Last year I was scrolling through my Instagram when I suddenly stumbled upon a picture that showed a scenery that I couldn’t quite believe existed for real – a mountain range covered with colored stripes that I thought were artificial. My boyfriend and I had just booked our flights to South America and were planning out our itinerary to Peru, so this little information came in quite handy. Of course I am talking about the “Rainbow Mountain” in the Ausangate Valley just around the corner from Cusco which was then on our “South America To-Do”-List ever since.
Looking back Rainbow Mountain has probably been one of the toughest hikes during our travels. That is partially because it was extremely high – we hiked from 4.500 to over 5.200 meters in about two and a half hours. We were already used to the altitude but not this kind of altitude. So many people are affected but still want to see the mountain, that’s why so many locals offer to take tourists up the mountain on their horses. So we also tried to walk up really quick to be among the first people to reach the top.
The landscapes around the Ausangate Valley were incredible. There were so many colorfully layered rocks making the area an unrealistic place that made us believe we were walking in some kind of unicorn world. What both of us didn’t expect was that it wasn’t just the rainbow mountain that blew us away with its colorful minerals. But most of the rocks and mountains around the area had a similar composition and color. So that was quite impressive! It was actually also quite idyllic with plenty of Alpacas grazing in the area.
Not many people know about the Rainbow Mountain and we found that our travel guide book doesn’t mention it either. One big reason that the Rainbow Mountain remained a secret for so long was that there were no minerals to be seen. Until 3 years ago most of the mountain has been covered by a glacier but now it melt away over the last few years. It’s being advertised all over Cusco, so tourists can’t miss the attraction anymore and it’s getting more recognition from travelers.
Visiting the Rainbow Mountain from Cusco is definitely doable with a day tour just like we did. Most include breakfast and lunch and you’re going to be picked up around 3:30 am from your hostel. If we had the possibility to get a car somewhere I’d have definitely driven there the night before to hike up earlier to avoid all the masses of people that start their hike around mid-morning. In terms of weather we were quite lucky: a friend of ours went there only a few days before. There was so much fog at the top that it prevented him from even seeing the colors of the mountain. But I suppose visiting from May to October guarantees you good weather, otherwise prepare for a muddy hike!
btw: I am already back in Europe! Yes, we arrived about two weeks ago already and now we are hopping around between the Netherlands, Germany, Austria and Italy until university begins in just two short weeks. Nevertheless, I still have so many cool stories to share from South America, so I will keep posting for a little bit. ;-)