The “Best” Rainbow Mountain in Peru

by cheapishtravels

So by now you’ve probably heard that there’s more than one rainbow mountain (or perhaps you’re just learning about it now) but which one is the one for you? We got the chance to visit both mountains during our most recent trip to Peru and have put together an in-depth comparison between the two (with some amazing photos as well)!

Rainbow Mountain

In this post we’ll talk about our experiences at both while we compare the overall wow factor, difficulty of the hike, how crowded it was, the price, and other perks that all lead up to making our decision on which mountain is “better”. The “original” Rainbow Mountain is also known as Vinicuna and the Alternate Rainbow Mountain in also known as Palccoyo, we’ll always use both names.

Overall Wow Factor/Prettiness

Winner: Rainbow Mountain (Vinicunca)

This one is definitely a personal preference, but especially if you get there first, Rainbow Mountain (Vinicunca) is honestly breathtaking. The colors are slightly more vibrant and pronounced on this, the mountain is higher, and since the hike is so hard you definitely feel like it’s a view well earned. We also got the chance to check out the Red Valley next to it (one of the perks of going with Flashpacker) so it was more than just that one peak.

Alternate rainbow mountain is also beautiful. Rather than it just being one peak at the end, you’re in a valley of multi-colored mountains and start to see the formations right in the parking lot. The overall experience lasts a lot longer, and there are a lot more options and angles for photos. The actual colors are slightly  more “dull” as the colors are more similar to each other, and the actual size of the mountain peaks are smaller, but it is definitely still beautiful and unique.

Difficulty/Accessibility

Winner: Alternate Rainbow Mountain (Palccoyo)

3-5 hour strenuous hike versus 1-2 hour leisurely walk.

No matter which way you decide to get to rainbow mountain (overnight or by day trip), the hike is intense. I’m in relatively good shape so I didn’t think the altitude would be much of a problem but I was wrong! Please make sure to take a few days getting used to the altitude in Cusco before attempting this climb, you will be out of breathe the entire time. If you do it by a day trip, the first part isn’t that bad as it’s mainly flat, but as soon as you get to the mountain the only option you have to get up is a STEEP climb. Don’t feel bad when you have to stop every few steps, you’ll get there eventually!

Alternate Rainbow Mountain was much easier. Our group actually had a group with 70-80 year old men, and they were able to do the trek with no problem. We went with Exploor Peru, and were accompanied by an alpaca. I actually had no problem even running a little bit on the mountain (where as I was dying during Rainbow Mountain).

Conclusion: if you’re in shape and want a physical challenge, Rainbow Mountain is for you! If you’re someone who is nervous about the hike and the altitude, and prefer something a bit less strenuous then Alternate Rainbow Mountain would be our pick for you!

Crowdedness

Winner: Alternate Rainbow Mountain (Palccoyo)

Alternate Rainbow Mountain Peru

This one is sooo important and I should preface this before I choose the winner. While alternate rainbow mountain has WAY less people (partly due to it only being “discovered” in 2017), it is possible to get to rainbow mountain before the crowds as well. We wrote a blog post here describing how we managed to be the FIRST on top of Rainbow Mountain. However, if you were to not go that route and take a regular day trip you will be greeted with thousands of other people crammed into the same little area trying to all get literally the same photo. It’s quite overwhelming, and honestly not worth it UNLESS you get there first. If you’re not willing to do that, then definitely head to alternate rainbow mountain for a much more pleasant experience.

Price

Winner: Alternate Rainbow Mountain (Palccoyo)

Alpaca Alt. Rainbow Mountain

While you can find cheaper day-trip alternatives to Rainbow Mountain (starting at around $50 for the most basic of tours), I don’t recommend doing those for the reason you’ll get there at the most crowded times and honestly won’t enjoy the experience that much. The best way to get there (and first) would be the overnight trek we did with FlashpackerConnect and cost around $350 for the two days, all meals, guides, transportation, and lodging, etc. It was absolutely worth the cost, and you got to see much more than I ever would’ve expected. You can read about our full experience with them here.

Alternate Rainbow mountain is much cheaper, and the tour we went with on Exploor Peru cost $69 for the day, and includes transportation, breakfast and lunch, a community visit, guide, and an accompanying alpaca. You can also go as part of a multi-day package deal. You can see all of the options on their site here.

Other things to consider..

Rainbow Mountain Peru

Weather – during the rainy season, it’s common to find snow on the mountains. If you’re in the shoulder season or it’s only snowing for a few days, the alternate rainbow mountain is slightly lower in altitude and actually has 3 different peaks, so the chance of seeing the mountains is much better. Rainbow Mountain will often be covered with snow, but occasionally one half will melt off if it is a sunny day as the sun heats it up.

Fitness Ability – While it is possible to get there on a day trip first, this depends more on your fitness level. If you are confident that you will be able to hold a good pace and are in really good shape and short on time, this is completely possible! However, I can’t stress enough that it is DEMANDING! Furthermore, there are horses waiting at Rainbow Mountain to bring you up if needed.

Ultimate Winner? Both!

It depends on you! If you’re looking for the ultimate hiking adventure and want to visit the iconic Rainbow Mountain we’d choose that! However, if you’re not that much into hiking and want to avoid the crowds and spend less money, Alternate Rainbow Mountain is the way to go!

Already visited? We’d love to hear about your experience! Let us know in the comments what you thought and your recommendations!

**Disclaimer. Both tours were complimentary from Exploor Peru and FlashpackerConnect, however all photos, opinions, and suggestions are completely are own and not altered in any way.

Follow us along our journey on Instagram at @simplysantos and @tomstrickland and watch on YouTube at @tomstricklandfilms.

To check out a full list of equipment we use to capture our moments check out our Camera Gear Page

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