The Rainbow Mountain in Peru
The Rainbow Mountain in Peru, known as Vinicunca. It is one of the most impressive mountains in the Cusco region, located near Ausangate Mountain, south of the city of Cusco.
- What is Rainbow Mountain?
- Location of Rainbow Mountain
- Weather and temperature
- The colors of the mountain
- Flora and fauna
- How to get to Rainbow Mountain in Peru?
- Route through Cusipata
- Route through Pitumarca
- Go to a travel agency
- Distance from Cusco to Rainbow Mountain
- What to do and see in Montaña de 7 Colores?
- What to bring to Vinicunca?
- Tips for trekking to Rainbow Mountain in Peru
What is Rainbow Mountain?
Thousands of travelers from all over the world visit it daily to appreciate its magical rainbow colors or to observe, from its summit, the impressive high Andean landscapes of the Ausangate snow-capped mountain.
Recently, National Geographic magazine included this attractive landscape among the 100 places you should visit before you die.
The word Vinicunca comes from the Quechua toponym: Winicunca, which means “narrow neck hill”.
Location of Rainbow Mountain
Rainbow Mountain in Peru – Vinicunca is located in the Vilcanota mountain range, near the snowy Ausangate mountain, between the districts of Cusipata and Pitumarca, provinces of Quispicanchi and Canchis, region of Cusco, in the south of Peru.
The Vinicunca is located at an altitude of approximately 5200 meters above sea level (17060.37 feet).
Weather and temperature
Because it is located between the mountain ranges of the Peruvian Andes, the climate of the Mountain of the 7 Colors is frigid. And its average annual temperature varies between 7 and 12 °C.
However, the climate in Vinicunca Mountain is never variable. During the months of December to March, the Mountain of 7 Colors presents abundant cloudiness and intense rainfall. On the other hand, during the dry season (April to November) the climate in the mountain is frigid at night and sunny during the day.
In addition, between the months of June and July there are also frosts and snowfalls.
Learn more about the best time to visit the Rainbow Mountain in Peru.
According to some geologists from the Geological Society of Peru, the Vinicunca mountain, like many other mountains in the great Andes of Peru, was formed by the movement of tectonic plates that raised marine sediments until they became impressive mountains.
On the other hand, the coloring that the mountain presents of 7 colors is the result of the oxidation of some minerals by the action of the erosion, the humidity and other geologic factors.
At some point in our history, the mountain was covered with ice blocks: it was a snowy area. However, due to the effects of global warming and climate change, the ice disappeared and left in its place this magical landscape that shows us the beauty and ecological fragility of planet Earth.
The colors of the mountain
According to the studies of the Direction of Deconcentrated Culture of Cusco, the coloration of the mountain is due to the following mineralogical composition
- The pink color is due to red clay, fangolitas (mud) and arilitas (sand).
- The whitish color is due to the quartz and marl sandstone, rich in calcium carbonate.
- The red one is made up of the clays (iron) and clays of the upper Tertiary.
- The green is due to the compound of phyllites and clays rich in ferro-magnesium.
- The earthy brown is the product of the fanglomerate composed of rock with magnesium belonging to the Quaternary era.
- And the mustard yellow colour is due to the presence of calcareous sandstones rich in sulphur minerals.
Flora and fauna
Despite the arid landscape that can be seen in most of the photographs, where only some South American camelids stand out. The beautiful mountain of Vinic is never home to several species of plants and animals. Among them we mention:
- Flora: ichu and some lichens.
- Fauna: alpacas, llamas, vicuñas, condors, kestrels, Andean guinea pigs, gray deer and others.
How to get to Rainbow Mountain in Peru?
To go to the impressive Rainbow Mountain from the city of Cusco you can take any of these three options:
Route through Cusipata
This is the shortest way to the top of Rainbow Mountain. And it’s also the most travelled route by travellers. Since the drive time is only an hour, and the walk is of equal length.
To get to Vinicunca through Cusipata there is no direct transport service from Cusco. Therefore, you must follow the following route.
Take the buses that cover the route Cusco – Sicuani, through the Longitudinal Highway of the Southern Highlands of Peru (PE-3S). These public service buses can be boarded at the Sicuani bus terminal, located on Avenida Huayruropata (next to the Garcilaso stadium).
But if you want more comfort and speed, you can also opt for direct services (no stops along the way). The terminals of the fast services are located one kilometer below, on the same avenue (at the height of the coliseum of the Casa de la Juventud).
The cost of tickets for interprovincial services is 5.00 soles. The cost of tickets for interprovincial services is 5.00 soles, while for fast services it is around 12.00 soles. And the travel time can last between 1 hour and 30 minutes up to 2 hours.
But, no matter what type of service you take, don’t forget to get off at the town of Cusipata. And from this place you will have to take a bus service to Phulawasipata (end of the road from where the walk to the magnificent mountain of colors begins). The cost of the bus ticket to Phulawasipata is 10.
However, this is not the best option to get to Vinicunca. As there are only buses and passengers in the morning hours. Therefore, you will have to take an express service. The express service costs 100 soles, including the return trip.
Route through Pitumarca
To visit Vinicunca on this route, follow the same steps we described on the Cusipata route. Only in this case, instead of getting off in the Cusipata district, you will have to get off a few kilometers later in the Checacupe district. The travel time to this place is 2 hours. And the cost of the tickets varies between 7.00 soles (public service) and 12 soles (fast service).
In Checacupe square, take the buses that go to the district of Pitumarca, from where you will have to board another bus to the community of Pampachiri.
The ticket from Checacupe to Pitumarca will cost you 1 sol; and from Pitumarca to Pampachiri, 10 to 12 soles. And the estimated travel time will be 1 hour.
At the checkpoint in Pampachiri (where the road ends) pay your entrance fee (10.00 soles, foreign tourist; and 5.00 soles, national tourist). And then start with the 5 kilometer walk to the Vinicunca Pass. The walking time, through a relatively flat road, is approximately 2 hours.
Until the beginning of the year 2019, this was the busiest route. However, although the road now climbs even a few kilometers below Vinicunca, most tourists prefer to enter through Cusipata, due to the proximity to Cusco.
Go to a travel agency
For the degree of difficulty of the trekking, since you will be above 5,200 meters above sea level. We recommend that you make an excursion to the Rainbow Mountain. This way you will not have to worry about anything but enjoying your adventure.
Your travel agency, depending on the service you hire, will take care of transportation, food, guides, tickets and other services.
The prices offered by travel agencies to get to Rainbow Mountain never vary. The most basic packages are about 80 soles, and can be bought in Cusco’s main square. While the upgraded services are around 50 and 60 dollars. There are also exclusive and private services that cost around 200 dollars.
Distance from Cusco to Rainbow Mountain
Depending on the route you choose, the distance between Cusco and the Mountain of Colors will vary as follows:
Through the Cusipata route:
- Cusco – Phulawasipata: 102 km (paved road and dirt track).
- Phulawasipata – Mountain of Colors (road): 3 km.
On the Pitumarca route:
- Cusco – Pampachiri: 139 km (paved road and dirt track).
- Pampachiri – Mountain of Colors (road): 4.8 km.
The trek to the Rainbow Mountain never has a medium or moderate difficulty.
Most of the route is slightly steep, with few steep slopes that do not present any difficulty. However, it is not the road that makes the climb difficult. It is the fact of being more than 5,000 meters above sea level that can sometimes affect the normal breathing of some visitors. The higher the altitude, the less oxygen there is.
Therefore, it is recommended that you be in good health and in good physical condition. And if possible, your excursion to Vinic should never be made after you have acclimated to the climate of Cusco.
What to do and see in Montaña de 7 Colores?
In the Rainbow Mountain you can:
- See natural colors that resemble the colors of the rainbow.
- Observe the incredible natural landscapes that surround the mountain of colors, such as the snowy peaks of Ausangate.
- Visit around the mountain and see other natural attractions nearby such as the Red Valley, Palccayo and Rio Rojo.
- Participate in cultural interaction activities with the local inhabitants, who graze South American camelids.
- Enjoy an excellent and incredible day, breathing fresh air, walking more than 5000 meters above sea level, connecting with mother nature and reflecting on the fragile natural balance.
What to bring to Vinicunca?
If you come from sea levels below 500 meters, it is ideal to equip yourself for this walk at over 5,000 meters above sea level.
- Identification document.
- Camera with extra battery, the cold makes the battery not last long.
- Cash for your personal expenses and to pay the entrance to Vinicunca (10 soles, foreign tourist; and 5 soles, national tourist)
- Wide brimmed hat and waterproofs (in the rainy season).
- Coat, gloves, windbreaker, trekking pants and trekking shoes.
- Water, snacks and some fruits.
- Personal medications, in case you require them or are under medication.
- In case you require it, you can also consider the option of renting horses. The cost of the horse is 50 soles (one way) and 80 soles (round trip).
Tips for trekking to Rainbow Mountain in Peru
To enjoy a comfortable and safe trip, keep these tips in mind:
- Travel in the dry season, between April and November, see our mail: The best time to go to Rainbow Mountain.
- Try to enjoy good health and be in good physical condition.
- Take your trekking equipment with you: wide brimmed hat, small backpack, trekking shoes, warm clothes, sunscreen, trekking poles, rain poncho, water and food.
- Buy water and food in Cusco or in Cusipata or Pitumarca, the only places where you will find a tent.
- Do not travel with children under 12 years old.
- Finally, before trekking to Vinicunca, don’t forget to acclimatize to the climate of the Cusco region. This will avoid altitude sickness (soroche).
Yes, it will show you amazing views of the Peruvian Andes and you will reach 5200 meters above sea level.
For the minerals it presents are, that s: red clay, fangolitas (mud) and arilitas (sand), quartz, marls and clays of the superior tertiary.
It is located in Cusco – Perú, about 3 hours by car from the city of Cusco.
The Rainbow Mountain in Peru hight is 17,060 ft