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6 BEST Rainbow Mountain Tours from Cusco: Which One to Book

6 BEST Rainbow Mountain Tours from Cusco: Which One to Book

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So you’ve seen the beautiful pictures of Rainbow Mountain all over social media, but now you want to see it in person- well we’ve got you covered!

We have actually hiked Rainbow Mountain twice! That’s right, after not being prepared the first time and running into some bad weather (we couldn’t see a thing!), we decided we had to do it again. And boy are we glad we did!

We learned the hard way that Rainbow Mountain is a challenging hike and the best way to experience it is on a tour with a reputable company. That’s why we’ve gone ahead and narrowed down the absolute best tours available from Cusco for every type of traveler to make sure you have an amazing time!

Quick Pick: Our Favorite Tour

If you don’t have time to read the whole article, don’t worry! You can’t go wrong booking this early morning rainbow mountain tour.

This full-day tour starts bright and early at 3 am to get you to the mountain first. This means you will beat the crowds and have the mountain all to yourself! Plus, we love that this tour provides oxygen to anyone who is feeling the effects of altitude sickness. It really helps to make the experience better – trust me!

This tour conveniently departs daily throughout the year and even has free 24-hour cancellation, so if your plans change you can always cancel for a full refund. It is one of the most affordable tours at only $49 USD per person which includes your roundtrip transportation, an informative guide, breakfast, a lunch buffet, and park entrance fees – does it get any better than that?

The BEST Rainbow Mountain Tours

1. Rainbow Mountain Afternoon Climbing Tour

Daniel and Bailey look over Rainbow Mountain in Peru
So beautiful!

This full-day rainbow mountain tour is unique because it departs later than all of the other tours on this list at 8 am. This gets you to the mountain in the afternoon, after all of the other morning groups have hiked, allowing you to have the mountain all to yourself!

This small group tour starts with pick-up from your Cusco hotel where you will drive for around 3 hours to the base of Rainbow Mountain to start the hike. Even though the hike is only 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) long, it feels much longer due to the high elevation – I was definitely struggling a bit and I wasn’t the only one.

Don’t let this deter you though, because the hike is absolutely gorgeous and the views you get at the top are well worth it! The guides on this tour were wonderful, they took it nice and slow and were constantly checking in on us and making sure everyone was ok. They also provided walking sticks which was a big help!

If you want to ride a horse up the mountain rather than hiking, you can hire one on the day for 70 soles, which is roughly $19 USD. You’ll have to pay for this in cash on the day of, so it’s not guaranteed that you’ll get a horse, but since the hike itself starts after peak hours have ended, you should be fine. 

This highly-rated tour (check out all of the 5-star reviews here!) departs daily year-round and costs $89 USD per person which includes hotel pick-up in Cusco, transportation to Rainbow Mountian, lunch, snacks, walking sticks, and your guide. It does not include the entrance fee to the mountain, so make sure you have 30 soles in cash on the day of to pay this fee!

2. Early Morning Rainbow Mountain Tour 

A man stands at the summit of Vinicunca or Rainbow Mountain
The classic Rainbow Mountain photo. There are people at the top that you can get the clothes from!

They say that the early bird gets the worm and that’s certainly true when it comes to Rainbow Mountain!

This early morning full-day tour departs at 3 am in order to get to the mountain first and beat the crowds. Even though the pick-up time was early, it was worth it as we got there before everyone else and took in the spectacular clear morning views up on the mountain. Plus, we got to sleep a bit more on the drive there, which helped!

Our guide really made the hike special. We learned so much about the geography of the area and saw many animals including South American camelids! This tour even brings oxygen along on the hike to help if anyone is suffering from altitude sickness which was definitely beneficial.

After hiking 1.5 hours to the top of Rainbow Mountain there is an option to walk a bit further to the Red Valley Reserve Area, which we highly recommend. It costs an extra 20 soles ($5 USD) in cash to visit, but the views of the sprawling Red Valley are definitely worth it!

This tour only costs $49 USD which includes hotel pick-up, transportation, breakfast, buffet lunch, entrance fees (except for Red Valley), and your guide. We think this is a bargain for everything that you get and we would do it again in a heartbeat! It departs daily, but is a very popular tour so make sure to book in advance.

3. Full-Day Rainbow Mountain Budget Tour

The summit of Vinicunca or Rainbow Mountain
I got altitude sickness but wow was it worth it!

This full-day tour to Rainbow Mountian is basically the same as the one above, except it leaves Cusco a bit later around 4:30 am. This means you get to sleep in a bit longer, but also means you may be arriving at the mountain around the same time as other tour groups, making the mountain more crowded and busy.

What we like most about this tour is that it’s a small group with no more than 15 people. This means you get more of an intimate group experience and can ask the guides tons of questions along the way!

We also love that this tour stops by a local restaurant for a tasty breakfast and lunch so you can fuel up before the hike, and then replenish afterward.

For only $44 USD, this is the cheapest tour on this list and is great if you’re on a budget. With that being said, it doesn’t include some of the other extras that the other tours do such as walking sticks and the additional hike to Red Valley. It does include hotel pick up, transportation, breakfast, lunch, entrance fees, and your guide though, which we think is a great deal!

4. Rainbow Mountain Private Tour 

Bailey poses for a photo on the way up Rainbow Mountain
Although hard, I still found time to smile!

If you’ve got a little more flexibility in your budget, this private tour is the way to go. You’ll get your own dedicated guide and transport, as well as a quality Rainbow Mountain experience without having to share it with a group of strangers!

We love doing private tours because it saves so much time. You don’t have to wait around for other tour guests and can do things at your own pace – which is especially important when hiking!

One of the best things about this tour is that the price includes an oxygen tank, which is a real lifesaver if you’re struggling with the altitude. Most people who hike Rainbow Mountain struggle with altitude sickness, so having an oxygen tank on hand makes the day so much more comfortable and enjoyable.

As well as the extra oxygen, the price includes private transportation, unlimited bottles of water, breakfast, lunch, a first aid kit, and your dedicated guide. It also includes all entrance fees, even to the beautiful Red Valley!

The tour costs $130 USD per person and, while that might seem like a lot, it’s actually pretty good value when you consider everything that’s included. And when you book with Viator, you can reserve your spot in advance and not have to pay anything until just before your tour starts – which is so helpful when budgeting for a trip!

5. Rainbow Mountain Horseback Tour 

A worker leads a donkey up Rainbow Mountain in Peru
You can ride a donkey to the top and recently they have started ATV tours too.

Riding a horse up Rainbow Mountain is a great option if you want to take it easy on the hike. You’ll be able to enjoy the scenery while your four-legged friend does all the work!

This is a great option that I honestly wish I would have done on my tours to Rainbow Mountain. Daniel and I have done many hikes all over the world, but this one was no easy feat! The mountain’s base altitude is 4,326 meters (14,189 feet) and the peak is 5,200 meters (17,060 feet) above sea level. To put that into perspective, Rainbow Mountain is taller than any mountain in North America and its peak has roughly the same altitude as Mount Everest’s base camp!

This means altitude sickness is common, and it can make hiking up to Rainbow Mountain very difficult. Many people on our tour were short of breath and I had a horrible headache. I think riding a horse up the mountain would make the experience a lot more enjoyable for many people.

Sure, if you go with another tour you can try and hire a horse at the bottom of the mountain, but they are first come first serve meaning you aren’t guaranteed to get one once you’re there. But, this tour makes sure you are guaranteed a horse which is a huge bonus!

It costs $120 USD and includes hotel pick-up/drop-off, transportation, breakfast, lunch, and your guide. The only extras you’ll need to fork out for are drinks and the entrance fee of 25 soles (roughly $7 USD). 

Why We Book Tours with Viator

Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! We almost always book our tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:

  • Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
  • Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
  • Lowest price guarantee – If you happen to find the same tour at a lower price elsewhere, Viator will refund you the price difference.
  • Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
  • Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.

Check out the Viator website here! Or, for more info, read our detailed review about Viator here.

6. Rainbow Mountain ATV Tour 

A close up of the colors of Rainbow Mountain in Peru
This is a close-up of the colors which can change depending on how dry the soil is.

If you’re looking for an adrenaline-fueled Rainbow Mountain experience, or simply a less physically demanding one, then this ATV tour is for you!

This tour has an early start and will pick you up from your Cusco hotel around 3:30 am. This is great though because you will get to the top of the mountain earlier than most people, meaning you will get unobstructed views and pictures without other tourists in the way!

You will get to ride an ATV for about an hour taking in the spectacular mountain views before getting on the back of a motorcycle and being taken to the top of the mountain. From here it is only a short 5-minute walk to the Rainbow Mountain viewing area.

It costs $85 USD and includes breakfast and lunch to keep you fueled for the busy day. Because you can cover more ground, you’ll also get to see some cool sights like bridges dating back to Inca times and llamas and alpacas grazing in the local area. Just make sure to bring some cash for the mountain entrance fee (25 soles/$7 USD) and the motorcycle ride (80 soles/$21 USD).

We think this is the perfect tour for any adventurous travelers. It runs daily, but make sure to book in advance because it fills up quickly – if you don’t believe us, just check the hundreds of 5-star reviews here!

Related Read: If you’re looking for a multi-day adventure, try the Salkantay Trek to get to Machu Picchu with this epic trekking tour!

About Rainbow Mountain

Bailey takes a photo with Rainbow Mountain in the background
Finally at the top!
Bailey on the hike up to Rainbow Mountain
We had so much fun!

Rainbow Mountain is located in the Ausangate massif, which is part of the Andes mountain range. It is easily reached on a day tour from Cusco, which is 82 kilometers (51 miles) away (about 3 hours by vehicle).

Rainbow Mountain is known by several names, including Vinicunca, Winikunka, and Montaña de Siete Colores.  Its beautiful rainbow colors are the result of different types of minerals in the earth, such as iron, copper, and manganese. In Peruvian culture, Rainbow Mountain symbolizes masculinity and fertility and is considered to be a very sacred place that protects the local villages from evil. 

The Rainbow Mountain Trail is 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) long which may not sound very far but trust me, it feels about 5 times as far when you’re actually doing the hike thanks to the altitude – the peak of the mountain is 5,200 meters (17,100 ft) above sea level!

Most people find the Rainbow Mountain Trail to be pretty challenging. The hike itself takes around 2 hours and has an elevation gain of 20%, so it’s no walk in the park, but it’s not impossible, either. If you have a moderate level of fitness you should be fine! Plus, most of the tours mentioned above will bring oxygen along to help anyone who is struggling with altitude sickness.

Pro Tip: We recommend doing the Rainbow Mountain hike after you’ve already been in Cusco for a few days. This helps you to acclimate to a higher elevation before the hike, reducing your chance of getting sick!

When is the best time to visit Rainbow Mountain? 

A llama at Rainbow Mountain in Peru
The less snow, the better – as we found out

It’s best to hike Rainbow Mountain during Cusco’s dry season because, let’s be honest, no one wants to do a strenuous hike in the rain (or snow!).

The dry season falls between April and November, with Rainbow Mountain being at its busiest (and therefore most crowded) during June, July, and August. So if you visit between April and May or September and November, you’ll get the best of both worlds: fewer crowds and better weather. 

During the rainy season, the trail can be wet and muddy, making the hike even more difficult. Visibility is also often poor during this time, meaning that you get relatively little reward for all of your effort. There are also sometimes mudslides that block the road, making it impossible to reach Rainbow Mountain at all. 

To avoid the crowds, try to go on a weekday if possible, and avoid hiking during midday. Hiking between 7-9 am, or after 2 pm will help you to avoid the crowds and make the most of your time on the mountain. 

Related Read: Another awesome hike in Peru is in the Colca Canyon near Arequipa – read all about it!

How to prepare for the Rainbow Mountain trek?

View of the colorful peaks of Rainbow Mountain near Cusco Peru also known as Vinicunca.

If you’re planning any kind of trekking in Peru, it’s SO important to be prepared for the often long day ahead of you.

With Rainbow Mountain’s high altitude, you’ll definitely need some warm clothes because the temperature drops significantly as you ascend. It’s a good plan to dress in layers so you can take some off after you return to lower altitudes. 

Gloves are also a good idea since it can be very windy at the top of Rainbow Mountain. A hat or beanie will also help keep you warm.  Hiking boots are a must, as the terrain is quite rocky. Your usual gym sneakers or running shoes won’t cut it for this trek. 

Some tours include hiking poles but, if not, it’s worth bringing your own as they can really help with the steep inclines. You should also bring plenty of water with you, although tours will often provide this. You can buy special insulated water bottles that will keep your water nice and cool for you. 

If you have any altitude sickness medication, this can help ease any uncomfortable symptoms on the day of the hike. But make sure to follow the instructions, because you usually have to start taking it a couple of days beforehand.

Finally, take some cash with you for tips, snacks, pictures at the top, and last-minute horse rentals. You can’t use your card on Rainbow Mountain, so make sure you’re prepared! 

Is Rainbow Mountain worth visiting? 

Scenic shot of the mountains around Rainbow Mountain
The entire area is beautiful not just the Rainbow Mountains!

100% yes!

There’s really nowhere quite like Rainbow Mountain in Peru. The hike is an amazing experience that you’ll remember forever, and even though it’s a bit of a challenge, it’s definitely worth it. 

The striped earth, the jaw-dropping views, and the sense of achievement you’ll feel when you reach the top make Rainbow Mountain one of the highlights of any trip to Peru. The views from the top are breathtaking, and it’s an incredible feeling to have accomplished something so challenging. 

Even if Rainbow Mountain is a bit out of your comfort zone, I urge you to give it a go – you won’t regret it! 

Related Read: If you’re preparing for a trip to this South American country, we have a great Peru Travel Guide to get you started!

Other EPIC Activities to do in Cusco

The Sacsayhuamán Fortress in Cusco, Peru
Sacsayhuamán Fortress is so cool to see, the stonework is fantastic!
  • Visit Machu Picchu – One of the most iconic places in Peru, you can’t come all this way without visiting Machu Picchu. These incredible ruins are among the New Seven Wonders of the World with more than 150 stone buildings hidden away amongst the mountains. Take the most famous way to get here by hiking the Inca Trail. Or try this train tour that takes you through the mountains before you enjoy a guided tour of the ruins.
  • See the Sacsayhuamán Fortress – This is the largest structure ever built by the Incas! It was constructed completely by hand in the 15th Century – long before machines could help. The stonework here is incredible with some stones weighing 100 tons. Join this half-day tour to see the fortress and get a bonus sightseeing tour around Cusco’s main square including a peek inside Cusco Cathedral to see the oldest surviving painting in the city.
  • Wander around Cusco – The charm of this city is in its history as you walk down narrow, cobblestone streets to some pretty fascinating places. Don’t wander aimlessly though (and potentially miss out on what’s all around you!). Instead, get a feel for the city with a sightseeing tour that will take you to the colorful stalls at the local market and the famous Twelve-Angled Stone. Or if you like to snack, and sightsee at the same time a walking food tour of Cusco lets you meet local street food vendors and taste their delicious meals.
  • Take photos at Salineras de Maras – For some of the most amazing photographs from your time in Peru, check out these thousands of natural salt wells spread across the side of the valley. They formed over 110 million years ago and are still maintained today by local miners who collect and sell the salt. The best way to see Salineras de Maras is on a guided tour from Cusco, which also includes stops in the stunning Sacred Valley.
  • Make chocolate – If you have a sweet tooth (like me!), a visit to the Chocolate Museum in Cusco is a must. Peru is one of the top chocolate producers in the world, so take the chance to learn the history of cocoa up close. The Bean-to-Bar Chocolate Workshop lets you make your own chocolate creations that you’ll get to take home … if they make it that far without some sampling!

Related Read: If you want to see other top sites without worrying about logistics, check out our favorite tours from Cusco!

Thanks for reading!

Daniel and Bailey in snowy conditions up at rainbow Mountain
This was the view the first time we went! Thanks for reading!

Hiking Rainbow Mountain in Peru is one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences that you’ll be talking about for years to come. Hopefully, this guide has helped you find the perfect tour and has given you a good idea of what to expect!

If backpacking or visiting Peru is in the cards for you, that’s so exciting! It’s one of our favorite countries in the world, so we’ve got you covered. Browse around our other Peru blogs for ideas and inspiration and come back to leave a comment to tell us your travel stories!

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