Colorful Mountain, Rainbow Mountain, or more internationally speaking, Rainbow Mountain. No matter what you wanted to call it, it will continue to honor your name: a mountain full of fantastic colors, with features that look like they were drawn by hand and then painted by a water colorist.
The Rainbow Mountain Tour is a brand new tour that started shipping in early 2019. The official name of the mountain is Winicunca – at least that’s what it says on the ticket – but you can also find the names Vinicunca on the internet, Willkacunca and Wininkuca. It is located in Peru, more precisely in the department (state) of Cusco. So if you go to Cusco, get ready to experience this fantastic place with lots of adventure!
Click here to see our post detailing various attractions of Cusco’s Historic Center, with lots of information on how to get to the city. This other post reports our tour of the Sacred Valley of the Incas, another destination to be made from Cusco, passing through several Incas archaeological parks.
Keep reading and you will understand how to get to the Colorful Mountains, will know what you will encounter along the way, and most importantly will understand all the difficulties of getting there so you can judge whether this tour is for you or not – and of course you will see photos, lots of photos!
This is the first destination in Peru that we are presenting. See here more content about this amazing country!
How to get to Rainbow Mountain
Getting to Rainbow Mountain is easy: just book the tour with a travel agency and they will take you there. That simple.
(There’s also a not-so-simple-but-that’s-cool-way: 2, 4, 5-day trails through the surrounding snowy mountains! No doubt we’ll opt for this mode next time we go to look with local agencies about these longer trails if you are interested.)
The hike to the mountains is done with a guide, who organizes everything for you, gives you the guidance and support you need, and prepares you for breakfast and lunch. I would not suggest that you rent a car or take a bus to get there on your own, but rather leave the city where you are already staying with the tour package booked at a trusted agency.
The Colored rainbow mountain hike 2 daysis a 3-hour drive from Cusco city, next to the small town of Pitumarca. Check the map below for the approximate location so you can get your bearings. Also note the layout of the trek that is taken from where the car leaves us until we actually reach the mountains.
How is the trek to Rainbow Mountain?
I will not curl you and I will say right away: the trail that is made to get to Rainbow Mountain is not for anyone. It is 8 km walk to get there, plus around. In total, it is almost 6 hours walking at a temperature around 0 ℃, if not less – this time is totally dependent on your physical capacity, may vary more or less. And, to top it off, it starts at 4,300 m, until it reaches the lookout for the Colorful Mountain at 5,000 m above sea level – for comparison; Cusco is 3,400 m and La Paz at 3,600 m.
Oh, don’t despair so much. They also offer the option of going on a horse’s back a good deal of the way, which helps so much. See below to understand how it works.
Due to the hardships of the place, leave this tour only after a few days at high altitude, when you are already used to the low amount of oxygen available in the air and are no longer feeling the effects of see our recommendations for dealing with the ice cream here ).
But good, despite the hardships, the thrill you feel and the luscious landscapes easily rival Machu Picchu! The look is amazing from the beginning of the walk until the arrival at the lookout – especially there – there is snow that can be played in the others – right, Dona Agnes? – Have views of snowy mountains in the distance and the colors you will see in the mountain photos are not image treatment: the tones are the same ones!
If you feel ready to go, fall in. The tour was unforgettable for us and I hope you enjoy it too!
But before the trail itself, let’s get some important information.
The difficulties start very early, literally: the van came to pick us up at Cusco at 3 am. As we had arrived from Machu Picchu the day before at 11 pm, there were very few hours of sleep – just 3 pm, to be precise. The first tip then is: schedule a trip to the Colored Mountain for a day that you won’t be late for the day before.
The second tip is for before leaving the hotel room: the choice of clothes. I’ve been wearing a hat and a pair of adult alpaca wool gloves, which is the cheapest one out there – I didn’t feel the need to wear a scarf – sunglasses, the Destines long-sleeved blouse; D – which is made of polyamide – a very thick coat to hold 0 ℃, a jeans – without the second skin, just the same pants -, a pair of socks and a waterproof hiking boot – if permeable, be careful not to step on snow and soak your foot.
Note that there were only two clothes to cover the trunk. The walk itself will make your body warm up, so you don’t need another piece of clothing – but nothing against putting one more blouse in your backpack if you’re usually too cold. Agnes himself was wearing an extra fleece blouse. At first I would take off and put on my coat as I felt cold or hot, but then I realized that I could go only with the jacket ajar, without closing the zipper, which was already a nice compromise in temperature.
Oh, also bring a raincoat, backpack cover, or some other waterproof protection. We went in September, at the beginning of the rainy season, which runs until April, and we didn’t get any rain, but the day before it had been raining. So be prepared not to get wet if water starts to fall. Check with your agency first to find out how the weather is there.
After 3 hours of road, we arrived in an extremely simple village, with only a few well-spread shacks. We entered one of them and were served breakfast. Until it was good, with coffee, cocoa tea, scrambled eggs, sausage, bread and a sweet rice-like business, “that’s for energy,” the guide explained – I wonder how much sugar there should be…
The walk then started around 7:30 pm. At almost 1 km, we arrived on a small hill where locals lined up with their horses to meet the demands of those who wanted to go on the quadruped’s back.
If you are unsure whether or not to get this service, don’t worry. My suggestion is not to take it, and keep walking. These residents and their horses are spreading along the way to continue to offer the same service, but for a lower price. Another option is to do as one of the people in my group do: she even paid for the horse right away, which was carrying the backpack, but she kept walking herself.
We follow a section not very inclined for about 4 Km, easy walk. On the floor we see grass and several loose stones, with small streams formed by the melting waters of snow.
The look is very amazing as we are passing through a wide valley!
After 1 h and a short walk, we stop at a checkpoint where a 10 Soles ticket is charged to visit the Winicunca tourist attraction – Rainbow Mountain itself. Please note at this point: Check with your agency when paying for the tour whether or not this ticket is in the package. If so, the guide himself will pay you the ticket. As we had arrived late from Machu Picchu the day before, there was no time to pick up the tour voucher from the agency, but we knew the ticket price was included, and the guide trusted our word.
The look is getting more and more fucking! Halfway there begins a steep climb, which makes us pause a few times to breathe – we constantly rested so as not to force our bodies, because the temperature was too low and the air very thin, which could cause serious problems.
take a deep breath and exhale, very slowly… Walk slowly too, always respecting the warnings your body gives you, and stop when you think it is best to rest. It was with these tips, especially deep breathing, that I avoided having a headache: when she started, I realized I wasn’t breathing properly; when I took a deep breath, it would pass.
Ah, pause for some public information: there are several restrooms along the way! Not a big deal, probably all just with a hole in the floor, but at least it’s inside a shack, which gives you privacy.
Climbing the inclined plane, snow begins to appear more! By the side of the trail, you can step on one thick layer of ice and play snowball on the others. If you have never played in the snow before, this is a great opportunity! Just be careful because stepping on snow wets your feet a lot – and slips. Either wear waterproof shoes, or get ready to walk on wet feet.
After a 2:30 h, we could see the mountain where we were going to climb and then we could see the Rainbow Mountain, but we still had no idea where it would be – spoiler: in front of the lookout, on the left.
At 3 pm, we reached the foot of the mountain, and we had to climb a further 200 meters in the most inclined plane of the path. It is at this time that the people who have come by horse must come down from them and walk on.
Final climb to Rainbow Mountain Lookout
At that time I saw that there were two people from other groups feeling very sick. One was apparently leaning on her guide, who patiently propped her up and walked with her. Another often used the oxygen cylinder his guide had. On the way back, someone told us that a person had passed out. So be warned to always respect your body!
That’s what I’m talking about! Rainbow Mountain to its fullest! :
The look is so amazing it looks like it was designed by someone! In the evening one of those northeastern who make handicrafts with colorful sand bottles and make everything fit for the tourists of the next day should go… Either that, or the nature is amazing and occasionally gives us shows like this. It is eye-popping and memory-etched!
We stayed 1 hour upstairs. In a moment, the guide gathered the group and gave a geological explanation as to why this mountain coloration, and also explain about the fauna of Peru. It was a short but really cool class.
The descent was faster, of course, and much easier. I could speed up without stopping to rest.
And don’t wait to play in the snow just around the corner! By the time we passed, it was almost all melted. It shifted to the landscape, with less white on the ground and mountains and more streams along the way formed by the melting ice.
On the way back, around noon, the ground snow was gone…
We arrived back at the village from where we left in a 2:30 hr walk just before 3 pm. In the same shack that we had eaten breakfast, lunch was served. And I’ll tell you huh: what a lunch! Seriously, it must have been the best meal I’ve had on the entire trip! Quinoa soup, chicken, pasta, ground beef, vegetables… all with excellent flavor. Of course, some will say that I only thought it was good because the tiredness was latent and the hunger was huge, and you would find it very good whatever you put in front of you, but don’t let these people mess up your meal.
With a full belly and extremely pleased with everything we saw and felt that day, we returned to the van and took the same 3 hours of the trip to arrive again in Cusco, around 18:30.
Rainbow Mountain is one of the destinations in the Cusco region we present here, but there are others: the city itself is fantastic, with a lot of Inca and religious history, and the surrounding area is also rich with archeological parks in the Sacred Valley & Short Inca Trail with Camping. Click on both links to see these beautiful attractions! And of course… there’s Machu Picchu too – wait!
If you are looking for a next destination for your holiday, you can state after all we have seen there: get your next paycheck and tower all in tickets to Cusco! The city and the region are worth this investment!