Rainbow Mountain

Vinicunca, also called Montaña de Siete Colores (Mountain of Seven Colors), is located in the Andes in the Cusco region of Peru. In order to get to the trailhead, it’s a three-hour drive from Cusco. To get to the lookout at 5,200m is about 10Km. The views are spectacular but do be cautious of altitude sickness.

We had never even heard of Rainbow Mountain but when discussing our itinerary for our upcoming trip with our daughters friend who had just returned from Peru, he said it was a MUST Do! So we decided to factor it into our rest day, the day before we were due to head off on the Inca Trail – it would probably be good for acclimatisation!

This site – which is also known as Vinicunca, Winikunka, Montaña de Siete Colores, and Montaña de Colores has really grown in popularity even since we climbed it in 2017 when it was relatively quiet. This is because until only recently the famous striped colours resulting from weathering and mineral deposits, were entirely covered by thick layers of Andean snow and ice, only to be recently revealed as this melted due to climate change.

We were collected at our hotel at 2.45am in a mini bus and stopped off to collect a few more people. We slept most of the day, which was fortunate because when we were awake an looked out of the window we were traversing some pretty hairy hairpin bends and switchbacks where the road had been carved into the hillside!We arrived at our destination at 6am for breakfast – it was really cold! Our group included a lovely Dutch couple, Americans, Ozzie and a Japanese lady – we had a good chat at breakfast and we realised that we were 20-30 years older than them! 🙂 After breakfast we continued our drive for another hour until we reached the start of the trek at the car park. The vista is simply stunning!

We were the first vehicle to arrive and we set off eagerly. We were amused to see that all our younger counterparts had opted to use horses!

It soon warmed up. People on horseback had to dismount and walk up some of the steeper bits.

We could feel the altitude as we ascended and got a little slower but we felt fine. If you haven’t brought sufficient water, you can even stop off and buy supplies on the way up! We were constantly awe inspired by the stunning views – so pleased it was a lovely day!

Paul and I are so competitive, that we ensured that we stayed ahead of everyone and managed to summit first!

The 360 views of the mountains were simply spectacular. We had arrived just at the right time as the clouds were starting to gather. Stunning!

After the obligatory photos we started to head down the mountain and met some lovely little people! The path is so well marked and the only impact of altitidue was feeling slightly out of breath as we made the final ascent.

It got cold again as we descended. We got down first which only took about 30mins as we were walking very quickly but then had to wait about 1.5hours for the rest of our group to come down (on horseback!). The Dutch couple were feeling dreadful but recovered quickly after our guide gave the oxygen. We then enjoyed a lunch before being transported back to our hotel in Cusco. Fiery sunset and the sky was red. As we drove back into Cusco the traffic was dire – there were dogs everywhere! It is estimated that there are 40,000 strays! With un-spayed females continuing to give birth this number rises annually! Please support this charity whose mission it is to reduce the number fo strays on the streets of Cusco: PAWS

TOP TIPS:

  1. It is really cold, but walking makes you warm – so take plenty of layers – I wore all mine! Don’t forget a waterproof too!
  2. Hydrate. Take enough water and keep sipping all the way though the walk.
  3. Suncream
  4. Walking Boots
  5. Chocolate for that final ascent energy boost!

FUN FACT:

The colours are created by 14 mineral deposits. The pink colour is created by red clay. The whitish colour results from quartz, sandstone and marls whereas the turquoise is due to phyllite compounds and clays rich in iron magnesium. Earthy browns are caused by magnesium infused rock and the yellow is created by calcareous sandstone and limestone rich in sulphurous minerals! Exposure to wind and train and as the sediment is deposited in layers, you get the striking rainbow effect.

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