The mountain of 7 colors is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Cusco. It is also called Cerro Colorado, Rainbow Mountain or simply Vinicunca, the name of the mountain where it is located. To get there, you must take a five-kilometer walk through mountainous landscapes above 5,000 meters above sea level. The prize is an incredible landscape of various colors, as there are only in very few places in the world.
The impressive Vinicunca
Vinicunca is one of the most surprising natural landscapes in Peru. It is located near the snowy Ausangate, 138 kilometers by road south of the city of Cusco. It belongs to the so-called Cordillera del Vilcanota, at about 5,200 meters above sea level.
Vinicunca is the second most visited tourist destination in Cusco. The first is Machu Picchu. Every day there are hundreds of tourists who arrive there overcoming the difficult geography. After an arduous walk, you reach the mountain of the 7 colors, an incredible landscape product of the soil full of minerals.
The colors and their respective minerals are:
- Pink (a product of red clay with sand and mud).
- The whitish (product of quartz sandstone).
- Red (clay product).
- Green (ferrous clay product with magnesium).
- The brown (product of the fanglomerate with magnesium rock).
- Mustard (product of calcareous sandstones).
The Vinicunca is a recent tourist attraction. In 2015 the first photos of the mountain were published. The walkers who were heading to the snowy Ausangate were impressed with this mountainous landscape. Apparently the rainbow mountain was covered in snow for millions of years until (probably due to global warming) it revealed its true image only at the beginning of the 21st century.
Today it is one of the best tourist attractions in Peru. It stands out for its beautiful mountainous landscape of varied colors as well as the challenging hike near the immense snow-capped Ausangate.
The snowy Ausangate, the highest in Cusco
The snow-capped Ausangate is the highest snow-capped in the entire Cusco region. Its top reaches 6,384 meters above sea level. For the Incas, he was an ‘Apu’ or god of great respect who decided on the future of people.
The Vinicunca is one of the mountains that make up the Cordillera del Vilcanota, whose highest peak is precisely the snowy Ausangate. These landscapes exceed 5 thousand meters of elevation. Due to this, it is possible to suffer agitation when breathing due to the low atmospheric pressure and the low level of oxygen in the environment.
Due to the winding geography of Ausangate, it is impossible to build a road that leads directly to the 7-color mountain. The only option is to complete the end of the road through an arduous 5-kilometer walk until reaching Vinicunca.
The trip to the mountain 7 colors
The trip to the 7 colors mountain follows the following route: Cusco – Cusipata – Pampachiri – Vinicunca.
If you travel with a tour organized by a tourism agency, transportation will take you directly to Pampachiri. From there you must make the five kilometer walk until you reach Vinicunca.
If you travel on your own, you must do each section with public transport.
The section from Cusco to Cusipata can be done with the public transport that departs from Huayruropata street in the city of Cusco.
The section from Cusipata to Pampachiri can be done in a taxi from the main square of the town of Cusipata.
The last section from Pampachiri to Vinicunca must also be done on foot.
If the tourist has difficulty completing the walk, an excellent option is to hire a horse guided by a local muleteer. The transfer by horse has an average cost of 30 dollars.
The return leg to Cusco follows the same route as the outward journey.
The price of the entrance ticket to Vinicunca is 10 Peruvian soles.
The climate in the mountains
Vinicunca has a very cold climate. The temperature varies from 12ºC. in the day up to -5ºC. at night.
The rainy season occurs from November to April (especially in January, February and March). The dry season occurs from May to October.
Heavy snow can occur any day of the year. However, they are more frequent during the rainy season. When the snow and rain are very intense, the 7-color mountain can be filled with a whiteness that prevents us from observing its scenic beauty.
For many specialists, from May to August are the best days to visit Vinicunca.
Other similar tourist attractions
The 7-color mountain is not the only scenic attraction found in the Cordillera del Vilcanota. During the trip you can also enjoy these incredible places:
- The mountain of Palcoyo – Just 20 kilometers further south of Vinicunca, is this mountain. Its colors are ocher and red with green stripes, product of the mineral soils of the place. Although these are not as intense as the 7-color mountain, the walk to get there is only 2 kilometers (1 hour of walking). In addition, the Palcoyo mountain does not receive as many visitors as the Vinicunca. This offers the opportunity to live a freer experience on the site.
- The red valley of Pitumarca – This valley of red hills resembles the planet Mars. It is located just 7 kilometers from the Cusco district of Pitumarca. Its soil has clay, sand and mud which create a reddish landscape of great beauty. The place is located at 5,020 meters above sea level, which makes it difficult to walk. However, this is less intense compared to the route to Vinicunca.
- The red river – During the rainy season in Cusco (January, February and March) the waters of one of the rivers that flow from the famous Vilcanota turn red . The reason is the soil full of clay and other minerals from the high hills that surround it. Local people call it ‘Yawar mayu’, a Quechua word that means ‘red river’. It is one of the most fascinating spectacular in the region. It is located 2 hours from the town of Pitumarca.
More important information
Along the route that leads to Vinicunca, different species of animals can be seen. The llamas and alpacas stand out, the most abundant camelids in the place. Along the route the most abundant plant is the icchu, the Andean grass that can live in high mountain geographies.
The 1-day tours of the Vinicunca have an average cost of 30 dollars per person. They include: transportation, breakfast, lunch, tour guide and entrance fee. Tours do not include transportation on horseback (optional).
The trip to Vinicunca is recommended for people in good physical condition or who like sports and are in good health. It is not recommended for children under 5 years of age or adults over 65 years of age with poor physical condition.
The high Andean geography in which the mountain is located requires prior acclimatization. It is recommended to spend 1 or 2 days before in the city of Cusco. It is also advisable to bring: good shoes, a cap (or hat), comfortable clothing, rehydrating drinks, snacks, a poncho in case of rain and optionally personal oxygen in a bottle.