Mt. Vinicunca mountain was almost completely unknown to travelers before last year, because it could only be reached through the Ausangate Trek, which generally takes about 6 days to complete. A new route, however, is now in use that allows time-pressed travelers to reach Vinicunca in just one day. Thanks to this newfound accessibility, the hike to Rainbow Mountain, as it is popularly called, is becoming one of the most popular daytrips that travelers can enjoy from the city of Cusco.
You may be able to reach it in just one day, but granted, it is a long day: you have to leave Cusco by car at around 4:30am, and you won’t arrive back in the city until 8 in the evening. This is because it takes about 3 hours by car in order to reach the trailhead in the community of Chilihani in the Ausangate Valley. (There’ll be a breakfast stop, along the way, however, so that you don’t need to begin the hike on an empty stomach.)
The hike to Vinicunca takes three to four hours, depending on the group members’ fitness level. You will be walking in a green valley for much of the trek, but from the starting point to the destination there will be a gradual elevation gain of 2,250 feet (685 meters). In order to prepare for the ascent, you should take a few days in Cusco to acclimate before doing the hike. The hike’s difficulty level is considered to be moderate, but the high altitude does increase the strain somewhat.
Hiking through the wide valley, with the snowy peak of Mt Ausangate looming in the distance, we’ll see small Andean communities with adobe mudbrick homes, and locals with herds of grazing llamas and alpacas. As we approach Mt. Vinicunca, you’ll start to notice the first signs of the colored minerals which account for its distinctive stripes, and your professional guide will share information about the area’s flora and fauna and its geological characteristics as well as about local life and culture.
Upon our arrival at Rainbow Mountain, we’ll climb to a natural lookout that will give us a perfect view of its surprising striations. There, you’ll have plenty of time to rest, admire the striking views, and take all of the photos you wish before we continue on to a local home for lunch. Then, we’ll head to another natural lookout in order to see the mountain from a different vantage point. Afterwards, we’ll begin the return hike; since we’ll be descending this time, it will take less time, about 2½ to 3 hours. Overall, we will have hiked 9.3 miles (15 kilometers) before it is time to begin the return trip to Cusco by car.
As this is a new trek, there isn’t much infrastructure in terms of transport and marked trails. Thus, we don’t recommend tackling this trek independently at this time- going with an agency will allow you to do the trip in much less time and ensure that you make it to the destination. As one of the most experienced travel agencies in Cusco, Inca World Peru is proud to offer daytrips to Rainbow Mountain so that more people can experience the beauty of Ausangate Valley.
Inca World Team
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