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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.
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:
Some key items you might not have thought of:
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.
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).
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
See more tips above under “What to Pack” in the Details section.
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.
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.
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.
…or Take the Long Way