Rainbow Mountain Hike in Cusco, Peru

Rainbow Mountain Cusco Peru

Before I visited Peru I had seen many pictures of Rainbow Mountain and my old guide from my trek to Choquequirao, was now a guide on this trek, and kept posting lots of pictures on facebook and I knew when I returned to Cusco it was a trek I had to do.

When I arrived in Cusco I met with my old guide who told me about the hike to Rainbow Mountain.  There are options of 1 or 2 days though the 2 day hike is normally booked as a private trek.  His company is more exclusive and takes small groups early in the morning (2am) so that when you get to Rainbow Mountain there is no one else in your pictures.  The rest of the companies normally leave between 3.30 and 4 so when you get to the summit there are hundreds of people and that is just in the low season!!

If you want a more private tour then please have a look at his website AB Expeditions.

Unfortunately my budget did not stretch to this and I had to go with one of the other companies in Cusco which charges around 100 soles (USD30), for this you get breakfast, lunch, transport (it’s a 3 hour drive out of Cusco) and a guide.  We got picked up at 3.30am and drove around Cusco for another 30 minutes trying to find the hostels of the other people in the group!!  Once we had everyone we started the drive to the start of the hike.  After 2 hours we left the main road and continued on a dirt road slightly wider than a single track, up the mountains with a sheer drop to one side.  I closed the curtain, as to me we seemed to be driving too fast and too near the edge!! As is typical in Peru, everything worth seeing is at the top of a mountain or over a mountain pass!!  This part was only 20 or 30 minutes but I still felt I needed to celebrate surviving and still being alive when we got past this part!!

Rainbow Mountain Cusco Peru

After 3 hours we arrived in at the village of Q’anchipacha where we stopped for a basic breakfast of bread and jam with a tea/coffee and admired the views of the valley.  We were then briefed that we would drive a further 20 minutes before getting out of the van and starting the 3 hour hike from 4,530 metres.  There is the option of taking a horse if you are struggling with the altitude but this costs extra.  We actually had a girl who was sick from the altitude about 5 minutes away from the start of the hike and had to walk back down to the village!!  Now that would be gutting after that journey!!

Until you get to this altitude you have no idea how you will deal with it, everyone is different and it has no relation with how fit you are either!! Coca leaves or sweets help, having a coca tea before the hike too which you can have with your breakfast.  If you have any of the symptoms you need to tell the guide as they can give you some coca leaves or some altitude sickness tablets (though I have heard mixed reviews about these helping).  Luckily I don’t suffer too much from the altitude and have never had to try these, I normally just chew on the coca leaves to give me a bit of extra energy!!.

We got back in the van and set off to the starting point, though at one stage it could not get up the steep bend as it had been raining heavily overnight and all the vans were skidding back down!!  We got out and walked up the valley part of the way, where I got a great picture of the view.

Rainbow Mountain Hike Cusco Peru

Once we arrived at the starting point, our guide gave us our entrance tickets and we started the hike through the valley.

Rainbow Mountain Cusco Peru Rainbow Mountain Cusco Peru Rainbow Mountain Cusco Peru

The views are amazing, the tops of the mountains kept peaking out of the clouds.  It’s a stunning area.

After about an hour the clouds started to surround us and it started raining, so it was on with the rain jacket and head down to get up there, feeling jealous of all the people going past on the horses, knowing they would be at the summit before me!!

There are a few toilets on the way, though one closest to the summit is about a 45 minute walk from the summit.  Also expect to pay as the locals have been building them and are using them as a way of making money.

We had nearly reached the top when it started snowing and I was worried we wouldn’t be able to see anything by the time we got there as I had heard a few days earlier that there had been snow at the top and no one could see the mountain!!  It would be so disappointing to get there and not see the different colours!!

When we could see Rainbow Mountain, it seemed to take forever to walk that final part but eventually I got to the top. It was full of hundreds of people and as I was walking up I saw my old guide on his way down with his group of 3. They had had the place to themselves and got some great pictures.

Rainbow Mountain Cusco Peru

To get the best view and the best pictures it’s best to climb a bit higher up to the highest point at 5,040 metres and you can then see the Rainbow Mountain opposite you.  The colours are amazing, it’s so beautiful to see.  The view from the top is amazing, not just of Rainbow Mountain but the surrounding mountains too.

Rainbow Mountain Cusco Peru

Rainbow Mountain Cusco Peru

While at the top the rain and snow kept blowing in, but then it would clear and we would get amazing views.

Rainbow Mountain Cusco Peru

Rainbow Mountain Cusco Peru

After about half an hour and eating a milkyway bar (mars bar in the UK) my hands were so cold that I knew it was time to head back down.

Rainbow Mountain Cusco Peru

It rained most of the hike back down but at times it cleared and we got to enjoy the amazing views and to see a view llamas too.

Rainbow Mountain Cusco Peru Rainbow Mountain Cusco Peru Rainbow Mountain Cusco Peru Rainbow Mountain Cusco Peru

Once we got back to the van we drove back to where we had breakfast and had lunch of soup and then chicken with rice before starting the 3 hour drive back to Cusco, going back along the terrifying road and arriving back at about 6pm.  It was a long day but well worth it.

The Rainbow Mountain is a great trek and if you are in Cusco then one that you must do, it’s not an easy hike but if you aren’t into hiking then you can always rent a horse.  It’s only a day trip but it’s a long day at 16 hours.

The rainy season is January to March so at this time of year there is a chance of snow and you will need your waterproofs with you on the trek.

If you enjoyed this post, then don’t forget to pin it.

Rainbow Mountain Cusco Peru


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61 thoughts on “Rainbow Mountain Hike in Cusco, Peru

  1. Amazing!! I went to Peru and had no idea about the Rainbow Mountain. Makes me wanna go back just so I could do this hike. I dunno if I could do it in one day though. Lol. I guess if I had to since the other option is a private trek. And beautiful photos!!

  2. Nice post! I’m into hiking/trekking but I’ve never been to South America. The rainbow mountain looks lovely, and there can’t be much oxygen at 5040m. I trekked the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal in 2012 – the highest part of the circuit is 5416m above sea-level, slightly higher than Rainbow Mountain – oxygen was 51%. Your pictures are great! Looks a bit like Scotland, where I am from. One day, maybe! I have a friend who is married to a Bolivian and he has been trekking in Peru. He loved it! Thanks for sharing.

  3. This is exactly what I need! Thank you so much for this. I’m planning a trip to Peru so I have pinned this to my Pinterest board. Also going to look into the company you suggested…hopefully muy budget will stretch to it!

    • Over the next few weeks I will be writing a lot about things to do in Peru, as I am currently here for 3 months. Have a great time and hope you can go with my old guide Abel as he is a great guy 🙂

  4. Like you, I’ve seen pictures of Rainbow Mountain online before but never had read anything about the journey to see the beautiful mountains. It’s quite a journey you went on to see those one-of-a-kind mountains but one I’m sure was totally worth it!

  5. I had never heard of Rainbow Mountain before your post, but I love the colors you see at the top! Incredible. Love the photos you captured. Also, thanks for the tips about the toilets (e.g. 45 minutes from the summit!). Adding this to my Peru to-do list!

  6. OMG! OMG! OMG!!!! The colorful mountains look too good to be true, yet its so true!!! Though there were hundreds there already, you did manage to get a solo shot in front of the rainbow mountains!!! Awesome!

  7. This is at the TOP of my bucket list! I have never been to South America before and this is one reason I really want to go! I didn’t realize the hike takes an entire day – or was that just how long the tour is? Can you go on your own or do you have to book with a guide? And how difficult would you rate the hike? Thanks!

    • The hike is 3 hours, but it’s a 3 hour drive from Cusco. I think you would have to go on a tour as it would be very difficult to get there on your own. Not sure there are any public buses. It is difficult but it also depends how you cope with the altitude 🙂

        • I live in the UK basically at sea level too and I am ok. Every person is different, it is just best to rest for a few days when you get to altitude just to get used to it, before trying anything difficult 🙂

  8. You sure have made some amazing hikes. The reward for this hike is truly amazing. I’d love to edit one of your pictures and ramp up the saturation. I’m inspired to do this hike, i’d never heard of it.

  9. Most of the Peru articles revolves around Incan Trail .. love to see an other side of Peru. Hiking up there sounds difficult but definitely gonna try. The rainbow mountain looks quite similar to the ones in Mauritius

  10. Congratulations on seeing another awesome natural wonder of this beautiful planet. It reminds me of a multi layer sponge cake.
    Your determination to see it and produce quality photographs to inspire other traveller’s or as seen by many from the armchair is appreciated. They cheered up a cloudy winter day in Leeds United Kingdom.
    Good Luck with the weather on your future adventures.

    • Glad you enjoyed it Gordon, hopefully one day you can get to see it, though maybe you might need to take a horse!!! Just wait till you see the other places I have visited in Cusco, lots of beautiful places there 🙂

  11. I have always wanted to do this! Unfortunately when I was in Cusco, I didn’t have enough time to do this hike. I also was a little intimidated because it seemed kind of difficult, but it’s good to know exactly what to expect from this post!

  12. First of all, I loved Cusco! It was by far the best place in Peru for me!!
    But I never heard about the Rainbow Mountains!! I need to go back because my girlfriend wants to see Machu Picchu and I will have to book a day hike to see all of those amazing colors!

  13. I think a lot of people head to Cusco solely as the gate way to Machu Picchu. It’s only when you read things like this that you realise that there are so many more spectacular sites like Rainbow Mountain to keep you captivated.

  14. Awesome!! I went to Peru and had no idea about the Rainbow Mountain. I love hiking, nothing makes me feel alive like hiking! Makes me wanna go back just so I could do this hike. It looks so beautiful! Thanks for sharing.

  15. t’s quite a surprise to me how you managed to get such clear pictures in such a cloudy weather. Commendable Job! You must have been waiting for the perfect time to click. Cheers to your patience and belief!

  16. I’ve been seeing a lot of photos of Rainbow Mountain lately and definitely want to add it to my list for when I finally make it to Peru. I can’t believe it took 16 hours to complete this trip though. I’m not sure if I can make it that far!

  17. Wow what a stunning hike. I had never heard of it before but it looks beautiful. Great tip about leaving earlier if you can. Sounds like it would be worth it to beat the crowds. Love your photos. It really does sound worth that long day.

  18. This sounds like an incredible trek! Macchu Picchu is high on my list and now I think we’ll have to add in Rainbow Mountain too. I enjoy hiking but I’m not a huge hiker so the option to take a horse sounds lovely!

  19. Only a day trip at 16 hours, wow! That’s quite a trek for a day trip 😉 But it looks totally worth it! The scenery there is so beautiful, I can’t get over the greens contrasted with the rainbow mountain!

    • I did the Salkantay trek a few days after this trek. That is a great too hike. Sorry to hear you suffered from the altitude. Thankfully I have always been fine with it 🙂

  20. I just got back from Bolivia and saw many colourful mountains but nothing was close to this! I especially like the blue line….unlike anything that I have ever seen. And awww…the llamas look so cute!
    Hope you had a super duper time!

  21. Wow! How come there’s a mountain like this?! This is beautiful!
    My husband and I will absolutely visit this place. Rainbow Mountain for Rainbow sheep of the families (thats my husband and me, lol), this is perfect for us. Thanks for this!

  22. Woah I had no idea there was a rainbow mountain in Peru! This looks really cool. I’d probably skip the private tour like you did, out of my budget. But $30 for the tour including food sounds like a steal!

  23. For some reason I never knew about Rainbow Mountain when I went to Peru. Sure wish I had as it looks just incredible. I can’t believe sometimes what natures creates. Good on you for doing the hike and also for not being affected by altitude. I remember being breathless a few times but nothing more than that.

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