Vinicunca Mountain, also known as Rainbow Mountain, is about 3 hours away from Cusco, Peru. It’s located in the Pitumarca District of the Quispicanchis Province.
How to get to Rainbow Mountain
The tour agency will pick you up at your hostel in Cusco and handle the transportation in a small van.
As for how to get to Cusco, you can fly in directly internationally, or fly to Lima and connect to Cusco. If you’re coming from Puno, which I did, you can take a night bus.
Where to stay
So long as you stay in Cusco, you’re good to go. There are plenty of hostels to choose from. I stayed at Hostal el Triunfo, which I’d classify as more of a “hostel meets hotel” deal. So long as you stay near the main plaza, you’re good to go.
About the Rainbow Mountain trip
The hike was challenging, there’s no denying that. It’s a 12 mile hike that eventually reaches an altitude of over 17,000 ft. I was picked up from my hostel at 2am, at which point we began the 3hr drive to the base. (I’d recommend packing a blanket/pillow so you can sleep in the van.) After our arrival, some locals prepared a delicious breakfast of quinoa chips, fresh fruit, and pita bread. We carbed up, and were off! Our group (including me) consisted of 5 travelers + our guide. Let it be known that we eventually saw some of the other travel groups, not through Flashpacker Connect, that were much larger (12-20 people). The hike itself took about 7 hours total, after which the same locals prepared an extravagant lunch, that was again phenomenal. Our guide drove us back to our hostels in Cusco, and we arrived completely exhausted at about 6pm.
The extremely high altitude can make the trek difficult. No worries, though. The guide will bring a horse for anyone who is struggling and needs a little help. I’d recommend bringing coca leaves/coca candies as well to alleviate any altitude sickness.
I would be prepared for anything. The weather changes on a whim in Peru. Because you leave early in the morning, it’s initially freezing. I’m talking “multiple layers” kind of deal. It also, though, warms up during the day so you want to be prepared for both. I would pack long pants, layers, a winter hat, gloves, and a scarf. At the same time, you want to have sunscreen and a sunhat for when it heats up. I would pack in a day pack, like a North Face backpack. No big deal if you forget anything– they sell gear all over the place in Cusco.
I did the 1-day tour, but you can also do the 2-day option where you camp overnight. It’s also possible to do a 5-day Ausangate trek that includes Rainbow Mountain.
When is the best time to visit Rainbow Mountain
I visited the 2nd week of April, which has them in between summer and winter, and honestly I found the timing weather-wise to be perfect. Rainy season is November-April, so it was right on the cusp, but still outside of peak season and affordable.
Can you walk up without a guide?
I booked through Flashpacker Connect and I couldn’t recommend them more. The guides are thorough, prepared, and multi-lingual. I don’t believe it’s possible to make the trek alone, though, as you walk through other people’s properties, with whom the guides have a relationship.