Peru is renowned for its majestic mountains, and it is home to the stunning Rainbow Mountain, also known as Vinicunca. Located in the Canchis province, within the department of Cusco, Peru, and the magnificent Andes range near the Ausangate glacier, this natural wonder is famous for its vibrant stripes of fuchsia, turquoise, lavender, and gold. It’s a spectacle that captures the magic of the Andes under a deep blue sky.

In this unique part of the Vilcanota mountain range, your adventurous and dreamy spirit will discover one of the most stunning geological views in the world. Get ready to explore how this natural phenomenon paints the landscape so spectacularly.

Rainbow Mountain history: Why is Vinicunca colorful?

Vinicunca, originally a glacier, lies close to the ancient “Qolla Ñan” route, historically used by traders to shorten their journey from Puno to Paucartambo and by mountaineers on the Ausangate route. Due to deglaciation, the mountain's exceptional colors in the soil, rocks, and minerals, formed 24 million years ago, are now visible.

These colors result from the sedimentation of materials like sandstone, halites, gravel, and limestone. Their chemical transformation through sulfation altered the pigmentation of the minerals. This geological formation is a product of the orogenic movements that created the Andes, displaying seven vivid colors:

  • Pink: composed of red clay, mudstone, and sand.
  • Whitish: from quartz sandstone.
  • Browns and purples: formed by limonites and marls.
  • Red: a mix of iron and clays.
  • Green: originated by phyllites and clays.
  • Earthy brown: a conglomerate of rock with manganese.
  • Mustard yellow: derived from calcareous sandstones.

Vinicunca Rainbow Mountain Peru, today

Now recognized as a natural wonder, Vinicunca is situated near the mountains of Cusco, a key destination for tourists who also visit Machu Picchu. From Vinicunca mountain, you can enjoy an impressive view of the Ausangate glacier, a sacred mountain during the Inca Empire.

Tourism at Vinicunca directly benefits the Chillihuani rural community, which manages the income generated by the mountain. This has significantly improved the quality of life and the local economy.

Vinicunca Peru | TreXperience
Vinicunca is a key destination for tourists who also visit Machu Picchu.

What does “Vinicunca” mean?

The name “Vinicunca” comes from the Quechua language, where “Wini” translates to “Rumi,” meaning stone. This refers to the abundance of small black, rounded, heavy, and hard stones characteristic of the region. On the other hand, “Kunka” means “neck,” referring to the narrow mountain pass that traverses the valley. In English, Vinicunca can be translated as “Hill of the Narrow Neck.”

Vinicunca altitude

Vinicunca, also known as Rainbow Mountain or the Mountain of Seven Colors, is approximately 5,200 meters above sea level (17,060 feet).

Where is Vinicunca Rainbow Mountain?

Vinicunca Mountain, also known as Rainbow Mountain, is situated at an altitude of 5,200 meters above sea level, in the Ccayrahuire sector, near Hanchipata, within the Pampachiri community. It is located in the Pitumarca district, Canchis province, in the Cusco region. Geographically, it is positioned at 3˚ 52' 10" South and 71˚ 18' 11" West. Vinicunca lies in the Vilcanota River basin, specifically between the Cusipata river sub-basin and the Chillihuani micro-basin, about 120 km from the city of Cusco.

How to get to Vinicunca?

Route through Pitumarca

This route begins in Cusco and heads towards Checacupe, a journey of approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes. From Checacupe, it continues to the Pitumarca district, about 30 minutes away. The journey proceeds to the village of Kayrawiri, the starting point of the hike to the Vinicunca Rainbow Mountain Peru.

New route through Cusipata  

A newly paved route starts from Cusco to Cusipata. After a turn onto a dirt road, you pass through a small village until you reach Pampachiri, where a 20 km hike to the mountain summit begins.

Route via Ausangate by Lauramarca  

This is a less frequented route that starts on the paved road from Cusco to Ocongate and continues along a dirt road to the town of Tinki. From there, the route proceeds to the Lauramarca community, passing by the Sanctuary of Señor de Qoyllority and the Ausangate glacier before finally reaching Vinicunca.

Route with TreXperience, a fully guaranteed Tour Operator  

For an optimal experience when visiting Vinicunca, the best option is to choose a well-reviewed tour operator offering a complete package. At TreXperience, our Vinicunca tours include round-trip transportation from Cusco, a professional guide, meals, and the necessary permits. This ensures not only a safe and well-organized visit but also a more enriching experience that respects the region's natural and cultural environment.

Rainbow Mountain weather

Temperatures vary with altitude, ranging from 16 °C in the lower areas to 9 °C in higher regions. Daytime highs can reach up to 3 °C, while nighttime lows can drop to -5 °C.

Vinicunca weather types:

Cold rainy with dry winter: Dominates from December to March, with temperatures between 6 °C and 9 °C.

  • Polar rainy with dry winter: Characterized by consistently low temperatures and dry winter periods.
  • Semi-frigid rainy with dry winter: Combines moderate cold with rainfall and a dry winter season.
  • Semi-dry and semi-cold with dry winter: Features low humidity and cold temperatures, with dry winters prevailing.

The best time to visit Rainbow Mountain

The ideal time to hike Rainbow Mountain Peru is from November to April when daytime temperatures reach 20 °C, and there is a low chance of rain.

  • Rainbow Mountain in the rainy season: November to March.
  • Rainbow Mountain in the dry season: April to August.
Vinicunca in rayni season | TreXperience
Vinicunca in rayni season
Vinicunca in dry season | TreXperience
Vinicunca in dry season

What to see at Rainbow Mountain of Peru?

Viewpoints

These artisanal observation points are strategically located to offer expansive views of the landscape, as well as the flora and fauna on the route to the top of Vinicunca Mountain. There are four: the Natural Viewpoint, the Willaq Ritty Viewpoint, the Azul Cocha Viewpoint, and the Vinicunca Viewpoint.

Llama and vicuña spotting

On the way to the Rainbow Mountain basin, you can see llamas, vicuñas, and alpacas. The local people protect these animals and conduct annual roundups to collect their wool.

Flora and fauna

Typical flora includes grasses, ichu, kikuyo, muña, rocke, quiswar, chillca, and paco-paco. The sparse fauna includes vicuña, llama, fox, skunk, deer, vizcacha, condor, and wildcat.

Sites near Vinicunca Rainbow Mountain

  • Azul Cocha de Llacto: A glacial lagoon with bluish waters, located near Rainbow Mountain.
  • Red Valley: Characterized by its red slopes due to iron oxide in the rocks.
  • Ausangate Glacier: One of the highest mountains in Peru, standing at 6,384 meters, revered by local communities.
  • Puka Cocha: A red lagoon situated 2 hours from Rainbow Mountain, with its color coming from the minerals present.
  • Qomer Cocha: A green lagoon at the foot of Ausangate, named for its greenish waters.
Red Valley Peru | TreXperience
Red Valley Peru. @aroundtheworld
Ausangate trek | TreXperience
Ausangate glacier. @jonnymelon

| If you wish to visit Vinicunca and the Red Valley, I recommend this premium tour.

Facts about Rainbow Mountain in Peru

  • Vinicunca Mountain serves as the natural boundary between the towns of Cusipata and Pitumarca. 
  • It was discovered by mountaineers traveling along Qolla Ñan, an ancient path leading to the Ausangate Glacier. After the ice caps melted, the vivid colors that define the area today were revealed. 
  • From 2011 to 2014, a 9 km trail was developed to facilitate tourist access to the site.

Rainbow Mountains of Peru: Vinicunca, Palcoyo, and Pallay Punchu

Vinicunca Mountain's coloring is similar to that of Pallay Punchu, located on Apu Tacllo at 4,791 meters above sea level. Discovered in 2020, this mountain lies three and a half hours from Cusco in the district of Layo.

Pro Tip | The hike to Pallay Punchu is a less crowded and demanding alternative to the route to Vinicunca Mountain, but it is just as impressive.

Vinicunca and Pallay Punchu share similarities with Palcoyo Mountain. Situated 128 km south of Cusco, in the province of Canchis, Checacupe district, near the Ausangate Glacier at 4,900 meters above sea level, Palcoyo is known as the “sister” of Vinicunca Mountain.

Pallay Punchu Peru | TreXperience
Pallay Punchu Rainbow Mountain. @foxfragaria
Palcoyo Rainbow Mountain | TreXperience
Palcoyo Rainbow Mountain

What to bring?

  • Carry your identification.
  • Use appropriate hiking boots.
  • Carry a waterproof jacket and a rain poncho.
  • Use high-altitude clothing.
  • Choose pants suitable for mountain hiking.
  • Protect your eyes with sunglasses.
  • Apply sun protection to your skin.
  • Use reusable bottles or a canteen for water.
  • Bring any necessary medications and pain relievers.
  • Carry trekking poles with rubber tips.

How to prepare for high-altitude

Climbing the Rainbow Mountain, Vinicunca, Peru is a spectacular experience, but you need to prepare for the altitude. Here are some practical tips to help you enjoy your adventure without any complications:

  • Get used to the altitude: To acclimatize before starting your hike, spend a few days in Cusco or a similar high-altitude location.
  • Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water, as dehydration can worsen altitude sickness symptoms.
  • Eat carbohydrates: Carbs provide energy and are easier to digest at high altitudes.
  • Rest well: Ensure you get a good night's sleep before your hike.
  • Pace yourself: Walk at a comfortable pace and take frequent breaks to avoid exhaustion.
  • Chew coca leaves or drink coca tea: Coca leaves are a traditional remedy for altitude sickness. Chew them or drink coca tea to help mitigate the effects of high altitude.
  • Avoid alcohol and tobacco: These can dehydrate you and worsen altitude sickness symptoms. It's best to avoid them before and during your adventure.
  • Consider renting a horse: If you find the hike too challenging, you can rent a horse and enjoy the view without exerting yourself too much.
Rainbow Mountain Peru | TreXperience
Rainbow Mountain Cusco Peru | TreXperience

Read more | Altitude sickness in Cusco.

Rainbow Mountain: An andean paradise you must explore

If you’re seeking an exciting day out of the city to breathe fresh air and experience profound tranquility, prepare for an unforgettable hike to Vinicunca Rainbow Mountain. Situated high in the Vilcanota mountain range, this location offers a unique and marvelous landscape, a testament to the awe-inspiring power of Andean nature. Take the plunge and discover it for yourself for a magical experience!


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