15 Colorful Facts About Rainbow Mountain in Peru
Rainbow mountain sounds like something out of a fairytale or a videogame, but luckily it’s real and it’s in the Peruvian desert.
When you think about Peru, probably llamas, Machu Picchu, Cuzco, the Oasis of the Americas in Huacachina, the Nazca lines, Peruvian ceviche, or the famous footballer, Claudio Pizarro come to your mind. Peru is all that and much more!
Join me as I explore all the magic from Rainbow Mountain in Peru.
FUN FACT: In Spanish, you can write Cuzco or Cusco since RAE accepts both spelling ways. Peruvians prefer to write Cusco.
Where Is Rainbow Mountain?
Rainbow Mountain is in Peru, the Eastern part of Southamerica. This is located in the southern hemisphere.
Peruvians divide their country into 24 departments and 196 provinces (within the departments). Rainbow Mountain is in the department of Cuzco (as you can see in the Rainbow Mountain Peru map below) between the provinces of Quispicanchi, Pitumarca, and Canchis.
To get to the Rainbow Mountain from Cuzco you need around three hours to clear the 87 miles (140 km) that separate them. If you’d like to take a road trip from Lima (the capital of Peru) it’d take you around 22 and a half hours to clear the 770 mi (1,240 km) that separate them.
Rainbow Mountain receives around 1,000 tourists a day. Sometimes, however, you can share Rainbow Mountain with up to 4,000 people since the place has become very popular over the last few years.
You can book a tour for 23 USD (95 soles). This tour takes between 12 and 13 hours and it includes them picking you up from your hotel in Cusco and taking you back to the center, the transport, a guide in Spanish (so learn some Spanish), buffet in breakfast and lunch, trekking sticks, emergency oxygen, first aid kit, and blankets. However, it does not include the entrance fee to Rainbow Mountain, which will cost you 7.30 USD (30 soles).
1. Rainbow Mountain Has Six Different Names
As you know, Peru is a multicultural country, where besides Spanish, they speak Quechua and Aymara, this led to calling Rainbow Mountain (la montaña arcoíris) differently.
You can call it:
|Color mountain||La montaña de colores|
|Rainbow Mountain||La montaña arcoíris|
|Red hill||Cerro colorado|
|Seven color mountain||La montaña de los 7 colores|
Its real name is Vinicunca (using Spanish spelling rules) and it comes from the Quechua word that means “mountain of colors.”
2. Rainbow Mountain Is Cold
When you think about rainbows, the temperature is not something that comes to mind, but in this case, it should. The Rainbow Mountain weather is frigid, so before climbing it, pack up some winter clothes because it is going to get chilly up there.
Some sites suggest that the best time to visit Rainbow Mountain is the dry season, between April and October, with a special emphasis on August. Between November and March, it is more likely to rain, dropping the temperatures even more.
Temperatures can easily drop below 32°F (0°C) in Rainbow Mountain, while the average temperature in Cuzco lies between 32°F (0°C) and 66°F (19°C) all year round.
3. Global Warming Unveiled Rainbow Mountain
Around 2012, locals discovered Rainbow Mountain, and this happened thanks to the snow on top of it melting. Before, nobody (or very few people) had seen a Rainbow Mountain.
This is thanks to global warming because scientists estimated that, between 2015 and 2019 the global temperature had risen by around 2°F (1.1 °C).
4. Rainbow Mountain Isn’t Among the Tallest Mountains in Peru
Peru is a very high country. Its lowest point is 111 feet below sea level (34 meters below sea level), while its highest peak is Huascarán, 22,204 feet above sea level (6,768 meters above sea level).
The Rainbow Mountain elevation reaches an astonishing altitude of 17,060 feet above sea level (5,200 meters above sea level), but such a high level isn’t enough to make it into the list of highest mountains in Peru.
5. Unique Flora and Fauna
Remember how I mentioned you might have been thinking of llamas when visiting Peru? Guess what you will see in Rainbow Mountain? Besides seeing the fluffy camel’s cousins in Rainbow Mountain you can also see alpacas (which are smaller than llamas) and vicuñas (they resemble llamas but have less fur).
As for the flora, you can find a Latin American herb called Ichu.
6. Unique Mineral Composition
Let’s get scientific and unravel the Rainbow Mountain geology, composed of seven colors:
|Pink (rosado)||red clay (mud and sand)|
|White (blanco)||quartzose, sandstone and marls (calcium)|
|Red (rojo)||claystones (iron)|
|Green (verde)||phyllites (ferro magnesian)|
|Brown (café o marrón)||fanglomerate (magnesium)|
|Yellow (amarillo)||calcareous (sulphur)|
Thanks to these minerals, Rainbow Mountain gets its unique color and stands out among the other mountains surrounding it.
7. Rainbow Mountain Is Part of the Andes
By now, you’ve probably heard about the Andes (Los Andes) mountain range in South America. But in case you haven’t, Los Andes is the longest mountain range in the world, and it has 5,281 mi (8,500) and it extends in western South America starting in Colombia, passing through Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru, Argentina, and Chile.
Rainbow Mountain specifically makes up part of the Central Andes (Los Andes centrales) and in this section, no mountain is under 13,123 feet above sea level (4,000 meters above sea level).
8. Weather Can Change Rapidly in Rainbow Mountain
While in the pictures Rainbow Mountain looks like a very calm place, images can be deceiving. In 1 hour, the weather can change in Rainbow Mountain, from snow to rain to being sunny again, so before visiting it, make sure that you packed up enough jackets, coats, and beanies, but also sunglasses and sunblock, and don’t forget to include a raincoat, just in case.
One thing is for sure, not only the summit but everywhere around Rainbow Mountain is going to be cold, no matter the time of the year, because of the altitude, so pack up enough clothes.
PRO TIP: Since Peru is in the Southern Hemisphere of the World, the seasons are inverted, meaning that between June and August is winter, and between December and February is summer.
9. There Are Communities Around Rainbow Mountain
Rainbow Mountain doesn’t exclusively host tourists. Around Rainbow Mountain, you can find Peruvians living close by, specifically the Chari community, who will give you a warm welcome, and you might even try an authentic Andinian breakfast, and buy some handcrafts.
Chari women made the first hand-made panel loom in the world. They usually work with sheep’s wool. You can get bracelets, or chuspas which are hand-made bags that Chari people use to store things inside, all made with natural colors that they obtain from their surroundings.
If you live in an average city in the US you’ve probably never experienced altitude sickness, since many cities in the US are below 8,000 feet (2,500 meters). As I mentioned earlier, Rainbow Mountain has an altitude of 17,060 feet (5,200 meters).
If you fly from your city in the U.S. to Lima, which is 528 feet (161 meters) on average, and immediately to Rainbow Mountain, you might get altitude sickness and feel nauseous, dizzy, sleepy, swollen, or have other different symptoms.
This doesn’t mean you can’t travel there, but it means that you should travel to Cuzco—at 11,151 feet (3,399 meters)—and stay there as long as possible in order for your body to adapt to the conditions, after that, you’ll be able to reach the summit of Rainbow Mountain more easily.
11. Ride a Horse
If taking a hike in Rainbow Mountain isn’t your thing, don’t worry, after all your pulmonary capacity can be reduced at such an altitude. But that won’t stop you from reaching the summit of this colorful miracle in Peru. You can rent a horse and ride it to the top if you feel that you can’t make it and they’ll charge you 17 USD (70 soles).
If you’re hiking but you feel that you can’t make it somewhere in the road you can rent the horse for more or less 2.50 USD (10 soles).
12. Visit the Ausangate Glacier From Rainbow Mountain
Glaciers? Isn’t that only in the North or South Pole? Peru has got one! Ausangate is 60 miles (100 km) SouthEast of Cusco and around 12 miles (20 km) off Rainbow Mountain. This glacier lies in the fifth highest mountain of Peru at 20,944 feet (6,384 meters).
FUN FACT: 71% of the tropical Andes glaciers are in Peru.
13. You Can Enjoy Hot Springs Close to Rainbow Mountain
In the Rainbow Mountain route, you’ll find many different things, but some of the coolest ones (not literally) are the Uchullucllo hot springs. These hot springs are lower than Rainbow Mountain—at 13,123 feet (4,000 meters)—and it’s 18 miles (30 km) away from a native town called Pitumarca. Pitumarca is 63 mi (102 km) away from Cuzco.
These hot springs are great to relieve muscular and joint pain as well as arthritis, and the temperature of the water is 79°F (26°C)—which will come in handy to alleviate the cold temperatures in the Peruvian Andes.
14. Visit Sacsayhuamán and Qenqo From Rainbow Mountain
What’s visiting Peru without tasting a little bit of its Inca culture? Sacsayhuamán is an Inca fortress that they started building back in the 15th century. This is one of the best and biggest things that the Inca empire built at its highest point.
If you happen to visit Peru during the winter (summer in the northern hemisphere) you might come across the Inti Raymi, the winter solstice festival that Incas celebrate every June 24th.
From Sacsayhuamán you can also visit Qenqo, which is one of the most important sanctuaries that the Incas had, although scientists still don’t quite know what they used it for, they classified it as an amphitheater.
Before going back to Cuzco or before leaving to hike in Rainbow Mountain, visiting these two places is advisable, since they’re just 1 mile (2 km) away from Cuzco and you can book a 4-hour tour to check them out!
FUN FACT: Sacsayhuamán comes from Quechua and it means “satisfied” (saqsay) and “hawk” (waman). Qenqo comes from the Quechua word Q’inqu which means “maze” or “labyrinth.”
15. There’s Another Rainbow Mountain
Rainbow Mountain (Vinicunca) is an extraordinary place, but just 12 miles (20 km) south of it, there’s another Rainbow Mountain, or better yet, mountain range, called Palccoyo.
To reach Palccoyo you’ll need around 40 minutes to 1 hour, you’ll see towns and an Inca bridge and even a temple! The best part of Palccoyo is that, besides it being actually three mountains, people don’t know it as much as Rainbow Mountain (Vinicunca), so if having many tourists around you isn’t your cup of tea, you can visit Palccoyo instead, and take awesome photos from the Rainbow Mountain range!.
Learn Spanish Before Visiting Rainbow Mountain
Peru, and specifically Rainbow Mountain are beautiful places, like something out of a fairytale. Visiting Rainbow Mountain, Palccoyo, Qenqo, and the Uchullucllo hot springs has got to be an amazing experience. But before doing so, sign up for a free Spanish class today.
Learning Spanish won’t only help you in your trip to Rainbow Mountain in Peru, but it will open the door to other 20 countries that speak Spanish and more than 53 million people who speak it solely in the U.S.
If you like your free class, Homeschool Spanish Academy offers flexible schedules, live instruction, earned high school credit, and payment options to make sure that everyone can learn Spanish!
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