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Chasing Colors: Hiking Peru's Rainbow Mountain - A Full Guide

Covered by snow, the Rainbow Mountain was a well-kept secret of nature. Thanks to global warming, the snow covering it melted. The beautiful mountain with its seven colors came to light.


Nowadays, the photogenic mountain is a real tourist magnet (thanks to social media). It attracts adventurers and wanderers from all over the world. They all want to witness its awe-inspiring beauty.


Keep reading to uncover everything you need for this unforgettable adventure and to make the most of your Rainbow Mountain experience.

Table of Contents:

Where is Rainbow Mountain in Peru?

Rainbow Mountain is part of the Andes mountain range of Peru and is located in the Cusco Region.


The beginning of the trail is around three hours away from the city of Cusco and for this reason a popular day-trip destination for travelers.


How to Get to Rainbow Mountains

There are some destinations and tourist attractions that can be done independently. Visiting the Rainbow Mountains on your own is a challenge, and I highly recommend doing a guided tour.


You have the choice between a private guided tour, a group tour, or traveling to Rainbow Mountain on your own. Due to the amount of tourists on the trail, I don't recommend doing a private guided tour.


Get to Rainbow Mountains by Yourself

For those who are thrilled to undertake the journey alone here's an explanation of how to get to Rainbow Mountains:

  1. Your first destination from Cusco is Checacupe, a town famous for its Inca bridges. You can either hire a private taxi or hop on a public bus.

  2. In Checacupe the next challenge is to find a taxi that brings you to Rainbow Mountain and vice versa.

  3. When you've arrived you start your hike. There are enough tour groups to follow and the path is well marked. The trip to the tip of the mountains and back takes around three hours.

  4. Back at the parking area, your taxi driver awaits you and brings you back to the bus stop where you catch a bus back to Cusco.

The whole trip takes around 12-14 hours. It is best to start the journey at 5 or 6 am.

Doing the tour without a guided tour is a great way to travel at your pace, add Checacupe as an extra sightseeing spot, and do not start as early as many tour operators do. Nevertheless, the independent trip will cost more than the tour and require more planning.


Get to Rainbow Mountains by Tour

If you read the section above and prefer leaning back and being guided by a tour operator, you will face the challenge of choosing from many operators. You can either book in advance or book in Cusco.


🤫 Booking a tour in Cusco is cheaper than booking in advance.


No worries, as opposed to Machu Picchu you don't need to book a ticket two months in advance. Several tours take place every day and can easily be booked the day before.


I recommend doing a tour with this high-rated operator, which offers you a nourishing buffet breakfast and lunch, a great tour guide, and a day without any planning.


Most tours follow the same structure:

  1. You get picked up between 3.30 and 4.00 am. Depending on whether you are picked up first, you will drive around Cusco and pick up the other tour members. You usually share the tour with 10-14 others.

  2. Once everyone is in the van, I advise you to have a nap between Cusco and your first stopover, a restaurant where you have breakfast. The ride takes approximately two hours.

  3. At the restaurant, you have around 45 minutes to charge your batteries for the challenging hike. When everyone has eaten, you get back into the van and drive another 1.5 hours. The road between the restaurant and the parking lot is very bumpy and curvy.

  4. At the parking lot, you get a briefing and then you start walking toward the top of the mountain, which takes 1.5 hours.

  5. At the top of the mountain, you have approximately 30 minutes to enjoy the beauty of Rainbow Mountain. Your tour guide tells you the time when you should start your descent.

  6. Back at the parking lot you get on the van and drive back to Cusco, but no worries there's a stopover for lunch (mostly at the same restaurant).

  7. After lunch, you drive back to Cusco. You arrive at 4-5 pm in Cusco.

Cool Lamas in Peru

Rainbow Mountain Tips and Insights

Get ready for your Rainbow Mountain adventure with the essentials to make the best out of your journey. At the end of this blog, I hope you don't have any open questions.


What's the Altitude of Rainbow Mountain?

For Europeans hiking above 2,000 meters above sea level is common and experienced hikers even hike up to 3,500-4,000 meters. As someone who's not that into hiking, 5,000 meters above sea level can be very daunting.


Yes, you read it right. The highest point is even over 5,000 meters, to be precisely 5,200 meters above sea level. And the beginning of the trail starts at 4,326 meters.


💡 Only 164 meters and you're at the same altitude as Everest Base Camp in Nepal.


You must give your body time to adjust to the altitude to prevent altitude sickness.


What's Altitude Sickness?

From 2,500 meters onwards, most people feel the altitude. Many become short of breath, a few get headaches, and very rarely do some get sick from it.

You get sick of the altitude when you ascend to high altitudes too quickly and your body doesn't have enough time to adjust to the decreased oxygen levels in the air.


❗️It's important that hiking up Rainbow Mountain should only be done when at least three days are spent in Cusco.


The worst case that can happen is that you suffer from High Altitude Cerebral Edema (swelling of the brain) or High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (fluid accumulation in the lungs). If reacted incorrectly, you could die.


No panic, most tour operators have an oxygen mask with them and it rarely happens anything serious. On the way to the top Peruvians offer also coca tea, which is a natural remedy against altitude sickness.


How Difficult is the Hike to Rainbow Mountain?

First things first, every person's physical condition is different and everyone reacts differently when it comes to height.


I don't want to classify the hike as difficult, but hiking at over 4,000 meters is a different feeling. In a nutshell, the altitude will challenge you the most.

The trail starts at 4,300 meters and at the end, you're on top of 5,200 meters - that is almost 1,000 meters high that have to be climbed over a distance of 4 kilometers.


If you want to do this hike with your own feet (without the help of horses), you need good physical fitness.

The trail itself is very well pathed and not difficult at all. Some (including me) walked with sneakers on top of Rainbow Mountain.


What do I need for my Trip to Rainbow Mountain?

Lastly, here's a list of things you should bring with you on this trek:

What to Wear during a Hike

Conclusion

Yes, the altitude can be challenging but climbing a mountain that's almost the same altitude as the Mount Everest Base Camp is something that everyone can be proud of.


I'd love to hear about your experiences, how was the altitude for you? Write it down in the comment sections.

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