From unknown destination and absent even from the most famous tourist guides, Rainbow Mountain, also called Vinicunca or Montaña de Siete Colores, has become in a very short time one of the most photographed places in all of Peru, second only to Machu Picchu. As mentioned, you will not find information on any paper guide, at least in the less recent ones, because its discovery is very recent and has only been open to the public for a couple of years.
If you are planning a trip to Peru it is impossible not to have come across the picture of this incredible mountain yet. In fact, the particularity of Rainbow Mountain is given by the many-colored layers that form it, the result of the sedimentation of different minerals in the soil.
We are in the Vinicunca region, a few hours from Cuzco.
Before jumping headlong into this excursion it is important to know that this is a decidedly demanding trek: the path itself is not particularly difficult as it alternates between short steep climbs and almost flat stretches where you can recover your breath. The real difficulty of this trek is given by the height that is reached, the highest of our entire trip to South America. In fact, the maximum point reached during the trek is at an altitude of 5200 meters above sea level, with a gradient of the entire route to be completed at 1000 meters above sea level. At this height, breathing is difficult and you may experience several typical symptoms of soroche such as nausea, headache, etc. It is therefore advisable to take this trek after a few days of acclimatization in Cuzco (3400 m asl) so as to give your physique the time to adapt to the altitude gradually.
Rainbow Mountain: which agency should you rely on?
Being a day trip, we booked it directly in Cuzco the day before. In choosing the agency you can safely aim at saving because we have realized that all but really all the agencies in Cuzco sell exactly the same program of the day with the same identical services. Indeed it will happen to you, as it has happened to us, to pay to an agency but in the morning to find yourself with another, as depending on how many participants have joined together thereby reducing costs this is in a group service you pay less but there will be a lot of people with you with different physical conditions. incase you want to go on a private service tour operators offer with a picnic lunch but the cost is higher but they take small groups or families.
Rainbow Mountain: how much does it cost?
The cost of the excursion can vary depending on the season and by the agency, from a minimum of 95 USD up to almost double. depending on how you want to get in private service or group the cost for private tours goes from 120 to 180 USD per person depending on the travel agency
Rainbow Mountain: what does it include?
Transportation, meals (breakfast and lunch) and tour guide.
Rainbow Mountain: how does the day go?
The day begins very early. The agency’s bus picked us up from our hostel (we provided the address when paying for the excursion to the agency the day before) at 3.15 am. The reference time varies from 3.00 to 3.30. Once the other travelers have recovered from the various hotels (about fifteen people) we start in the direction of the small village Cusipata where we arrive after about 2 hours by bus. This is the first stop where you can have breakfast. It is a stop for all the agencies in Cuzco so you will end up with many other travelers in a large hall where a very simple breakfast is served and a briefing is held on the route to be taken. Once you recharge your batteries and drink a good mate de coca, take the bus to reach the base camp in about half an hour. You reach the entry point (4200 m asl) at about 8 o’clock from where the trekking on foot begins in the direction of the Ausangate glacier which dominates the valley from the height of its 6372 meters. A very important thing at this point is to have in mind who your tour guide (he will be recognizable by the flag in his hand and will often shout the name of the group) as it will all start together but then it will be impossible to keep everyone together due difficulty of trekking. For about 80 soles it is possible to hire a horse-driven by one of the many local women or kids at the beginning of the journey and reach the summit with considerable help. You can opt to take a horse even further along the route or for the return, the cost will be lower. We have tackled the climb on foot with a slow but steady pace, stopping several times to drink, eat a snack but also to remove a layer of clothing as we climbed up to remain half sleeves. In all, we took an hour and fifty minutes to go and just a little less to go back, the full trek is 16 km. The guide indicates the average journey time around 3 hours round trip. Once you reach the Vinicunca pass with an additional effort you reach the maximum point, or the mirador, at an altitude of 5,200 meters above sea level. Once on the crest of the mountain, take some time to enjoy the view from above (and catch your breath!). That day the sun shines high and the sky was a deep blue to make the colors all around so bright they seemed surreal. Something indescribable.
At about 13.00 we were again at the entry point where we joined the guide and, slowly, to our whole group. Before returning we stopped again in Quesium where we had lunch and finally returned to Cuzco, in Plaza de Armas, at about 6.00 pm.
It is a very popular tourist destination to be set up in one day from Cuzco. Anyone who would like to contemplate from the mirador its unique beauty in the world, but all this wonder must be earned with a physical and mental effort, difficult but not impossible. I can assure you that it is one of the most exciting experiences you will ever have on your journey. So don’t be discouraged and conquer Rainbow Mountain, considered by National Geographic one of the hundred places to visit at least once in your life. How can you blame him?