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Our full day Rainbow Mountain day trip is for the intrepid traveler short on time, but not on adventure! We have curated an experience designed to get you out of sync with the crowds. Spend more time capturing that Insta-worthy shot of Vinicunca, and less time surrounded by other tourists.
Known locally as Vinicunca (cunca means “neck” in Quechua, the local indigenous language), this hidden gem near the Ausangate circuit goes by a lot of nicknames: Rainbow mountain, Painted mountain, Colored mountain, montaña de 7 colores, and even Stripy mountain – all of which speak to its unearthly and radiant colored peaks.
Made famous by Instagram, Rainbow Mountain has exploded in popularity in recent years. What was once a well-kept secret near Ausangate is now the second-most visited attraction in Cusco – second only to Machu Picchu!
The classic Rainbow Mountain tour receives thousands of visitors each day in high season, making it not a great choice for those who like to get off the beaten track. Our Rainbow Mountain day trip takes a slightly different route than most agencies, meaning you’ll have more time to enjoy the views and less time trekking alongside other tourists.
On this Rainbow Mountain 1 day trek, you’ll climb up to a breathtaking (literally!) altitude of 5040m (16, 535 ft) to capture that classic view of Vinicunca, and then walk back down along the same path. It is a steep climb up and down so you must make sure you’re prepared for the challenge and properly acclimatized.
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 how to pack for a trek in the Andes.
Despite being just a day trip to Rainbow Mountain, you should note that this trek is particularly cold. The temperatures can be as low as 5°C (41°F), so make sure you have enough very warm layers with you! We recommend a windbreaker, fleece, woolen hat, gloves and a scarf. A thermal underlayer below your durable trekking pants will also help keep you warm from the cold wind.
Be prepared for changing conditions. Weather in the Andes in fickle and there is always a chance of rain or even snow at high altitude, especially during the rainy season months (Nov-Mar).
Don’t forget to pack a sun hat, sunglasses and sunscreen, too. At such high altitude, the sun’s rays are very intense and you will burn easily, even if it is cloudy and overcast.
You will be hiking for 2-3 hours, so make sure your footwear is comfortable, sturdy and well worn-in. Hiking boots or trekking shoes are always preferred, but a good quality trainer will suffice in a pinch.
Lastly, you will appreciate bringing a thermos with you! A steaming cup of coca tea or hot coffee at the summit is a great way to warm up on a cold windy day!
For more great suggestions, check out our blog about How to Prepare for a Trek in Peru.
At Apus Peru, we only work with the region’s best guides. Your guide for the Rainbow Mountain day trip will be carefully selected for their personality, knowledge of the routes and communication skills. Get to know our team!
In addition to being fully licensed and all-around great people, our guides also receive frequent training at Apus Peru. This includes emergency first aid and mountain rescue training. You can rest assured you will be in good hands on your Rainbow Mountain 1 day trek!
Apus Peru is one of the longest-operating, top level trekking agencies in Cusco. We put safety first. Our comprehensive risk assessment policy covers a lot of issues which could occur on any of our treks, from vehicle maintenance to sickness and evacuation on the trail.
It is important to bear in mind that many treks – including our 1 day Rainbow Mountain tour – will not operate in the rainy season for safety reasons. See more below under FAQs about the Best Time of Year to visit Rainbow Mountain.
Want to join a Rainbow Mountain day trip? 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 leave Cusco city at around 7:30 am for our Rainbow Mountain day trip, a not-too-early start compared to the standard 3 am departure on other Rainbow Mountain day tours! Thankfully, we will be fully rested and prepared for the long day ahead.
Our day trip starts with a 3-hour drive along a paved road across the altiplano. We’ll travel through the fertile Vilcanota Valley, in the direction of Puno, until we reach Chillihuani (4700m / 15,419 ft).
Arriving in Chillihuani, we’ll be treated to magnificent views of the valley and its surrounding mountains. This is where our Rainbow Mountain 1 day trek will begin. We’ll begin hiking around 11 am – just as the morning crowds should be coming down from the mountain. The path will be busy climbing up, but we should reach the viewpoint when most people have left.
From the trailhead at Phulahuasipata (4650m / 15,255 ft), we climb for about 1.5-2 hours, gaining 390m in altitude as we go. This is a challenging climb and our breathing is sure to become more labored as we gain altitude. There is a rest stop halfway at Phuñacancha (4740m / 15,551 ft), with toilets available for 1 sol (about $0.30 USD).
When we reach Vinicunca Pass (5040m / 16,535 ft), we will enjoy spectacular views of the unique colored rock formations that give Rainbow Mountain its name. This is your reward for the strenuous climb: glorious layers of turquoise, orange, brown, and red rock sediment. There may be some cold gusts of wind here so please ensure that you are bundled up and that your head is covered with a woolly hat!
When the day is clear, we will also be treated to impressive views of the snow-capped Apu Ausangate, the most important apu, or mountain deity, in Andean cosmology.
After some time to rest and take those classic shots for your Instagram feed, we return down the mountain the same way we came. Our private transport will be waiting for us when we arriving back at the trailhead. We will enjoy our boxed lunch in the car, sheltered from the wind and cold, and then begin our return journey to Cusco. We arrive back at your hotel around 5 or 6pm.
This may just be a day trip to Rainbow Mountain, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. In fact, we rate this trek as moderate.
(See how we rate all of our treks in the Cusco region!)
There are two factors that affect the difficulty of this day hike: the altitude and the steep uphill climb.
Your Rainbow Mountain 1 day trek starts at an altitude of 4650m (15,255 ft). That’s already very high up and you must be well acclimatized before beginning the hike (more on altitude below).
From there, you will hike for 1.5h to 2h up to Vinicunca Pass, the classic viewpoint for Rainbow Mountain. While Rainbow Mountain itself has an altitude of 5200m (17,060 ft), Vinicunca Pass is located at 5040m (16, 535 ft), the highest point you will actually reach on this hike. That’s enough to take your breath away – literally!
While the hike is only a couple of hours, it is a very steep, uphill climb, with an elevation gain of nearly 400m (1312 ft). This can be very strenuous for most people. Of course, others will find the return trip down even harder! Steep inclines can be very hard on the knees.
Make sure you are prepared for the strain on your lungs and your knees for this trek, and that you know your body can handle it. We recommend walking sticks!
Physical fitness is highly individual and any formal training you undertake for your trek should be done in consultation with a medical professional or fitness expert.
Generally speaking, the fitter you are, the easier and more enjoyable the hike is going to be for you. Obviously, you want to have fun while on holiday so taking the time to get fit is in your best interest!
If you are someone who regularly works out, you’ve got a great headstart and will probably find the Rainbow Mountain 1 day trek tough but achievable. If you’re maybe a little older, or don’t have a regular fitness routine, we recommend you start one!
Doing some day hikes at home before heading to Peru – especially ones that involve climbing or mountain terrain – is a great way to prepare. If you don’t live near any mountains, go for extended walks in your city, or else, head to the gym for some good cardiovascular training.
For more ideas about how to prepare for your trek, see our Trekking Tip #3.
Rainbow Mountain altitude is very high – you will reach OVER 5000m (16,404 ft) on this hike. Altitude sickness is serious business, so to avoid getting sick on the trail, it’s important to acclimatize.
How can you acclimatize to the altitude before hiking to Rainbow Mountain? Actually it’s very easy: spend time at a high-altitude place like Cusco! Altitude is something that your body needs to adjust to so all it really needs is time. The more time you can spend at altitude before starting any hike, the better. Because of the very high altitude of Rainbow Mountain, we think 3 days is the minimum acclimatization period for this day trip.
In addition, being kind to your body helps your body deal with the extra pressures that altitude creates. This means eating healthy, light meals; staying away from alcohol; resting; and drinking lots of water.
We recommend you read more about Altitude and How to Acclimatize before starting your trek.
The best time of the year to do a Rainbow Mountain day trip is during the dry season, from May to August. These months are actually winter in the Andes so it can feel quite cold, but it usually means there is little to no rain. Clear sunny days and dry trail conditions are perfect for hiking!
December through March is the rainy season in the Andes and hiking to the Rainbow Mountain is not recommended. Sustained, heavy rains can make the trail unsafe. Rain quite often means snow at higher elevations, too, which is not only unpleasant to hike through, but could dramatically affect your views the striped mountains!
Trekking during the shoulder season (April, September, October) is weather-dependent. We are willing to book a Rainbow Mountain 1 day trek during this time, but if conditions are poor we reserve the right to cancel or modify your trip.
For more about our wet season trekking policy, check out this page on the best time to hike.
All you need to take with you is a day pack. In your day pack, you should carry things like your water bottle, some extra layers, camera, sun hat, gloves, beanie, sunscreen and sunglasses. You may also need to carry your boxed lunch in your day pack, so don’t forget to leave room!
Water on the trail is very important. Your boxed lunch includes a bottle of water, but you might want to bring another empty water bottle that you can fill up (we will provide boiled or filtered water for the car ride) before beginning the hike.
If you’ve heard of the “alternative rainbow mountain,” you may be wondering – which one is better?
All of our Rainbow Mountain tours are great in their own way, but in order to choose between a classic Rainbow Mountain tour or our “alternative” Palccoyo Rainbow Mountain tour, you should consider the following differences:
….or Take the Long Way
“Our family (mom 56, dad 53, son 20, daugher 18) took a day trip to Rainbow Mountain with Apus Peru. While we a hike a good deal in the U.S., we have never hiked at such high altitude and were a little apprehensive. Apus Peru provided very detailed information (and asked us for detailed information), and also required an in-person orientation prior to the hike…all of which helped us feel comfortable that the trek was a good fit for our ability and that we had guides who took our health and safety seriously. Providing an “emergency horse” (we used) and oxygen (we didn’t use) were also helpful in assuring we were able to address any challenges presented by the altitude. The guide and driver picked us up near our apartment in Cusco at 7:30 am…a much later start than the other Rainbow Mountain tours. Not only did this mean we started with a good night’s sleep, but it also meant we were arriving at the peak as the crowds from larger tours were leaving. We also felt more comfortable hiking with a smaller group where we were able to set the pace and take our time to enjoy the beautiful scenery. Rainbow Mountain was spectacular, but the entire drive and hike to and from the mountain were equally beautiful. The lunch provided was excellent, and we appreciated our guide making sure we had a cup of hot coca tea waiting for us at the summit. Our guide was friendly and helpful, with great English for those in our group who didn’t speak Spanish. It meant a lot to us to tour with a company committed to responsible, respectful, sustainable tourism and giving back to local communities.”