Vinicunca Mountain, also known as Rainbow Mountain or Montaña de Siete Colores (Mountain of Seven Colors), is a peak in the Andes of Peru, within the Cusco Region. It is known for its distinct striped pattern of colors, caused by the mineral deposits in the rock layers exposed by erosion.
The peak is 5,200 meters (17,060 feet) and is a popular destination for hikers and trekkers seeking stunning views and challenging trails.
The Rainbow Mountain (Vinicunca) is located in the Andes Mountains of Peru, within the Cusco region. The mountain is part of the Vilcanota mountain range and sits 5,200 meters (17,060 feet) above sea level.
The climate around Rainbow Mountain can be very unpredictable and changeable. The dry season runs from April to October, with the best months being May through September. You can expect sunny and dry weather with clear mountain views during these months. However, temperatures can still be frigid, especially at night, so bring warm clothing.
The rainy season runs from November to March, with the wettest months being December through February. During this time, the mountain can be covered in snow, and the trails can be muddy and complex. As a result, hiking Rainbow Mountain during the rainy season is not recommended.
The best time to visit Rainbow Mountain is during the dry season, from May to September, when the weather is generally favorable, and the views are clear.
The trek to the top of Rainbow Mountain is now firmly established as one of the top adventure experiences in Peru. In all, it takes around three to four hours to do a return hike to and from the summit, going on a well-worn track. You’ll leave from a trailhead on the south slope and proceed through a wide, flat valley bottom filled with grazing alpaca herds and time-stood-still Peruvian farmsteads surrounded by rough stone walls.
The trek up Rainbow Mountain is a gradual ascent that begins when you leave the car park, skirting a prominent, rust-tinged ridge to the west. This is where you’ll start to see the rocks changing colors. Distinctive touches of orange cascade through darker crags of stone overhead, while thick grass and moss bring a touch of greenery to the foreground. The track soon bends westward and widens and steepens in the run-up to the final ascent. Before you enter this mountain section, be sure to spin around and take in the grand theater of the Andean highlands of Peru that rolls out behind.
It’s a scene to make the jaw drop, with the snowy top of Ausangate Mountain in the vista on one side and distant mountains clambering over one another on the horizon. The last push to the top of Rainbow Mountain is a short zigzag that cuts straight out of the south slope. It might look easy, but this is where the altitude makes its presence felt. The panorama of the summit starts to come into view, and before you know it, you’ll be gazing straight out at the green, yellow, and blue symphony that is the iconic Vinicunca.
To fully appreciate the panoramic views of Rainbow Mountain, plan your visit between March and September. July and August offer the sunniest conditions but draw the largest crowds. October and May offer a balance between visitor numbers and weather conditions. However, be prepared for sudden weather changes that can impact your hike.
Rainbow Mountain’s elevation is an impressive 17,060 feet (5,200 meters) above sea level, nearly the same as Everest Base Camp in Nepal at 17,598 feet (5,364 meters). The highest point on the Classic Inca Trail, Dead Woman’s Pass, which stands at 13,828 feet (4,215 meters), is surpassed by Rainbow Mountain’s altitude. Moreover, the entire Vinicunca trek is completed at heights exceeding 15,000 feet, making this hike challenging right from the start.
Acclimatization is essential before visiting and hiking Rainbow Mountain. To acclimate, one can either spend a few days in Cusco, Peru, which sits at 11,152 feet (3,399 meters) or complete a high-elevation adventure such as the Classic Inca Trail or the Salkantay Trail before doing the Vinicunca trek. If one decides to extend their trip, they can also check out the Complete Guide to Hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. The Classic Inca Trail and Salkantay Trek take visitors above 13,000 feet (3,962 meters) in elevation, which can help the body adjust to the higher altitude.
When trekking up Rainbow Mountain, it is crucial to wear appropriate clothing and bring suitable gear. This is especially important when hiking over 15,000 feet in the Peruvian Andes, where weather conditions can change rapidly. Temperature fluctuations can also occur abruptly, ranging from 26°F (-3°C) to 62°F (17°C).
Choosing clothing that can be easily layered is recommended for the Rainbow Mountain hike. Start with an excellent thermal underlayer, then add a mid-layer, fleece, and outer layer. While you may not need all of them, they will be helpful if necessary. Additionally, a waterproof coating is essential due to this region’s high rainfall. Sudden storms can gather at higher elevations, particularly during the rainy season from October to March.
The path to Rainbow Mountain is not as challenging as the Inca Trail, but it is still rocky and uneven in places. Combine this with the possibility of sudden weather changes, and it is recommended to wear waterproof hiking boots. Lighter trail runners or running shoes are not recommended for this trek.
It is advisable to pack layers, as temperatures can be cold and windy at the top due to the higher altitude. Furthermore, getting sunburnt at higher altitudes is more manageable, so sunscreen and a hat should also be packed. Bringing plenty of water and snacks to energize you throughout the hike is always a good idea and ensures you reach the stunning views at the top.
We hope this guide has inspired you to visit Vinicunca Mountain Peru, and experience the otherworldly allure of this multicolored summit in the Andes. Please contact us for more information on our treks and trips to this unforgettable part of Peru.