Rainbow Mountain Tour From Cusco
The Complete Guide
Rainbow Mountain Tour From Cusco
(The Complete Guide)
Rainbow Mountain Peru, also known as Vinicunca Pass, is one of the most popular destinations to visit in the entire country.
After only being recently discovered in 2015 due the melting snowcaps atop the Andean mountain range as a result of global warming, the multicolored spectacle has quickly exploded on social media.
This sudden and mass exposure has led it to be one of the most frequented tourist attractions in all of Peru, and steadily growing each day.
According to Forbes, Rainbow mountain manages to achieve its distinctive kaleidoscopic color patterns due to different environmental conditions and mineralogy.
Though quite challenging to visit in the beginning, since being discovered, Rainbow Mountain has continuously seen improvements to make it more accessible in response to rising tourist demands.
With several different options to travel here, in this blog we will show you all the best ways to take a Rainbow Mountain tour from Cusco.
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Rainbow Mountain Peru Weather And When To Visit?
The best time of year to travel to Rainbow Mountain and the region around Cusco in general is during the dry months of May to August.
This is when the weather is going to be the most predictable with the least amount of rainfall.
However, do expect to see an increased number of tourists as this unsurprisingly coincides with the high season in Cusco.
As an alternative, you could visit during the months of April or September to see less tourists, however be prepared for the occasional rainfall.
How To Get To Rainbow Mountain From Cusco?
From Cusco, Rainbow Mountain is located around a 3.5 hour drive away.
You can either organize a public or private tour from Cusco, however both options vary in pricing and departure times.
An alternative option to taking a minivan to the base of Rainbow Mountain, is to do a day trek to Rainbow Mountain instead.
This trek is around 17 miles long (24 kilometers) and takes around 3-4 hours.
Personally, I don’t believe a 17 mile long trek is worth it for Rainbow Mountain (I’ll explain later), but to each his own as they say.
This guide does not cover the 17-mile trek to Rainbow Mountain, however, you will be able to Find More Information About The Trek To Rainbow Mountain here.
What Time Should I Visit Rainbow Mountain?
The majority of the Rainbow Mountain tours in Cusco depart at 3:30 a.m and arrive at around 7 a.m.
Though waking up at 3:30 a.m might seem a bit excessive, keep in mind that thanks to Instagram and other social media platforms, this is one of the most popular tours to take while in Cusco.
Therefore, it is absolutely necessary to wake up at this time or even earlier if you want experience the beauty of Rainbow Mountain without hundreds of other tourists getting in the way.
In fact, if you really want to avoid the crowds then I highly suggest you depart Cusco at around 2 a.m instead.
Unlike Machu Picchu, Rainbow Mountain does not have the space available to sufficiently accommodate the amount of traffic that it receives on a daily basis.
Therefore, arriving any time after 7 a.m is a guarantee that the mountain will be completely flooded with tourists by the time you hike up to the top.
Thus, making it virtually impossible to take a decent photo and really experience the beauty of the mountain.
While Rainbow Mountain is breathtaking to say the least, it’s a completely different experience when you have to share with hundreds of other people.
When we decided to visit Rainbow Mountain from Cusco, we chose to leave at 2 a.m instead of the standard 3:30 departure time and we were so thankful we did.
We arrived at the mountain around 6 a.m which was 30 minutes later than initially planned because we had stopped for breakfast along the way. However, 6 a.m was early enough to make sure we were one of the few people there yet.
Although departing at 2 a.m is the best time to leave for Rainbow Mountain, it’s not exactly an easy task finding a tour company or driver to take you at this time.
However, if you ask around for long enough you will definitely be able to find someone to take you.
Organizing A Private Taxi To Rainbow Mountain
The easiest method to organize a taxi would be to have your hostel/hotel call and schedule it for you. However, though this may be the easiest, it is also the most expensive.
Instead, what I recommend is to speak with the taxi drivers directly or ask a tour agency how much they charge for a private tour.
Expect to pay no more than 300 PEN ($90 USD) total and even this price is negotiable.
Don’t be afraid to haggle – Most tour agencies and cab drivers will give you a higher price because they assume that all tourists can afford to pay. Not to mention they are anticipating the haggle.
Instead, get an idea of what the tour should cost and then have a set price of what you are willing to pay.
Additionally, it helps to have any Peruvian or Spanish speaking friends do the talking. It does a world of wonders for dropping the price.
How Long Does It Take To Hike Rainbow Mountain?
The trail takes around an hour and a half to reach the summit of Rainbow Mountain.
Though the trail is not very long, it is exceptionally difficult.
While the trail would not be considered difficult by any standard at a normal altitude, remember the Rainbow Mountain elevation is around 5200 meters above sea level (17,060 feet).
And if I learned anything after visiting Rainbow Mountain, DO NOT underestimate the altitude.
Even after taking a few small steps on a minor incline you begin breathing heavily and wondering if you’re out of shape.
But don’t worry too much, because it is probably just the Rainbow Mountain Peru altitude to blame as opposed to all that delicious Peruvian cuisine you’ve been eating.
The first 75% of the trail is only a slight incline but difficult all the same.
However, as you approach the summit of rainbow mountain towards the final 25% of the trail, the incline becomes quite steep and you begin gasping for air after about 30 seconds of walking.
Even though the last part of the trail is quite difficult given the altitude and the steepness, just remember to pace yourself and take breaks when needed.
The spectacular views from the summit of Rainbow Mountain are literally just up this final hill.
Is There A Rainbow Mountain Horse Tour Instead Of Walking?
Yes, like most mountainous trails in Peru, there is the option to ride a horse up instead.
The price to ride horseback up the mountain is about 70 PEN per person (which is about $21 USD).
However, keep in mind that the horses only carry you along the flatter sections of the trail.
On the last section of the inclined portion of the trail is where the horses let you off and you must hike it for yourself.
Do not book ahead of time or online because the rates are much higher than if you book them on arrival.
The 70 PEN price to ride horseback only includes a one-way trip up the mountain, however for an extra 20 PEN, they will also bring you back down.
How Much Is A Tour Of Rainbow Mountain In Cusco?
The cheapest way to book a Rainbow Mountain tour from Cusco is to go directly to a booking agency within the city.
The standard tours departing at 3:30 a.m average around 80 PEN – 130 PEN (which is approximately ($24 – $38 USD.)
However, if you are interested in leaving a bit earlier in order to beat the crowds then you will have to speak to the tour companies about a private transport option.
We were able to arrange a private taxi transport for four people for 90 PEN per person that was scheduled to depart our hostel at 2:00 a.m.
Alternatively, if you do not feel like negotiating but still want to beat the rush to Rainbow Mountain, there is the option to book online. Though it is going to cost you quite a bit.
Flashpacker connect offers 1-day Rainbow mountain tours from Cusco for around $150 USD… and no I did not make a mistake and mean to write PEN.
For a whopping $150 USD, they will transport you to Rainbow Mountain well before the crowds arrive and offer you:
- Private transportation
- Peruvian style breakfast
- Lunch at a local restaurant on return
- Drinking water
- Fees included to enter Rainbow Mountain
- Along with some other extras like water and coca leaves
Although some people in my hostel opted to do this tour because they wanted to beat the crowds to Rainbow Mountain, I personally believe this is way too overpriced.
Especially when you can find a private tour to take you for around 90 PEN, however the choice is yours.
Is Rainbow Mountain Worth It?
The short answer is yes, Rainbow Mountain is definitely worth your visit. However, with that being said, you might want to temper your expectations a bit before your arrival.
Rainbow Mountain has become so famous that it is now practically a rite of passage for anyone who plans to visit Peru.
It’s sudden skyrocketing popularity has quickly led to the drastic problem of overtourism, with well over a thousand people visiting Rainbow Mountain each day.
Therefore, even though the 360° panoramic views from the summit of the multicolored mountain are utterly jaw dropping, the hordes of tourists constantly rolling in and out does put quite a damper on things.
This sudden boom in tourism even has scientists unsure about what effects this will even have on the environment of Rainbow Mountain. However, with tourist traffic expected to steadily increase over the next few years, there is an anticipated daily tourist limit to be set by the government in order to better manage the fragile ecosystem of Rainbow Mountain. Similar to that of Machu Picchu.
Although Rainbow Mountain is certainly worth your time, I highly recommend you take the extra effort to leave at 2:00 a.m in order to beat the plague proportions of tourists set to depart just a few hours later.
This way you can experience the beauty of Rainbow Mountain the way nature intended.
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