The Vinicuna Rainbow Mountain is by far my ultimate highlight of our seven-week trip through Peru. Literally and figuratively. During our trip through Peru we saw a lot of fantastic landscapes, but I found the Rainbow Mountain extra special. We did it without a tour and were able to avoid the crowds, making it a very unique experience! In this blog article all the information to avoid the crowded tours and masses, as well as extra information to get the most out of this day trip!
How to independently visit the Rainbow Mountain?
The Rainbow Mountain is a relatively new sight in Peru as it was only discovered in 2015. Before that, the colored landscape was still covered with a layer of snow, but due to global warming, the colors became increasingly visible. Pretty sad to know, but since then the mountain has gained popularity at a record pace. Now that we’ve been there ourselves, I understand why. Not only the famous, colored mountain you see on Instagram is amazing in reality. The entire landscape around is also breathtakingly beautiful and simply cannot be described in words. So unique!
Arrange a taxi and leave later than the tours
The best tip I can give is to visit the Rainbow Mountain independently! Almost all tours leave between 4 and 5 in the morning, where you are at the top with a large crowd. A shame, because that makes the experience anything but unique. Waiting in line until you can take a picture… No, thank you! The Rainbow Mountain is more than a three-hour drive from Cusco and cannot be reached by public transport. So a taxi is the best option! Count on 65 to 100 euros for private transportation. We searched the Facebook group ‘Central and South America backpackers’ for some people who wanted to share the taxi, in order to reduce costs. In the end there were six of us and we only paid 17 euros per person!
As I said, all tours depart around the same time. When you go independently you can sleep a little longer. We left Cusco around 8:15 am and arrived at Vinicuna Mountain around noon. From the parking lot it is another hour and a half walk to the top. Most tours leave around 1 pm back down, so the moment we went up all the tourists descended. We therefore only shared the top with a dozen other people. So special.
What does the hike to Rainbow Mountain look like?
It is not only the Rainbow Mountain that is so impressive, but the entire environment around the mountain. The rugged landscape, the beautiful red and green colors and the snowy mountain peaks. The hike to the top takes only an hour and a half, but is quite difficult due to the altitude. You are at an altitude of over 5,200 meters and you feel that in your whole body. Breathing in particular can be quite difficult. The first part of the hike is flat and easy, only towards the end do you seriously start your ascent. This last part is therefore the most difficult. Take your time and take small steps.
Return through Red Valley
When returning you can choose to walk back the same way, but we ABSOLUTELY recommend to return via Red Valley, also called Valle Rojo. Many people do not know that this route exists or think that this part is too difficult. It also looks pretty impressive when you see those little dots of people walking up there. Fortunately, this piece is much better than I expected!
On the way back via Red Valley you will be amazed by an impressive, bright red landscape as far as your eyes can see. This route is a lot nicer than the way there and certainly an added value during the trip to Rainbow Mountain.
How much does that cost?
In total we spent 53.02 euros, or 26.51 euros per person. This is the cost for the taxi, entrance to the Rainbow Mountain and entrance to the Red Valley. You pay about the same as with a tour, but the experience is so much more unique! Keep in mind that you immediately pay a lot more if you do not share the taxi with others. So try to find some people to keep these costs down!
Important tips before departure
#1 Check the weather forecast
Many people find the Rainbow Mountain disappointing and say that the colors are gray and gray in reality. This is true when you visit the Rainbow Mountain in bad weather. Do you want to enjoy this special experience to the fullest? Then choose a sunny day! The colors come out much nicer and you don’t have a thick layer of fog that ruins your view. In the afternoon you have a higher chance of bad weather, so we advise you to arrive no later than 12 noon.
At the top the sun was shining and the colors came out beautifully. How lucky we were and we enjoyed the beauty of this landscape to the fullest! When returning via Red Valley, however, it became cloudy and not much later it even started snowing! So we have been able to see the valley in various weather conditions. The best time to visit Rainbow Mountain is during the dry season from May to September.
#2 Wear layers!
Man, was it cold at the top! At the start of the hike you will not be bothered by the harsh wind and then a shirt will suffice. At the top, a windproof jacket, hat and gloves will certainly come in handy. To be on the safe side, also bring a rain poncho. Despite the cold, you should protect yourself against the bright sun, because that fire is also serious at this altitude. So be sure to bring sunscreen and sunglasses. Even when it’s cloudy you can burn!
#3 Take the height into account
The Rainbow Mountain is located at an altitude of more than 5,200 meters and you should therefore definitely acclimatize beforehand. Altitude sickness is no joke! Annoying headaches, stomach problems, diarrhoea, poor sleep and shortness of breath are some of the main symptoms of altitude sickness. You can experience these symptoms above 2,500m. The air becomes thinner, the oxygen level drops and your body has to get used to this. Allow at least two days to acclimatize in Cusco and book another day trip before visiting Rainbow Mountain to acclimate your body to the altitude.
Coca tea, coca leaves and coca candy can certainly help. It is also important to drink a lot of water. I myself am very sensitive to altitude sickness and for me it helped to take a pill at the Rainbow Mountain. I only take this above 4000 meters, since I always get complaints.
In short. The Rainbow Mountain is a must-see in Peru.
Be sure to let me know how your visit to this extraordinary landscape was!
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