Everything you need to know about the Rainbow Mountain Trek Peru

by ilive4travel

Published on Jan 31, 2019

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Rainbow Mountain Peru

The Rainbow Mountain Trek Peru

Before I visited Peru I had seen many pictures of the Rainbow Mountain Trek Peru 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, a city I love with so much to do it was a trek I had to do.

For many people the Rainbow Mountain Trek is something included within their 7 day Peru itinerary as well as Machu Picchu and Arequipa (where I hiked “El Misti“) and so it can be a very busy hike, though now there is an alternative hike to the “New Rainbow Mountain“.

When I arrived in Cusco from Huanchaco I met with my old guide who told me about the Rainbow Mountain hike.  There are options of 1 or 2 days, with the Rainbow Mountain 2 day trek becoming a lot more popular as hiking Rainbow Mountain Peru can get quite crowded with tourists.

His company is more exclusive and takes small groups early in the morning (2am) so that when you get to Rainbow Mountain Cusco Peru 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 rainbow mountain private tour then please have a look at his website AB Expeditions.

Rainbow Mountain Tour

To book your Rainbow Mountain tour click here.

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 rainbow hike peru.  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!!

Start of the rainbow mountain hike

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 with the highest rainbow mountain altitude being 5,200 metres.

With Rainbow Mountain altitude sickness can be a big problem, especially if you have not acclimatized for long enough in Cusco.  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 these ideally you should take 24 hours before to have the full effect).  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.

view of the valley on the rainbow mountain hike

Once we arrived at the starting point, our guide gave us our entrance tickets for the rainbow trek peru and we started the hike to Rainbow Mountain Peru through the valley.

walking to the entrance of the rainbow mountain hike

View of the mountains on the rainbow mountain hike

The views are amazing, the tops of the colourful 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 to rainbow mountains cusco peru, 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 coloured mountains Peru!!  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.

ilive4travel at rainbow mountain

To get the best view and the best pictures it’s best to climb a bit higher up to the highest point and you can then see the Rainbow Mountain opposite you.  Rainbow Mountain Peru altitude is maximum 5,200 metres.  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.

mountains around rainbow mountain

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

Snowing at rainbow mountain

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.

hike back down rainbow mountain

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.

llamas at rainbow mountain

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 Peru Rainbow Mountain is a great trek and if you are in Cusco then one that you must do as it’s one of the great day trips from Cusco, 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 to pack your waterproofs with you on the trek.  The best time to visit Rainbow Mountain Peru would be in the dry season from May to October.

Rainbow Mountain Peru Worth it?

Many people have asked me is rainbow mountain worth it and should it be included in your Peru Itinerary, it’s an early start and a long day and the hike can be crowded.   Personally I really enjoyed it and think to trek rainbow mountain peru was totally worth it.  If you don’t like the crowds though, consider going on one of the multi day treks that are offered.

Where to stay in Cusco

Want to know where to stay on your trip to Cusco, then click here to check out my Guide to the Top 10 Hotels in Cusco and the Best 5 Star Luxury Hotels in Cusco.

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

Rainbow Mountain Cusco Peru

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——-  About me ——-

girl sat on some wooden stairs wearing a black jumper

Clare from Ilive4travel

Hi my name is Clare and welcome to ilive4travel.  I am originally from the UK but spend most of my time in Peru, the country that caught my heart.

I have visited 73 countries and love to share with you everything I have learnt about these countries in my guides.

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61 Comments

  1. Kelly

    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!!

    Reply
  2. Raymond Carroll

    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.

    Reply
  3. Claire Summers

    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!

    Reply
    • ilive4travel

      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 🙂

      Reply
  4. ADAM DOOLITTLE

    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!

    Reply
  5. Kate and Kris

    It looks like you could eat it. Weird.
    What are you doing in Peru?

    Reply
    • ilive4travel

      I am travelling here for 3 months. Mainly just trying to improve my spanish and get away from a cold UK winter!!

      Reply
  6. Magretha Palepale

    Great post! Absolutely love the pics. I’m headed to Peru this June and I love reading quality blogs about other people’s experiences.

    Reply
    • ilive4travel

      Peru is great, there is so much to do. This is my 4th time here 🙂

      Reply
  7. Julianne

    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!

    Reply
  8. Samantha Sparrow

    Gosh these pictures are just so stunning! What an unusual and beautiful site! Thanks for sharing with us.

    Reply
  9. Bhushavali

    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!

    Reply
  10. Diana - MVMT Blog

    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!

    Reply
    • ilive4travel

      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 🙂

      Reply
      • Diana - MVMT Blog

        Thanks for the tips! The altitude would be my biggest worry since where I live is basically sea level and very flat. 3 hours isn’t bad though. Thanks again! 🙂

        Reply
        • ilive4travel

          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 🙂

          Reply
  11. Nomadic Foot

    i have seen so many posts about these mountains. this is so awesome. i would love to visit as soon as possible. loved your pics.

    Reply
  12. Lena

    thats stunning! I find your hikes really super impressive 🙂

    Reply
  13. Jen Morrow

    Rainbow mountain is such a unique formation! It looks like an amazing hike. I worry about the altitude, so I would need to take that slow.

    Reply
  14. Jean

    It looks amazing. Added this to my to-do list for when we are in Cusco later this year. The baby llama is too cute.

    Reply
  15. Only By Land

    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.

    Reply
  16. Sutee Dee

    I gotta do this one day! Next time I’m in Peru…

    Reply
  17. Swati

    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

    Reply
  18. Jackie Taylor

    Wow, I’ve never heard of this place before! I’m hoping to visit Cusco within the next year or so, so I’m glad I saw your post! 🙂

    Reply
  19. Gordon Ward

    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.

    Reply
    • ilive4travel

      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 🙂

      Reply
  20. Leah

    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!

    Reply
  21. Tiana

    Peru looks amazing. Its on my lifetime hiking bucketlist!

    Reply
  22. Rob Taylor

    What an awesome and incredible trek! I would totally get up at 3:30 am to do this! And those views: I’ve never seen a landscape quite like this one.

    Reply
  23. Eric || The Bucket List Project

    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!

    Reply
    • ilive4travel

      Cusco is amazing. I can’t stop going back!! Yeah you will have to go see Rainbow Mountain next time 🙂

      Reply
  24. Cat | For Two, Please

    That mountain looks stunning! I’ve never seen anything like that before!

    Reply
  25. Jess

    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.

    Reply
  26. Cassandra D'Alessandro

    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.

    Reply
  27. Cassandra D'Alessandro

    Awesome! I love hiking! nothing makes me feel alive like hiking! Makes me want to go back to Peru just so I could do this hike. It looks so beautiful! Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  28. Sandy N Vyjay

    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!

    Reply
  29. Michaela Terese Harrison

    I love to see Cusco! But I never heard about the Rainbow Mountains, I hope see them one day. Thank you for sharing

    Reply
  30. Lynne Sarao

    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!

    Reply
  31. Linger Abroad

    Pretty amazing natural wonder. I didn’t get to do this trek during my Peru visit, but the surrounding landscape look amazing. Do you know why the mountain gets its rainbow colors?

    Reply
    • ilive4travel

      I don’t know actually, I will have to research it 🙂

      Reply
  32. Punita Malhotra

    A hike that you will remember all your life. Rainbow mountain is a wonderful creation of nature. And you managed good shots too.

    Reply
  33. Skye Gilkeson

    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.

    Reply
  34. katie

    Wow look at those incredible colours!! I would love to hike up this gorgeous rainbow mountain, looks like you had a great time!

    Reply
  35. Global Girl Travels

    The rainbow mountain is so unique. I’ve read about it and so intrigued. We’ve only been able to explore the Rainbow Mountains in Arizona, but this would be a great bucket list item!

    Reply
    • ilive4travel

      I never knew there were Rainbow Mountains in Arizona I will have to visit next time I am in the US 🙂

      Reply
  36. Samantha Lorenz

    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!

    Reply
  37. Lauren West

    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!

    Reply
  38. Gokul Raj

    That is a breathtaking place. Perfect place to get some landscape shots. Loved those different color gradients on the hills. Looks like an alien planet.

    Reply
  39. Mike Clegg - Travel and Destinations

    Wow 5,040 metres is crazy high. Looks like an incredible thing to see though. I’d love to go here and take some pictures. Thanks for sharing your wonderful experience

    Reply
  40. Discovering Transylvania

    This awesome pictures “over the rainbow” convinced me to travel to Peru because hiking here is a real changellence for us and also for our clients who want adventures. Thanks for exposing here your wonderful journey.

    Reply
  41. travelwithtarah

    Wow this is beautiful!! I really want to do this one day!

    Reply
  42. Castaway with Crystal

    Wow that sounds awesome! I did the Salkantay trek and went up to 4,600 I think so over 5 is huge! So much altitude sickness ha ha!

    Thanks for the post 🙂

    Reply
    • ilive4travel

      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 🙂

      Reply
  43. Vicki Louise

    I’ve seen and heard so much about Rainbow mountain recently! I’d love to visit and it’s right up there with Machu Piccu on my list – that would be two very big hikes for me!

    Reply
    • ilive4travel

      They are both worth doing and great fun though 🙂

      Reply
  44. Erica

    What an amazing view! Those layers are unbelievable i feel they are unreal 😮 like a layer of a nice bread!! Anyway.. happy u had a great time!!!

    Reply
  45. Ticking the Bucketlist

    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!

    Reply
  46. G&D Blog

    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!

    Reply
  47. mike

    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!

    Reply
  48. Stacey Veikalas

    Sounds like an amazing journey and with some of the most beautiful landscape I have ever seen!

    Reply
  49. kerri

    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.

    Reply

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