Peru’s Rainbow Mountain: A Realistic Assessment

On July 6 a subgroup of our travelers—those with an adventurous spirit and good hiking legs—will take a day trip to Vinicunca, the mountain often referred to a s Peru’s Rainbow Mountain. I am writing this post to give what I believe to be a realistic assessment of the trek because there are conflicting assessments available online, and unscrupulous tour managers sometimes overstate what is to be found at the sites they want to promote.

A quick Google search will reveal some impressive looking pictures of Vinicunca, but many appear to be “enhanced” using photo editing software. Contrast the various images in the video below to get a sample of what I mean.

The vibrant colors in some of the most extreme images should not be your reason for participating in this hike. At over 14,000 feet (17,060 at the peak), the air is thin and it can be quite cold. You should attempt this trek if you enjoy a bit of physical exertion and would like to view the Andes from a very high vantage point.

Depending on the weather, we are likely see this:

and not this:

With enough snow and an overcast sky, we might even see a scene that appears to be in black and white. Google the location, and you can see some images uploaded by people under such weather conditions.

So why do it? I will make the trek because I have been to other peaks in the Andes and it’s always been a magical experience. None of the ones I’ve visited have had the unique physical characteristics of Vinicunca, but there’s something about being at that altitude that is difficult to describe. I hope to be there on a clear day, but I’m willing to take the risk knowing that even if the weather is not what I want, and the view is not as spectacular as some pictures make it look, the hike will be worth the effort, and I’ll be better for the effort. I’ll bring back pictures of my own to compare with the ones online.

There is a $40 additional charge for the trek to Vinicunca on foot, $70 with a pack horse. I would love to have you join me.

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