Rainbow Mountain also known as Vinicunca Mountain in Peru is one of the most beautiful and colorful places I saw in Peru! The trailhead is located about 3 hours from Cusco and reaches peaks of around 14,000 feet. Our first day in Cusco we saw a tour offered by our hostel (Pariwana Hostel) for 120 soles. It included our round trip bus ride, trek guide as well as breakfast and lunch the day of the expedition.
We compared prices to our original plans of touring the Sacred Valley and decided we would see enough ruins on the Inca Trail trek that switching things up for rainbow mountain was the best choice. We booked the trip for two days later to give us a little more time to acclimate to the elevation, we thought.
Tuesday at 3:30 am a bus picked us up from the hostel and drove us to the mountains. The roads were windy, broken and pretty sketchy in some parts. There was even an alpaca road block at one point! That’s not something you see around San Diego!
Once we arrived we enjoyed a light breakfast of tea, bread and jam in a freezing cold room and then started our trek through the hills. The altitude made it really hard, but fortunately we had already decided to rent horses. I had never ridden a horse and this was the perfect opportunity for the experience.
The horse ride was nice because I was able to enjoy the views during the hours leisurely galloping through the mountains. Had it not been for those horses I would have nearly died trying to hike the tail. I didn’t have enough time to acclimate to elevation and even though I’m a frequent hiker, just the beginning part of the trail that I did hike was so hard to get through. Ironically however, I still had to get off the horse and hike the steep sections of the trail and the steep incline to get to the very top of the mountain and those parts alone were challenging enough.
Once we all finished the trek we drove back to that cold room and had a feast for lunch. The food was so so so good!
Things to know for hiking Rainbow Mountain
You can purchase a horse (or mule?) to ride for 60-70 soles (about $20 US)
If you elect the horses, you will still have to hike the hard parts. But it will be worth it.
It’s freezing cold in the morning. Like frigid cold. Dress in layers.
It gets warm in the afternoon. Wear sunscreen!
Rainbow Mountain isn’t the only colorful mountain
There are “bathrooms” on the trail. AKA tents surrounding a hole in the dirt.