Sometimes Mother Nature produces a display of color so vibrant and so varied, that it seems almost impossible that it could have occurred naturally. Yet as your eyes fall upon the beauty of Peru´s Rainbow Mountains (known locally as Vinicunca) and Red Valley you are quite literally looking at millions of years of geological history and a natural wonder seen almost nowhere else on Earth.
By far the best way to experience the stunning vistas of Vinicunca is via the Cusipata trail. This challenging but spectacular trail winds through remote Andean villages with their beautiful adobe style houses, passes herds of wild Llama grazing on the mountainside, and continually rewards us with views of the magnificent Ausangate Glacier. Standing at over 6,300m (20,900ft) this is the highest mountain in the Cusco region and is considered a holy mountain (or mountain spirit) by the local Peruvians. Ausangate is the deity of Cusco and since pre-Inca times has been a place of worship and offerings, a tradition that still continues today.
Most trips that give such unparalleled access to the Rainbow Mountains require a multi-day trek, but we have changed that with this itinerary; designing a spectacular, but challenging hike that can be taken as a day trip from Cusco!.
With uninterrupted beauty and solitude, this is a trip for trekkers who love a true outdoor adventure, but are on a tight schedule. So why not allow us to take you on an inspiring and memorable trip, to one of Mother Nature’s true wonders.
To make the most of our time on the trail and at the rainbow mountain, our day will start before dawn. Collecting you from your Cusco hotel at around 4:00am we make a 3-hour drive through the South Valley to the trail head at Llacto(4,638m / 15,216 ft). Our transportation is comfortable though, and we provide blankets for those who want to take the opportunity for a little more sleep. Upon reaching the Cusipata village (3,300m/10,826ft), we provide a full continental breakfast, perfect fuel for the hiking ahead.
Our trek beings along a meandering path in the foothills of the magnificent Andes. As dawn continues to break around us, the surrounding herds of Alpacas and Llamas will be waking too and our paths often cross along the way.
The whole area is home to many Fincas (local farms) and there will be opportunities to see traditional Quechua people working the land as they have generations. The surrounding forests are home to some unique fauna and we may see Chinchillas or even Vicunas (a non-domesticated relative of the llama family found only in Peru) so make sure you have your cameras ready. As if all that wasn’t enough, the striking colours of the red mountains are all around us, and provide a spectacular backdrop for this portion of the hike.
After making a challenging ascent for around 1 hour we reach the magnificent Rainbow Mountain of Vinicunca (5,020 m / 16,466 ft). ¡No photoshop or Instagram filters are required here! This awesome display of colour is 100% natural, and completely breathtaking.
Taking our time at the summit to take pictures, explore the area or just take in the spectacular views we then make a short 15-minute walk to the Red Valley lookout point, a tranquil and beautiful spot amongst the crimson rocks that has magnificent views across the valley.
Your guide will let you know when it is time to return, and we hike downhill the way we came for around 45 minutes. In a sense though this is an altogether different hike as we take in the views that were behind us on our ascent.
Reaching the trailhead we drive 40 minutes to a local restaurant at Cusipata village where a delicious lunch will be waiting for us.
Finally it’s just a 2 hour drive back to Cusco. We drop you off at your Cusco hotel around 4pm, weary but with incredible memories of a very unique day.