Hiking Peru's Rainbow Mountain

Rate this Adventure 9.25 miles 2871 ft gain  - Out-and-Back Trail

Added by Emily Hlaváč Green

The hike at 14,000ft is no easy mission but is well worth it to see this natural wonder of the world. Rainbow Mountain traces a path between mountains created from weathered minerals and stripes of sedimentary rock, rare and specific to this part of the Andes. Sulphide yellow, chlorite green, limonite, rusty iron reds. It is a rainbow of lavender, gold, burnt orange, turquoise.

The journey begins at about 3am on the streets of Cusco, where we pile into a minivan and drive a few hours to arrive at the foot of Vinicuna (Rainbow Mountain) as day breaks. 

It’s a crisp, sunny morning at the foot of the climb (14,189ft) and the local compañeras line the path with dozens of horses ready to carry anyone who may struggle with the altitude.  The altitude is a force to reckon with  - so water and plenty of energy snacks are recommended! 

The weather can vary dramatically here with the climb. While we start in the sun, this soon becomes rain, sleet, and eventually snow. 

The pinnacle of rainbow mountain ends with a sharp climb towards a viewpoint; here a man in a checkered shirt, traditional hat with neon streamers operates a candy store and serves hot tea. It is a strange dichotomy and contrast to the surroundings and makes me very aware of the impact of tourism on this fragile landscape. Up here, we are at a staggering 17,060ft.
Up here, thankfully the snow has melted enough, and the clouds come in waves allowing glimpses of the amazing layered palette.

Sleet sets in again and muddy rivulets run rampant down the trail back to the vans. No more casual conversation, this is like a race for the bottom, a soggy, grueling mudslide back to shelter.
We pile in, my face pressed against the misted window wrapped in a turkish towel and a raincoat, tucked in a ball hugging my camera bag for warmth I try to sleep despite the cold and echo of chattering teeth. The light dwindles and fades into bleak clouds as we drive the three and a half hour ride back to Cusco.

It is an adventure and a half, I highly recommend doing this but checking out the forecast first, and being prepared from every kind of weather!

Read More


Adult Beverages
Family Friendly


Have you done this adventure? Be the first to leave a review!

Nearby Adventures

  • Temple of the Sun (Coricancha)

     The Temple of the Sun of the Incas (Coricancha) is believed to be the most important temple of the Incan empire, and the most revered temple in Cusco. Originally named Intikancha or Intiwasi, it was dedicated to Inti, the Sun God. However, when t...

  • Sacsayhuamán

    Sacsayhuaman is located  about 10 minutes from the Plaza de Armas (by car) or 45 minutes walking. Another option is to take a ‘City Tour’, which includes transportation to this archaeological site. The entrance fee is included with the "Boleto Tur...

  • Hike to the Devil's Balcony

    Of all the hikes within the proximity of the city of Cusco, this one is the coolest. Not only that, but no one knows about it. It is a local's only secret. The only reason I know about it was because I lived there for years.There are two approache...

    3.1 miles 656.2 ft gain

  • Hike to the Pisac Ruins

    The Pisac ruins bear a striking resemblance to Machu Picchu, just on a smaller scale. Fascinatingly, the drainage systems and agricultural terraces built in 1440 along with the rest of the ruins are still in use today. The Pisac ruins are believed...

    2 miles 2000 ft gain