One day I saw a picture of the Rainbow Mountain in Peru and it immediately took possession of my mind and conquered my Bucket List. It’s not really a challenge to convince my Alps-born, Alps-votary husband to climb any mountain, so one October night, during our 3 months honeymoon in South America, at 3am, we were on our way to fulfill my dream.
First, some facts:
The most common question that comes up concerning the Rainbow Mountain is: “Why is this mountain so colorful?!”
The mountain is composed of 14 minerals, which result in such an incredible color effect.
What’s interesting, less than three years ago, the mountain was completely covered with snow, and no one even knew about this wonder of nature. Global warming has exposed these unusual colors, and the Rainbow Mountain has become a tourist sensation, attracting crowds from all over the world (looks like I was not the only one who developed a little harmless obsession about it).
Other names are Vinicunca and Montana de 7 colores.
The altitude is 5200 (!!) and here:
The altitude sickness is real.
Basically, the most important message of this post is for you not to downplay altitude. The key to success is to arrive in Cusco (which is located at an impressive altitude of 3399m) a few days before the trek (at least 3 days). It won’t be easy anyway, but you will have a huge advantage over those who raid on the trek a day after arriving in Cusco. Those people will be rather forced to hire a horse (yes, during the trek the local population offers horse rental, it is possible at every stage of climbing!), but seriously – climbing mountains on a horseback? Does it even count? Ok, let everyone do whatever pleases them, but the satisfaction of getting to the top on your own is one of the greatest feelings in the world.
“What is altitude sickness, actually?”
Major problems with breathing, headaches, every step is heavy and difficult, it feels like some invisible force is pulling you down. It may have an endurable degree or it can completely knock you down. Nothing nice, do not underestimate it.
“Whatever, I want to climb! How does it look in practice? ”
I recommend to book a trek after arriving in Cusco. As I already mentioned, this mountain has become a tourist hit, therefore the number of agencies that offer this pleasure is enormous, and tours are held 7 days a week. Booking on the Internet you will pay about 4 times more than on the spot. Not worth it.
“When to go?”
The best time to see the Rainbow Mountain are the months between May and September. During this period you have the best chance for a sunny day, and the intensity of the mountain colors depends largely on the amount of sunshine. We went in mid-October and the weather was still ok. However, you must be aware of the rapidly changing atmospheric conditions and prepare yourself for the rain, strong sun, freezing hands – and all of this during just a few hours.
At 3am you will start the bus ride from Cusco and after 3 hours on extremely steep slopes (something like the Death Road in Bolivia, seriously!) you will reach the starting point. But before starting climbing, a nutritious breakfast will be awaiting you. Do not forget to drink coca tea 🙂
“What to pack for the Rainbow Mountain?”
- Water – 2 liters per person
- Gloves and hat (preferably made of alpaca wool – they are thin and warm. This is a thing worth buying in Peru)
- Sun screen
- Comfortable trekking boots
- Our hit: candy with coca, easy to buy in Cusco. The ones we bought had a taste of toffee and were absolutely delicious. We really had the impression they helped! 🙂
The Rainbow Mountain trek is not just about the Vinicunca, it’s about absolutely stunning scenery every (so hard!) step. You will also have a chance to admire a beautiful mountain Ausangate, (altitude 6384), in my eyes as impressive as the Rainbow Mountain. Bonus: alpacas. Maaaany alpacas 🙂
If you have any further questions, please let us know in the comments.