Peru is famous worldwide for sites such as the Nazca Lines and Machu Picchu. However, in the last few years another site in Peru has been gaining worldwide recognition: Rainbow Mountain.
Anyone who has some form of social media will have seen photos of what has become known as Rainbow Mountain. The local name for the mountain is Vivicunca, a word originating from Peru’s native tongue Quechua, which translates to “coloured mountain”. Whilst the mountain is not new, it has only been in the last five years that it has begun to receive international attention. Until then the mountain was covered by snow and ice from a glacier, and it was only after this began to melt due to climate change that the mountain and its beautiful colours became visible to the world.
Rainbow Mountain has since become a staple on the tourist trail in Peru. It is easily accessible from the city of Cusco and provides a brilliant day trip either before or after a visit to Machu Picchu. There are a few different ways that it can be accessed.
If you want to get there before all of the crowds, then the mountain can be visited as part of the multi-day Ausangate trek, just one of many world class treks in and around the Cusco region of Peru. However, the more popular option for backpackers is the aforementioned day trip from Cusco. There are dozens of different tour companies that offer trips from the city, as it stands there are no limits on daily visitor numbers, but it is thought this will eventually change. Most will take you on the 3.5 hour drive through the town of Pitumaraca where you will eventually reach a large car park with a 0.31 mile walk to the top of the mountain.
This might sound like a very easy walk at only 0.31 miles, but I can certainly tell you that it is not. The top of the mountain is at an altitude of 5200m above sea level. This means that the steep climb from the car park to the top of the mountain is anything but easy. It takes most people anywhere between 1 and 1.5 hours to walk the short stretch with countless stops along the way to catch your breath. For me, the hike started out alright. I had been at altitude for a long time, so the beginning was nothing too new for me. However, what started out as a gentle uphill hike, suddenly became incredibly steep just as I was reaching the mountain itself. As I got to around 5000m altitude and I was faced with an increasingly steep slope, each step became more and more difficult.
So, does this mean that you shouldn’t go to Rainbow Mountain? Absolutely not. There are a couple of reasons for this. First of all, just because it is a difficult hike doesn’t mean that anybody can’t make it. You have plenty of time on the tours to visit the mountain, so unless you are desperate to be one of the first people at the top, there is no rush. Secondly, if you are really struggling, there are plenty of horses along the side of the hike which for a fee will take you right up the mountain. These are available throughout the hike so even if you start on foot, it doesn’t mean you won’t be able to get a horse later on.
The hike itself is also very picturesque. Not only do you have Rainbow Mountain ahead of you, but you are also surrounded by mountains, a glacier and the red valley during your ascent. You will also have to keep your eyes open for llamas and alpacas along the route so that you can get a photo like mine!
Overall, there is no doubt in my mind that you should go to Rainbow Mountain in Peru. It is easily accessible for a day trip from Cusco, although you will have to get up early. More than that, take advantage of it before it becomes too busy to visit. I can also not stress enough that you should not be worried about the hike to the top. It is certainly challenging due to its steepness and the altitude, but all of this can be overcome, and it would be a shame to miss out on such a stunning natural landmark.