Authored by Sean Lau
Known as the Montanas de Siete Colores in Spanish, the Rainbow Mountain is unquestionably one of the best hikes in Peru.
Along the trek you’re blessed with stunning views of the sacred Peruvian Andes and a glimpse into indigenous culture. Without a doubt, Rainbow Mountain belongs on the top of any Peru itinerary.
Today, we are here to offer a comprehensive guide on how to hike Rainbow Mountain in Peru. We will share information on how to prepare for the hike, how to get there, what the hike is like, and finally, what you should bring for the hike.
Guide to the Rainbow Mountain Hike Peru
How to Prepare for the Rainbow Mountain Hike
Located at 5,200 meters above sea level, hiking Rainbow Mountain isn’t exactly a walk in the park. At this elevation, there is less than half the amount of oxygen in the air compared to sea level. That is why proper altitude acclimation is essential when preparing to trek Rainbow Mountain.
Luckily, the hike takes only about 2 hours to summit and 1.5 hours to get down. Along the way, local Peruvians will offer you a horse ride for a fee. Though it is an option, Rainbow Mountain won’t look the same without putting in all the sweat and hard work yourself.
To make your hiking time much more pleasant, it’s imperative that you take enough time to acclimatize. The number of days it takes to adjust depends on the person, but it is generally recommended to stay at least 3 to 5 days in Cusco beforehand.
Take some time to walk around the historic city, maybe go on shorter hikes in the Sacred Valley to acclimatize to the altitude slowly.
If all else fails, you can purchase altitude sickness medication in the pharmacies or select a hotel in Cusco with oxygen-enriched rooms to help you acclimatize.
How to Get to the Rainbow Mountain
Unlike what many travelers think, Rainbow Mountain is quite far away from the city of Cusco. In fact, it is a three-hour drive to get there. As a result, the only way to visit Rainbow Mountain is either through a tour agency, renting your own vehicle, or a taxi.
Renting your own vehicle is easy but driving in Peru is a nightmare due to the terrible road conditions. If you can avoid driving in Peru, do it at all costs.
Hiring a taxi for the duration of your trip to Rainbow Mountain is costly, but an excellent choice if you want to enjoy this beautiful wonder in Peru all by yourself. Because tour buses tend to arrive all at once, you will be sharing Rainbow Mountain with hundreds of strangers if you take a tour.
However, tours for Rainbow Mountain are cheap and abundant. Visitors can easily find them throughout the plethora of tourist agencies in the historic center of Cusco. Don’t forget to shop around and bargain to find the best deal possible.
What is it Like to Hike Rainbow Mountain in Peru
If you have decided to take a tour to Rainbow Mountain, then you will be picked up at around 3:30 AM on the day of your hike. Yes, it is super early but remember the drive to Rainbow Mountain takes about 3 hours.
After getting picked up, you will be driven to Cusipata to have breakfast. Depending on the tour company you have selected, this part might slightly differ. After you have had your carby Peruvian breakfast and plenty of coca tea, you will be taken to the parking lot of Rainbow Mountain, where the hike will officially begin.
At the beginning of the hike, you will be offered horse rides by indigenous members to assist you in your climb. However, these horses only take you about one-half of your climb, as they are not allowed in the second-half of the hike. The second-half of the hike is also the more difficult portion of the trail.
Though the Rainbow Mountain is splendid, the opportunity to hike in the Andes in between snow-capped alpines is an incredible experience. The Rainbow Mountain hike will take your breath away, physically and metaphorically.
Reaching the Viewing Platform
It takes about 2 hours to get to the viewing platform of Rainbow Mountain, but it certainly doesn’t feel like it’s 2 hours. The blaring sun at 5,200 meters high and the strong wind will numb your pain momentarily, along with the jaw-dropping views and adrenaline pumping through your veins.
Once you arrive at the viewing platform, the entire Rainbow Mountain and the nearby Red Valley will be within your eye’s reach. The different colors of the Rainbow Mountain are a result of the different mineral deposits left behind.
It is quite incredible to see with your own eyes, but the colors aren’t as bright or vibrant as you might see from Instagram.
If you have taken a tour, the trick will be getting a photo of the Rainbow Mountain without anyone in it. During peak season, there are over hundreds of visitors on Rainbow Mountain at once. It has become such an insane phenomenon that many visitors have decided to visit Palccoyo, a less popular but equally colorful alternative to Rainbow Mountain.
Once you have been to the viewpoint, getting down is much easier. The hiking trail can get quite slippery at times, so make sure you have some shoes with good grip.
On the way down, visitors have the opportunity to take a small detour and add about 30 mins to an hour of hiking to visit the nearby Red Valley (Valle de Rojo). The Valle de Rojo is equally as beautiful, if not more beautiful, then the Rainbow Mountain itself.
After hiking Rainbow Mountain, you will have a short lunch before heading back to Cusco. Hikers usually arrive back in Cusco at around 3 to 4 pm.
Packing List for Hiking Rainbow Mountain
Because of its high altitude, there are several things you must pack for your arduous hike.
➤ Sunscreen is a must when hiking Rainbow Mountain. Because of the extreme elevation, the sun is much stronger than usual. You will get sunburned even if you are just hiking for a few hours.
➤ Because your lips are so sensitive, it is much more likely to get sunburned and damaged on your hike. Make sure you apply lip balm, ideally one with SPF, before hiking Rainbow Mountain
➤ Warm Layers – Because of the strong wind and high altitude, Rainbow Mountain can be quite cold. The weather is also very unpredictable at this elevation. Warm layers are essential for this hike.
➤ Hiking Boots – Parts of the Rainbow Mountain are very steep and many hikers have twisted their ankles here, especially when coming down.
➤ 2L of Water – Altitude Sickness is much more severe when you are dehydrated. Because of the cool breeze, you might not feel like you are sweating a lot, which makes dehydration a much bigger issue.
Always make sure you are drinking enough when hiking Rainbow Mountain.
➤ Coca Leaves are known as Peruvian coffee and they give you a boost of energy, especially at high elevation. They also help with acclimatization!
This concludes our guide to Rainbow Mountain, one of the most stunning hikes in Peru! We hope you found this guide informative and actionable.