Experiences, Rainbow Mountain, Treks

Climbing Rainbow Mountain

2024 Updated Information about climbing Rainbow Mountain, what to expect on a tour and what to expect once you arrive!

I finally got to climb to the top of Rainbow Mountain Peru and must say it was everything I expected and even more! The mountain itself is incredible, and it’s easy to see where it gets its name Rainbow Mountain from as you can see from my photos below.

Here, I plan to give you a detailed account of my experience and show you that no matter what your age, it is very easy to visit Rainbow Mountain any time of the year!

Recommendation: Use Rainbow Mountain Travels for tours to Rainbow Mountain. Safe company with great value for money

climbing rainbow mountain, the way up

We left Cusco for Rainbow Mountain at 3:30am on Sunday morning (tours operate every day – see here for more tour information). We booked via RainbowMountainTravels.com who are the best Rainbow Mountain tour operator in the area. Because this tour departs early, it guaranteed us to be 1 of the first groups at the top Rainbow Mountain.

As well as this, they offered oxygen tanks which are important as you do reach over 15,000 feet above sea level! Not all tour companies offer this, so this is definitely something to look out for when choosing the best Rainbow Mountain tour operator.

Vinicunca, AKA Rainbow Mountain, is located about 3 ½ hours from Cusco by minibus. Found in the Peruvian Andes, Rainbow Mountain – as you could probably guess – is famed for its natural, multi-colored beauty. It has only recently been discovered but is fast becoming one of THE places to visit in South America.

We stepped off the bus into the freezing cold morning air, where a breakfast awaited us in a small hut, which was included in the price. Once we had all finished and were ready, the group (led by our guide Karen), set off on a trek in search of the rainbow! The walk takes approximately 3 or 4 hours up, and slightly less on the way down.

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About 15 minutes into the climb our group had our first rest break. Everyone seemed already quite tired at this early stage. All I could think was “How am I going to be able to trek like this for 3 hours!?”. Luckily, it gets easier. Honestly, after that first grueling 15 minutes the path flattens out for about 40 minutes and is quite an enjoyable scenic walk.

There’s the option to ride on horseback for the flatter sections of the climb – I think it costs approx. 20 or 30 Soles, and would make for a nice photograph (and break!) I’m sure but this time we did not do it, although maybe next time I will hop on one of these horses!

Once you’ve completed the flatter sections of the walk, the fun starts. At more than 5,000m above sea level, every uphill step becomes fairly strenuous. This section of the climb seemed to go on forever, made worse by the fact that locals, young and old – dressed in their colorful attire – passed us out effortlessly, as we continued to puff and pant.

Backpacker couple wearing alpaca sweaters at Vinicunca Rainbow Mountain in Cusco, Peru

When we did summit Vinicunca, however, the breathtaking views easily allowed us to forget about the 3-hour struggle we had left behind. Ausangate glacier on one side and bizarre, colorful mountains on the other – this climb was certainly one to remember. Needless to say, we took enough photos to fill our Instagram feeds for the week.

The descent was just as impressive. As the glorious views slowly started to disappear, we maneuvered our way back to the hut through herds of alpacas and sheep. A fresh, homemade lunch (included in the price) was served and promptly devoured. Exhausted, the bumpy journey home in the minibus didn’t stop anyone from getting some well-earned sleep.

We arrived back at our hostel in Cusco at 7 pm after an incredible day. Thinking back on the hike we’d completed, the cold beers in our hands certainly felt hard-earned.

For trips to Rainbow Mountain, we highly recommend booking with Rainbow Mountain Travels, the top-rated operator and the only one with oxygen tanks and a safety guarantee.

My Top Tips

  • Weather can change in seconds when you’re high up – so be sure to pack sun block, sunglasses, a rain jacket, a hat and wear some thick hiking socks – but also bring a spare pair of socks just in case!
  • Try and beat the altitude by chewing on coca leaves – our tour guide gave us these.
  • Be sure to bring a small backpack with lots of water, snacks and toilet roll.
  • The entrance fee to the park is 10 Soles and usually isn’t included in most Rainbow Mountain Tour packages.
  • Visit the Official Rainbow Mountain Peru page for more information to help you prepare.
  • To get from Lima to Cusco, we travelled with Peru Hop’s Full South to Cusco pass.