The peaks in the Ausangate mountain region of the Peruvian Andes are all uncommonly colored: Some are terra cotta, some lavender, others are a vibrant turquoise. They’re colored by the sediment and atmosphere of the area, unique because of its altitude and isolation close to the ocean. But none are quite so marvelous as Vinicunca, also known as Rainbow Mountain, Winikunka, Montaña de Colores, and Montaña de Siete Colores.
For all its striking colors, Rainbow Mountain was notoriously hard to find. It’s located deep in the mountain range, and even the most adept travelers with highly experienced guides have reported difficulty locating it. In the past, it took about six days of hiking to reach its peak. Nowadays, there are plenty of bus tours departing from Cusco to the mountain. Due to the increase in popularity of the mountain, it has very quickly become Peru’s second most visited tourist site. During the peak season, it can see up to 4000 people per day.
To be sure, those who love hiking will enjoy the journey; the Ausangate trek is one of the most popular among visitors to Peru. There are hot springs, local villages and vendors, stunning views of the Ausangate Glacier, and llamas and alpacas along the way. And nothing caps off almost a week of trekking like a visit to this breathtaking painted mountain.
Know Before You Go
There is now a road leading to the mountain. The trek to the summit can now be done in a couple of hours. While the hike is not long, the altitude can cause problems for those not used to it. A horse and guide can be rented for around 50 to 100 soles.