Rainbow Mountain is very beautiful (see some photos below), and it only takes 1 day to see. I suggest going for the scenery even though there will be a lot of tourists and the hike is difficult because of the altitude. What I don’t know about is Red Valley. Keep reading for what I do know about it, but if you’re thinking about doing Rainbow Mountain, Google Red Valley first and see if it’s something you’d prefer to do.
We went with a random company, but there are nearly an unlimited number of companies offering to take you for around the same price of $20 for the day. This price includes your breakfast and lunch for the day, but it does not include the entrance fee to the park which is 10 Peruvian soles (about $1.50). The food isn’t anything special, but it’s cheap.
The tour company will pick you up sometime around 3:30 AM, but they have several others to pick up, so your time depends on whether you’re first or last. We were picked up at 3:30 AM, but then we spent nearly 2 hours picking up other people and getting gas before finally leaving the city at 5:15 AM.
The roads to get there are very curvy and unpaved, so if you get car sick, make sure you take something for motion sickness. While I’m at suggestions, don’t forget your sunscreen and toilet paper! There are porta potties along the way, but no toilet paper except for what you bring yourself.
We stopped for breakfast at 7:15 AM. It was one pancake that wasn’t cooked all the way, fruit, coffee that didn’t dissolve completely, tea, and a porridge drink that was good.
We got to the park at 9:15 AM, and I was first struck by how many tourists there were as I had only just recently heard about Rainbow Mountain, but it’s a cheap activity, so I guess that makes sense. It’s still worthwhile to go though.
The guide only spoke Spanish which we thought was fine at first, but when he told us what time to be back down, he said 12:45 PM in Spanish and 2:45 PM in English. There was so much confusion over the time that at the top, we were told by someone else that we needed to be back down at 1:30 PM.
You start the hike at 4,477 meters (14,688 feet) and end at 5,009 meters (16,434 feet). If you are not used to the altitude, it may make it very difficult to breathe. You’ll need to hike very slowly so that you don’t black out (like Colin almost did at one point). Some people also get very sick and throw up from the altitude (thank goodness, we did not). Our tour supposedly included oxygen, but what this actually meant was that if (and that’s a big if) you could find the guide when you needed the oxygen, then he was carrying a tiny canister for the entire bus to use.
You can pay extra for a horse to ride to the top, but I’m not a fan of riding horses if I don’t know how well they’re being cared for. This also meant there is horse shit everywhere, and the smell is sometimes overwhelming. It would have been a lot easier to ride a horse though because of the altitude.
It took us almost 2 hours to climb to the top, and when we got up, the place was swarming with tourists. You can get the typical “Rainbow Mountain” picture here to your left:
BUT if you walk past where all the tourists are taking their pictures, you’ll get an even more spectacular view with nearly no tourists:
Apparently, this leads you to Red Valley. There were Peruvian women standing at the entrance to prevent us from entering without paying the 5 Peruvian soles entrance fee (less than $1), but since we were so confused about what time we were supposed to be down, we didn’t enter.
We spent an hour taking photos of Rainbow Mountain and right outside Red Valley, and then we turned around to book it down the mountain. We got down the mountain at 1:15 PM, but like I said before, there was a lot of confusion on the time. We waited for an hour and a half for the last people to trickle down at 2:45 PM (even though we learned later that we were all supposed to be back at 12:45 PM).
We had lunch at 3:45 PM; we were back on the road by 4:30 PM; and we were back in Cusco at 7:15 PM. Even though they picked us up at the hostel, they just drop everyone wherever they feel like it.
See our Peru photos here.
Hi, I'm Sara Monica Patton. I love animals, traveling, and eating. Read more about me in my first blog post here.