Trekking to a mountain peak 17,000 or so feet above sea level is a daunting adventure, but seeing Rainbow Mountain (aka Vinicunca) in person makes the hard work and lack of oxygen worth it.
To take on Peru's wild landscapes and make it to the peak of Rainbow Mountain safely, it is best to arrange a guided tour from Cusco. The trailhead is located three hours outside of the city, and tours are often cheapest when booked last minute upon arrival. You will find a variety of agencies offering the trek, however I splurged a bit and arranged a one-day tour through Flashpacker Connect.
Depending on which tour you book, you're likely going to get picked up anywhere between 2:15 AM and 4:00 AM. My tour included a delicious breakfast cooked by a local not far from the start of the trail. When you do arrive, you can expect to see some beautiful early morning scenery and everyday life.
While Rainbow Mountain is the ultimate goal and reward of the trek, the glaciers you see along the route are arguably just as impressive.
As a result of the altitude, maintaining a slow and steady pace is key. The trek is 12 kilometers or 7.5 miles, and if your fitness level isn't exactly where you'd like it to be, don't worry- horses are available along the trail to give you a ride if you need a lift. No matter how you get there, nothing can prepare you for these stunning views:
Characterized by its colorful streaks, Rainbow Mountain is a product of natural mineral deposits. The colors you'll see include turquoise, gold, lavender and a deep red. That's not all you'll see, however. Once you reach the peak, you'll be greeted with sweeping 360 degree views of the surrounding landscapes, including this glacier view.
When you're finished, the trek back is much more relaxed, and the scenery that you saw early in the morning takes on a whole different look in the afternoon light.
If you decide to make the trip to Rainbow Mountain, it is sure to be a major highlight of any trip to Peru.