Rainbow Mountain tour from Cusco, a complete guide for hiking Rainbow Mountain

por Postcards from IvI

The Vinicunca mountain, also called Rainbow Mountain, is one of the most popular places in Perú. A few years ago this site became really popular thanks to social media and today it is visited by thousands of people as part of the Rainbow Mountain tour from Cusco.

What made this mountain so famous is its unique colors that give the nickname of rainbow. These vivid colors are given by the minerals that form the mountain and can vary according to the time of year and the weather.

Rainbow Mountain tour from Cusco

Where is the Rainbow Mountain located?

The Rainbow Mountain is located on the road to Nevado Ausangate, in the Andes of Peru, in the region of Cusco. The trailhead is located about 3-4 hours from Cusco by car.

The mountain is 5,200 meters high above sea level, so it is very important to go up slowly so you don’t suffer from altitude sickness.

How to get to the Rainbow Mountain?

As you know, I always prefer to avoid tours and visit attractions by myself. But the Rainbow mountain is quite far away from Cusco (3-4 hours) and there are no public transportation options to get there.

If you are lucky you can find a taxi that wants to take you there or you can also rent car, although I don’t recommend it because at the end the road is really dangerous. It’s better to go with a driver who knows the road.

The safest and most comfortable option to get to the Rainbow Mountain is to book a tour.

Rainbow Mountain Tour from Cusco

In the city of Cusco you will find a lot of tourist agencies that offer the 1 day tour to Rainbow Mountain.

The price of the tour goes from 60 (USD $17.9) to 150 soles (USD $45) depending on the route taken, the meals included and the size of the group. You also have to pay a 10 soles entrance ticket to local communities of the mountain (ask the agency if it is included in the tour price).

In general, all tours include breakfast and lunch at the home of a local on the road to the mountain. The tour picks you up at your hotel in Cusco between 4.30 and 5 am, you stop for breakfast around 7.30 am and the trekking starts at around 9 am.

Many of the tours begin the hike at Queshouno from where it takes between 1 and 2 hours to reach the top. There are other tours that include longer hikes as they do another route.

Some tours options:

  • Full day tour to Rainbow Mountain: If you choose to book a Rainbow Mountain tour online in advance, this tour from GetYourGuide includes hotel pick-up and drop-off, first aid assistance, professional guide, breakfast and lunch and admission fees to Rainbow Mountain.
  • 5-day Tour: There are some agencies that offer a 5-day/4-night tour, where you also trek Ausangate. Every night you sleep in different mountain shelters.

Hiking the Rainbow Mountain

I took the classic 1-day tour from Cusco, so I’ll tell you about my experience on this tour.

The beginning of the trek is really steep. My tour included trekking poles so that helped a lot. The next part of the trail is flatter and easier. On the way you go through beautiful landscapes. Along the way you will find loca communities selling products (coca tea, gum, handicrafts, etc.). There are also basic toilets every few miles.

Guide to visit the Rainbow Mountain in Peru Guide to visit the Rainbow Mountain in Peru

The last part of the trail is the worst. It’s only a couple of miles but the altitude really kicks in. In this last part of the trek I saw people having a really bad time, even a girl breathing from an oxygen tube because of the altitude sickness. At 5,200 meters breathing and walking will be more difficult as the air is thin at this high elevation.

The best thing you can do in this last part is to walk slowly and at your own pace. It’s not a race and it’s not about who’s in better shape, but about how your body reacts to the height.

After this endless climb you will arrive at the top from where you can see the Rainbow Mountain. At this point it is generally extremely cold and windy so it is important that you dress warmly. I visited the mountain in March and as you can see in my pictures, there was snow up there.

Once the trekking is over, the tour stops again at the place where breakfast was served to eat lunch (my tour included a buffet of aji de gallina, potatoes, salad, etc). The tour returns to Cusco at around 3-4 PM.

Guide to visit the Rainbow Mountain in Peru

Some FAQ about the Rainbow Mountain tour:

  • Trekking Duration: Approximately 1 h 30 hike up – 1 hour return
  • Trekking Difficulty:

The trekking difficulty is medium. It is not difficult in terms of distance or terrain. The great difficulty of this trekking is in the height. The beginning of the trekking is about 4300 meters high and the peak is at 5200. In an hour and a half you will be ascending almost 1000 meters, so you have to take it easy and give your body enough time to get used to the elevation.

  • Does the guide hikes up with the group?

Particularly in the tour I took, the guide (who spoke spanish and english), allowed us to go up at our own pace. He climbed at the end checking if anyone in the group needed assistance as he carried a first aid kit including oxygen tubes. We hiked by ourselves, and met the guide again at the van.

  • How many people take the tour?

The group tours take between 10 and 30 people. It is also possible to hire private tours.

  • Weather in Rainbow Mountain

The weather in the Rainbow Mountain is cold because of its height. The best month to visit is August, which is the driest month. You should avoid the rainy months (December, January and February). I went in March and as you can see the weather was pretty horrible because it had snowed the day before and it also drizzled during the beginning of the hike. You should be prepared for any situation as weather conditions are constantly changing.

Guide to visit the Rainbow Mountain in Peru

Trekking the Rainbow Mountain was a very good experience. It was a place I really wanted to include in my two weeks trip to Peru and the amazing landscapes made the hike worth it.

Despite that, I didn’t like that there was a lot of people hiking. I saw many people who were not prepared (people wearing jeans, inadequate footwear, etc). Many of them couldn’t finish the hike or hired a horse to go up (please don’t do this, animals suffer).

I think tour companies should inform tourists correctly. The altitude of this hike is no joke. If you’ve never hiked before or don’t a have the correct clothes, don’t try to climb up the Rainbow Mountain just for a picture. If companies don’t give the correct information, it is our duty as responsible travelers to read and inform ourselves.

Tips for visiting the Rainbow Mountain in Peru:

    • Wear proper clothing and footwear. It is very important to wear comfortable clothes like sports pants and trekking shoes (if you don’t have, wear running shoes that have great traction). I have exactly these hiking boots from Columbia.
    • Warm Clothes. You will be really cold at the top of the mountain so be sure to dress for cold weather. Layering is key as you will probably want to take layers off when hiking up. Proper rain gear is also important.
    • Bring water. Stay hydrated during the hike and bring your own reusable bottle.
    • Wear sunscreen. The sun can be super intense at this altitude, even if it’s cloudy.
    • Don’t underestimate the altitude. Walk slowly. Give your body time to get used to the height and if you’re feeling sick stop hiking and tell your guide.
    • Hike up at your own pace. It’s not a race. The beauty of the mountain is to enjoy the scenery and climb at your own pace. Don’t let anyone rush you.
    • DON’T USE A HORSE TO CLIMB UP. If you are tired or feel that you can’t go on, please don’t pay for a horse. It’s very cruel to make horses suffer because you’re tired, you didn’t wear the right shoes or you just don’t feel like walking anymore.

Where to stay in Cusco

Other posts about Peru:

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Claire July 20, 2020 - 4:38 pm

What a great blog about visiting the rainbow mountain! Super informative and conscious of the negative impact that the rainbow mountain is suffering. The weather conditions and the altitude are not to be taken lightly, they can seriously catch you out! Another, more sustainable way is to visit the rainbow mountain on a longer trek, like a 2 day or 5 day option. This way you can avoid the crowds, use different access points and have a much better experience. A decent, responsible trekking company will provide everything you need for the trek , make sure you are safe at all times, make sure you get to see the surrounding areas and allows you to go at your own pace! The daytrips to the site are not sustainable and are suffering the consequences of so many visitors at the main entrance site 🙁

Alex Howell October 7, 2019 - 5:08 pm

What a beautiful sight you must have when you are high on the mountain! I suppose that it was a very long road and very tired to! Still seems to be a fantastic experience, thanks for sharing it!

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