Explore the Rainbow Mountains of Peru
Destinations South America

Explore the Rainbow Mountains of Peru

Rainbow Mountains of Peru

Add the Rainbow Mountains to Your Bucket List. Peru is Not Just Machu Picchu.

Cusco is a beautiful colonial city resting on the foundations of Inca temples and palaces. After visiting Machu Picchu people often wonder about what to do in Cusco that does not include Inca ruins. At some point the archaeological and historical richness of this area becomes repetitive. One can only hear so much of the history of the Inca and the clash with Spaniards. In the last couple of years, the secret of the mountains has been revealed. Partly due to the effect of global warming in the melting of the Andean glaciers and partly by the local people wanting to share their fabulous landscape.

Rainbow Mountains of Peru

Rainbow Mountains of Peru

In the southern mountains of the Vilcanota mountain range of Cusco, the home of the Ausangate mountain, (6384 m / 20,945 ft) the fifth highest mountain of Peru and center of the most significant syncretic religious celebration of the Andes, the Q’oillority pilgrimage. There is a place called  Vinicunca, the location of the Rainbow Mountains, a place of unique beauty and overwhelming fascination. Here, the canvas of nature has been decorated with a masterpiece of geological formations. Nature’s artistic hand has sketched a treat for our eyes born from a palette of millions of years of constant geological transformations. Geology in states that “The area has four major geological features, the Andean uplift formed by Granites, the hanging glaciers and glacial erosional valleys, the Permian formation with its singular colors: red, ochre, blue and turquoise and the Cretaceous, limestone forests.” This wonderful piece of nature contrasts with the incredibly blue Andean sky that serves as a magnificent background and turns it into a landscape of psychedelic proportions.

Peru Image of People

 To get to this natural wonder, one must walk from the nearby village of Quesuno (4,326 m / 14,189 ft.), a typical Andean village made up of llama and alpaca herders, people who have kept their most important means of survival since pre-Columbian times. Some of the women and men in these villages wear eye-catching multi-coloured outfits that serve as a prelude to what one is going to see at Vinicunca. These herders have a very intrinsic relationship with the mountain gods or “Apus”, to whom they pledge submission and reverence. Ausangate mountain is the most important mountain god in this area, It is in charge of safeguarding the livelihood of these people and their herds of animals. The trail to Vinicunca is quite challenging; You will have to climb a steep ascent of 5 miles / 8km from Quesuno to the highest point of the Vinicunca mountains (5,020 m / 16,466 ft). Make sure that you are properly acclimated to do this hike, it is literally a breath-taking destination. The hike is strenuous, you will have to take many stops. The altitude of this place is much higher than it is at Death Woman’s pass on the Inca trail. But if you take the necessary precautions to get there, then there shouldn’t be any problem at all. Finally, You will have to make you descent by the same route you used to get there. 

Rainbow Mountains of Peru

Rainbow Mountains of Peru

The best time to go to there is during the winter in the southern hemisphere (summer for people in the US). If you are lucky enough to be there in May, during the celebrations of the pilgrimage to Q’oilloritti, then you will be a witness of the reverence that Andean people pay to their mountain gods. This is a one of a kind celebration.

The Rainbow mountain Ausangate trek is a hikers’ paradise if you are looking for a multi-day activity. No matter how or when you decide to go there, this place is surely one thing to add to your bucket list.

Miguel Angel Gongora, March 3rd, 2017

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