Are Rainbow Mountain Tours in Peru Reopened After Covid?
It was impossible to see this coming. Who knew that the Rainbow Mountain (Vinicunca Pass) in Peru would become one of most popular destinations in the country? A day trip to see the colors of the Rainbow Mountain migrated like a herd of llamas onto the bucket list that includes the most noteworthy destinations on the planet, and generated yet another tentacle of revenue for Peru, especially the indigenous communities nearby.
With Machu Picchu slowly cracking open, what is the situation with reopening of other destinationsl in Peru? We know that flights from over a dozen countries will resume in November. (Follow this link to read more about International flights to Peru.) And we know that the Peruvian government released a limited quantity of Machu Picchu entry tickets for local tourists from Nov 1-14. (Follow this link to see details about Machu Picchu reopening)
It's safe to say that Rainbow Mountain tours have reached a peak in popularity among the most prominent alternative hikes in Peru including Salkantay Trek, Lares Valley Hike, Quarry Hike, and Choquequirao Trek, all of whom attract a slew of active, nature-loving travelers on their way to Machu Picchu. But how has Rainbow Mountain been affected by the changes in the travel industry caused by the covid pandemic? According to Vidal, my busness partner in Cusco, there are two layers to understanding this situation. Of course it's never easy.
Peru Government Restricts Access to Rainbow Mountain.
Since the pandemic, the Peruvian government established regulations that now restrict and even prevent access to explore the Rainbow Mountain region (as well as other alternative hikes.) The idea is to protect the qechua people who live in the small communities that most visitors pass through on the way to get there, from exposure to strangers. These communities are expected to use their city halls to generate and process rules and regulations meant to protect their communities as well as conserve the cherished destination that people are clamoring to see. Prior to covid, all official regulations were handled by government tourism departments who presumably have experience administering the business of tourism. The extra burden of managing the regional tourism to Rainbow Mountain is a double - edged sword for leaders of local communities, whose administrative experience mainly deal with issues specific to farming and perhaps municipal services like access to water or electricity.
Indigenous Communities Rely on Income from Travelers Going to Rainbow Mountain.
But reality is different and there is a practical side. In spite of recent government regulations, the fact remains that the local people have become extremely dependent on visitors who come to their region with pockets full of cash to buy bottled water, snacks, raincoats, trekking poles and rent mules. All of this moolah goes directly into the pockets of industrious locals willing to set up and manage the production, acquision and sale of their products or services.These entrepreneurs are desperate for the return of visitors willing to endure the thin air long enough to allow them to ogle the earth's strata of naturally occuring rainbow colors.
Should Travelers Go to Rainbow Mountain?
Where does that leave the visitor who wants to see Rainbow Mountain? It's kind of tricky. For sure you can hire someone to take you there from Cuzco. But will the roads be open? Will you be welcomed by remote communities whose view of outsiders may be different after covid? Will the typical products and services be available to buy? With a choice of several routes that go through different communities to Rainbow Mountain, will one community be open and another closed?
I'm told it's possible that you could prepare for a day trip to Rainbow Mountain by bringing all your own supplies, including a private driver and a tour guide, and just go and take your chances. At the very least you may have a nice drive for several hours through some of the most beautiful countryside in Peru. And if you make it all the way to Rainbow Mountain, that will be a bonus.
The best way to plan for a day trip to Rainbow Mountain at this time, is to allow extra time in your schedule to go, but be flexible. You need 1 full day starting 5AM from Cusco, returning by 6PM. We recommend that you allow at least 1 full day in Cusco to rest after your trip to Machu Picchu before you go to Rainbow Mountain. To allow as much time as possible to acclimatize to high altitude (16,500 ft), it's best to plan a visit to Rainbow Mountain near the end of your trip to Peru. Don't try to confirm your trip to Rainbow Mountain until you are in Cusco where you can get accurate, up to date info about conditions at Rainbow Mountain before you decide whether or not you should attempt it.
Check back from time to time as I update information regularly. Sometimes daily if needed. I'm in touch with Vidal and Hubert in Cusco on a regular basis. I have booked a flight to Peru and I'm planning to visit Machu Picchu and hopefully Rainbow Mountain in December. Vidal and I set up zoom and were able to make a few joint videos recently to provide updates and share news about what the first visitors to Cusco should expect. Here is a link to Adios Adventure Travel Youtube Channel.