The Vinicunca, also known as the Rainbow Mountain, is no longer a secret tucked in the central Andes. It has become an alternative attraction to the famed Machu Picchu citadel, and nowadays you can find day tours to visit this geological wonder. In fact, it’s becoming one of the top activities to do while in Cusco.
Travelers should be physically prepared to climb up to 17,000 feet above sea level – a difficult task for inexperienced hikers who are short on time and want to see it all in a day. It is recommended travelers take longer tours to acclimatize and to also visit other destinations like Ausangate mountain, local communities, and to take a moment to appreciate the wildlife in order to get the best out of the trip.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
The Rainbow Mountain is located in the Vilcanota range, also home to the majestic Ausangate. The minerals in the Rainbow Mountain caused the sandstones to acquire a red rust-like color that contrasts the yellow, maroon and turquoise stripes, caused by the presence of other minerals combined with weathering; truly a geological wonder. Locals say that the Rainbow Mountain used to be covered in glaciers that melted due to global warming, thus its late touristic discovery.
Getting to the top of the Rainbow mountain involves a steep hike that could be extremely challenging for individuals who are not fully acclimatized to the altitude. It’s recommended you spend at least a couple of days in Cusco prior to the excursion. Some local tour companies offer a day trip that leaves Cusco by bus at 4AM and arrives four hours later to the towns of Japura or Chillca, situated at the bottom of the mountain. From there you’ll hike five miles for about two hours until you reach the peak. It sounds easy, but it’s actually so difficult due to the elevation (17,000 feet) that locals rent horses for 150 soles (around US$45) to take you and your gear up the mountain.
The higher elevation also means colder, nearly freezing temperatures, so be prepared. If you decide to take a one-day tour, make sure to wear very warm clothes. Also bring coca leaves to fight off altitude sickness and carry the minimum gear possible to ease the hike. There is also a chance that you’ll meet many groups of tourists by the time you arrive at the mountain, which can be some time before noon.
A full day trip might cost from US$50–$70 but includes transportation, a professional guide, a meal and snacks, trekking sticks and first aid in the unlikely case it’s needed. It’s a quick visit that may leave you wanting more, but make sure your tour offers a guide since some cheaper programs only include a ride to the bottom of the mountain. If you don’t want to be rushed and are looking for a more relaxed and unique experience, you can sign up for a multi-day private tour that guarantees a much more spiritual and cultural adventure.
Most private tours last six days because, aside from visiting the Rainbow Mountain, you get to hike around the Ausangate, one of the Incas’ holiest mountains. In those six days, you’ll tour the Ausangate, where you’ll see ice caverns, the mountain’s glaciers, little-known Andean landscapes and crystal-clear lagoons you can swim in. You also get to experience life with natives who are llama herders, visit ancient hot springs and see animals like condors, foxes and the endangered vicuñas.
These trips gradually take you up the Vilcanota mountain range to help you acclimatize to the elevation, and include full meals, water, tents, guidance and horses to help you with the trekking. A tour like this could cost around $600 depending on how many travelers are in your group. Also, you can request a local curandero (local shaman) for a spiritual healing in the presence of the Ausangate mountain.
Whether you choose the full day trip or the six-day adventure, visiting the Vilcanota mountain range means traveling to the cosmic world of the Andes, an area mostly unexplored that would be a stunning addition to anyone’s bucket list.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.