So you want to know how to find the Rainbow Mountain of Peru? (also known as Vinicunca) Want to embark on an adventure to the Ande Mountain ranges? Want to hike amongst snow-capped peaks with out-of-this-world colorful mountains all around you? Well, I found the shortcut to this magical place and you can do it in 1 day. No need to hike 5 days around Ausangate. Are you ready? Then read on!
This crazy place has always been on my list of things to do for a while, and upon some research I found it’s not that far from Cuzco at all. In fact it’s an incredibly easy place to find. (It’s just a long arduous trek to reach the actual Rainbow Mountain itself!)
Because I had a motorcycle, I rode from Cusco and its about a 2 hour ride down the highway with insane traffic until you get to Checacupe then you turn left and it becomes another good ol’ Peruvian “drive straight off the edge of a cliff” adventure! Head down for 200 metres or so then turn right onto a gravel road towards Pitumarca. Here’s where the real adventure begins!
It’s 45km of twisty gravel roads that weave through insane ‘Lord of the Rings’ landscapes and follows a river and deep ravine. You will eventually end up in a wide valley with alpacas everywhere, and you cross a bridge and make your way up to the trail head (you can’t miss it there are dozens of tourist busses parked there. ) I recommended starting your trek around 11am as before that there are hundreds of tourists huffing and puffing up the trail. And when you get to Rainbow Mountain you will probably have to wait in line for a pic.
I arrived at the trail head around 11am and it took me until 2.30pm to reach the summit. (So around 3 hours at least) I had the valley mostly to myself and most people where now on their return trek. By the time I reached Rainbow Mountain I was totally exhausted and it was probably the hardest goddamn trek I have ever done! I’m not an experienced hiker by any means, but I’m of average fitness and in fairly good shape and it really took it out of me.
The trail head starts at 4300m and the summit/viewpoint is 5200 metres or thereabouts. So the very thin air makes it bloody tough. Incredibly, it only took me about 1 and ½ an hour on the return trip, so it’s not that strenuous coming back down. There is a 10 soles entrance fee half way up the mountain and you do not need a permit to hike this trail.
The valley is just awash with colours, I have never seen anything like it. Deep hues of red are juxtaposed against light blues, greys and greens. Add to that the huge Ausangate mountain in the distance with its bright white glacier gleaming in the sunlight, it’s just incredible.
And the payoff doesn’t disappoint. Once you reach the Rainbow Mountain, head up another 20-30 metres to the lookout and you will be astonished at the view. The attraction itself is amazing, but when you see the valley in a 360 degree view you realize- the whole valley is full of rainbow mountains!!! Holy freaking shitballs!!!!!
I was blown away. Photos just don’t do it justice. Get there and view the magic for yourselves! But get there before it becomes another Machu Picchu and smothered in crowds!
Bring extra layers of clothing as it is absolutely freezing at the top- as in frostbite freezing. I recommend some warm gloves!!! There are also some local girls at the base of Vinicunca with refreshments, so kick back and have a beer and enjoy the view.
I recommend hiring a motorbike or if you are backpacking you can get a taxi from Cusco and there are also plenty of guides available at the actual valley itself. Horses are also available with a guide if you become too exhausted to walk. So there is something for everyone!There are many tour operators now offering treks here but honestly, you don’t need a tour company or a guide as the trail is well established now and if you have google maps or a GPS you won’t have any problems finding this place. So get onto it! Come to Peru and visit this amazing place!
So how the hell do you get to Rainbow Mountain? Well here’s the directions!
Step One- Cusco to Checacupe then turn left and head to Pitumarca(2 hour drive)
Step 2- From Pitumarca follow the gravel road through the valley(45km)
Step 3- Follow the gravel road for about 1 hour until you reach the carpark(you can’t miss it, there are dozens of busses and taxis parked there)
Step 4- Park and head down to the trail head past a small camping ground
Step 5- Hike for about 3-4 hours until you are nearly dead from exhaustion and……hey presto! Rainbow Mountain!!!!!!! Climb up further to the viewpoint and take as many awesome pics as you can-before you freeze to death. jajajaja!
Darren Haig is an adventurous fellow who quit his job so he could explore the world on two wheels. His motorcycle journey so far has seen him traverse the jungles of Thailand, ride through the mysterious lands of Myanmar, motorcycle the incredible history of India, witness the Nabeatean wonders of Jordan, battle sandstorms through the ancient lands of Egypt, ride through Cuba’s crumbling revolution, explore hidden Mayan temples in Mexico and now he is somewhere deep in Peru-the land of the Incas!
Watch his motorcycle adventure movies!- dagsVStheworld
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