Updated: Apr 26, 2020
June 9, 2017
The Rainbow Mountain is located near the Ausangate mountain. It is located among four great geological features that hold a religious significance to the Inca. The name itself, Vinicunca, is derived from the Quechua language and literally means “seven colored mountain.” The mountain itself is considered the deity of Cusco.
Visiting the Rainbow Mountains in Peru has been the highlight of my trip. Due to time restraints, I chose to do the day hike. I’m not going to lie, it was a long day; but, it was so worth it. I was picked up from my Airbnb at 3 am and did not return until after 4 pm. We reached the start of the trek at about 7:30 am.
The hike was exhausting. I’m 20 years old and consider myself to live an active life. I enjoy hiking, running, and yoga. I have to tell you though, the hike killed me. The starting altitude is 14,189 ft, while the peak elevation of the mountain is 17,060 ft. I had been in Cusco for two weeks leading up to this hike, yet I still felt the affects of altitude sickness. I had even taken Acetazolamide, which is a medicine to help prevent altitude sickness. Coupled with drinking plenty of water, I still struggled.
However, there are plenty of opportunities to relax. When I needed to take a break and have a few breaths, I would take pictures. Many travelers choose to ride horses. Although the horses cannot get you to the very top of the mountain, they can get you a good ways up. From the bottom to the top of the mountain, to rent a horse is roughly 70 soles. This is an absolute bargain and a God send if you are having trouble with the altitude.
IF YOU DOUBT CLIMATE CHANGE… VISIT VINICUNCA
As if the altitude wasn’t enough, the weather changes constantly. This is because climate change has really affected this region. At the start of the day, I had two layers of everything on (I’m a Floridian, so the weather in this part of Peru during winter has been a bit of a shock). The morning was incredibly cold, and I honestly thought I hadn’t packed enough layers. As we moved I felt a lot better. However, towards mid-day it got pretty hot. It was definitely bearable (and preferred over the cold), but it’s something to take note of. I would suggest wearing layers on this trip, and to pack sunscreen!
The four days preceding the hike, it had been raining. Apparently this has become quite a recurring experience. I made my trek on May 27th, which happens to be during the “dry season.” I was fortunate to have clear skies, but as we were leaving the mountain shorty after noon, a storm was approaching.
I came for the main attraction of the Rainbow Mountain; however, the journey up was so rewarding. There was so much beauty along the way, and so much respect to culture. The region is inhabited by traditional alpaca herders.
When the sediment was originally deposited, the environmental conditions and minerals created a beautiful array of colors. The red color indicated iron oxide rust. The brownish coloration is due to the presence of goethite or oxidized limonite. Yellow coloration can be attributed to iron sulphide, while the green coloration varies because of chlorite concentration.
WHAT TO PACK
Snacks- this is a long trip and you will get hungry (don’t be hangry and pack a cliff bar)
Layers- you will need to dress in layers as the climate changes
Rain jacket- again, climate change
Money- for riding a horse or unexpected expenses
Hand sanitizer- squaty-potties (’nuff said)
Camera- also multiple lenses if you’re a fanatic like me
Extra batteries- for camera
External charger- if you take pictures on your phone
Baby wipes- you never know
Water proof camera bag/ backpack