Palccoyo Mountain Tour 1D

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Duration: 1 Day
Availability : Availability: Every Day
Depart: Cusco
Destination: Palccoyo
Min Age : 8
Max People : 12

About the Palccoyo Mountain Tour

Have it all with our Palccoyo Mountain one day tour! It’s the perfect alternative hike that lets you marvel at the stunning Palccoyo Rainbow Mountain while avoiding the crowds.

See Full Description

Palccoyo mountain (also spelled Palcoyo mountain) is a great alternative rainbow mountain hike. Our one day Palccoyo Mountain Tour offers a gentler trail with less elevation gain, so it’s a great option for someone looking for a more casual day hike around Cusco.

Peru’s Rainbow Mountain (also known as Vinicunca) has exploded in popularity in recent years. Incredibly, Rainbow Mountain Cusco is now the second-most visited tourist destination in Cusco, after Machu Picchu. All this in just a few short years!

But you can still see the incredible Red Valley of Peru and its colorful mountains, without the hordes of tourists!

The Palccoyo hike also has some added highlights that the classic Rainbow Mountain hike does not, like a stop to visit the village of Checacupe for a taste of high Andean culture, and the chance to explore the fascinating Palccoyo Rock Forest.

Send us an enquiry to book your trek, or click through the navigation bar above to read about the trip Details, the detailed Itinerary, FAQs about this hike, or to check out some more Photos of this incredible trip.

Not convinced by this alternative Rainbow Mountain tour? We also offer our own versions of the classic Vinicunca Rainbow Mountain hike, which keep you out of sync with the vast majority of fellow hikers:

Palccoyo Tour Highlights

  • Marvel at the colourful striations of the “other” Rainbow Mountain, Palccoyo
  • Stroll through the fascinating Rock Forest and enjoy breathtaking views of the Red Valley and Ausangate mountain
  • On the way, stop at the quaint village of Checacupe to see Colonial and Inca bridges
Prices are per person in USD, based on group size. We do not have fixed-date group departures. If you do not want to book a private trek, please see our Trekkers Wanted page for a list of open departures within your dates.

2 people


3 people


4-6 people


7+ people


High quality personalized experience

Unique, off-the-beaten track routes

Experienced staff

Verified sustainability practices

$20 of every trek donated to Threads of Peru

Important Details About Palccoyo Rainbow Mountain

What is Included?


  • Boxed lunch. Vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options available (Talk to your Travel Consultant during the booking process if you have certain preferences)
  • Bottled water provided in boxed lunch


  • Collection from your hotel on the morning of Palccoyo Rainbow Mountain hike departure
  • Private transport from Cusco to the trailhead and return at the end of the trek

Trekking Team

  • English/Quechua/Spanish speaking professional guide, plus an assistant guide for groups over 8


  • First aid kit including emergency oxygen bottle

Additional inclusions

  • Pre-trek briefing
  • Any applicable entry fees

What is Not Included?


  • Breakfast and dinner


  • Emergency riding horse
  • Tips for the field staff
  • Flights to/from Cusco
  • Travel insurance

Optional Extras & Upgrades

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.

Equipment Available for Rent

    • Extra horse for you to ride, and horseman to lead it
    • Light-weight aluminum walking stick. Two sticks are recommended for tough hikes

Optional Activities


    • When calculating the cost of renting equipment, calculate using the length of the entire trip, not just the number of trekking days.
    • Please be careful with rented equipment! You are responsible for the cost of replacement if something is damaged or broken.
    • Any upgrades or trip extensions must be requested at time of booking.

What to Pack

You just need to pack for one day when hiking to Palccoyo Mountain, so you won’t need a lot. That said, you will be at a very high altitude where the weather can be fickle. It’s all about layers! You’ll need to plan for warm and cool temps, possible rain (or even snow!), and intense sun.

Some key items you might not have thought of:

  • For when it’s windy or the temperature drops: winter hat (that is, a toque, woolly hat or beanie), scarf, and gloves;
  • For weather changes: Light-weight, long-sleeve t-shirt, fleece jacket, waterproof windbreaker or rainjacket, comfortable quick-dry trekking pants (you might want to layer leggings underneath!);
  • For the intense Andean sun: sun hat, sunscreen, sunglasses;
  • Footwear: Well worn-in, comfortable resistant hiking boots are always best for any hike in the Andes, but at minimum, a solid trekking shoe or trainers will suffice.

For more packing ideas, we have a helpful blog on How to Prepare for a Trek in Peru. Also see What to Bring for our comprehensive recommendations on what to pack for a trek in the Andes.

Available Discounts

  • Students: USD $30 off, in certain circumstances. Please enquire for details about eligibility.
  • Youth 12-17: 5% off. A valid passport must be presented upon booking.
  • Children 5-11 years: 15% off. A valid passport must be presented upon booking.
  • Children 0-4 years: Free. A valid passport must be presented upon booking. Children under 4 will not count towards the total number of guests in a group. Car seats, cribs and other baby needs may not be included and must be discussed in advance. For more information about travelling with infants and toddlers, please see this blog as well as the Age Requirements section of our Booking Conditions.
  • 5% off a day tour listed price when you also book a 3-day or longer trek operated by Apus Peru

Our Guides and Safety on the Palccoyo Mountain trail

All of Apus Peru’s guides are formally licensed guides with expert knowledge of the region. We hand-pick our guiding team for their friendliness, outgoing personalities and excellent communication skills. They are all a wealth of knowledge, and also fully equipped to handle any situation. We additionally provide regular training in high-altitude wilderness first aid.

Get to know our team!At Apus Peru, we put people and the environment above profit, and safety is one of our top concerns. Our comprehensive risk assessment policy covers a wide range of details from vehicle maintenance to illness and evacuation on the trail.We monitor trail conditions closely and there are several treks that we will not operate in the wet season for safety reasons. For more about our wet season trekking policy, please see our page on the Best Time to Hike.

Trekkers Wanted

Want to join a hike to Palccoyo Mountain? 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!

Important Info

  • Each guide has their own preferred route and so the route you trek might not correspond exactly to the route described here.
  • The times cited in this Palccoyo Mountain tour itinerary are approximate. Walking times depend on the group, and the guide may change lunch spots depending on the progress of the group.
  • Remember that no trek in the Andes is easy, especially due to the high altitude of the region. You still should be fit and prepared to hike in difficult conditions.

Ready to Book?

  • Does this trek sound like just what you were looking for? If you’re ready to book or just want to find out a bit more information, fill out the Inquiry Form in the top right-hand corner of this page to get the ball rolling. You’ll be connected with one of our amazing sales people who will be able to turn your dream of hiking in the Andes into a reality. For more information on the entire booking process, please see our How To Book page.
  • Travel insurance is a must! World Nomads offers travel insurance for adventure activities.

1 Day Trek to Palccoyo Mountain Itinerary

Day 1Cusco – Checacupe – Huallatacunca – Palccoyo – Cusco

      • Total Walking Distance: 4km (6km, counting the walk to the Rock Forest)
      • Total Walking Time: 2-3h
      • Minimum Altitude: 4900m (16,076 ft)
      • Maximum Altitude: 5040m (16,534 ft)

The Drive Towards Palccoyo Mountain

The journey to see the incredible Palccoyo Mountain starts at a respectable hour. We leave Cusco at 7am in our private transport, and head out along the Cusco-Puno highway. During the drive, we pass some beautiful spots like the village of Checacupe. This Andean village boasts a unique attraction: three bridges from three different historical periods, Incan, Colonial and Republican! It’s a Peru history lesson in 3D.

After nearly 2 ½ hours on the road to the alternative rainbow mountain, we reach the small town of Combapata. From here we take a detour onto a dirt road, where we will travel a further 41 km (approx. 1 hour) until we reach the trailhead for our 1 day trek to Palccoyo (4900m / 16,076 ft).

Gorgeous Views Surround You on the Palccoyo Rainbow Mountain Tour

At this point, we begin our gentle ascent towards the first lookout point. After about 15 or 20 minutes, we’ll have our first glimpse of Peru’s incredible Red Valley, and several smaller colored mountains. The Red Valley area is a stunning feature of the Peruvian Andes. Rich in mineral deposits, these mountains are simply a wonder to behold.

After admiring the breathtaking views and getting that Instagram-perfect shot, we continue another 15 or 20 minutes until we reach the principal Palccoyo Rainbow Mountain lookout. At a whopping 5040m (16,534 ft), you’ll feel on top of the world!

Did you know? Rainbow Mountain is considered one of the top instagrammable spots in Peru. We think Palccoyo Mountain is just as stunning!

Here you’ll have a chance to appreciate the full splendour of what’s become known as the “alternative rainbow mountain,” as well as Ausangate Mountain (6370m / 20,899 ft), the highest peak in the Cusco region. Did you bring your thermos? It can get very chilly at these high altitudes, and you will appreciate being able to sip on some hot coca tea while you take in the views!

Optional Extra Hike through Palccoyo’s Rock Forest

We’ll enjoy a well-deserved break here admiring the view, and then we have the option to continue on a bit further to the Rock Forest. It’s about a 20-minute uphill hike to reach this fascinating geological feature, a stunning outcropping of jagged rocks. This is a great spot to get more of those classic Palccoyo shots, and take in all that Mother Nature has to offer.

At this point, it’s time for lunch and we’ll enjoy our snack in the open air* before walking back along the same path to the trailhead, where our private vehicle is waiting. We will return to Cusco along the same road, arriving there at around 5 pm.

*Alternatively, we may stop at a local restaurant for lunch on the way back to Cusco.

Palccoyo Mountain FAQs

How difficult is the Palccoyo Mountain Tour?

We rate the 1 day Palccoyo Mountain Trek as average. (See how we rate all of our treks in the Cusco region!)

The Palccoyo Rainbow Mountain is situated in the Red Valley. It is a great alternative to the classic Rainbow Mountain tour and a much better option if you are looking to avoid the crowds. This is a gentler hike than Vinicunca (Rainbow Mountain), with less elevation gain.

Remember: all treks in the Cusco region can be challenging due to the high altitude and the Rainbow Mountain Palccoyo 1 day trek is no exception. For this reason, we recommend a minimum of 2 days’ acclimatisation at high altitude before doing this day hike.

What training do you recommend for Palccoyo?

The training you need all depends on how used you are to trekking and how your body adapts to altitude. A young person of average fitness who does regular exercise will probably find the Palccoyo tour a decent day hike. Older people, or those who are not as fit, should do a few day hikes at home before the trip to gain a decent level of fitness. Consult your doctor about trekking at altitude if you have any doubts.

In the most general terms: the fitter you are, the easier and more enjoyable the Palccoyo Tour is going to be! And of course, you want to enjoy your trek.

See our Tip #3 for more thoughts on how to get ready for your trek.

How can I prepare myself for the altitude at Palccoyo Mountain?

The best way to avoid altitude sickness while hiking the Palccoyo Rainbow Mountain trek is very easy: spend time at a high-altitude place!

Luckily, this is easy to do as the starting point for any Palccoyo tour is Cusco – the one-time capital of the Inca Empire. Coming in at 3200m (10,499 ft), it fits the bill for a good place to acclimatize! Generally speaking, the more time you can spend acclimatizing, the better off you’ll be. We recommend spending a minimum of 2 days at altitude before doing any hiking in the region, but it’s especially important for Palccoyo, where you’ll be reaching heights of nearly 5000m (16,404 ft).

In addition to time, eating healthy food, taking it easy, drinking lots of water and staying away from alcohol will all help your body adjust to the limited amount of oxygen available at high elevation.

For more info about acclimatizing, reach our page on Altitude and How to Acclimatize before starting your trek.

What is the best time of year do a 1 day trek to Palccoyo?

Despite being the coldest time of the year in the Andes, the dry season is the best time of year for any hike around Cusco. That includes Palccoyo!

Stretching from about May through August, the dry season is characterized by – you guessed it – dry weather conditions. This is when the Andes experience the least amount of rain, and the trails are clean and dry, making it perfect for hiking. Most days will be sunny and pleasantly warm (though the sun can be quite intense!), but it can cool off quite a bit at night.

December through March is the wet season in Peru and hiking the Palccoyo Mountain trek is a little bit harder to predict. Rain is never fun to hike through, and overcast days make it harder to appreciate the beautiful views. More than that, though, persistent heavy rains can wash out trails or cause landslides, making hiking unsafe.

Another thing to remember particularly for Palccoyo Rainbow Mountain! When it’s raining at lower altitudes, it’s often snowing at higher elevations! The last thing you want is to arrive at your destination, looking forward to seeing those colourful striations, only to find them covered in snow. What a disappointment!

Hiking during the “shoulder season” (April, September, October, November) is totally at the whim of the weather conditions. We reserve the right the cancel or alter your itinerary if you book a Palccoyo trek during the rainy season or the shoulder months.

Read more about our wet season trekking policy alongside more info on the best time to hike.

How long is the trek to Palccoyo Mountain?

    The average trekking time for this one day hike is 2 to 3 hours. You can see the exact hiking times in the full itinerary described below.

Can I charge my devices en route to Palccoyo?

    No. You should make sure all of your devices are fully charged before setting out on the 1 day trek to Palccoyo, and bring an extra battery pack or two, just in case.

What kind of food can we expect on the Palccoyo Rainbow Mountain Trek?

    The Palccoyo Mountain trek includes a boxed lunch served en route. We cater for all dietary requirements, just let us know at the time of booking!

Do I need any permits to hike to Palccoyo?

    No. No additional permits are required to hike the Palccoyo Rainbow Mountain trek. Any costs charged by the communities in the Palccoyo Mountain area are included in the price of your trek.

What do I need to carry on the hike?

Palccoyo is a day tour so all you will need to carry with you is a light day pack filled with some basic essentials. In your day pack, you should carry things like your water bottle, some extra layers, camera, sun hat, beanie, sunscreen and sunglasses.

See more tips above under “What to Pack” in the Details section.

Can I customize my Palccoyo Rainbow Mountain Tour?

Yes! The 1 day trek to Palccoyo itself can be customised according to your interests and fitness levels. There are two short stretches of 15-20 minutes each to reach the main Palccoyo lookout points. After that, there is an optional additional 20 minutes or so walk through the Rock Forest, which has a little more challenging terrain. It is up to you how much you want to explore the area around Palccoyo!

Palccoyo Mountain is a day tour, meaning that if you have more time on your hands you can add more day tours for a well-rounded experience. We have a whole host of Cusco day tours to suit every interest – from tours steeped in Inca history, to cultural immersion tours, to tours focused on experiencing nature. All day tours start and end in Cusco, unless otherwise requested.

We think a day trip to the Q’eswachaka Bridge is a great add-on to a Palccoyo tour. It lets you explore more of the surrounding area, and see a really cool piece of living Inca culture: a handmade rope bridge that is rebuilt every year!

Most visitors won’t want to miss Machu Picchu and so for you, we have one- and two-day train tours to Machu Picchu.

Is the 1 day trek to Palccoyo right for me?

Aside from the altitude, Palccoyo is one of the least strenuous tours in and around Cusco and offers a unique glimpse of the famous rainbow mountains of Peru. However, to make sure this day trip is the right one for you, ask yourself the following questions:

    • Do I have time to acclimatize well? The Palccoyo Rainbow Mountain tour takes you to altitudes over 5000m (16,404 ft). Despite being a relatively easy hike, the high altitude can still hit you like a tonne of bricks if you are not already acclimatised. You should make sure you have time in your itinerary to spend at least 2 days at altitude before going on this tour. If you don’t, consider a tour in the Sacred Valley instead.
    • Am I anxious to snap that Insta-worthy shot of Rainbow Mountain? Palccoyo features some of the most stunning landscapes the Andes has to offer, but it will not provide you the chance to snap that most iconic Rainbow Mountain shot you’ve probably seen on Instagram. To get those classic Rainbow Mountain photos, you should take one of our one-day or two-day Rainbow Mountain tours.
    • Am I looking for a trek that includes Machu Picchu? Palccoyo Mountain is a simple day tour that does not include Machu Picchu – in fact, it takes you in totally the opposite direction! Make sure you see the incomparable Machu Picchu by adding a separate one- or two-day Machu Picchu tour.
    • Is visiting Incan ruins important to me? If so, then Palccoyo may not be the day tour for you. If Inca ruins are your focus, a tour like our Tipon South Valley Tour might be a better choice. The somewhat less-touristed South Valley circuit includes such Inca sites as Tipon, Pikillaqta and Raqchi.
    • Am I interested in learning about contemporary Andean culture? If Andean culture is your focus, you may want to consider one of our Cultural Immersion Tours instead. These tours will have you learning about traditional weaving, making ceramics, trying traditional delicacies like Oropesa bread and cuy, and so much more!

Palccoyo vs Vinicunca

Palccoyo is often referred to as the “alternative Rainbow Mountain” – meaning that there is an “original” Rainbow Mountain, too! What’s the difference? Which one is better?

Our Palccoyo Tour and Rainbow Mountain tours are all great in their own right, and weighing the pros and cons of each really depends on what is most important to you.

      • Getting that classic Rainbow Mountain shot – Rainbow Mountain has become something of an Instagram sensation in recent years, with travel influencers and tourists alike eager to seek out that classic picture. Although in the same area and also featuring the same beautiful rainbow stripes, Palccoyo Mountain is different and you will not get the same photos as everyone else who take the standard Vinicunca Rainbow Mountain tour.
      • Crowds! – Vinicunca Rainbow Mountain is busy! These days, it is the second-most visited tourist attraction around Cusco (after Machu Picchu), with thousands of tourists taking the hike every day. By contrast, Palccoyo is still somewhat of a well-kept secret. It’s not impossible to be the only group there when you visit. If you want to experience colorful Rainbow Mountains in Peru without as many tourists alongside you, Palccoyo is your best bet.
      • Length & difficulty of the hike – In short: Palccoyo is an easier, shorter hike than Vinicunca. The standard one-day Vinicunca Rainbow Mountain hike is a steep, uphill climb. It takes about 2 hours and has a nearly 400m elevation gain. It can be quite strenuous for most people, especially because of the altitude. Although located at roughly the same altitude, the 1 day trek to Palccoyo is much gentler, and it only takes about 30-40 minutes to walk to the main Palccoyo viewpoint.

At the end of the day, you will need to assess your hiking abilities and evaluate your desire to escape the crowds and do something a little unique with wanting to experience the same Rainbow Mountain that everyone else does.

How to get to Cusco?

    • The Palccoyo Rainbow Mountain tour begins and ends in Cusco, unless otherwise arranged. Travel to/from Cusco is not included in the price of your trek. If you’re travelling from Lima to Cusco, you can either take a direct route by plane or bus, or, enjoy a longer journey with stops in Puno or Arequipa along the way.

Travel Direct…

      • By Plane – Most international flights land in Lima, Peru’s capital. From here, you can take a domestic flight to Cusco. Some international flights go through other South American capitals, like Bogotá, Colombia, which also has connecting flights to Cusco.
      • By Bus – You can take an overnight bus from Lima to Cusco (it takes about 20-23 hours). One of the benefits of travelling slowly up from the coast is that you are automatically acclimatising as you travel. Not to mention you get an idea of the stunning landscape and mountains as you travel! The top recommended buses are Cruz del Sur, Palomino and ExcluCiva.

…or Take the Long Way

    • Via Arequipa and/or Puno – If you have the time, spend a day or two in Lima and then head to Arequipa or Puno (or both!) to gradually acclimatize to the altitude over the space of several days before you arrive in Cusco for your trek. We offer 3 and 4 day package tours to Arequipa and Puno that you can add onto to your trek.

More resources for hiking the Palccoyo alternative Rainbow Mountain trek

If you’re still not sure if Palccoyo is right for you, or want to read more about the Ausangate area and other people’s trekking experiences in this region, check out these helpful articles from our blog:

    • Why You Should Trek to Ausangate Cusco – This is a great place to start if you’re thinking about doing an Ausgante hike. This article provides an overview of the region, all the Ausangate trekking options we offer, an overview of what to expect day by day and what makes Ausangate unique compared to the other Cusco trekking options. It also talks about some of the cultural significance of the area, including the annual Qoyllur Rit’i festival.
    • The Spirit of Apu Ausangate – A lyrical description of life in the Ausangate region, what Ausangate mountain means for the Andean people who live nearby and their cultural traditions.
    • 15 Most Instagrammable Places in Peru – Peru is a hotspot for Instagram-worthy photos these days, including Rainbow Mountain!
    • Exploring the Rainbow Mountain Hike – The Apus Peru team went exploring the Rainbow Mountain hike when it was still relatively new. We met with locals who helped us design a unique route that would help keep our trekkers off the beaten path.
1 Review
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Bridgit G. (UK)

Solo Traveller

The landscape and small number of people were the highlights of this tour. Adriel, the guide, was a good company, enthusiastic, knowledgeable and punctual. Omar drove beautifully and was also good company.

20 April, 2023

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