Despite being known mostly known for the beauty and mystical aesthetics of Machu Picchu, Cusco (former capital of the Inca Empire), or the famous Cordillera Blanca, Peru has a lot more to offer tourists. The Rainbow Mountain is one of the many attractions that will turn your visit to Peru in an unforgettable experience.
Known as Vinicunca, Winikunka, Montaña de Siete Colores or Rainbow Mountain, this marvelous mountain has become very famous due to its colorful and unique surface.
This might not represent the most challenging hike in Peru. However, once you start ascending, the incredibly high altitude will give you some trouble if you are not an experienced hiker.
Where is the Rainbow Mountain located?
This amazing place is 3 hours away from Cusco, near the Ausangate mountain, just between the Andean districts of Cusipata, province Quispicanchi, and the provinces of Pitumarca and Canchis.
The weather in the Rainbow Mountain
According to the locals, the best time in the year to visit the Rainbow Mountain is in August since its the peak of the dry season, giving you the chance to see the colors at full intensity.
Despite being the best time to visit the mountain, August isn’t the only time you can go. These famous colors look aesthetically amazing throughout the entire year, being the dry season the time when you can enjoy them the most because the surface remains mostly intact.
We highly recommend travelers to try avoiding the mountain the days following significant rainfall as well when the snow has fallen. In terms of fauna, travelers can view a wide variety of alpacas and other camelids in certain short-term seasons.
Where are the Rainbow Mountain colors from?
Seeing the bright and beautiful colors on the surface of the mountain, you could be wondering how is this even possible. Following scientific studies from the Cultural Landscape Office of the Decentralization of the City of Cusco, the 7 colors showed on the surface of the mountain correspond with the many mineralogical components found on it.
For example, pink color is linked to red clay, fangolitas (mud) and arilitas (sand). The whitish coloring is due to things like quartzose, sandstone and marls, rich in calcium carbonate. The red tones are created by the claystone (iron), and the green is due to clays rich in Ferromagnesian.
But, have they always been exposed?
If you visited Peru before 2010, you would be probably asking yourself how did you miss this beautiful place. However, there is a meaningful and at the same time sad explanation to this, climate change.
The reason these colors began to show is the melting of the ice that used to cover the surface of the mountain. When the ice that covered the top began to melt, this water mixed with the minerals underneath, creating a reaction that ended up with the beautiful colors we can witness today.
Not an easy hike!
(Rainbow Mountain Elevation)
This marvelous mountain sits at 5,200 meters above sea level (around 17,000 feet). Just to put this into perspective, the summit of this mountain sits slightly lower than Everest base camp, which sits at 5,380 meters above sea level. If you have hiked at altitude before, you know that breathing under these conditions can get difficult.
Even though the hike itself is not very demanding, the altitude makes it very hard to walk. We highly recommend taking your time after arriving in Cusco before making the trip to the Rainbow Mountain, so you can acclimate and enjoy the hike.
Tips for hiking the Rainbow Mountain
- Be ready for sudden weather changes.
- Be sure to pack sunblock, sunglasses, a rain jacket, and a hat.
- Try some coca leaves to beat altitude sickness.
- Bring a backpack with a lot of water, snacks and toilet paper.
- Be aware that the entrance fee to the park is 10 Soles (around $3).