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The majestic Rainbow Mountain

Reading : 6 min April 18 2022

We know that you are always looking for new adventures and surprising locations during your trip to Cusco. Today we would like to present to you the Rainbow Mountain. This marvel of nature shines with their surprising colours against the intense blue skies of the Peruvian Sierra in the middle of the andean sightseeings.

What is the Rainbow Mountain

It is the second most visited touristic place in Cusco, after Machu Picchu and as the name shows is  mountain covered by colored stripes which nobody could ever expect to see in a mountain. This visit will allow you to enjoy a breathtaking sight, take a walk in a beautiful environment, meet local people and learn a little about fauna and flora of this place.   The Rainbow Mountain or Vinicunca as is known, should be a must see during your visit to the Imperial City. 

Where and at what height is located the Rainbow Mountain?

Vinicunca is known by the local communities as Cerro Colorado or Red Mountain, but the rest of the world knows the place as Rainbow Mountain or Seven Colors Mountain. This natural jewel is placed at 100 Kilometers or 62 miles from Cusco at a height of 5200 meters above sea level, which is why it becomes an adventure that requires great physical endurance for the visitors. Vinicunca is located between Cusipata and Pitumarca districts in the provinces of Quispicanchis and Canchis respectively, in the department of Cusco.

How to start the adventure?

We recommend you to start very early because it is a long trek up to the Rainbow Mountain, it takes several hours and is a very physically demanding route due the height at which it is placed.

If you start from Cusco city, you must go to the south valley for about a couple of hours until you arrive in Cusipata. From there you must go to Phulawasipata community from where you may start trekking on foot. This community is placed over 4000 meters above sea level, the reason why you should take it easy at a soft and sustained pace, remember that you are going up to a little over 5000 meters above sea level in order to arrive at your destination.

The trek takes between one and a half and two hours, and during the walk  you may see some local animals such as Llamas, Alpacas and Vicuñas, and enjoy the view of the fields covered by ichu everywhere. You may share experiences with local people and learn about their customs and traditions.

Finally you will arrive to your destination and all efforts will be rewarded with the spectacular view and at the end of the day you will return charged with the rainbow energy. 

Live the Vincunca adventure with us, come into Hiking to Rainbow Mountain and reserve your place to live this incredible experience at the date more convenient for you.

Important data to remember

The Rainbow Mountain is a tourist destination of great beauty and without doubt you will be very satisfied with the experience, but this tour will require great effort, that is why you must be prepared and know what will require from you, so, you must keep in mind: 

  • Total walking distance is about 8 Km. or 5 miles
  • Walking time is about three and a half hours
  • Height al starting point is 4652 meters above sea level 
  • Height at arriving point is 5200 meters above sea level
  • Difficulty grade of this tour is 4 of 5 due the height

Fauna and Flora

Rianbow Mountain

An important part of the tour to the Rainbow Mountain is the Fauna and Flora that you can see. Among them are some animals such as the Llama, Vicuña and Alpaca, even when they are related, they are very different among them. You may also see along the way a kind of grass which groves in the andean puna called Ichu.

Andean Cat: This majestic animal is considered historically by the local people as a protector spirit for the Apus  or mountains. Lives in the andean heights, extreme cold and is not common to see one of them. If you are lucky and are attentive to the surroundings maybe you can get a glimpse of the Andean Cat in your way. 

Llama: Is the tallest of the american camelids, has long ears which look like leaves. Its hair is thinner but less uniform than their camelid cousins which means that their hair in spite of being the most commonly used in peruvian textile is not the finest or the most appreciated. Llamas are used as help for transportation and can carry up to a quarter of their weight. In the Inca times, they were the main means of transport.

Alpaca: Smaller than the Llamas, approximately half of their size,they have very symmetrical ears, pear like, covered by fine hair and with a more uniform color. Mostly they can be found in herds in almost all andean places. Its hair is very appreciated worldwide since it is  of great quality and softness, used for quality scarfs, sweaters and blankets.

Vicuña: Unlike from Llamas and Alpacas which are more domestic, Vicuñas are mainly wild. This is why you can only see them from afar, feeding on a mountain or a plain in the middle of nature. Vicuñas are shy, not easy to be captured in a photo and they are an endangered species, for this reason the government protects them against illegal hunting.

Its hair can be cut only every three years, that is why clothes made with this hair can be extremely expensive. It has been said that during the Inca´s time this hair was reserved for royalty.

Ichu:

Is the andean highlands grass, used as foodstuff for the cattle, specially southamerican camelids and sheep. Sizes between 40 and 80 cm, and is abundant along the andean puna. Local communities use this plant also for making roofs for their houses, cords and during Inca´s time also bridges.

The Hidden Mountain

Rianbow Mountain

Even when the Rainbow Mountain was always in the route to the great Ausangate mountain, it never was a tour destination by itself, and was known only for the local people and for the trekkers which were looking for the Ausangate who knew the Rainbow Mountain before it was a tour destination.

But, how is that only recently it has become a so visited destination tour being so special and being so close to Cusco? As it happens, the mountain was covered by ice and snow for a long time, but due to climate change a few decades ago it became a marvel. In the year 2016 the rainbow mountain became officially a tour destination which you can not avoid visiting.

What gives their colors to the mountain?

The origin of the mountain colors is the unusual combination of minerals in the soil. There are different sediments layered down along the eons where even marine fossils can be found. Those minerals have been transformed by oxidation, and wind, rain and solar light along the time have given to the mountain its rainbow view.

Even when it looks like magic, the Rainbow Mountain has a scientific explanation, where each color has a formula. For instance, the pink is made from a mix of red clay, fangolites and sand, the beige from quartz sands rich in calcium carbonate, red from arcilitas rich in iron ore, green from filitas and arcilitas with magnesium content, yellow from  calcareous sandstones rich in sulfur. No doubt a science class for the interested in visiting the  Rainbow Mountain

Which is the best time for visiting Vinicunca?

In fact any time is the best time for visiting Cusco and experiencing the Rainbow Mountain. But of course, weather has its whims and if you are to make this kind of expedition with a long trek at high altitude, you may need all the help you can get. That is why  the dry season which goes between April and October should be the most recommended, but if you decide to travel during the rainy season you will enjoy a green and lush view and you will only need a good poncho for the rain.

Remember take with you

When you depart for an adventure like this one, you must be prepared for everything, so, remember to take with you

  • A photo camera or a telephone with good memory space
  • Water
  • Solar protection
  • Lemon or coca candy
  • Hat
  • Rain Poncho 
  • Warm clothing
  • Spare mask
  • Personal alcohol dispenser

Curious Data

  • The Rainbow Mountain used to be visited by around 200 people daily, but in 20016 the visitors number reached 2000 daily
  • In August 2017 the web page Business Insider, experts in travel worldwide, placed the 7 Color mountain in the list of places you have to visit before die 
  • In 2015 one mineral exploitation company requested and got in 2018 from the Instituto Geologico Minero y Metalurgico an exploitation permit for an area of 400 Hectares which included the Rainbow mountain and also the communities of Cusipata and Pitumarca. Protests against this action made possible that the company resigned few months later such permit
  • The word auquenid, now in disuse, comes from Auchenia ,created by Carl Peter Thumberg for classification of the southamerican camelids such as Llama, Vicuña, Alpaca and Guanaco which had been classified as Camelus as the camelids of the old world
  • The national seal of Peru has among its symbols one Vicuña which represents the animal riches of this country

Now that you know a little more about this incredible destination, prepare yourself physically so nothing can deterre you once you start the adventure. When you arrive at the Mountain summit you will be ready to explore all of Cusco. Come into The Full Experience  and choose all the experiences you may wish to live during your Cusco visit. We will take care of making your visit a safe, exciting and memorable experience.

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