Unveiling the Mesmerizing Colors of Rainbow Mountain: Peru’s Natural Wonder (2024 Guide)

Written by Kali Todd

Budget Travel Guides & Tips

February 20, 2024

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Peru, a country of so many enchanting wonders and gems, holds Rainbow Mountain – a colorful tapestry that will leave you breathless. Literally. This site is nestled in the heart of the Peruvian Andes, at a staggering height of 17,060 feet (5,200 meters) above sea level. Since its discovery, the site has gained global recognition for its awe-inspiring colorful beauty. 

Join me on an unforgettable journey to Peru’s Rainbow Mountain!

Rainbow MountainView of Rainbow Mountain

Rainbow Mountain, or Vinicunca as it’s known locally, which means “colored mountain” in Quechua, had been concealed beneath a thick blanket of ice up until its discovery around 2013. By 2015, more ice had receded and the vibrant hues of the mountain were revealed to the world. Popularly with the site has increased dramatically with more than 1,500 visitors a day in peak season. Typically, peak season is June through mid-September, however, I visited in late March and found the weather to be perfect.

Rainbow Mountain images tend to be oversaturated on the internet, giving people a false expectation. My photos show what you can expect to see on your visit, which is still an absolutely stunning site.

How my day went

I booked my tour with Rainbow Mountain Viajes Speedy Tour through TripAdvisor during a site-wide sale for $67.50 per person. I was extremely excited leading up to this adventure because it was so different from all the other advertised tours, leading you to Rainbow Mountain on ATVs! The tour includes a guide, both breakfast and lunch along a gorgeous river, and one ATV and helmet per person. Visitors must pay the entry fee to Rainbow Mountain of 25 soles or about $6.50 separate from the tour costs. 

While I was on my tour to Humantay Lake (read about it here), others in our group mentioned how their tour to Rainbow Mountain was canceled because of village protests that were blocking the road. I quickly hopped on WhatsApp and messaged the tour guide with concerns about cancellation. I was overjoyed when the guide, Beto, let me know that the tour was in fact not canceled because he brings the ATVs on an alternate route that is not blocked. Little did I know that we would be the only people visiting Rainbow Mountain on the day of our tour! Talk about luck.

View from Rainbow MountainView from Rainbow Mountain, looking back at where we hiked

Tip #1

Altitude sickness is a big factor when visiting Rainbow Mountain. Locals swear by coca tea, a natural remedy to altitude sickness, which is available at nearly every hotel in Cusco. 

Other options include altitude sickness patches or prescription medication from your doctor such as Diamox. 

The start of the tour was another early morning with pick up at 4 AM. There were a total of 5 of us on the tour, plus the guide, Beto. I took the beginning of the journey to shut my eyes for a little longer. When the sun appeared, it was nice to daydream while looking at the passing scenery. 

About halfway into the drive, we stopped in the town of Quiquijana for a hot breakfast. It was a big buffet-style restaurant and a popular stop for tours. Although we were the only Rainbow Mountain tour, several others ate breakfast with us on their way to alternative sites in the region such as the Seven Lakes of Ausangate

Breakfast and Lunch stop for Rainbow MountainWhere we ate breakfast and lunch in Quiquijana, Peru

After breakfast, our tour continued the drive for 1.5 hours, through the town of Uchullujllo, until we reached a small building where our ATVs were being prepared. Once we had our helmets and ran through the safety instructions for the ATVs, we were off! 

The ride was roughly 45 minutes, passing through luscious green landscapes that truly seemed like a painting. The road went through a small town where the local children were walking to school. Our guide, Beto, obviously had a great relationship with the kids, as he quickly pulled over on his ATV and had a few kids hop on so he could drop them off at the school’s front doors further down the road. I could tell the kids loved the days when Beto drove through. 

Rainbow Mountain ATV AdventureRiding the ATVs to Rainbow Mountain

Shortly after making our way through the small town, we started the zig-zagging ascent up the mountain. The path was narrow, with enough room to fit the ATVs one by one. As we climbed, views of a stunning river were seen cutting through the landscape. 

Riding the ATVs to Rainbow Mountain

After several twists and turns, we stopped at a small checkpoint to pay the entry fee to a local. And oh my gosh, this stop was stunning. The dense green-covered mountains faded before us, with spots of deep red hues popping out before the towering rock formation. I was able to stay here for a few minutes and soak it all in. There are a few locals that live in the area and, for me, I thought it was amazing that this was their view every day.  

View prior to parking our ATVs for Rainbow MountainView from Rainbow Mountain check-in point

We drove our ATVs around the corner and parked, preparing ourselves for the upcoming hike to Rainbow Mountain. Now, typically, Rainbow Mountain tours will start from the Northwest side of the mountain and require a 4.3-mile hike. This tour was entirely unique, starting from the Southeast and requiring a 2.8-mile hike. The 2.8-mile hike immediately starts the ascent up the mountain while the usual Rainbow Mountain experience is relatively flat for the first 1.5 miles. 

Although the hike was short, it was the hardest hike of my life. At 17,000 feet, the elevation of Rainbow Mountain is comparable to Everest Base Camp. Oxygen levels are nearly 50% less than what is available at sea level.

Mountain view from Rainbow Mountain check-in pointView from Rainbow Mountain check-in point

I mentally prepared myself for the hike but my body was on the struggle bus. Although the 11,000-foot elevation in Cusco did not affect me, the increase to 17,000 feet did. I became easily winded, having to take a break after as little as 2 steps. Halfway up I started to feel slightly dizzy and confused, not being able to focus on more than the steps I was trying to take. 

The three others in our group were more fortunate and probably a bit more acclimated to the high altitude that I was. One man in the group had a packet of coca leaves which he offered to the group to help ease the effects of the altitude. The guide also offered oxygen to everyone, which we all happily said yes to.

Tip #2

Make sure you have the right footwear. I wore these Salomon women’s waterproof hiking boots for comfort and stability on the trail. I had so many problems with my feet while hiking before I finally found this brand!

What shocked me was when I asked the guide how quickly he could hike up if he was without a group, to which he informed me it would take him under 20 minutes. It took our group nearly 1.5 hours. 

Rainbow Mountain HikeView from the Pitumarca trail to Rainbow Mountain (south trail)

Throughout the hike up, we were surrounded by deep shades of red and green in the mountains, with the Glacier of the Nevado Ausangate standing out as a stark contrast. In front of the glacier was a herd of alpacas grazing which only put the grandeur of the site into perspective, comparing their small size on the mountainside to the continuation of mountain peaks jutting up around us. 

View of glacier while hiking to Rainbow MountainView of Nevado Ausangate Glacier

Once I arrived at the top of Rainbow Mountain, the colors changed to add purple, aqua, orange, and yellows painted into the scenery. With me was a black shaggy dog who happily joined the hike shortly after the start. He must’ve thought the hike was easier than I did with how effortlessly he made it to the top. He was even happier when I shared some of my apple with him while I sat and enjoyed the beautiful views. 

My hiking buddy for Rainbow MountainMy hiking buddy

Usually, locals are at the top of the mountain waiting for visitors, selling snacks, water, and photo opportunities with adorned alpacas. Because of the protests and the closure of Rainbow Mountain from the North, no one was at the top. We had the entire view to ourselves! Being able to experience Rainbow Mountain without the crowds was truly spectacular.  

Tip #3

Make sure to carry plenty of water and some snacks for this hike! I personally love a hydration backpack with waist support. It’s easy on my back and I don’t have to fumble with taking the backpack on and off to grab a water bottle. 

I also added a hydration electrolyte drink mix to my water to help with the altitude. I’m obsessed with Liquid IV’s strawberry electrolyte drink mix. Remember those strawberry creme candies that were popular in the 1990s and 2000s? This tastes just like it.

We spent a good while at the top, resting and taking in the incredible mountain colors, reflecting on the intense uphill climb we just completed. From the top, I was able to see the typical route that visitors hike for Rainbow Mountain and although you can see more of the mountain’s colors throughout the hike up, the hike that I completed from the Southeast side was awe-inspiring with deep greens and reds interlaced into the mountainsides and had an insane view of Nevado Ausangate Glacier. 

View of the Cusipata Trail leading to Rainbow MountainView of the Cusipata Trail leading to Rainbow Mountain (north trail)

98% of Rainbow Mountain visitors take the Casipata Trail (from the Northwest). It is an easier route with a more gradual incline but with a lot more people. If you prefer to stay away from the crowds and experience something more unique, I highly recommend a tour with Beto at Viajes Speedy Tour.

Rainbow Mountain trail

South trail from Rainbow Mountain

I experienced Rainbow Mountain like no other visitor has – without hundreds or even thousands of people around me. The entire Rainbow Mountain experience was something I’ll remember for the rest of my life. Our small group of 5 took in the exceptional experience with so much appreciation.

What is Rainbow Mountain?

Rainbow Mountain is a recent discovery within the Andes Mountains, renowned for its vibrant multi-colored striped slopes containing red, yellow, green, and turquoise hues. The mesmerizing colors are a result of mineral deposits that have been exposed over time. The site, also known as Vinicunca, is a geological masterpiece with cultural significance to the Quechua community.

Rainbow MountainView from the top of Rainbow Mountain

Where is it located?

Rainbow Mountain is located 3 hours southeast of Cusco, near the town of Pitumarca. 

How did Rainbow Mountain get its unique colors?

Rainbow Mountain’s coloring comes from the sediment of minerals throughout the area. Different minerals create different coloring:

  • Red: Iron oxide aka rust
  • Purple: Marlstone and calcium carbonate
  • Yellow: Iron sulfide
  • Green: Phyllites and clays containing iron and magnesium  
  • Pink: Red clay, mud, and sand 
  • Brown: Fanglomerate rock

Tip #4

For every 1,000 feet in altitude, you gain 10-12% more UV exposure. While visiting the Cusco region and Rainbow Mountain, sunscreen is an absolute must. I recommend Thrive Natural Mineral Sunscreen an environmentally-friendly alternative to chemical sunscreens. 

What tour did I take for Rainbow Mountain?

I booked my Rainbow Mountain ATV tour with Viajes Speedy Tour Operator on TripAdvisor. Because of political disagreements in the region, every Rainbow Mountain tour was canceled except for this one! This tour steps away from the crowds and gives such a unique experience, driving to the start of the Rainbow Mountain hike by ATVs. I cannot recommend this tour enough! If you have any questions, you can reach out to the company on WhatsApp at +51 978636869 

Can I take a taxi?

Yes, it is possible, however, I will not recommend this whatsoever. The elevation of Rainbow Mountain is extreme and going without a guide can put you and your party in danger. For perspective, Rainbow Mountain is equivalent to Everest Base Camp elevation. Guides even carry oxygen on them for hikers.

How long is the hike to Rainbow Mountain?

Typically, tours will start at Rainbow Mountain Cusipata Trail Parking and the hike is 4.3 miles out and back. Expect the hike to take about 3 hours round trip. The first 1.5 miles of this hike is a relatively small climb.

On the tour I took, we hiked from a different starting point, closer to Rainbows Mountains Parking which was a 2.8-mile hike out and back that took 2 hours and 45 minutes for me to complete, including rest time at the top.

Rainbow Mountain hike horsesOne member of our group saying hi to one of the many horses that were grazing in the area

Tip #5

I highly recommend hiking poles for this adventure! I love my collapsible trekking sticks from Amazon. They fit easily into a backpack or small suitcase.

Keep in mind that airport security can confiscate this item if packed in your carry-on, however, a doctor’s note stating they are medically necessary will solve the issue.

For how affordable these hiking sticks are, I took my chance packing them in my carry-on and had no issues flying from Orlando, Florida to Lima, Peru, or Lima to Cusco, Peru, and back.

Is the elevation that bad?

Yes! Do not downplay the effects of high elevation. Before hiking make sure you are acclimated to higher elevations or know from previous experience that you will not fall ill to the high elevation. You can be as mentally prepared as possible but your body will not physically be able to push faster due to the lack of oxygen. Guides for Rainbow Mountain carry oxygen on them for emergencies.

Views from the van along the drive to Rainbow Mountain

Is hiking the only option to get to the top of Rainbow Mountain? 

No, you also have the option to pay an additional fee for a horse/mule or motorbike which will bring you close to the top of the hike. This is available for both the upward and downward journey, with the upward journey being more expensive. Expect to pay 60 soles for the journey up and 20 soles down. 

Although horses and motorbikes are typically available, don’t rely on them. On the day of my visit, neither was available because of local conflict. 

Is there a bathroom?

Yes, from the most popular starting point at Cusipata, there are bathrooms with flushing toilets and an attendant. These cost 2 soles per person. From the side I hiked up, near Rainbow Mountains Parking, there were only porta-potties, which were free at the time of my visit but lacked basics such as toilet paper. Be sure to bring some toilet paper and change!

Where did I stay in Cusco?

I stayed at a fantastic bed and breakfast in the historic district of Cusco called Amaru Inca, located at Cuesta San Blas, 541, Cusco City Centre, 84 Cusco, Peru. My stay included breakfast and a private bathroom (with plenty of hot water)! The view of the city from the hotel was stunning.

View of Cusco from hotelView of Cusco at night from Amaru Inca Hotel

Find your next stay Booking.com or Vrbo.com


  1. Jasmine

    Incredible! Thank you for sharing the unsaturated pics and videos of this magical site! The journey there on the ATVs looks like fun! 😄

    • Kali Todd

      It was a blast! Driving the ATVs through the landscapes was amazing.

      • Ginger

        This has been on my bucket list for a while now so thanks for sharing this great guide and tips! Love your photos too!!

      • Carolyn M

        17,000 feet, that is seriously high! I volunteer at Mount Blue Skies at Summit Lake which is approx 12,500 and I could feel the altitude and I live at 9000 feet!

        Lucky you to have Rainbow Mountain to yourselves!

    • Marady Owens

      This is so cool! And the pics are so beautiful! What an amazing trip. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Jeetees

    Amazing article 💗

  3. Tracy McHugh

    There’s something similar in the desert of Southern California, thought this was there for a second. I’ve always wanted to go to Peru and now I have another reason. Your pictures are breathtaking!

    • Kali Todd

      Oh neat! I’ve also found similar coloring near Kanab, Utah! The landscapes surrounding Rainbow Mountain in Peru are jaw-dropping, though. The day was such a fun adventure!

  4. elaine

    WOW! beautifull pictures. The place is on my bucket list :O)

    • Kali Todd

      Thank you!! It was an incredible experience!

    • Steve

      That’s a fantastic and very comprehensive post. Thks 👍

      • Kali Todd

        Thank you! I’m so glad you found this post helpful!

  5. Meri

    What an awesome experience! Great post and tips.

    • Kali Todd

      Thanks!! It was an amazing experience

  6. Hari

    A stunning place to visit indeed! Thank you so much for sharing this awesome spot with us!


    This is such an interesting travel blog. Never heard of RAINBOW MOUNTAIN until I read your blog. The mountain looks magnificent. As always, your pictures are sharp and clean. I would love to experience hiking up to this mountain. I will first have to invest in one of those trecking sticks. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Jade

    This is definitely a place on my bucket list. Thanks for sharing your adventure and the tips about altitude sickness. I always forget to consider this when traveling into the mountains.

  9. Geeky Daddy

    Gorgeous landscapes. Looks like the are could be used in a fantasy movie as background landscapes.

    • Kali Todd

      Absolutely! Everywhere I looked was stunning!

  10. Saviour Udoh

    I half expected the rainbow mountain to be brightly colored like an actual rainbow. However, I wasn’t disappointed with what I saw either.

    Also, it was very thoughtful of you to include videos.

    • Kali Todd

      A lot of images of Rainbow Mountain oversaturate the mountain, trying to make it look like a true rainbow. The site is absolutely breathtaking in person, though.

  11. Miss Simplitty

    What a great trip. And beautiful pictures.

  12. Ashton

    Wow, this is stunning! I love travel blogs because without them I wouldn’t see the beautiful wonders of the world as this. I seems like you had an amazing trip and your photos are breathtaking.

    • Kali Todd

      Thank you!! It was a wonderful trip!


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