Hike to Rainbow Mountain Without the Hike

Trip Overview

Private 1 Day Trip. Make the pilgrimage to Rainbow Mountain without strenuous hiking. Explore one of the most spectacular examples of naturally occurring mountain weathering and mineralogy. Also view the nearby "Stone Forest."

$Varies by group size
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The first thing to know about Rainbow Mountain is that it is a range of mountains, not a single mountain. There is more than one Rainbow Mountain. If you want to see "the" Rainbow Mountain portrayed on Instagram, that one is called Vinicunca. The other route with "light" hiking is called Palccoya. I described both routes below.
 
Colors at the Rainbow Mountain. The vibrant images you see on social media are likely enhanced by editing software. The true colors of the Rainbow Mountain are hues of earthy tones created by the mineral content of the soil. The depth of color can be affected by the angle of the sun, the amount of cloud cover and other weather-related conditions. 
 
All our day trips to Rianbow Mountain are small, private groups. We believe that having a private guide is key to having a safe and comfortable trip. Due to extreme high altitude over 16,500 ft/ 5000 m, it's important to wear warm layers, sturdy shoes and socks, hats and gloves. By leaving Cusco at 5AM, our groups are likely to arrive at the parking areas before other groups and large buses. 
Rustic restrooms are available. Keep in mind that running water has "not a prayer," and regular maintenance is not likely. Sound like fun? Then you should keep reading.
 

Rainbow Mountain Day Trip: 5AM-4PM Altitude 16,000 ft. Begins and ends from your hotel in Cusco

Adios driver and English-speaking tour guide will pickup from your hotel in Cusco and begin driving 3.5-4 hours. You may stop in small villages on the way to use the restroom. (Ask your hotel to provide box breakfast) There are two routes to choose from for the Rainbow trip:
#1- Vinicunca Pass - (this is the route you see on Instagram) Most popular and requires about 3 hours of hiking roundtrip. 2 hours up and 1 hour down. Horses/mules are usually available to rent. Wranglers will have their horses saddled and waiting for tourists to pay to ride 1 way up to the viewpoint. When you rent a horse, (pay the wrangler in cash) the wrangler leads the animal while you ride. These animals are small, working farm animals, not steeds of speed and pedigree. The horse tack is very basic. Horses are not recommended for extremely large people. We cannot reserve or guarantee that horses/mules are available. You show up and get what you get. The trails can be muddy and rough due to the horses. Horses can be ridden one way. You're expected to hike back down.
 
#2- Palccoyo - Light Hiking. Includes a drive through the stunning Red Valley up to the parking area. From there it's a short 10 minute walk up stone steps to a flat landing for your first view of the colored strata characteristic of the rainbow mountain. The locals have built a beautiful stone path that gradually goes up to a higher saddle to get closer to the view and access to enter the "Piedra de Bosque." (Stone Forest). There are no horses at this location. The amount of hiking you do is up to you. And it's possible that your group could break into two groups, if a couple of you want to enter the Stone Forest. Anyone who is capable of hiking around the Machu Picchu ruins should be able to navigate the terrain.
 
Rainbow Mountain Climate/ Weather: conditions at high altitude are unpredictable and subject to change quickly. Your chances of seeing the rainbow are good during the dry season from April through December, but can't be guaranteed.
Keep in mind that the intense colors you see on social media are enhanced by editing software. Rainbow Mountain true colors are earthy and can be affected by sun and cloud conditions.
Not responsible for the weather. At high altitude the conditions can be cloudy, foggy, snowy and colors may not be visible. No refunds are available. Best season to go is dry season from April to November. 
 

2-Day Rainbow Mountain and Qeswachaka Rope Bridge Mini-Adventure

We can turn the 1-day trip to Rainbow Mountain into a 2-day mini-adventure by combining it with a trip to Qeswachaka Rope Bridge. This bridge is part of the orignal network of old Inca roads. Every June, 4 local communities come together to replace the rope bridge. The bridge is open the rest of the year for visitors to explore. This trip includes 1 night in an authentic Qechua adobe house in a small village on the way. 
Day 1 - Drive from Cusco to Rainbow Mountain 3.5 hours through the picturesque Red Valley to the parking area. where you begin exploring on foot. After 1-2 hours of wandering, you return to the van and begin the drive to a small Qechua village stopping for picnic lunch in a picturesque setting on the way. Settle in to the (unheated) adobe home which is now used as a "tambo" where you experience 1 night in an authentic qechua village. 
Overnight in unheated in warm beds. Flushing toilets, but no hot water. Hot dinner inlcluded.
Day 2 - After breakfast in the house, you begin a 2 hour drive to the Qeswachaca rope bridge. Hike around the bridge, then drive back to the adobe house where you lunch will be waiting.
Return to your hotel in Cusco by 5-6PM.  Includes meals: 1B + 2L + 1D) 
 
For information on cost and scheduling, please contact jacquie @ adiosadventuretravel.com  / 757-714-6649
 
Includes: private van, driver, English-speaking guide, chef, meals 1-breakfast + 2 lunches + 1 dinner, drinking water refills, entrance fees, 1 night accommodation, use of trekking poles, bedding
note: house has electricity and cold water hand pump. It is not heated and there are no hot showers. 
 
Not included: tips, travel insurance, Cusco hotels, 

Tour Options

Days/Nights:
1 Day
Difficulty Level:
easy to moderate due to high altitude
Departure:
Custom
Starting From$Varies by group sizeper person

Frequently Asked Questions

Can we set up our trip to Rainbow Mountain any time we want?

The Rainbow Mountain hike is "open" every day. But because of the very high altitude, it's best if you schedule this excursion after your trip to Machu Picchu to allow as much time as possible for acclimatization.  It's most likely to be clear during the dry season from April to December. All trips depart Cusco early in the morning and return the same day. 

Why does this trip cost more than the trips you see for sale in Cusco city center?

The tour operators in the center are providing transportation to and from the Vinicunca pass trailhead in buses that hold from 15-40 people. They may include one assistant. They all leave Cusco at the same time and arrive at the trail head around the same time. We intentionally schedule our private trips earlier to get there before the buses and crowds. Our groups are in small vans with a private driver and an English-speaking guide. The quality of the experience is important to us. 

How many routes are there to Rainbow Mountain? Which one is best?

There are now at least 3 routes but only 1 route which does not require any hiking. Driving conditions vary from route to route and the larger buses are limited to the routes with bridges and roads to accommodate that size vehicle.

Are there restrooms available?

Kind of. There's no plumbed facilities. But there are toilets that can be flushed with buckets of water. Maintenance is sketchy. 

Can we arrange an overnight trip to Rainbow Mountain?

Yes. There is a 2-day mini-adventure that includes Rainbow Mountain and Qeswachaka rope bridge.

Can you pick us up from a hotel in the Sacred Valley?

No. This adds additional driving time, and extra expense to the transportation cost. It's best to begin and end in Cusco.

This Adventure Includes

    • private driver
    • private vehicle
    • private English-speaking guide
    • box lunch
    • snacks
    • 1 refill drinking water
    • 1 sports drink
    • use of trekking poles

Not Included

    • box breakfast
    • additional drinking water
    • mules are not available on this route because there is very little hiking. 

     

Notes

    • There are at least 3 routes to Rainbow Mountain.
    • In case you choose a route that involves hiking, mules may be offered for rent by local people at a price that you can negotiate for. (We cannot guarantee mule availability. Anyone who thinks they will rent a mule instead of hiking should not go. Mule rental is one way)
    • Tip. Schedule the trip to Rainbow Mountain at the end of your trip to Peru to allow time to acclimatize to high altitude
    • Dress warmly. The weather can change suddenly.