Rainbow Mountain Hike 

Our first taste of high altitude this trip. This hike topped off at 17,100 feet! 

 The “Rainbow mountain” locally known as Vinicuna mountain is known for its colorful array of sediments. Rainbow mountain is interesting because it is one of the newest tourist attractions in the Cuzco region. This hike is south west of Cuzco. Although locals have been living there for hundreds of years, the first guided tour to Rainbow mountain was in January of 2016. 

Unfortunately it was snowing by the time we got to the summit, but we still got some good views! 

Although heavily overrun by tourists, this hike is still incredible beautiful and a GREAT first hike in the Peruvian Andes.

Myself, Emil and a few of our volunteer friends scheduled a tour for this past Sunday. The small bus picked us up at 3:15am to drive us about 3.5 hours to Rainbow mountain. The tour itself was only $25, including transportation, breakfast, lunch, entrance to the park, and a guide for the hike. Talk about $25 well spent! We made the reservation in Cuzco last week. If you were to sign up for this tour online through trip advisor, they would have the same tour for about $155…

After breakfast in a small town, the bus continued up high into the Andes. For reference, Cuzco has an elevation of 11,152 feet. The Rainbow mountain hike has a starting elevation of over 14k, starting higher than the summit of Mount Rainier.

A view of the sketchy yet beautiful road up into the mountains…

The start of the Rainbow mountain hike is incredibly busy. The tour buses unload at around the same time, it’s like letting a herd of cattle out of the gates.

The geography and history of the area is very interesting. This area is one of the few places left in the world that have llama and alpaca herders. The colorful sediments that make the “Rainbow” are very unique and bizzare looking. The terrain of this area of the Andean highlands is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Colorful rock, lichen, and sub 20k glaciated peaks poking out of the clouds. And I can’t forget the llamas and alpacas grazing on the terraced areas of the surrounding mountains. An amazing place.

I haven’t been able to find anything online about a geological study of the area but I’m sure it would answer some very interesting questions.

There were many locals up on the hike, some selling food and drinks, and others offering to take hikers up the mountain on horseback. It was unclear if all the locals on the trail lived in the community of small homes just at the start of the trail.

 Bringing hikers up on horse back is great marketing. Even though the hike itself isn’t hard, the high altitude is killer. The hike is only about 2 hours one way, but hiking at 15-17,000 feet makes it tough. Locals charge about $22 to walk you up the mountain on the horse. Jumping on a horse did seem tempting…

By the time we hiked up to the Rainbow mountain it was hailing and snowing very hard, and the visibility was not too great. We couldn’t see the intimidating 21,000 foot peak know as Ausangante which you are able to see when it is clear, but we could still make out the colorful rocks!

And of course…as it always goes…the weather began to clear up as we headed down. But it made for a beautiful hike down, with some gnarly views. 

And on the way back to Cuzco we stopped at a few stunningly gorgeous lakes. Unbelievable.

Here’s a picture of our volunteer group on the hike.

Overall a great adventure, especially for $25! It was awesome to see some of the crazy glaciated peaks in the Peruvian Andes for the first time. Looking forward to attempting to be on the top of one soon…

Oh and also, I tried alpaca this past weekend. It was delicious.


3 thoughts on “Rainbow Mountain Hike 

  1. Super cool-looking adventure, Jack–and we love your good-humored descriptions. Not sure I’m up for trying alpaca, although I did try cui (guinea pig) once–pretty poor excuse for a meal: I had to order a second entrée! Carry on……XOXO-K and J

    Liked by 1 person

  2. FacinAted by the geologic colors of mtn. WhT a great day. Hope your stomach is doing well too! world shaking natural disasters of earthquakes and hurricanes! Stay at on safe side of Nature! Grma

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think I spent $25 parking my car at Zabars for 20 minutes last week. Tough to choose between Rainbow Hike and best chocolate babka in the world. Have fun!

      Liked by 1 person

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