Having read so many negative reviews about rainbow mountain gave me doubts of whether I should visit or not, but I did and I am so honoured to have witnessed them. Of course going on a beautiful day makes it picture perfect.
Previously known as Vinicunca, Rainbow mountain forms part of the Andes and has been discovered only 2 years ago in 2016, by chance by some curious tourist's who wanted to climb higher.
This naturally colourful mountain lives up to its nick-name rainbow mountain with 4 bright colours coming from it's mineral content. Red coming from iron, yellow due to its sulphur content, green forms from it's copper component and black has tungstan, the colors make this mountain unique and in just two years it has become a famous spot, attracting 800 tourists a day.
The rainbow mountain is easily accessible from Cusco, with a 3 hour drive. The bus takes you up to 4400m and the mountain is set on 5100m, giving the trek a good 700m climb.
The trek takes around 1.5 to 2 hours depending on pace. The first hour is an easy trail quite flattish with little elevation. It's important to trek slow and steady, keeping in mind the high altitude. The last half an hour is steep and you need to take frequent breaks to catch your breath. But it can be easily done. The last five minutes of the trail has been dug to form stairs making its steepness easier. Don't forget to look back at the beautiful views while resting Once at the pass you are at the bottom of the rainbow mountain which is easily seen by climbing the opposite mountain.
If you want, horses are available at 60 soles one way or 90 soles return but please note that the horse only takes you till the easy part, the first hour, the steep hill you have to climb it yourself.
Once you get to the top the rainbow is just beautiful and the views from up there of the surrounding mountains and glacier are stunning. It is crowded yes, and you do need to be there on a beautiful sunny day to actually appreciate the natural colours, but yes even after reading bad reviews, I believe not to rely on what others say, go see for yourself. In my opinion it's worth a visit!
Things to take
Take warm clothes since it's very cold once up at 5100m. Include gloves, beanie, down jacket and a wind breaker. Trekking poles definitely help during the steep climb and for the harsh descent. Don't forget water.
When to go
Go during peak season when the weather tends to be clear, dry and sunny. Give yourself time to acclimatise in Cusco and if you are doing the Inca trail do it after so that you give time to your body to adjust to the altitude.