATMs available, and no place that accepts card. Make sure you bring enough cash for extra snacks, water, or walking sticks, if you need the extra help.

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Get a Walking Stick

The only time we have ever used a walking stick while hiking was at Rainbow Mountain in Peru. As the climb is extremely difficult, it is a good aid. In addition, when we were coming down from Red Valley we got lost along the trail, and had to use the walking stick to help us slide down safely, and catch up with the group.

rainbow mountain

Getting a waking stick definitely helps the hike up to Rainbow Mountain.

Visiting Rainbow Mountain is a truly incredible experience. Being just a few hours outside of Cusco, it is definitely a must see. Be well prepared, get some rest, and enjoy this amazing place! Want to see some more beautiful places in Peru? We have a guide about the best places to visit in Peru for you.

Looking to plan that next trip? Sit back and relax, while we do the hard work. With over 10 years of experience, we'll make sure to get you the best deals so you can explore more and spend less. Want to know how it works? You can take a peak at our travel planning packages that we offer.

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