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Looking for a heart-pumping, adventurous Rainbow Mountain tour from Cusco? We have a 5 day Ausangate Rainbow Mountain trek that combines the untouched wilderness around Ausangate with an insider’s peek at the recently popularized Rainbow Mountain, known locally as Vinicunca.
Note: due to the high altitude, you must have at least 3 days of acclimatization at high altitude before embarking on our 5 day Ausangate Rainbow Mountain hike. See our FAQs below for more details on how to prepare for the altitude.
And it’s no wonder. The colourful striations that characterize the Ausangate Rainbow Mountains – the result of naturally-occurring minerals – are an amazing sight to behold. Who knew a mountain could contain so many colours!
Most visitors opt for a 1 day Rainbow Mountain tour from Cusco, but we think you get a much better experience when you spend at least 2 or even 5 days. The great thing about our 5 day Rainbow Mountain tour from Cusco is that it lets you witness this natural marvel while staying out of sync with the crowds.
We start by heading out from Cusco towards Checacupe, a quaint town that features bridges from three different eras: Incan, Colonial and Republican. From there, we keep going until we reach the trailhead for our Cusco Rainbow Mountain tour and climb for about 2h until we reach the first night’s campsite.
Day 2 is the highlight on this Rainbow Mountain trek as we reach the lookout with spectacular views of Vinicunca.
On Day 3 we meet up with the Ausangate Circuit, normally a 5 day trek on its own. We face some challenging high altitude passes today, including the first of two passes over 5000m (16,500 ft) on this trek.
The Ausangate Rainbow Mountain Tour is filled with a series of stunning glacial lakes on Day 4. We finish the day with a special treat: a chance to soak in the Pacchanta hot springs! Our 5 day hike then ends with a short hike from Pacchanta to Tinki, before our private transport returns us to Cusco.
High quality personalized experience
Unique, off-the-beaten track routes
Verified sustainability practices
We offer you the opportunity to personalize your trek and make your experience more comfortable through our Optional Extras and Upgrades. All options are available during the reservation process; please ask your sales consultant for more information.
See What to Bring for our comprehensive recommendations on what to pack for your trek.
Like many places in the Andes, the weather around Rainbow Mountain is rather fickle. It’s important to be prepared for all kinds of weather: possible rain showers, sun, or even snow. Layering and flexibility will be key!
The 5 day Rainbow Mountain Ausangate hike is a high altitude trek, crossing some very high passes, including two that are over 5000m. This means it can get very cold on the trail, especially overnight (expect nighttime temperatures as low as -15°C / 5°F in the middle of the cold dry season). As you reach each pass, you will need thermals, a winter hat (toque or beanie), mitts, thick warm socks, and a scarf.
You may also want to pack a bathing suit, flip flops and a towel, since there is the chance to visit some natural hot springs on Day 4.
You want something durable, comfortable and easy to keep clean. We prefer convertible trekking pants made out of a quick dry fabric. Most of these hiking pants have special designs allowing a maximum range of motion, and contain many pockets – a little Indiana Jones-y, maybe, but they can be very useful on the trail! For a cold, high-altitude hike like this one, we definitely recommend wearing thermals under your hiking pants to keep you warm.
When it comes to footwear, tough, waterproof trekking boots with a high top are best. If you’re not ready to invest in specialist hiking boots, hiking shoes will suffice, though these tend to be only water-resistant, less durable and do not provide ankle support.
For more help with what to pack, check out our blog How to Prepare for a Trek in Peru.
Our Rainbow Mountain tour guides are all handpicked for their personality, expert knowledge of the trekking routes and communication skills. All of our guides are formally licenced and receive frequent additional training from Apus Peru, such as mountain rescue and high-altitude first aid.
This is particularly important in the area of Vinicunca Peru as it is one of the trails where people have most felt the effects of altitude. You’ll be happy to have a trek guide with you who is experienced, knowledgeable and quick-thinking, able to alter routes at a moment’s notice if necessary.
Get to know our team!
Apus Peru is one of a small group of trek operators in the Cusco region that put people before profit. For us, safety is paramount. We have a comprehensive risk assessment policy that covers a wide range of topics from vehicle maintenance to illness and evacuation on the trail.
There are many treks, including ones in the area around Rainbow Mountain, Cusco, that we will not operate in the wet season under any circumstances due the safety considerations.
Want to join an Ausangate Rainbow Mountain trek? Ready to confirm a departure date of your own, but interested in having others join you? Then Trekkers Wanted is for you! Our innovative Trekkers Wanted system matches people up who are interested in hiking the same trek, bringing costs down and multiplying the fun for everyone!
Read More about Trekkers Wanted, post your trek or search for confirmed departures!
We start our Rainbow Mountain tour from Cusco, leaving early in the morning and heading towards the quaint village of Checacupe. Traveling on a paved road across the altiplano in the direction of Puno, we make our way through the fertile Vilcanota Valley. Our departure time means that we are out of sync with the crowds (the standard bus tours typically leave at 3am!) and will have plenty of time to enjoy an undisturbed experience of Vinicunca later on.
Arriving at Checacupe, we have a chance to visit the Colonial Church of the Immaculate Conception and the three interesting bridges before we hit the road again, and start our climb out of the Pitumarka Valley.
In Pitumarka, we can rest and buy some snacks. As we head out again, we leave the highway and get onto the dirt roads that wind through scenic valleys and canyons until we reach Hanchi Pacha. Along the way, we will stop to take photos of interesting rock formations.
After about 4 hours on the road, we’ll have an open air lunch to refresh and refuel before meeting up with our muleteers and beginning our 2h afternoon hike. We will climb steadily until we reach K’airahuiri Bajo (4300m / 14,925 ft) where we will have spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and magnificent valley below.
From there, it’s just another 40m to our first Vinicunca trek campsite at K’airahuiri Alto (4400m / 15,420 ft), with views across the verdant valley. It’s going to be a cold night, so make sure you have lots of warm clothes and a high quality sleeping bag, good to at least -15˚C (5˚F)!
After an early breakfast, we will walk for about 1.5h towards Vinicunca Pass (5040m (16,535ft), the site of the famous Ausangate Rainbow Mountains! Our breathing will become increasingly labored as we gain altitude. Once we arrive at the top of the pass, there may be some frigid gusts of wind, so be sure you are wrapped up warmly and that your head is protected with a woolly hat!
Here, we are rewarded for all our efforts with the first views of the spectacular Rainbow Mountains, with its vibrant multi-hued layers of rock sediment: turquoise, orange, brown, and red. For an extra treat and if the day is clear, we will also have majestic views of the snow-capped Apu Ausangate mountain, the tallest and most important mountain in Andean cosmology.
After some time to rest and take photos, we’ll head on to Pucacocha Lake over the 4900m (16,076 ft) Menos Ponco Pass (altitude is approximate). It should take between 4 and 5 hours to get to our campsite where we will rest for the evening.
We start off Day 3 of our Ausangate Rainbow Mountain Tour with a stunning morning walk. With the great Ausangate Mountain on our left-hand side, we passing clear glacial lakes, herds of local alpacas and llamas and, if we’re lucky, maybe even some wild vicuña.
We will first reach Apacheta Pass (4600m / 15,091 ft) before ascending to Palomani Pass (5200m / 17,060 ft), the highest point on the Ausangate trek to Rainbow Mountain. As we cross the pass, we will be met with spectacular breathtaking views of the southeast mountain range, including Mariposa (“butterfly”) and Caracol (“snail”) Peaks.
From here we follow the trail into the valley where we’ll rest and have lunch. During the afternoon we can enjoy views of the snowcapped Tres Picos and Puca Punta mountains.
Then, we will continue through the broad green valley of Pampa Jutunpata and up the Rio Q’ampa Valley, where we will spend the night.
Day 4 and our last full day of hiking on our Ausangate trek to Rainbow Mountain. We start by hiking through the small community of Q’ampa. From there, we head northwest to the last pass of our journey, the Q’ampa Pass (5000m / 16,400 ft). We will pass by many different colored lakes and lunch beside the sparkling Q’oma Q’ocha Lake (4704m / 15,429 ft).
After several hours of hiking through the Andean landscape we reach Pacchanta (4010m / 13,152 ft). This traditional, high altitude herding village has been transformed by tourism in recent years, and has adapted its activities to include various community rural tourism initiatives, including homestays and cultural demonstrations.
We take in our incredible surroundings as we finish up our Ausangate Rainbow Mountain tour, with superb photo ops of Ausangate mountain in the distance. We also have the opportunity to soak in the local hot springs, and even treat ourselves to a well-deserved beer!
Tonight, we camp in Pacchanta.
It’s Day 5 and our final day trekking Rainbow Mountain Vinicunca Peru. From Pacchanta, we hike for three hours to Tinke where we will have free time to explore this traditional Andean village before taking our private car back to Cusco.
The scenic drive winds up and over a pass for a last glimpse of the imposing Mount Ausangate. Take in the view as you marvel at your accomplishment, having just spent 5 days trekking through the Rainbow Mountain wilderness in this incredible, remote region of the Andes, where few have gone!
We arrive to Cusco between 4 and 5pm, and leave you at your hotel.
We rate this 5 day Ausangate Vinicunca trek as moderate. (See how we rate all of our treks in the Cusco region!)
Despite this being a very high altitude trek, the ascents and descents are not as steep or difficult as they are on the treks we rate as “challenging”. There also are no stone steps, as there are on the Inca Trail, which can be hard on the knees for many.
The main challenge on this Ausangate Rainbow Mountain hike is the altitude. The hike will take you across two passes that are over 5000m; as a result, you must be well-acclimatized prior to beginning.
If you are a bit older or not as fit, you should definitely plan on getting into a fitness training program prior to coming. You should undertake a fitness training program in consultation with your doctor and a fitness professional to make sure that your training is tailored to your needs and level.
Generally speaking, though, the fitter you are, the easier and more enjoyable your Ausangate Rainbow Mountain trek will be! And that’s what you want while on holidays!
See our Tip #3 for how to get ready for your trek.
The best way to prepare yourself for Rainbow Mountain Peru’s altitude is very easy: spend time at a high-altitude place like Cusco!
For this 5 day Rainbow Mountain trek, you should spend at least 3 days at altitude prior to trekking. Generally speaking, the more time you can spend acclimatizing, the better you will feel on the trek.
While hanging out in Cusco or another high-altitude place (like Puno), be sure to be kind to your body. Altitude puts extra pressures on the body, so make sure you don’t do anything to overdo it while you’re trying to acclimatize. Eat light, healthy meals, drink lots of fluids (water or herbal teas are best), avoid alcohol and get plenty of rest.
Read more about Altitude and How to Acclimatize before starting your trek.
December through March is the wet season in Peru and trekking around Rainbow Mountain Cusco is not recommended for safety reasons. Given the high altitudes encountere, the rain can actually turn to snow, particularly in the shoulder seasons. Trekking during these months (April, September, October) is strictly weather-dependent.
Read more about the best time to hike and take note of our wet season trekking policy. We reserve the right to cancel or modify any trek if the weather conditions render it unsafe.
See the day-by-day Ausangate Rainbow Mountain Tour itinerary for exact hiking times per day.
The 5 day Ausangate Rainbow Mountain hike includes 4 nights of camping, with the option to stay in a local hostel on Night 4.
Our camping equipment is top notch, including 4 season North Face tents that our field team sets up for you at each campsite. On a high altitude trek such as this one, you will be grateful for these high quality tents!
Temperatures frequently fall below freezing, and can even get as low as -15°C / 5°F in the middle of dry season. It’s not uncommon to see snow at certain times of year. Whatever the conditions, you will be well protected!
Go luxe! You can also choose our Comfort Camping option for a full-on luxury camping experience.
We provide delicious meals on the trail, prepared by our highly trained trail chefs – freeze-dried, packaged lentils this is not! Our chefs upgrade their training and meal repertoires every, resulting in some really stunning culinary creations on the trail!
We have a lot of vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free travellers and our cooks know how to cater to their needs. With adequate preparation and clear communication, we can accommodate all other types of dietary requests.
Read more about What to Expect on the Trail, including more about meals and equipment.
The Ausangate Rainbow Mountain trek is a 5 day wilderness trek that does not include Machu Picchu. You can customize your Rainbow Mountain tour by adding a Machu Picchu Extension.
The Machu Picchu Trek Extension includes one night in a Standard Aguas Calientes hotel. For added comfort, you can also choose one of our upgrade packages which includes not only an upgraded hotel but also luxury train service and meals at the top restaurants in Aguas Calientes.
Another great way to customize your Vinicunca tour is to add on one or more of our Cusco day tours, such as a classic Sacred Valley tour or a hike to Humantay Lake.
There are other ways you can see the Ausangate Rainbow Mountains, especially if you are short on time or don’t want to spend 5 days trekking in Peru! We have a Rainbow Mountain day trip from Cusco, which is a one day tour to hike up to the Rainbow Mountain lookout point and then return to Cusco.
We also have a 2 day Rainbow Mountain tour from Cusco which includes one night camping near Vinicunca.
For an alternative Rainbow Mountain experience, we also offer a full day tour to Palccoyo, the “other Rainbow Mountain”. Our one day Palccoyo hike offers beautiful views of rainbow-coloured hills, an easier hike and no crowds. This is a great way to get off the beaten path and enjoy a unique Rainbow Mountain tour.
Water is extremely important while hiking. You should start each day with 2L, knowing you fill up your water bottles at meal times.
Snacks are great to have on the trail, too. We provide an ample supply, but – especially if you have a hollow leg! – you might want to bring some extra snacks of your own.
The rest of your belongings – up to 10kg (22 lbs) – are carried in a duffel bag that we provide, by mules. All of the camping equipment needed on the trek is also carried by mules.
For more information about what this region has to offer, check out our Ausangate homepage.
…or Take the Long Way
Definitely one of the most beautiful places I’ve visited. The landscape was stark and the colors stunning.
Arturo and I had wide ranging conversation that flowed with my natural curiosity and interests. I appreciate his commitment to sustainable and adventurous life.
All of the meals were creatively prepared, beautifully presented, made with love. Some of my favorite dishes were yucca and quail eggs, quinoa risotto, and the variety of veggie soups.
The highlight for me was crossing the highest pass with vivid rainbow colors and sharp mountains, various breeds of alpacas, the food, the good conversation.
I am glad we got a guide for this trip. There were many potential routes, the local people mostly spoke Quechua, and the elevation could have caused problems. I was able to relax and enjoy the trip. Thank you!
We saw fantastic views, interesting animals and plants and learned so much from our guide about the area and culture. Arturo and the crew really went out of their way to leave no trace. They picked up after not only themselves but also picked up trash from others that had been left behind.
Apus Peru completely surpassed my expectations for a guided backpacking trip. Our travel consultant was great to work with and quickly answered my many questions leading up to the trip. We chose the 5 day Ausangate Trek and added Rainbow Mountain to the first morning– would highly recommend doing so, it’s totally worth it and Apus Peru arranged the timing so that we missed all of the crowds. We were the only people on the mountain in the morning! Our guide, woke us up every morning in our tent with hot tea, our chefs prepared delicious meals with tons of fresh fruit and veggies, and we had history lessons each night to learn more about Incan history. I also couldn’t believe how remote we were. Over the course of 5 days we only ran into a handful of other tourists. Apus Peru is a very professional company who went above and beyond to make sure we had an incredible time.
Trip of a lifetime! Despite the high altitude and cold temperatures, we truly enjoyed every step of the way.
If you’re thinking of booking a trek, don’t think twice, we highly recommend Apus Peru.
Everything was extremely well organized and professional. The team makes you feel safe, spoiled and comfortable at all times. We also enjoyed that apus is environmentally conscious and supports local communities.
Our guide was amazing; he has the most positive energy, always smiling, encouraging and making jokes along the way. Our chef and his assistant prepared the most delicious and nutritious meals, you couldn’t believe the miracles they worked inside their little tent.
Thank you again Apus for such a memorable experience, we look forward to booking with you again.