Hiking Rainbow Mountain

Once upon a time, a great rainbow fell from the sky and landed in the mountains of Peru. Well, at least it could have happened and it sure does look so, but there is a more scientific explanation behind this amazing destination. So how is this surreal mountain?

Located 3 hours by car or bus from Cusco, Rainbow Mountain or Vinicunca as it’s named in Spanish, is a really colorful mountain ridge located 5100 meters above sea level. Even though the crowds are increasing each year, it’s still not very touristic so you can get a really nice day in the Andes mountain without crowds worth mentioning. The reason why it’s not very crowded is that it’s a pretty challenging hike: you hike from 4200 meters up to 5100 meters, so you will get short of breath of even suffer from headache and nausea. But does good things come easy? I don’t think so. It doesn’t matter if it’s mountains, work, sports or relationship – if you want success, you have to commit!

I was picked up by a van at 3 AM in Cusco and we set course towards Vinicunca. The first 1,5 hours the roads were OK, but the other half of the ride they get really curvy and bumpy. Especially the last hour, it’s only dirt road with steep cliffs down in the valley. I actually puked twice on the ride, but I’m very sensitive for motion sickness. So I reached the starting point a little out of shape, you could say.

We arrived around 7 AM and it was freezing cold, but that changed as the sun came up shortly after. A quick breakfast and we were ready to go – a group of approximately 15 people. If you want, you can rent a horse in the start and it takes you almost to the top, leaving only 10 minutes of hiking. Since I felt really bad, I actually rented a horse but ditched it after 1 kilometer. If you have two legs, why don’t you use them?

We were really lucky with the weather so it was warm and mostly blue skies, though they said it could be freezing cold. About 2,5 hours later we stood on the top and the view was amazing! So was also the view along the hike where you could see the Ausangate mountain with an altitude of ca 6 380 meters above sea level. We spent around 30 minutes at the top, and then set up a pretty high pace on the way down. The longer you stay in the high altitude – the bigger the risk for getting sick with headache and nausea!

After a quick lunch in the “basecamp” we set course towards Cusco again. This time no motion sickness and to actually see the roads we were driving on this morning was really amazing and sometimes almost a little scary too.

I truly encourage you to do this if you are in the Cusco area. It can be tough, but I can ensure you it will be worth it.

– Spend at least 2 full days and night in Cusco to acclimatize. I stayed one week!
– Bring water, minimum 2 liter preferably 3.
– Bring snacks! You get a small breakfast, but you will need some fast energy along the hike. Carbohydrates keeps the altitude sickness away together with water.
– Bring clothes for all seasons, we are talking high altitude mountains after all.
– Negotiate the price in Cusco. You should not pay more than 90 Soles = around 27 US Dollar.
– If you don’t feel hiking the entire way, share a horse with another person. Some people in our group did.


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Rainbow Mountain

Ausangate mountain