What and where is Rainbow Mountain?
Rainbow Mountain, also called Vinicunca, is a mountain in the Andes, Peru. Natural minerals, treated with the perfect weathering, created the beautiful mountain famous for its vibrant colors. Rainbow Mountain is a 3 hour drive southeast from Cuzco.
Is it worth visiting while I’m around Cusco?
Yes! You definitely should visit. At the top, you are surrounded by both colorful and snowy mountains!
It’s a difficult hike. However, once you reach the top (don’t worry you will), it’s incredibly satisfying!
How difficult is it really?
Extremely difficult if you haven’t adjusted to the altitude. A lot of people get altitude sickness when they arrive to Cusco. Look at the graphs below and just imagine the altitude sickness you’ll get at Rainbow Mountain if you’re not acclimated:
Outside of altitude acclimation, you only have to worry about the weather. DO NOT go when it is, or was recently, raining or snowing.
The terrain itself is not bad at all when the weather is good. Pray for clear skies & sunshine!
How do I get there and how much does it cost?
You should book a tour. It’s not worth going by your own account because it’s a 3 hour drive one way. Plus, you’ll be tired, so you’ll rather have someone else drive you back (no public transportation to get there). You can book a tour pretty much anywhere in Cusco. We booked our tour through our Airbnb host. It cost 90 soles ($27) pp including the 10 soles ($3) entrance fee.
Do Not book online in advanced. The prices are ridiculous ($50-$100 pp) and you’ll end up being on the same tour as someone who paid ~$25! I suggest trying to book through your Airbnb/hostel first. If on a rare occasion they can’t book it for you, then walk around any central plaza in Cusco to find a tour company & book it.
What’s included with the tour? Itinerary?
- Pickup at your Airbnb/hostel
- Transportation to and from Rainbow Mountain (3 hours each way)
- Excellent Breakfast & Lunch
- Coca leaves
- Walking stick (AKA broom stick)
(1) A minibus will pick you, and everyone else, up at your Airbnb/hostel around 3:00AM-4:30AM. The tour company will tell you the exact time of your pickup.
(2) After 2 hours, you’ll end up in a small village where you will get an amazing & filling breakfast!
(3) Once everyone finishes eating, you’ll drive for an hour to reach the base of the hike to Rainbow Mountain!
(4) You will have 2 hours (enough time) to reach Rainbow Mountain. As you can see, the terrain itself is not difficult.
(5) You’ll have plenty of time to enjoy the view from the top!
(6) You’ll have an hour to get back to the minibus. All of us felt that the hike back was the hardest part of Rainbow Mountain. The altitude definitely took its toll on us. Felt amazing making it back!
(7) After everyone returns, you’ll drive an hour back to the same spot you ate breakfast at to enjoy a much needed, amazing lunch. After your feast, you’ll pass out in the minibus and wake up at a central plaza (Plaza San Francisco for us) where everyone gets dropped off.
Any tips for the trip?
- DO NOT go if it is (or recently was) raining or snowing. This is where all the misery stories come from. You’ve been warned!
- Try to acclimate yourself in Cusco (3 days recommended). Save Rainbow Mountain for the last day of your trip visiting Cusco.
- Dress appropriately for the cold. This may include tights under your pants, thick socks, a couple of layers, and a beanie.
- Bring ibuprofen, altitude sickness pills, toilet paper, small hand sanitizer, sunscreen, shades & water.
- Don’t bring anything heavy and carry as little as possible.
- Accept the walking stick (AKA broom stick) for the hike when you arrive. I probably wouldn’t have made it up the hill at the end without it.
- Use the bathroom at the restaurant. The bathroom on the hike is either a spot where no one can see you along the trail or a hole behind some tarp.
- Hike with a buddy! Everyone hikes at their own pace but its best to hike in pairs. Motivate each other to keep going!
- Don’t run, take your time. A calm walk will get you there within 2 hours.
- Don’t take a horse (costs 80 soles [$24]). The satisfaction of going to and returning from Rainbow Mountain by foot is worth it. You can do it!
- Make sure you have Whatsapp on your phone. It’s the easiest form of communication to use when contacting the tour company.
We hope you have a wonderful trip! Feel free to reach out if you have any questions. Safe travels!