• Jamie Matthews

Rainbow Mountain - A dream come true

Last week I saw what I would say the most incredible sight in my life to date - Rainbow Mountain aka Vinicunca, Montaña de Siete Colores and Montaña de Colores. A place that I thought I could have only dreamed of. Everyone that I met who had been there said I had to go because it was amazing. They were right. There were several moments where I blinked and asked myself "Is this real life, or is this just fantasy?" Haha ok... I didn't say it exactly like that, but you get the idea. I feel incredibly lucky to have seen something as magnificent and beautiful as this in my lifetime. If Rainbow Mountain, Peru isn't on your bucket list, then add it quick, because who knows how long it will last like this. Apparently, Rainbow mountain is a fairly new attraction because the mountain used to be covered in snow and once the snow melted a few years ago it uncovered this layered beauty. That's what someone told me anyway... so don't quote me on that!

The day long tour costs about 70 soles (Approx $21 USD). That includes a bus from Cusco and back, the guided tour and 2 meals. When you get to rainbow mountain it costs another 10 soles for the entrance fee. Being the cheap, backpacker travellers we are, we requested the trip without food which came to 45 soles. Looking back, if we did it again we would have taken the 70 soles option as it was a lot of work carrying food, plus the tour food did look pretty tasty. Myself and three other volunteer friends booked the trip at 7pm the night before, while walking the streets of Cusco. Next, we found a cheap backpackers for 15 Soles per person as we knew we were going to be up at 3.30am for the big adventure.

The journey to Rainbow Mountain began at Cusco at 3.35am when our bus arrived to pick us up at our backpackers. It was 25mins early as it was scheduled to pick us up at 4am, so in our sleepy haze we got changed and hurried out to meet the bus which happened to be almost full already (the other people must have got picked up ridiculously early!). The bus trips were approximately 3-4 hours each way, which most of us used to catch up on some much needed sleep.

The road to Rainbow Mountain was crazzzzy. A large portion of the trip the road was only wide enough to fit one vehicle and loads of times my jaw dropped with the sight of huge cliffs a couple of meters away from the bus. I gotta say these drivers have to be good because there are plenty of close calls on the trip. The views are worth staying awake for, we saw plenty of awe-some mountains, terraces, and ruins. What amazes me is that there are ruins on almost all the mountains I've seen in Peru. You don't just have to go to Machu Picchu to see them!

After about a 4 hour trip including a stop for breakfast we arrived at the car park. The entrance which was filled with buses and vans. The altitude was now at 4480m/14698 feet above sea level which was now highest altitude I had ever been before (Previously it was Cusco at 3400m). The highest point on the walk is at an altitude of 5030m/16502 feet. When the altitude starts to get this high, breathing becomes harder, especially if you're not used to it. When I first arrived in Peru it took me 3 days of altitude sickness with vomiting, a splitting headache and extreme shortness of breath before I got used to Cusco's altitude. If you are planning to visit Rainbow mountain, I recommend that you get acclimatized to Cusco's altitude before embarking on the journey here because there is a chance you might not make it up. We saw someone faint and needed to be carried back down the mountain, as well as loads of people struggling with every step. Fortunately, we were already used to walking up mountains in Peru so we had gained a decent level of high altitude fitness. Still, I was amazed at how "puffed" we became almost immediately... Hiking and breathing at that altitude was tough!

The Peruvian remedy for high altitude struggles is Coca leaves. You chew on a handful then hold it in the side of your mouth for an hour two. It actually helps! I was feeling a bit light headed but energized after chewing on the Coca for a few minutes.

The distant, snow covered mountains were incredible and got us excited and amped for what was to come.

Along the way it became colder and colder and harder and harder to walk with the altitude. For those that couldn't keep up or those that wanted an easier trip up the mountain, there were locals with horses ready to pick you up.

After a two hour hike we made it!

SURREAL is the best word to describe the panoramic - 360 degree views.

Red layered mountains on one side and snow covered rocky mountains on the other.

We found a colorful Peruvian man and Llama who joined our photos in exchange for 5 soles. They didn't turn out too bad did they!? :D

To top off the day, it started to snow as we walked back down. Wow...

All in all, Rainbow Mountain was truly magical and I highly recommend anyone visiting Peru to check it out :)


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