Rainbow Mountain Peru
Rainbow Mountain Peru

When we were planning our trip to Peru, my Peruvian friend Jimmy suggested we add Rainbow Mountain to our Peruvian adventure. Given that we only had 4 days in Cusco we toyed with the idea until we arrived in country. We finally made our decision upon arrival to Cusco and booked a tour via Eco Packers Tours, a short walk from our hotel, El Mercado. We booked the tour on a Monday evening and Tuesday morning at 4:30 am we were getting picked up for our tour.

Rainbow Mountain Peru
Rainbow Mountain Peru

Rainbow Mountain Peru: Booking The Trip

There are plenty of tour operators in Cusco and we decided to Eco Packers as we walked in and the salesperson gave us a good orientation about the tour. We paid 80 soles each ($25). The tour included breakfast, transportation, entrance to the park, and lunch. It was easy booking the Rainbow Mountain tour at short notice but I suspect is because we were traveling in low season (January).

On the road to Rainbow Mountain Peru
On the road to Rainbow Mountain

Getting There

Getting to Rainbow Mountain in Peru is quite the trip! It takes around 4 hours to get there (with breakfast in between). I liked that our tour had a smaller van versus the huge tour buses, making it more comfortable. Once you get over the grogginess of waking up at 4am, I recommend keeping an eye out for the beautiful Andean scenery: the emerald green mountains, the colorful Inca women walking along the road, and the extroverted llamas. The views from the bus were just as impressive as the hike itself.

Local Woman Hiking up to Rainbow Mountain
Local Woman Hiking up to Rainbow Mountain

Arriving at Rainbow Mountain


Compared to Machu Picchu, Rainbow Mountain is still in its infancy when it comes to receiving visitors. The site is pretty basic in terms of facilities. Bathrooms consist of old latrines and port-a-johns. Thankfully my Marine Corps skills came to play on this one. If you are a prissy traveler, the bathroom scenario may be quite traumatizing for you.

The Hike

We were in a sticky predicament: we only had four days in Cusco and we really wanted to go to Rainbow Mountain. When we started hiking towards the mystical mountain, we only had spent 24 hours in the region. Altitude is real. It really slows you down. The Dutchman and I are used to hiking but we had the wind knocked out of us (literally). Once you reach the top, you are at 5,000 meters above sea level. That’s 3 times what you experience in Denver!

Due to the altitude, it was a really tough hike for both of us. Thankfully our guide was super relaxed and wasn’t rushing us up the hill (we saw other tour companies herding people up the hill). That gave us the opportunity to take it all in, have some snacks, and rest when we were getting beat down by the elements. Our group consisted of around 12 people: a mix of Brazilians, Peruvians, French, Bolivians, and us, the Dutchrican couple. Everybody had a different level of fitness so each did their own thing.



View from the Top

After around two and a half hours and lots of pain, we got to the famous Rainbow Mountain. We were completely beat! To make it worse, once we reached the top we were hit with hail…lots of hail! It was cold, wet, and the worst part is that we didn’t get the epic view we were expecting. We quickly took a few photos and worked our way back. Needless to say, I was a bit disappointed. However, I got over it 15 minutes later as I hiked down the muddy trail and took in the majestic mountains of the Andes.

There’s an amazing sense of peace there. Once you zone out the tourists and look at the stunning rock formations, the sheep in the distance, and the snow-capped mountains, you know it is all worth it. Being in places of such magnitude also reminds us how we are just a tiny speck in this vast universe.

Rainbow Mountain Cusco Dining Traveler
Yours truly with the obligatory photo

How to Prepare

If you have the time, I suggest acclimatizing for a few days before heading to Rainbow Mountain. Drink lots of water prior to your trip, upon your arrival in Cusco, and during your trip. Our tour did not provide snacks/water so make sure to ask your tour provider and buy accordingly. You can also find vendors along the trail selling snacks and drinks. Make sure you bring local Peruvian currency (soles) in small change or bills.

Wear comfortable hiking gear and focus on layers. On the way to the top, I got super warm as it was quite the workout. Once I got to the top, we had to put on our hats and windbreakers as the temperature dropped quickly when we got hit by the hail storm. Our guide also recommended wearing a hat that covered the ears as it is supposed to help with altitude sickness. We paid $5 for hand knitted hats from local vendors at the entrance of the trail. We looked silly but our ears were warm and we got a cool souvenir out of it!

Rainbow Mountain: The Verdict

I am not going to front: this is a tough hike. I initially thought “perhaps I’m old” but then I saw 20-year-olds gasping for air and I didn’t feel that bad for myself. You can ride horses up to Rainbow Mountain if you know you’re not athletically inclined. However, be prepared to dismount on the steep hills, to include the steepest part of it all: getting to the Rainbow Mountain itself!

10 COMMENTS

  1. Wow only $25 for the tour?! That’s so cheap! I’ve always wanted to visit Rainbow Mountain it looks so unreal! I had no idea that it was such a tough hike, I definitely am not in good enough shape for that so I’d probably opt for riding horseback. Congrats on accomplishing that, what an incredible experience!

  2. This is cool and I’ve never seen this before. We’ve been to Peru, walked the Inca Trail and still never heard of it. This is something for ” next time” which hopefully will be soon as the kids want to go, we went way back pre-kids. I’ll look into these tours. Love the idea of extrovert Llamas 🙂

  3. We visited Cusco back in 2013 and had no idea that Rainbow Mountain even existed! And we’re so bummed! All of the photos that we see look absolutely amazing but I had no idea that the trek was so challenging. I am dying to do it someday but will definitely take your advice on acclimating. Also, super random question but in your pic on the road to Rainbow Mountain, what is that thing on the right-hand side? It looks like a giant clown holding a chicken, lol. I don’t think that could be right but for the life of me I can’t figure it out!

  4. Omgd the hail at the top — that must have been miserable. Looks like a chilly, wet experience. And yeah, 5,000 meters is no joke — that’s quite the accomplishment that you made it to the top even though you weren’t acclimatized!

  5. Perfect post and timely for me! I’ll be there in may and I’d love to go there. I did Machu Picchu and if you aren’t prepared for the altitude then its hell – so you’re not old, you just need some time (and maybe altitude sickness pills!) Thanks for the tips, this is bookmarked for future for me.

  6. I know the feeling of disappointment when you reach the top and the weather doesn’t behave! I have seen so many pictures of this hike and wondered how hard it really was. Thank you for the honest post, really helpful!

  7. Rainbow mountain looks absolutely stunning. When I was in Cusco last, I luckily did not experience any effects with the altitude. I would just get out of breath every now and then. But I didn’t even take any pills. What I did do, was drink 3 litres of water a day and it kept me healthy! I wonder why when I was in Peru last (2012), I never even heard about Rainbow mountain! Is it a relatively new attraction??

  8. The Rainbow Mountain looks like such a cool spot to visit! I love all the colors-it’s amazing what nature can produce sometimes! It’s nice that you were able to book your tour so last minute too. I didn’t realize about the altitude of the region-would be quite the elevation change being at 5,000 meters and it’s nice that you weren’t rushed! It’s too bad about the bad weather and hail but it sounds like a pretty amazing experience over! I’d love to go sometime!

  9. I had no idea that Rainbow Mountain was so close and so cheap to do from Cusco! I’m dying to visit. It’s amazing the way the altitude gets to a person, isn’t it!? I definitely will not miss this the next time I’m Peru! Great tip to bring plenty of cash on the trek.

  10. I only heard about the Rainbow Mountain in Peru recently when a friend of mine went to Peru. After seeing a photo, I was obsessed. Looks so amazing. I’m sorry you didn’t get the best experience weather wise and I’ll definitely remember your acclimation tip for whenever I get to go. I’ve never been that high up so I’m sure I’ll feel it.

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