Most of the people in our group were still shaking as others wiped tears from their eyes. No one spoke a single word during the 20-minute van ride from the Rainbow Mountain trailhead to our lunch stop. All we could hear was the chattering of teeth. We sat in silence for minutes waiting for something warm. That’s when someone finally said something.
This was the worst trek ever.”
He was right. The supposedly magical Rainbow Mountain proved to be a bad hike in many different regards. Everyone else agreed.
Rainbow Mountain Peru turned out not to be the beautiful natural wonder that’s seen on the tourism posters in Cusco. It was quite the opposite. But we’ve made it back in one piece to now provide a warning to other travelers considering a Rainbow Mountain day tour.
What Is Rainbow Mountain Peru (Vinicunca)?
Rainbow Mountain is a colorful mountainside in the high Andes of Peru. In short, the mountain’s colors were formed by sedimentary mineral layers in the mountain that have been exposed by erosion. The Rainbow Mountain trailhead is located a 3-hour drive from Cusco, where day trips have recently grown quite popular.
Peru’s Rainbow Mountain, also known as Vinicunca Mountain, has quickly risen to become a major touristic attraction for the country after being discovered for tourism only a few years ago.
What was simply a tranquil mountain in the Andes, is now inundated every day with thousands of tourists. They ascend in droves from Cusco to get their Instagramable shot of the colorful mountain. So we joined the masses in Cusco on a quest to reach Rainbow Mountain. The experience was not pretty like the pictures.
Never have we been on a trek where so many people were returning, not only shivering and covered in mud, but crying, limping, and bleeding! Many were simply not prepared for the hike, the altitude, or the elements.
And on this day, there were definitely elements to contend with. We had journeyed to Rainbow Mountain in the pouring rain, which transitioned to sleet and then snow, the higher we climbed.
While Rainbow Mountain may look beautiful in the photos, we strongly recommend not to pursue this hike if it’s been raining and/or until trail improvements are made. It’s not just a strenuous trek. It can be downright dangerous, as evidenced by the many people we witnessed hobbling back to their tourist shuttle.
But it wasn’t just the weather conditions that made it such a horrible hike. It was the bad weather combined with irresponsible guides, unprepared hikers, and horrendous trail conditions that made this such a bad trekking experience. Rainbow Mountain may have quickly shot to fame, but this Peruvian attraction is just as quickly succumbing to overtourism.
The beautiful and fragile alpine environment is getting completely demolished by the hordes of eager hikers who make the journey to Rainbow Mountain Peru. I’m ashamed at the fact that we too personally destroyed a bit of the Andes during our trek to Rainbow Mountain while attempting to not become the mountain’s latest casualty.
We wrote this post in an effort to expose the less glamorous side of Rainbow Mountain Peru and to give caution to anyone considering trekking Rainbow Mountain in the rain.
Have Realistic Expectations About Rainbow Mountain Peru
First, it should be understood that seeing Rainbow Mountain in person is NOT like the tourism brochures handed out in Cusco. Those are blatant lies.
Rainbow Mountain Peru may look amazing on those tourism posters, but realize those pictures have been photoshopped so heavily to enhance the colors that they have become completely unrealistic. Here’s a good one we picked up in Cusco.
This brochure not only enhanced the colors, but it also misleads tourists with a photoshopped van onto the mountain. In reality, there is (thankfully) no way for vehicles to reach Rainbow Mountain Peru.
Vans shuttle passengers to a trailhead, where a 3-hour hike is pursued to actually get to the Rainbow Mountains. So don’t expect any vehicle to drive right up to the Rainbow Mountain viewpoint as the brochure infers. It takes a trek to get there, of course.
Meanwhile, many of the Rainbow Mountain pictures posted on Instagram have been heavily filtered, saturated, and greatly manipulated. Yes, there is most definitely some color to these mountains when visiting them in person. And yes, this spot in the high Andes can be a very beautiful place. There’s no denying that.
Many visitors do find Rainbow Mountain Peru to be an amazing sight under good weather conditions. But have realistic expectations that the colors may be more subdued than what you see in most photos. Don’t expect a cartoon-like mountain bursting with color. That simply does not exist here.
You can actually play a fun game on Instagram by searching the hashtag #RainbowMountain to find those who have done the most ridiculous editing to their photos. Some pics add an unrealistic amount of saturation to give the colors a nice pop. Others compose downright laughable edits of the Rainbow Mountain they encountered. This is one of the better ones I saw posted.
But the above image and many of the pics out there is a complete lie that we want to expose! The picture above is not only over-photoshopped, that’s not even Rainbow Mountain Peru. It is a different Rainbow Mountain located in China and the Instagram curator has mislabeled after all their misleading edits.
We can honestly tell you that this is the Rainbow Mountain Peru we encountered, without any editing:
Not so colorful, huh?
Now, someone could argue that the colors were dull during our visit due to the snowy and overcast conditions. Yet our guide claimed that overcast conditions can help Rainbow Mountain’s colors pop more against a grey backdrop.
More sunlight surely would have brightened up this unattractive photo of Rainbow Mountain. But what it really needs is professional editing!
Check out how some creative editing can enhance that photo, even during the snowy conditions. I paid a Photoshop expert $5 on fiverr to demonstrate just how easily these Rainbow Mountain photos are manipulated. Below is the exact same photo as posted above, only this time with professional editing to enhance the colors.
Now that’s a Rainbow Mountain! But the above edited photo is a complete lie that we’re only showing to illustrate a point. The image shown above is not the Rainbow Mountain we saw with our own eyes.
So many people are filtering images of Rainbow Mountain to make it look like this colorful wonderland. While the mountain may indeed be more vibrant on a clear day, the images often shared on social media are misrepresentations of what you will see with your own eyes.
Instead of the bright and colorful mountain, below is the Rainbow Mountain we encountered.
Don’t Trek Rainbow Mountain in the Rain or Snow
The thought of seeing a Rainbow Mountain may sound like something imaginable only in a dream. But trekking to Rainbow Mountain in the rain can be more of a nightmare!
It may seem obvious not to trek in the high Andes during inclement weather. But the Rainbow Mountain hike turns into a different beast during, or even after rains.
Trekking in cold rain anywhere in the world can be unpleasant. But Rainbow Mountain is different.
Why? Because of the risk of severe injury due to a combination of horrible trail conditions, inexperienced guides, hundreds of unprepared tourists, and the 5,200-meter altitude.
When it rains on Rainbow Mountain, the trail transforms into a river. Even worse, the trail and the surrounding areas turn into one big slippery mud slick. The Rainbow Mountain trail becomes nearly impossible to walk on. Even the most surefooted hiker will ultimately fall at some point.
Ending up on your ass in the mud is virtually unavoidable on Rainbow Mountain during and even after heavy rains. We witnessed everyone who was trekking under the bad weather conditions fall many, many times. And actually going up was much easier to traverse. It was while trekking down from Rainbow Mountain that led to most falls. It’s almost impossible to maintain footing on the slippery terrain.
This leaves you covered in mud. But of greater concern are the rocks under the mud that break the repeated falls. Thankfully, we left Rainbow Mountain with only a few bruises.
Others weren’t so lucky. We saw numerous trekkers limping off the trail with what looked like some pretty serious injuries. There were a few people that ended their day in the hospital, with group efforts carrying these unfortunate trekkers back to the tour vans. Those particular Rainbow Mountain tour groups went directly back to Cusco to get them to the hospital. There are no ambulances way out here, of course.
Rainbow Mountain Tours Occur Rain or Shine
The tour agencies and guides don’t seem to care much either. The tour agencies want to get paid. If a trip is canceled due to bad weather, the agencies won’t get paid. As a result, excursions to Rainbow Mountain occur rain or shine. Agencies won’t mention the horrors of attempting this trek in the rain because they want your money. It’s business.
In our case, it was raining so hard in Cusco that the sewers were all overflowing and the city was even starting to flood a little. We thought for sure our trip was going to be canceled. Instead, the Rainbow Mountain tour operators take a more irresponsible approach of loading everyone up in the tourist vans to pursue this treacherous trek under inclement weather conditions.
We quickly questioned the guide upon pick-up with concerns about the rainy weather conditions. He assured us that all would be fine on Rainbow Mountain and hurried us into the van. Naively, we took his word and figured how bad could it be. Even if Rainbow Mountain wasn’t shining bright colors, we were up for a challenging hike and prepped accordingly.
Ultimately we found the short 15-km Rainbow Mountain hike itself to only be moderately challenging, even in the rain. The gradient wasn’t too steep and we had rain gear to deal with showers. But it was the muddy conditions that made this trip risky to pursue.
Lack of Preparation on Rainbow Mountain Leads To Injury
Being wet from the rain, hypothermia becomes a possibility here in the temperatures that hover around freezing. Many day-trippers were only prepared with a thin poncho and a long sleeve shirt. That is simply not going to cut it during a rainy Rainbow Mountain trek.
We witnessed so many people on this Rainbow Mountain tour that were absolutely drenched and completely freezing due to not having the appropriate rainwear and cold-weather gear. To be soaking wet in sub-zero temperatures is not just miserable, it’s dangerous! Hypothermia is a realistic possibility. But it’s the risk of injury when inevitably falling down the steep mud slicks that caused even greater harm for most.
In fairness, many of the tour agency representatives do indeed provide ample warning to Rainbow Mountain tour passengers to dress warmly and bring proper rain gear. Yet such warnings did not seem to be heeded by some.
The Rainbow Mountain Trail Needs Repair
During our Rainbow Mountain trek, the trail was a complete mess. When thousands of hikers scramble up this terrain each day, combined with the natural elements, it’s bound to be destroyed. And conditions only seem to be getting worse every day.
The pristine alpine environment leading up to the Rainbow Mountain viewpoint is getting demolished. It’s sad.
Parts of the “trail” have eroded to more than twenty meters wide during some stretches. During or after rain, it’s difficult to walk in the wide trail area since it is either a “river” or slippery mud.
So hikers must choose to either get injured in the slippery mud or trample the safer tundra on the outskirts of what’s left of the trail. Doing the latter destroys the fragile tundra and makes the trail an even wider muddy mess. Yet trekkers are all but forced to trample on this tundra in an effort to more safely get down the mountain.
If this eroding trail issue is not remedied, we can easily foresee the side of Rainbow Mountain becoming one big mud slick within a few years.
During the month of February, the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is closed every year for repairs from eleven months worth of wear it receives as people hike to Machu Picchu each year. Why hasn’t anyone thought to do this with the Rainbow Mountain? It seems necessary in order to preserve the mountains.
There is a separate 10 sole (~$3) entrance fee that visitors are required to pay to access Rainbow Mountain, so that adds up to thousands of dollars each day. That money should be spent on trail repairs or else there may no longer be a way to reach Rainbow Mountain a few years from now.
Don’t Underestimate The Altitude of Rainbow Mountain
Hiking up Rainbow Mountain brings visitors to an elevation of 5,200 meters! (That’s over 17,000 feet, or 3.2 miles high in altitude.)
For perspective, this is higher than any mountain in the Continental US (Mount Whitney is 4,421 meters). Rainbow Mountain is higher than any mountain in the Alps (the highest being Mount Blanc, 4,810 meters), and is nearly as high as Everest Base Camp (5,389 meters).
Table: Rainbow Mountain Altitude Comparison for Perspective
A trek at 5,200 meters is no joke. People begin to feel symptoms of altitude sickness at about 2,400 meters. Rainbow Mountain is more than double that!
The effective oxygen levels at the Rainbow Mountain viewpoint are 11%. That’s about half of the oxygen level found at sea level (20.9%). This will take a toll on the body, particularly so for those who have recently come from lower elevations.
Severe altitude sickness can become a likely reality at Rainbow Mountain. Bad headaches and nausea are both common symptoms people experience going to Rainbow Mountain. Some passengers began vomiting simply on the drive up to the trailhead, before the hike to Rainbow Mountain even began.
At the very least, breathing and walking will be more difficult as the air is thin at this high elevation. It’s very important to go at a pace you’re comfortable with. So that can become a fine balance to attempt when the guides try and rush everyone in an effort to speed up the whole ordeal. Yes, they do that.
The Rainbow Mountain Tour Guides Who Don’t Guide
All guides to Rainbow Mountain are different and there are likely some good Rainbow Mountain guides out there. But there seems to be a consensus among Rainbow Mountain day trippers that the guides are virtually useless.
Personally, our guide to Rainbow Mountain was the worst guide we had in Peru and actually during a full year’s worth of time we’ve now spent roaming around South America. It’s not a one-off instance. We witnessed most other Rainbow Mountain guides exhibiting the same uncaring behavior and simply not being a guide at all.
Rainbow Mountain trekkers are rushed up the slippery mountainside, which can be difficult on its own during a rainy high altitude trek. The Rainbow Mountain guides all have a long 15 hour+ day, so it’s in their personal interest to get hikers up and down that mountain as quickly as possible. It’s not an easy job.
During these Rainbow Mountain day tours from Cusco, hikers are allotted three hours to complete the 15-kilometer round-trip trek. That breaks down to about 2-hours hiking up Rainbow Mountain and 1 hour getting down.
We were proud to have completed the trek up in less time than was allocated. After about an hour and forty minutes, we had reached the colorful mountaintop ready to take some memorable pictures. Even as the rain transitioned to snow, we were happy to have summited the viewpoint for a chance to have a little rest and gaze upon the natural splendor of the dulled rainbow mountains.
But our guide chastised us and said we were “too slow.” He barked at us to turn back immediately after snapping a quick picture of us grouped together with some random strangers. Then he demanded we go down right away.
We saw other guides giving similar messages to their groups. The guides are cold and wet up at the top of the rainbow mountain viewpoint. They don’t want to be up on this high altitude mountain peak in the snow and rain. Can you blame them? So they try to rush their tour groups back down the mountain instead of giving them time to enjoy the view.
And they don’t really “guide” at all. Tour groups are let loose to hike the trail on their own, which could be fine. It’s not a difficult trail to find the way. Just follow the giant mud slick!
But under bad weather conditions where people are being injured, a proper guide may be nice to have nearby. As the main trail becomes a muddy river, several false trails are formed. Some of these side trails eventually lead off in other directions, which is the wrong way.
As visibility turned poor, we saw some trekkers who incorrectly followed a horse trail up an adjacent hill. It had looked as though it could be a short cut. It was not.
Once they had realized their mistake, and not wanting to backtrack through the bad weather, they attempted to make their way down the steep terrain to the correct trail. Instead, they were sent on a scary trajectory tumbling down the slippery mountainside. Sure, perhaps it was a careless move on their part. But a proper guide could have prevent what turned into a serious injury and a trip to the hospital.
The Long, Treacherous Road to Rainbow Mountain
When attempting a harrowing trek, it’s nice to be well rested.
But for Rainbow Mountain, day trippers must awake around 2:30 in the morning for the 3:00 am departure. Then they get to have the pleasure of sitting in a van for the next 3+ hours. The mountain roads eventually become twisty and bumpy, making any sleeping while in transit more difficult to accomplish than the trek itself.
There are a few tour groups that depart Cusco closer to 5:00 am, but those later tours tend to rush travelers through the experience at an even more accelerated pace.
During the drive to the Rainbow Mountain trailhead, as daylight begins to peek, the awful road conditions are revealed. After enough rain, the rough dirt road on the side of a cliff is bound to give way one day sending a tourist van flying down. This is a serious safety concern.
But get comfy, because Rainbow Mountain day-trippers from Cusco spend a total of about 7 hours sitting that van. It takes about 3.5 hours, each way, to get from Cusco to the Rainbow Mountain trailhead. So 7 hours are spent sitting in the van for what ultimately amounts to only 3 hours of actual hiking, and perhaps as little as 5 minutes or less at Rainbow Mountain.
Also, know that some of those vans are not heated. So dress warmly.
What to Expect at the Start of a Rainbow Mountain Trek
Before the Rainbow Mountain hike begins, tour groups are treated to breakfast to fuel themselves for the challenge ahead. This power breakfast may consist of as many hard and stale bread rolls as you’re able to stomach. You’re also allotted a single pancake. The pancake is actually delicious. But the small size only acts as a big tease to your appetite.
Then you finally arrive at the Rainbow Mountain trailhead. That’s where you reach a parking lot filled with tour vans and potentially over a thousand sleepy-yet-eager tourists gearing up to go out and get their Instagram shot.
Dozens of entrepreneurial vendors wisely set-up stands all around that lot to hawk last-minute purchases. This beautiful spot in the high Andes has now become a flattened parking lot to accommodate the influx of vehicles and the outdoor gift shop that has quickly sprouted up.
Gloves and ponchos are snapped up at inflated prices by hikers who arrived unprepared. Only after making it through that gauntlet of soft-spoken sales pitches and heartfelt pleas, do you begin the hike to Rainbow Mountain among the multitudes of others that will join you for the trek up the quickly eroding trail.
Anticipate Hordes of People on Rainbow Mountain Peru
As recently as a few years ago, Rainbow Mountain was a little-known-about trek to a magical place in the Andes. There are tales of a serene hike on a lightly-trodden path where you’d see more alpacas than you would people. Unfortunately, things have changed. The secret’s out.
Tackling Rainbow Mountain has become a cluster. This tourist attraction has shot to popularity very quickly and now hordes of people flock from Cusco to Rainbow Mountain in the many tourist vans that arrive at Vinicunca Mountain each and every morning.
Even under the poor weather conditions we experienced, there were still several hundred people attempting the hike. And as social media continues to spread beautiful photoshopped images of Rainbow Mountain, this rugged touristic site only continues to increase in popularity.
On a day with clear weather during high season, it’s possible to find thousands of people attempting the Rainbow Mountain hike. There are no shortage of tours heading to Rainbow Mountain from Cusco. And to our knowledge, there are no limits imposed on the number of people hiking up Rainbow Mountain each day. It’s clear to us that Rainbow Mountain’s social media success is now threatening its demise due to overtourism.
Don’t be surprised to ultimately end up with a rainbow of people in colorful jackets in your shot, rather than a rainbow mountain.
Can You Go to Rainbow Mountain on Your Own From Cusco to Avoid Crowds?
If you want to try to go to Rainbow Mountain on your own in a grand attempt to avoid the tourist crowds, it is likely not worth the effort. We often prefer independent travel to have more freedom, connect with locals, cut costs, and not be forced into a crowded environment.
Yet once examining the logistics of attempting Rainbow Mountain on your own, we soon realized that the extra efforts would not pay off. Access the drop-down below if you’re curious about the logistics involved:
The problem with attempting a trip to Rainbow Mountain on your own isn’t just the logistics involved with the three transfers. It’s the fact that even if you take the earliest bus from Cusco, you’ll still arrive to Rainbow Mountain at the same time (or later) as all of the direct day tours from Cusco. So you’ll have done all that extra work and still be right in the midst of the crowds and will have paid even more than a tour.
Using public transport to get from Cusco to Rainbow Mountain may give ardent backpackers something to boast about over a beer back at their hostel. But ultimately a DIY trip to Rainbow Mountain will end up costing more using public transportation + taxi than a Rainbow Mountain day tour from Cusco. When comparing an independent effort to the prices of joining a day tour, it’s one of those rare instances in which a tour actually costs less once factoring in all transportation, fees, and meals.
Considering that it’s (1) quicker, (2) way more efficient, and (3) even cheaper to take a Rainbow Mountain tour from Cusco; it’s difficult not to come to the conclusion of joining a Rainbow Mountain tour instead of attempting to reach Rainbow Mountain independently using public transport. Crowds will be encountered either way.
Know the Price of a Rainbow Mountain Tour
If you Google “Rainbow Mountain Tour,” you’ll come across companies offering the 1-day Rainbow Mountain tour for $200 and up. In Cusco, just about every agency sells that same 1-day tour for 70 soles (~$20 USD) plus the 10 sole (~$3) entrance fee.
The ~$23 price point is actually fantastic value for the money, if for nothing else, the long journey it takes to get from Cusco to Rainbow Mountain and back.
Yet we spoke to many people on our exact same tour who paid upwards of $100 per person for the same experience. So be sure to know the real price of a Rainbow Mountain tour. It should total about $23 USD or so, including transport, hotel pick-up, meals, guide, and the entrance fee. Don’t pay the grossly inflated prices of $100+ that many online agencies promote.
Book an Inexpensive Rainbow Mountain Tour Online
If you don’t want to shop around in Cusco and prefer to book online, we can suggest this tour from GetYourGuide. It’s currently listed for $28, is the least expensive tour we’ve seen offered online, and has a consistent track record of good reviews. Check up-to-date prices and recent reviews.
Why Taking a Horse Up Rainbow Mountain May Not Be a Good Idea
There are many locals at the trailhead offering a horse to help people ride up the mountain instead of trekking. Inexperienced hikers and those suffering from altitude sickness use the horses so they can get their Instagram pic of those colorful mountains. But you may want to think twice about doing that.
We were pleased to see that many horses did look fairly healthy. But some didn’t appear to be in the best condition. Each horse’s care is dependent on its handler and caretaker. If you see a horse that does not appear healthy, we suggest not contributing to their demise.
To ride a horse up to the Rainbow Mountain viewpoint and back down, it costs an additional 80 soles (~$23). That can be as much as the cost of the entire Rainbow Mountain tour itself. One-way only is 60 soles (~$17.50).
Many visitors pay the hefty charge in an effort to avoid the mud, and make the horse do the hard work up Rainbow Mountain instead. But the horses’ handlers have the passengers dismount the horse to walk up the steepest and muddiest parts of the trail.
While this is great for the horse’s wellbeing, those who paid their 80 soles may have been irritated by the fact that they ended up falling in mud anyways, even though they paid a hefty sum to take a horse.
Bottom Line: Is Rainbow Mountain Peru Worth It?
Travelers planning a trip to Peru often ask “Is Rainbow Mountain worth it?” After reading this Rainbow Mountain review, you may assume that our answer would be a hard “no.”
Instead, here’s a more balanced look in an attempt to more objectively answer that question.
While we had a bad experience on Rainbow Mountain in the rain, that doesn’t necessarily mean you will. Under good weather conditions, Rainbow Mountain can be a nice, moderately challenging trek to see those pastel colors in the high Andes.
If you’re acclimated to the altitude, fit, well-prepared, and are okay with waking up early to spend 6-7 hours in a van to see Rainbow Mountain, then consider going.
We know many people who have completed the Rainbow Mountain trek under better weather conditions, had a great experience and highly recommend it. We simply cannot disagree with that.
You can find tons of articles, social media posts, and personal recommendations raving about how amazing Rainbow Mountain is. It is indeed possible to have a good experience on Rainbow Mountain. Again, we don’t argue with that. We simply want this article to serve as an alternative look at this tourist attraction that’s suddenly been thrust into popularity.
We absolutely do NOT recommend pursuing Rainbow Mountain if it is raining, or even if it has been raining during the past few days. During rainy weather, visitors will almost certainly not have an enjoyable experience on the muddy terrain and will further erode the mountain.
Additionally, during rainy conditions, you will likely not get the colorful payoff you may be expecting. And embarking on the Rainbow Mountain trek in the rain could even prove to be an unsafe proposition. A rainy Rainbow Mountain hike simply isn’t worth it and we strongly disagree with any tour operator (or anyone) who claims otherwise.
But if the weather is decent, you’re acclimatized, in good physical condition, and prepared for the elements, then go ahead and consider the Rainbow Mountain trek. If you have realistic expectations about how colorful the mountain actually is, perhaps you’ll be pleasantly surprised when you arrive at the Rainbow Mountain viewpoint.
So don’t necessarily let our dismal tale completely dissuade you from pursuing this hike under good weather conditions. After all, you may not have a chance to see Rainbow Mountain in the future if the trail leading there continues to undergo the damage we witnessed.
If you do decide to trek Rainbow Mountain in good weather conditions, just be prepared and try to be a responsible hiker. The following Rainbow Mountain tips are to help make the best of a day trip to see Peru’s colorful mountains.
More Tips if You Do Go to Rainbow Mountain Peru
🌧️ Do not go in the rain.
Seriously, don’t go in the rain! (We can’t overstate this enough.)
📅 When to Go to Rainbow Mountain Peru
Try to plan a trip to Rainbow Mountain when it hasn’t been raining. The best chances for clear weather on Rainbow Mountain are from May to September. These are also the coldest months to visit.
The wet season in the Peruvian Andes around Cusco is roughly November through March. Treks to Rainbow Mountain should be generally avoided during this time. But do know that rain can and does happen outside these months too. Meanwhile, it may be possible to have a nice sunny stretch even during the rainy season, when you could encounter favorable conditions to trek Rainbow Mountain.
For more detail, check Cusco’s weather averages here.
🌤️ Check Rainbow Mountain Weather
There aren’t any weather forecasts specifically for Vinicunca Mountain itself, but the nearest town to Rainbow Mountain you can check is: Pitumarca, Peru.
Within the day or two before a potential Rainbow Mountain trek, check the 10-day forecast for Pitumarca on weather.com. But only use that forecast to give you some rough idea of what conditions may be like.
Weather forecasts in the high Andes are notoriously unreliable. Additionally, Pitumarca is 16 kilometers away and 1,600 meters lower in elevation than Rainbow Mountain. So temperatures will certainly be colder up in those mountains compared to what is forecasted for Pitumarca.
More importantly than temps, use that Pitumarca forecast to look at the PRECIP % to gain some idea of the chance of rain or snow. Check here.
🤳 Ask Around Cusco about Current Rainbow Mountain Conditions
There are many people who embark on the Rainbow Mountain tour in Cusco every day. So be sure to ask around to find someone who has been in the last day or two. Be sure to ask another traveler who’s been, not an agency. It’s easy to meet other travelers in Cusco. Check around your hostel, hotel, or even the pub.
Ask them about current trail conditions they experienced. Ask to see some of the pics they’ve inevitably snapped on their phone. This will give you a realistic idea of the current conditions of Rainbow Mountain, so you can know what to expect.
Pictures of Rainbow Mountain you find here, on Instagram, Tripadvisor or anywhere else may be outdated and not reflective of current conditions. It’s best to ask fellow travelers on the ground in Cusco to better understand what Rainbow Mountain conditions are like right now.
🎒 Pack Plenty of Snacks to Fuel Your Hike
The included breakfast may not consist of much. Meanwhile, lunch doesn’t occur until way later in the afternoon, after the Rainbow Mountain trek. (It’s wasn’t very good, from our experience.)
So bring some high-energy snacks to help fuel you up Rainbow Mountain. There are plenty of convenience stores around Cusco to stock up the night before your hike.
⛰️ Acclimatize for Days Before a Rainbow Mountain Trek
‘It’s a very wise idea to have been in Cusco (or other high altitude locations) for at least a few days before you attempt the Rainbow Mountain hike.
Most travelers have likely arrived to Cusco primarily to go to Machu Picchu. So we strongly suggest pursuing Rainbow Mountain after your trip to Machu Picchu, not before. This will give your body a chance to adjust to the altitude better.
You may also want to consider bringing this natural altitude medication that seems to be well worth it from all the great reviews.
🍃 Know the Coca Is Your Friend
Another way to help with altitude is the tried-and-true Inca remedy of coca leaves. In Cusco, they sell coca candies and coca cookies in most stores. Stock up. We found it really does help with the altitude and gives a little energy kick too.
If you didn’t prepare in advance, there’s often a guy atop Rainbow Mountain selling warm coca tea.
💦 Keep Hydrated
Bring a minimum of a 1.5-liter bottle of water, if not more. Extra hydration will not only be good for the hike itself, but it also can also help to combat the altitude on Rainbow Mountain.
Consider bringing one large bottle of water for the van ride and another for the trek itself.
🚽 Where to Go
After drinking all that water, you’ll need to relieve yourself. There are actually a few outhouses along the Rainbow Mountain trail route. Ladies, bring your own toilet paper.
🚶 Try Not To Damage the Trail:
If you go to Rainbow Mountain during good weather conditions, be sure to try to use the trail as much as you safely can, in an effort to further prevent damage to the fragile alpine environment.
🧥 Dress for the Weather
Layering is important on any high mountain trek. Be sure to dress for cold weather with the ability to shed layers if working up a sweat. It’s normal to experience below freezing temperatures on Rainbow Mountain, so warm trekking gear is essential.
We’d also suggest proper rain gear (rain pants and rain jacket). But it would ultimately be wiser to postpone a Rainbow Mountain trek altogether if rain is expected.
👟 Wear Hiking Boots or Trail Running Shoes
It is best to tackle Rainbow Mountain in proper hiking boots that have full ankle support. You may be able to get away with wearing trail running shoes that have great traction in good weather conditions.
Don’t even consider a Rainbow Mountain trek using shoes without good traction.
😎 Have Sun Protection
The sun can be super intense at this altitude, even if it’s cloudy. Protect your skin and don’t forget a hat, sunglasses, and lip balm either.
Sunscreen in Cusco is actually really expensive. So stock up before you go to Peru and remember to pack this liquid in your checked luggage. Amazon has great prices on Banana Boat sunscreen.
⚠️ Be Sure to Have Travel Insurance
Don’t consider this trek without having travel insurance. We use World Nomads as we find it to have the best coverage and price combination. Let them cover your Peruvian hospital bill if anything bad happens. More importantly, their coverage includes emergency evac, should something really awful happen.
But another reason why we like World Nomads is, unlike most other travel insurances, you can actually start a policy if you’re in the middle of your trip. So even if you’re reading this from Peru, get a quick quote here (takes 1 minute), and you can have a policy starting tomorrow. Get covered before you embark on the Rainbow Mountain trek.
After Rainbow Mountain Peru, Where to Next?
We want to leave you on a more positive note. There are plenty of adventures throughout Peru and the surrounding area that we absolutely loved. So let’s close this Rainbow Mountain blog post with a more optimistic tone.
Be sure to check out these awesome experiences, in the places you may be roaming around on your way to or from Cusco:
🥾 Making the Trek to Machu Picchu? We absolutely loved the Inca Jungle Trek and found it not only be the most adventure-packed way to reach Machu Picchu, but the best value Machu Picchu trip too!
🛥️ Passing through Lima? Don’t miss Swimming with Wild Sea Lions at Palomino Island! So much fun!
🏞️ Going to Lake Titicaca? Our highlight of the famed lake was chilling out on an overnight trip to Isla del Sol.
🇪🇨Heading north to Ecuador? See our massive travel guide to the Best 20 Things to Do in Ecuador!
🐢 Want to Know How to Actually Afford a Galapagos Trip? We spill all in: Galapagos on a Budget
🇧🇴 Traveling to Bolivia? See our tips to have an incredible Bolivia Salt Flats Adventure. 🚴 Meanwhile, thrill seekers should check out Mountain Biking Down Death Road.
🌈⛰️Buen viaje amigos!
just a student says
so many comments. I didn’t do the trek and am just researching peru for school but if I decide to go thx for the warning and realistic opinion.
Sean Ryans says
I saw this blog post before I went to Peru, still decided to do Rainbow Mtn, and thought I’d share my feedback.
I went with the cheapo 60 sole tour, for better or for worse. There ended up being 2 buses of 30+ people each in our group, and 2 guides. This was in August 2022 and the weather and trail were excellent. This was one of our last hikes in Peru and we were well acclimated. Overall it was a positive experience.
Yes I did feel rushed by the guides. I would have liked to have spent some more time in the area, especially after 6 hours of round trip bus rides. Next time I think I would have preferred to spend a little more money on a smaller group tour or on a private tour where I had more influence on the schedule and a longer experience at the mountain.
Note that you can also visit the Red Valley after seeing Rainbow Mtn, and I highly recommend it. For some strange reason, not many people seem to know about this option, and our guides, at least, kept it under wraps and only let the people who knew about it ahead of time (nod nod wink wink) do it. Shortly after leaving the Rainbow Mtn viewing spot, look for a trail to the left. You will soon hit a checkpoint where they charge 10 soles to enter. Another 10 sole check point is further on up to get to the Red Mtn lookout.
I thought the colors of the Mtn were great–a nice, bright, sunny day probably helped.
I think the main difference between my experience and yours was that I was more prepared for it before I did it. What I mean is that I had been aware of and looking at this hike for many months ahead of time. I knew what the Mtn looked like, and what a photoshopped, over-saturated picture (an overly blue sky is usually a dead give away) looked like. I knew that weather could be a big factor. I knew about the 17,000 feet altitude and acclimatization. My expectations were properly set.
Your post was, frankly, the most negative post I found on Rainbow Mtn. To be sure, it sounds like you had a miserable time. But the good that can come with this post is to help properly prepare people for the experience. Before your go, be aware of weather, acclimatization, the quality of your guides and trekking company, and don’t expect a neon colored rainbow on the mtn. Oh, and yes, expect a crowd!
And don’t expect your touring company to ever advise you to stay home. If you say you want to go on Tuesday, and it is raining, snowing, or hailing on Tuesday, they will still take you. More so than maybe in the US, you need to take matters into your own hands and be aware of the conditions and of what you are getting into.
Thanks for the post, hopefully it isn’t discouraging too many prepared people from visiting a beautiful spot.
This is a real down to earth and informative blog …. thank you! The rainbow mountain trek is definitely best avoided in rainy season from December through march! The high altitude also catches many people out and this is one of the reasons to have adequate acclimatization ….trekking at altitude is no joke! The best way to trek the area is to do a longer trek;either a 2 day option or the longer 5 day option. This way you can avoid the crowds and a reputable company will have trained staff on hand for any emergencies. The longer trekking options offer a more sustainable way of visiting the rainbow mountain along different access points and offer a more authentic experience to see this amazing site 🙂
Anyone who has picked up a camera an tried landscape photography knows that light and a myriad of other factors are at play. Have you ever traveled to Zabriskie Point in Death Valley and wondered where the colours went? I agree that guides should be more responsible. On the flip side, the unprepared, arrogant and ignorant western tourist has the dinero. Maybe the root cause is elsewhere.
The first three paragraphs could have been written by one of those tourists. Maybe they were.
Paula Zamora says
So sorry about your experience! I just went 2 weeks ago and I absolutely loved it. I cannot say it was easy, because it wasn’t but it was definitely rewarding arriving at the very top. For everyone else reading this I would like to encourage you to go on the DRY MONTHS. Do some research before you go. You DO see beautiful colors, I did not need to edit my pictures. And although there are freezing winds, there is also a burning sun. JUST GO PREPARED. Take some hiking boots, SPF on your face, warm layers of clothes, water, & coca leaves for altitude sickness.
Unfortunately you went on a really bad season, but it isn’t always like this.
So beautiful nature everyone should see it in reality!
Sorry your trip sucked! We loved it on our journey!!
John Widmer says
Glad to hear you had a good experience! 🙂
Gregorio Mendoza Gutierrez says
For anyone planning this trek, I would really recommend at least an overnight trek to the Rainbow Mountain. Taking an extra day allows you to break up the driving, leave later, and have the mountain all to yourself, before trekkers making a day trip arrive. The stars are also incredible.
Your experience was much different from ours. My friends and I absolutely loved it, but we went a few years ago (right before it became a huge tourist attraction. There were only a couple other groups of people when we were there and the colors were beautiful. I have great pictures with no filter. We hiked it the first day and then went back in the morning for the sunset. I’m sorry you didn’t have a good experience.
David Stamboulis says
You can do Rainbow Mountain yourself IF you are an experienced trekker AND are planning to do the Ausangate Circuit. From the second day on the circuit, you are quite near to Vinicunca and can easily go there and then return to the circuit and camp at Ausangate Lake. Needless to say, you should be self sufficient, proficient with map reading or GPS use, etc. I did note that a lot of agencies offering the Ausangate Trek are now tacking on a Rainbow Mountain day to the itinerary as well.
I’m sorry to hear you did not have a good experience, but i feel the condition must have improved a lot since you went, and it’d be a shame if people decided not to go because of what you encountered. I urge everyone to thoroughly research the attraction and decide for yourself on whether this is right for you.
I went on 6/13/2019 and rainbow mountain/red valley was the highlight of my 2 week trip in Peru. It was sunny and I rode the horse up the mountain (70 soles) and trekked down through the red valley. My friend and I felt the red valley is even more impressive than rainbow mountains, and there’s absolutely no one over there! The colors are mesmerizing and out of this world. I booked the tour at cusco and it cost 65soles, without the 10 soles entrance fee to rainbow mountains and 10 soles for the red valley.
John Widmer says
Thanks for sharing your recent experience. We’d certainly encourage everyone to weigh out the pros and cons to decide if the trip is right for them. Lots of people find Rainbow Mountain to be a fantastic experience under good weather and we’ll never disagree with that. Awesome to hear that it was a highlight and you were able to catch the red valley too! Happy travels!
We just returned from Peru and went to rainbow mountain on June 19, 2019 and it was beautiful. Sorry your experience was so horrible. The worst part was the bus ride up and down the mountain. Totally scary. Our guide were wonderful. SAS travel adventures. We had a great breakfast of scrambled eggs rolls ham and cheese sandwich’s fruit juice hot cocoa and tea. Our lunch was ceviche avacado salad fried trout chicken rice bread. They set up a cook tent and a serving tent with tablecloths am day silverware and put out separate tubs of hot water for each of us to wash our hands in. Very attentive. Had oxygen and texting equipment for checking oxygen levels and encouraged us to take our time a rest if we needed. One guide actually held my hand and helped me to the top. Great time and beautiful weather.
John Widmer says
Very encouraging to hear the guide service seems to be improving. That’s great news!
Jan Nanez says
Dear John, it is very sad to read an article like yours based on light concepts on what mountaineering is. First, it sounds like you were expecting to reach the MOUNTAIN (which is at 5,200m / 17,060 ft) in the most comfortable way. It is a trek, it is not supposed to be comfortable. As you well know, at that altitude weather conditions are unpredictable. Especially in the Andes or Himalayas where it can be sunny most of the time, an in a matter of minutes you can have a storm. You quoted: “…instead, it was more like a war zone. Never have I been on a trek where so many people were returning, not only shivering and covered in mud, but crying, limping, and bleeding! We had journeyed to Rainbow Mountain in the pouring rain, which transitioned to sleet and then snow, the higher we climbed”. I believe you. That is what normally might happen many times in the mountains. Unless you didn’t do your research on where you were going during a rainy season, there is no reason why to blame nature for your disappointment. Very sorry, to read your trip to a mountain was not what you expected, but sad to read you blame it in something you didn’t consider and it is out of control to everyone. Nature rules, my friend. As a mountaineering guide, many times I have failed to make summits, many times I have returned defeated, crying and sad, but, it is what it is. And to all of your readers, please, plan your trip ahead of time. In particular, for this mountain, that should be done during the dry season. It is not an easy hike and proper training and acclimatization process should be considered for it, or you should consider riding a horse. Mother Earth will be very gratefull. Happy Trails!
John Widmer says
While I agree with many of the points you make (as similar points are laid out all throughout this article), I struggle to understand your impression that we wanted a comfy way to reach the mountain (we didn’t), your criticism of our light concepts of mountaineering (we’re experienced high-altitude trekkers), and your idea that we somehow blame the mountain & nature (we don’t). We firmly do not blame the mountain or nature at all. I’ve put blame on the misleading agencies and cast blame on the guides who don’t abort treks during dangerous weather conditions. (As a guide yourself, you should know that’s bad). I’ve thrown blame towards the unsustainability of not limiting the number of tourists and not upkeeping the trail that hence erodes this pristine Andean environment. I’ve put blame on unprepared tourists who haven’t acclimated, aren’t hikers, and don’t come prepared with proper gear. I’ve even gone as far to blame ourselves for damaging a bit of the Andes along with everyone else who trekked on the muddy trails that day. But nowhere do we blame the mountain or nature. Should we have heeded the weather and not naively trusted the guides who pushed everyone to continue in dangerous conditions? Perhaps. And that’s exactly one of the points we’re relaying in this post so that future visitors can plan accordingly and make a decision based on the experience we had. Rather than pen yet another glowing review of Rainbow Mountain with photoshopped pictures, we wrote this post to give an honest and realistic look at this natural attraction that suddenly shot to popularity, while also showing what it can be like to trek the Rainbow Mountain during the rainy season. Ultimately we share similar advice, so it’s puzzling that it saddens you. What saddens me is witnessing unsuspecting visitors getting severely injured while on vacation and watching overtourism destroy a beautiful area.
Thank you so so much for writing this! I almost took the trip there after the rain and also had no idea about necessity of trek (mislead by all the photos of cars on the flyers) and that altitude is that huge.
Thank you for posting this and giving an honest, objective review of your experience. We are traveling to Peru this September, and your article provides a great deal of valuable insight. Much appreciated.
This man has not written an article he has written a thesis on the rainbow mountain. I feel sorry for the horses having to carry heavy human beings. The colours are pretty good despite the poor visibility. We know that most brochures photo shop their hotels and beaches in order to attract us in. Why people don’t research before they embark on trips is beyond me.. No water, poor clothing attire and footwear. This isn’t a park folks this is an uphill high altitude walk that will test your stamina. Be prepared before you put your sandals on..
While i was researching about rainbow mountain for my upcoming trip. I came across this post. Thank you for writing such an honest review. I think this post is very well written. After reading this, I actually decided to play by ear and see how the weather will be after I arrive in cuzco before committing to trekking this mountain. Thanks for the warning!
John Widmer says
Yeah, it can be well-worth waiting to see how the weather is once you’re there before making a decision to go or not. Hopefully you’ll have clear sunny skies and a great trip to Cusco!
Adam Hewitt says
We did this tour in April 2016, and overall would still recommend, despite also encountering a fair few of the issues you describe. But the weather was clear (cold, but clear), so the eventual view was good, and the hike wasn’t too dangerous.
Our main issues – (lack of) breakfast, so definitely agree with the snacks point. Completely right about the tour guide – ours barely spoke to us, neither in English nor Spanish. Though we didn’t feel rushed at the top as such.. it was more the biting wind prompting us to begin the descent, rather than a stroppy guide! There were times we weren’t even sure which was our group and which wasn’t, and no effort to keep us together..we basically met up at the top, and again at the bottom.
Our tour van was an hour late picking us up, which wasn’t ideal when you’re standing on a street corner in Cusco in the middle of the night. And on the way back to Cusco the traffic near the city was insane, so it was properly late by the time we got there.
On the hike itself, we also saw ludicrously unprepared people, whose clothing and footwear was barely even suitable for walking round Cusco, let alone a hike whose summit is at that altitude.
BUT, it was still good value (from an agency in Cusco), and we didn’t regret it afterwards.
Ignore the photoshopped and Insta filtered pics, but the reality is still impressive, and up there with the cooler things we saw during 6 months of travelling.
John Widmer says
Thanks for the balanced review and so glad you were able to enjoy the mountain in its bright colorful state! Can definitely relate to much of what you experienced. Yeah, the lack of preparedness of many people who were attempting the hike (clothes, shoes), in the rain nonetheless, really surprised us too. Hoping this may help just a bit for people to be better prepared and realize what they’re really in for when they come to trek Rainbow Mountain. Cheers!
Very good article about your experience. There needs to be ample warning about this trek.
Rainbow Mountain is a trek. That is the first thing to remember. If you are NOT a hiker, you have no business going. You must be prepared, as you would for any remote hike. Go with a reputable tour group with proper first aid equipment and oxygen. Agreed, the drive from Cusco (we left at 2am) felt like I was kidnapped and being taken to Bolivia for kidney removal. The roads were very rough. Once near the mountain we had a perfect breakfast and returned to this location for a great lunch. The drive back was in daylight, so less scary!
On the mountain itself, we were blessed with beautiful weather. Our views and sunlight were endless (September travel). Agreed that one should not venture up this mountain ill prepared, not acclimatized, or in bad weather, you are setting yourself up for a miserable experience.
Choose a company that is reputable and leaves Cusco early in the morning to avoid crowds – well worth it. We used Flash Packer Connect and highly recommend them. You pay extra for them, but why go cheaper to have a less than enjoyable experience.
About the altered photos. In most pictures the photoshopping is very evident – if you need someone to tell you that you are naive. The wonder of these mountains is the geological significance – appreciate that. I was in awe of these mountains for what they are – simply stunning.
John Widmer says
Love your analogy about being loaded into the van at 2am, lol! Thanks for the recommendations and glad to hear you had an enjoyable experience at Rainbow Mountain!
Norith La Torre says
It’s very interesting what you mention. However, as a hotel owner (Cusco and Cairo) as well as tour operator in both cities. I can tell you that the price you paid is most likely what you got (too cheap). There are many categories of tour services and this will be, of course, based on the price you pay. Besides, I can also mention to you, as someone who is originally from Cusco city and travelled/lived in 4 continents that the rainbow mountain didn’t use to be a popular touristic destination until a foreign blogger/influencer put it on instagram and it went viral (the photo had probably some filters on top, etc), so this is how Cusco started to have a shower of requests for this tour. This mountain was never so popular among us locals, but globalization and media made the magic happen. Now, the logistics for this tour seem poor because the government isn’t really involved in a proper preparation for the number of people visiting the site. From your story I can tell the tour organizers are just responding to demand and diregarding convenient seasons for this place to be visited. For instance, I went to Da Nang last week (central Vietnam) and I wasn’t expecting to visit their blue-water beaches (brown last week) or famous Golden bridge in Ba Na hiils because it’s winter season here, so being an informed tourist is also very helpful to make good decisions. Many people felt disappointed and angry when they visited Ba Na hills last week as they couldn’t see a thing due to the clouds, rain and more and let’s be honest, tours won’t stop being sold even if the tour operators know the experience will be awful as all responds to demand, so it’s on you in the end…
I just hope the Peruvian government takes measures soon to provide safer routes, limits the number of visitors in order to protect the mountain and regulates the business operations there (horses, cars, huanacos, etc) so everyone can have a great experience without destroying and commercializing the mountain
Peruvian government? Tourist, animal, traveler or worker protection standards… LOL… And you’ve lived there. Get real. Bye the way, the bloggers were perfectly accurate and precise in every detail. They clearly believed in treating their readers the way they would want to be treated. Anyone reading the blog benefits by taking all of the recommendations provided.
I would only add one more recommendation. Don’t be a passenger on this stretch of road in any vehicle, bus, van, combie, truck or car without doing two things first!!! 1) Fully inspect the vehicle and demand your money back if the vehicle appears poorly maintained (tires, windshield, seat belts, door latches etc) or 2) if it does not have the marks of pride of ownership, i.e. it smells nasty, or appears dirty and beat up. If so, demand your money back from the guide or tour operator, (knowing you will not get it), then stop bye and report them to the tourism ministry office in Cusco, on your way relaxing and enjoying the rest of the afternoon hanging out with other world travelers, drinking some Cusquena Dark or Pisco Sour with a giant serving of Ceviche, Causa or Ricoto Relleno, at some of the AWESOME restaurants around Plaza de Armas.
I promise and know from multiple decades of experiences, there will be no “Peruvian Gov’t Regulator or tourism official” doing this for you. The travel insurance with the full Medical Evacuation coverage is an absolute necessity for travel in Peru (and most other developing countries).
As of two months ago I would agree with this. However, the DIRCERTUR of Cusco is now actually creating a specific “Adventure” license for adventure sports. We are now required to have one as a mountain bike operator. They specified that they would also have this licence for horseback which will include the horses at Rainbow mtn and that they would also include trekking. So far trekking has not be added but very well may be soon. The DIRCERTUR has put an acta on at least 4 guides I know already in the trekking and biking division of tourism and this was all recently as of last month.
As I have had to do all the paperwork for this license I can tell you in includes a lot alot of security stuff. Maps with evac plans, saftey talks (with specific details about the risks and dangers etc) before leaving with signed waivers that they heard the talk from X person. It includes a revision of all equipment and guides licenses and experience.
If they enforce this license it will definitely increase the safety of the operation in Peru in all adventure sectors.
John Widmer says
This is very encouraging to hear. Thanks so much for chiming in with this recent info.
I did Rainbow one month ago. I have mixed feelings about it. I was very fortunate to have good weather that day, but it was obviously much colder due to the elevation and wind (nothing to protect from the wind).
I agree with this post on a few items – it is a very long day for a 5 minute view and photo op. I was lucky to have clear, blue skies, so the colours were more prominent, but certainly not like the photo-shopped pics you see. I was also very lucky that the restaurant we went to provided a good selection of hot and cold foods that were quite tasty. We did not leave hungry. It was the same restaurant for breakfast and lunch.
What I did not like about Rainbow Mountain: 1- there were no points of interest along the route, so you literally are spending an entire day for 1 view. Even along the hike itself, the scenery is only ok (I live in Canada, so the snow capped mountains are nothing new to me). 2- the road up the mountain scared the **** out of me and I am not normally a nervous passenger. 3- the trail is covered in horse, alpaca, and llama dung. I put my hiking poles and boots in a bag before I put them in suitcase. 4- the steepest part of the climb at the top and the view point at the top are very dangerous, in my opinion. The ground is loose and slippery, the terrain very steep, and there are no barriers at all if someone were to slip. It doesn’t surprise me to read about the injuries in the blog post.
My suggestions, if you have lots of time in Cusco, the view is really pretty once you finally get to the top and should consider it (dress appropriately, bring layers, hat & mitts, and poles if you have them), but if you are on a time crunch, there are so many other attractions within and surrounding Cusco where you could do multiple sites in a day.
John Widmer says
Thanks so much for taking the time to drop a review of your recent experience on Rainbow Mountain. I think it’s very helpful for others’ experiences and suggestions on recent trips out there, to help others to decide whether or not to pursue. Agree largely with your points and suggestions. ¡Buen viaje!
Realistic article and good recommendations. Thank you!! I’m sorry you weren’t able to fully enjoy this, the picture showed to tourists or are posted on social media really make you hace great expectations. But this is not the only bad experience I’ve read (heard): a close friend of mine was just a little more lucky than you, but kind of still able to enjoy some things from her trip to the mountain. And I do know from other friends that it looks beautiful under good weather conditions. So I wanted to ask you if you know when is the best time to visit that place or Cuzco in general. I’m planning on visiting Peru around December but I don’t know if it would be better if I should postpone it for later so I could have a better experience.
John Widmer says
For dry (yet colder) weather, April through August is best. December is part of the rain season (generally Nov-March). But know that it does not rain all day, every day during Dec. Typically there may be a shower at some point about half the days in December. You’ll likely still get a good amount of sunshine during a December trip. Personally, I wouldn’t postpone a trip to Cusco because of it. (My two cents.) I simply wouldn’t pursue Rainbow Mountain if you arrive and it is or has been raining. There are plenty of other amazing things to do in Cusco rain or shine. It’s an awesome city in itself, with so many great recreation pursuits around. Have a great trip!
Todd M Janousek says
I just hiked Rainbow Mt on November 25, 2018. It was very muddy from rain and sleet upon our arrival but cleared up for most of the ascent. I do agree the trail is quite crowded but I never saw injuries in my group or otherwise. I did see many foolish climbers in sneakers but even they seemed to manage ok. I do not agree with your general negativity about the hike. I think people should have realistic expectations but I saw some breathtaking landscapes that were well worth it.
Went there today, and should probably have read your post before… A snowy day, we literally haven’t seen any of the rainbow mountain color, except black, on few spots uncovered with snow.
However, my tour guide was pretty good, with acceptable breakfast and great lunch.
I’m happy I survived without injuring myself, it is as dangerous as you mention, I just realize it now – had no idea before going there, wasn’t even expecting to see snow at all.
Will link your post in my own review, very informative !
John Widmer says
Thanks for commenting with your experience in Rainbow Mountain in the snow. Glad to hear your guide and meals were goo despite the snowy conditions. It’s encouraging to hear. And glad you made it!
Melissa C. says
I can’t believe all the hate in the comments! Thanks for providing such a realistic account. I’ve done the same in some of my own articles and have a hard time stomaching sites that only write treacly sweet reviews.
Marie-France @bigtravelnut says
Thank you for this excellent and realistic post. 🙂
Just finished Rainbow Mountain in good weather. Definitely a highlight of my trip to Peru!
The guides say they carry oxygen for emergencies but im guessing it is albuterol or something that comes in a paint can sized aerosol container. Certainly not a 15L bottle that might help battle edema while someone is carried down. No stretchers at the top for clients who can no longer walk. Guides telling clients they are carrying oxygen is negligent. Guides seemed to be checking on people during the trip up.
We acclimatized by taking Peru- hop buses from Lima to Arequipa to Puno to Cusco. We started Diamox (a true altitude sickness medication and not the B.S. coco leaves and so on) in Arequipa.
On the trail we saw very ill being helped up the hill by friends. Guides and others should intervene to turn them back.
Im going to contact the huge tour company Viator to discuss this.
Paul the Mediocre says
After reading the article above it seems that your experience would be typical in that part of the world. I came back from the Patagonia region of Chile which is further South. You are warned VERY often that you should expect to experience 4 seasons in the same day. I did as much research as I could before going. I had some hurtles to overcome while there: 1) I don’t speak the language. Answer? Google Translate. 2) I was going alone with nothing but a backpack to a place that was not entirely hospitable and a good portion of my time would be outdoors. Answer? Pack smart. Pack light. Weeks before going. Hike around my area with full backpack and gear to accustom myself to the weight. These are the kinds of things I would share in my article should I post as a traveler with a blog. If the people don’t go prepared, it’s on them. No one should have to experience hypothermia. Research the weather forecast and dress in layers. No jeans or shorts, wear a parka and waterproof HIKING boots, not shoes. The picture you showed of the mislabeled picture that was taken in China; if you read the verbiage though, they do try to warn people to set expectations and come prepared. However, my experience has been that most people are “dumb tourists” looking for their next Instagram photo. They’ll forget their hiking poles, but not their selfie stick. They’ll just have to learn the hard way. It seems you’ve tried to warn people about the trail, and that’s good, you’ve tried to tell them to come prepared, also good. But, it seems, based on the posts here, some people just want to be offended, or lash out. I call that Browser Bravery, I actually coined that one in UrbanDictionary.com, lol. I guess that’s the world we live in now. I would offer this constructive criticism: Maybe change the tone from “victim”, even if applicable, to “fact relator”, just give them the run down as best you can, any hints, tips, tricks (which you did), maybe a summary of the article, and just move on to the next adventure. That’s it, let them learn on their own. Anyway, happy trails!
John Widmer says
All good advice. We spent a few months pursuing many overnight treks across Patagonia too in both Chile & Argentina, so know this all too well. Prep, packing, researching conditions, layers, waterproofing… all such important advice you share. Yeah, haven’t fully understood why some choose to be so offended by this post, as it was not intended to be controversial. But such is the world we live in. Love your “browser bravery” term and I’m sure there’s lots of that going on with some of the trolls who comment here. I’ll concede that the tone in using “victims” is perhaps a bit harsh or dramatic. But there were indeed hospital victims during the trek, so feel that its use is justified. Thank you for the constructive feedback and happy trails to you! Onto the next adventure! 🙂
Jose cotrina says
The reasons you give not to go are so weak. Why roam around if you can’t handle a little struggle. Have we been so overly sensitized as a species that we can’t appreciate no trail heads and a bit of uncomfortable weather. To be fair I didn’t read the whole thing, but I couldn’t stand the whining.
John Widmer says
If you can’t stand whining, then why did you just start whining here in the comments. Isn’t that a bit hypocritical? Perhaps if you read the post before passing judgement, you’d understand. Lol!
Juan carlos says
Please tell me how much did you pay for this tour
John Widmer says
70 soles plus + 10 sole entrance fee.
Matt Den says
I think this is a load of bullshit to be honest, you clearly were not prepared at all and obviously have no experience with hiking if you were surprised to find it a difficult hike. As for the colours I don’t know what you were expecting it to look like with rain and fog, go on a clear day and the colours are very bright. And if you were expecting the colours to be as bright as the leaflets then you have no common sense. It’s an industry that has been doing it for decades. All I would say is actually research and prepare yourself next time.
John Widmer says
You’re certainly entitled to your opinion, but it seems you may have misinterpreted many aspects of the post. We didn’t find the hike to be that “difficult,” as it’s stated in the post “We actually found the short 15-km hike itself to only be moderately challenging.” To attack our “experience” without knowing us is laughable, as you don’t know our experience or the summits we’ve achieved. And rather than labeling us a being “not prepared at all,” perhaps a more helpful approach would be to offer some words of wisdom of how others could be better prepared for this trek. Personally, we find that proper rain gear, trekking boots, acclimatization, and a decent level of fitness (among the other tips we’ve suggested throughout the post) as some helpful suggestions. What more would you advise for others to be prepared? Please do tell. If you’re going to come by here to attack this article, at least offer some practical substance to back up your baseless claims.
Y. Lewis says
My daughters and I decided to try Rainbow Mountain and we were scammed by our tour guide for price of horse. They charged us 60 soles for each girl one way and me 70 soles one way. Every where I’ve read 70 soles covers cost of round trip. There was a lot of snow. Was pretty much a disappointment.
John Widmer says
So 140 soles for you round roundtrip? Yikes! Either the horse handlers have raised their prices dramatically or someone was being a bit naughty with you. I fear that is was likely the latter. When we were there, it was 80 soles roundtrip.
“He went on to explain that the colors of Rainbow Mountain aren’t as pronounced on a bright sunny day and the mountain’s colors will pop more under these grey conditions. I’m not so sure that’s true.”
I work in the tourism industry. This is the sort of thing you say to people to try to make them not feel so bad about their less-than-ideal experience (i.e. not be mad at you for things you can’t control–such as rain and the fact that their employer decided to make them work on a day when nobody, including the guides, should have been on the trail). Now, sometimes they contain a grain of truth, and I definitely don’t outright LIE to people. It sounds like he was outright lying to you. I live in a very colorful tourist destination and, while it has its charm in the rain and fog, the colors are dulled and gray. I’d say most things lose 50% of their color when the sun goes in, and another 25% in the fog at the very least. So on a sunny day, the scenery probably has FOUR TIMES the color you saw. Now, the grain of truth is that, in general, cloudy days ARE better for photography. You get fewer shadows, and if you’re photographing people or objects, they’ll pretty much always look better under cloud cover. Not so much landscapes, though, and definitely not in person, which is the whole point of tourism.
Hey guys, we had a blast on the alternative Rainbow Mountain and I think this is a good option for those who don’t want to hike that much. We were inspired by you to search for alternatives and I’m glad that we found one. Even if the place is different (there are 3 smaller Rainbow Mountains), it’s less touristy and it took us only 40 minutes to get there. Again thank you for your help and maybe you can somehow mention this option in your article to make others aware of it.
John Widmer says
Thanks for the feedback and for the idea. We do update our posts occasionally, so perhaps we’ll add that as an idea for alternate considerations to Rainbow Mountain the next time we come back to edit the article. Until we get a chance to do that perhaps some savvy travelers will see your recommendation here in the comments. 🙂 Cheers!
Thank you for the post. I like to read different perspectives of real experiences of hikes. That being said – I have to file this under yet another post done by people who did the hike and then tell everyone else not to do the hike because it’s ruining the natural landscape. At least every other hike review I read does this – complains about the crowds and destruction, AFTER they themselves have gone. I know you mentioned this in your post – that you of course added to the destruction – so at least you recognize the hypocrisy. Not trying to be mean, but so many “good doers” that “love natural beauty” see the hike for themselves and then warn everyone else away. Half of the most incredible hikes in the world have the same perspectives, people doing the hikes then telling everyone else that you’re disturbing the peace and ruining nature if you go and then telling them dangerous tales so that they stay away. I just wonder if this wasn’t skewed a bit that’s all.
John Widmer says
When we first pursued this hike in early 2017, there really wasn’t anything written online about the destruction that is taking place on Rainbow Mountain like there is all over the Internet now. I wish we had known about it in advance. We didn’t. That’s why I wrote this article, to inform others. I don’t think you’ll find anything written about that from 2016 or prior. Take a look. I realize that there are now other reviews that mention this, but there wasn’t at the time. It was all very one-sided, glorified, and in some cases misleading. I stand by our perspective as we are giving a realistic look at what we experienced, among other info, and let people make their own decision whether to pursue the trek. I wish I could have read a post like this before we chose to trample up the mountain.
Stephen lozdno says
This article is bullshit. It’s all negative. If you had a bad experience – that’s the breaks. But to paint the entire rainbow mountain experience negative.. your opinion. We just got back and it was snow capped. It was beautiful ! The roads are breath taking … are you guys really trying to protect this place by writing a negative account??
John Widmer says
We have written the article as this is how we experienced Rainbow Mountain. Yes, we had a negative experience, so the post reflects our truthful account, facts and opinions. That’s not bullshit. This is what we encountered.
This trip is quite hard. Last month I went with a group of friends and it’s exhausting. But IT IS REALLY AMAZING. And this comes from someone who does not exercise every day.
Obviously you should go with good weather conditions. Fortunately, was a sunny (but cold) day for us. The people and animals over there are used to the environment, easy for them to walk.
Anyway I can understand you made bad choices, probably because some people trying to make money (the bad way).
david fenna says
The negativity of this article is almost as extreme as the photoshopped pictures! In good weather this is a great sight to see, probably better as part of a longer trek to Ausangate as this provides some acclimatization to altitude, and where experiencing the contrast of arid multi coloured hills to alpine glaciers is awesome. 5200 meters high in the rain/snow, setting off at 2am and not acclimatized is not going to be fun anywhere in the world. 5200 meters up in the sunshine with some acclimatization is heaven.Great tips though for sure, though anyone needing to be old “take some snacks” is probably not fit to set off outside Cusco! Water too- one of the keys to altitude is to drink loads.
Renato persechino says
I almost died and still found this trek to be one of the best experiences of my life! Yeh you read that right literally almost died. Could hardly walk anymore I needed to take a horse part way up, and most of the way down. Eyes blurred out, could hardly breath, and was probably close to hypoxia. I was terrified but at the same time felt complet. In the mountains with my fiance Mila (whom I asked to marry me at Machu Pichu) I couldnt have asked for a better day. It is very difficult and definitely not for beginner hikers. You just need to research properly and you’ll do fine. Thank you for this article though. It is good to know that during rain/snow it is not a good idea to trek it.
John Widmer says
Glad you enjoyed it so much, despite the challenges. Thank you for a balanced look at your experience and congrats on the engagement!
simply go there in a sunny day and you will enjoy the experience much more and if you go by yourself even better- from march to september rarely rains…
I can’t wait to go with a positive attitude & realistic expectations!
What an well written article, I thought it was factual rather than bias
John Widmer says
Thanks, we’ve tried to provide the facts about the mountain itself and our experience on it.
Me too…..I found it good.
Well written…I hate being freezing cold all day – while I love walking when I’m prepared.
Thanks for this article.
Being in the van would be the big no no for me omg no way…walking hiking no problem but that road and those two wheels…..eeeeeeek
Very useful info. The weather link posted towards end saved my ass. It showed it had been raining and will rain again the day of our planned hike.
John Widmer says
Glad it helped! Have been hearing that rainbow mountain has been covered in snow recently, so not much to see when that happens. Definitely wise to check that weather link and above anything else, know the current conditions. Cheers.
I guess you went there in bad weather.Its a trek for the sunny day.Also its a good article about what to avoid on the rainbow mountain trek in the rainy season.
Your guides should have taken care of you and the trail looks bad.Thanks for sharing your experience.
John Widmer says
Yup, definitely a trek for sunny weather. Hope our account can show others what to realistically expect when pursuing in the rain.
earthmoving auctions says
Thank God it’s preserved and never touched by miners.
John Widmer says
Yeah, that would be a real shame. Hope it continues to be preserved.
I wish I had taken the time to read this article before I went! We did this tour TODAY and I 100% agree with every single comment you have made. We were caught in a hail storm about 30 mins from the top and had to turn back before reaching the top. Devastating.
We were completely unprepared for the trek – our “guide” visited us at our hotel the day before and told us that SHORTS and a rain jacket or
PONCHO would be fine. Our tour summary says “difficulty level: easy”. My partner and I are both 30 years old and reasonably fit, albeit not experienced hikers but I’ve trekked
Machu Picchu and completely enjoyed that experience. Rainbow Mountain was challenging when it wasn’t raining, but once the weather changed, it became impossible. I cried the entire way down the mountain as I was completely drenched, being pelted with hail and snowed on. Our tour guide didn’t even come the whole way with us, opting to wait for us at a spot about 45 mins before the top so he wasn’t even there to help us when the weather went bad.
Once we got back to the van, we spent the next 4 hours shivering and chattering our teeth whilst we returned home via some very dangerous roads, many of which were flooded and muddy.
Oh yeah, and we paid US$200 per person for the pleasure.
My tip: Do your research before you go! I didn’t and so il shoulder most of the blame for my bad experience. I naively looked up “must do in Peru”, found a tour that sounded fun and went for it. This is not your typical tourist attraction and it is certainly not for everyone. In perfect whether it will be challenging, in rain, it’s an absolute nightmare.
Temp User says
Am sorry to hear you likewise endured the pleasures Rainbow Mountain in the rain/hail, but thank you for sharing your recent experience here. It will hopefully help others to make a more informed decision on whether or not to pursue this trek under such conditions. The guide’s behavior along with the road & trail conditions sound all to familiar.
Why killing the whole experience and excitement of others to hiking because you had a bad experience… if you said you’re only giving your opinion and telling what happened to you, the title should be different, don’t you think? A real hiker would know that not all hikes are surrounded by green grass, perfect shaped animals, warm environments and beautiful men hanging on trees… you probably traveled around the whole world but posts like yours tell me that you’re just a couple of people wondering around giving non-expert comments in a web not worth to read.
Heather Widmer says
“Killing the whole experience and excitement of others” is not the intent of this article. We’ve trekked in a variety of different environments, some of those being in inclement weather. We’re not faulting Rainbow Mountain for the landscape or the poor weather we experienced on the day of our visit. The issue is that the trek is dangerous in wet conditions due to the extensive mud erosion. In addition, the trail cannot sustain the damage that mass foot traffic does to the path in harsh conditions.
Rebecca Vandermey says
This article is only explaining one experience on rainbow mountain. I went and it was and still is one of the most spectacular things I have ever seen. It just depends on the day and how the weather is. I would recommend this trek to everyone!
Also the trails may need some up keep but don’t forget that you are travelling in Peru and the Euro/ North American standards are different. Writing an entire article on how bad this hike is is just unfair and you could be deterring people from experiencing something truly beautiful that our planet has to offer.
John Widmer says
Indeed this is only one experience and in bad weather. It certainly does depend on the weather, as we’ve mentioned. There are plenty of other glowing reviews about how amazing rainbow mountain is in good weather. I’d encourage people to do their research and consider that. There’s no shortage of other accounts and opinions out there, including in this comments section. But this is the experience we had. And it was a bad one. We’re not going to lie and tell everyone it was an amazing time and encourage people to go in the rain. That would be unfair, potentially leading people to injury, and continue to draw masses of unprepared tourists to what we found to be a place already dealing with overcrowding.
Maryland Photographer Irene Abdou says
Very interesting – a beautifully colorful photograph of Rainbow Mountain showed up on my login screen on Windows 10. I showed it to my husband, who doubted that the colors were real and urged me to do a google search. We then arrived at your website, and my husband said, “I told you so.” Thanks for sharing your experience; I’m sorry you had such an unpleasant trip there!
John Widmer says
Haha! The same pic recently just came up on our Windows screen (maybe they added it on a recent update) and we both just rolled our eyes. That pic is totally photoshopped! The mountain does legitimately have some nice colors to it, but it’s most definitely not like what that Windows 10 backdrop portrays.
Manolo Urruti says
Interesting article. But besides the fact that if you are going to trek without taking into consideration that the weather plays a fundamental role in the event. It is a big mistake!
I’ve trekked the Cotopaxi, in Ecuador. I think it’s slightly higher than Rainbow Mountain. And even was cold and with snow after the second station, it was one of the best experience of my outdoor life!
If you never trek or hike in your life, don’t go to another country and do it! That’s irresponsible, train first, gain the experience, improve your reflexes, see how much you can tolerate.
I’ve been in Medicine Bowl in Colorado, Pico Bolívar in Venezuela, and every single mountain has a unique characteristic and a different approach to take as a trekker.
Interesting article, but if you are going to believe in flyers, brochures or advertising posters… You will be dissapointing for the rest of your life.
John Widmer says
Yup, all good advice. Although we tend to find that the places we experience in person to almost always be way better than any pictures we’ve seen. For us, this was not one of them.
Due to the iphone update glitches. What my message should have said was, “Thank you for writing this article and providing such detailed information on your experience. I hope it saves many from making the same mistake.”
John Widmer says
Haha, I gotcha! Yeah, we made the best decision we could at the time on whether or not to go in the rain. We hope others can now learn from our experience.
Tjank you for taking the time to write this article and provid such detail.
This is on you. You shouldn’t continue an arduous hike in those weather conditions. Don’t blame the mountain, blame yourself.
John Widmer says
Hmmn… I don’t recall ever blaming the mountain. Yes, the trek should not be pursued in these weather conditions. Glad that point came through.
Marco J. says
Wooow guys I’m so sorry to hear that you have had such a bad experience 🙁 I recently did the alternative tour to the rainbow mountains with exploorperu (a Peruvian agency) and it was absolutely amazing! I read their blog post comparing the Vinicunca trek and the alternative tour before and that really convinced me. As you said, the trek to the Vinicunca really doesn’t seem that fun (aprox. 3 hours, altitude problems, and if it rains…oh boy) and hearing that the alternative tour was only 45 minutes of trekking astonished me. But it really was like that 🙂 And the coolest thing was that I saw various rainbow mountains and we also hiked through the red valley on the way to the rainbow mountain, that was really nice! You should definitely check it out if you get the chance to go back to Cusco/Peru. Cheers, Marco
John Widmer says
Sounds like that could be a great way to see Rainbow Mountain and if we’re ever back around Cusco I’d definitely check it out. Thanks for the recommendation!
Brett DP says
Really too bad that your Rainbow Mountain experience was so bad. We just returned from there a few days ago. We climbed December 28, 2017 and the weather was not great, but not pouring rain — though it had poured steadily during the night. Our weather was sort of a light rain & light snow mix much of the time. Our guide was absolutely terrific! Every time I stopped to pant, he kindly offered me oxygen from a bottle he carried in his back-back. (I refused every time :-). I didn’t see any guides rushing their clients. Our guide was thoroughly enjoying himself. He told me that when he was younger, he used to run to the top once per week. He was constantly pointing out interesting features on our way up. One of our group used a horse and the “horse guide” was also extremely kind and patient; he also seemed to be enjoying himself, mugging for the camera etc. Our colleague did have to dismount for the steepest parts, but we were told that in advance, so no surprises. The trail was muddy, but nowhere as bad as you described. Not doubting you at all. But it did seem to me that trail improvements had been made since your hike. In fact, there were even people working on the trail the day we were there. I didn’t see anybody slip and fall. I agree about the lack of vivid colors, but still found it awesome! On the other hand, we were pretty well prepared. We had warm and weatherproof gear, including rain coats and rain pants. We had packed a lunch which we ate after the hike in the van. (I skipped breakfast, but had packed some energy bars just in case — didn’t need them, though. Guess I just survived on Coca leaves for the trek 🙂 It was one of the really best hikes I went on in Peru — well worth the effort. But perhaps the most important differences between my experience and yours was that (1) it seems trail improvements were being made, and (2) Our guide was absolutely terrific! He clearly loved what he was doing. And he was soooo helpful and patient. Look, I’m nearly 63 years old, so he knew he’d have to be patient 😉
John Widmer says
Wow, that is all very encouraging to hear. Thank you for sharing your experience. Most of all, it’s really great to hear they are improving the trail. And the guide you had sounds like all the other fantastic guides we’ve had throughout Peru. Was really a shame for our guide (and others) to rush trekkers, leave them, and provide zero information. The two key differences you’ve pointed really do help to make or break a trip like this. Am encouraged to hear that your experience was much more positive than ours and can only hope improvements have been made (and will continue), so visitors can enjoy this place and do so more safely. Thanks again for sharing your experience and cheers to you for making it to Rainbow Mountain at 63! (That’s a feat that MANY young 20-somethings weren’t able to accomplish on the day we went!)
Wow there are so many idiots who misunderstood your post. Ridiculous thing is that these idiots think they are really smart and are somehow putting you in your place. Instead they are only revealing that they are not able to understand a few simple paragraphs. Thanks for this enlightening post – very refreshing to see a realistic description of the potential issues of trekking to Rainbow Mountain in bad weather.
John Widmer says
We’ve been a bit perplexed and surprised to see some of the backlash in the comments. I never imagined warning about the bad experience in bad weather would be such a debated topic. But hey, it’s the Internet. Thanks you for chiming and giving us a sanity check! 🙂
FINALLY, somebody who agrees how over rated this hike is. As far as the weather, you just have to prepare for any condition. I lived in Vancouver for 2 years so I would pack for a day hike with water proof gear, moisture wicking gear, and something warm just in case. I recommend the same for this hike. I went in January of 2017, an dthe temperature was 15 degrees C when i started but started snowing when i got to the top. Our guide raced ahead and didn’t supervise the group. He passed us coming down as we were going up, and he told us we only had 5 minutes to spend at the top because we were too far behind him. I am accustomed to snow shoeing and hiking in heat, rain and snow, but this hike was difficult only because of the altitude. the path itself is okay and its not too steep, and the distance from the carpark is only about 4km.
When we returned to the bus, there were 2 people who never returned, so the guide had to go and hike to the top again and go find them, while our bus left him behind and headed back to Cusco. This is typical unresponsible tourism in Peru. If you really want to see the Rainbow Mountain, then go and do it, but don’t be surprised when you realise its a total anti-climax. I have to say that it truley is the worst hike I have done also. I got very bad altitude sickness during this hike.
John Widmer says
Am finally glad to hear from some more people who concur. Definitely felt over-hyped to us too and not worth pursuing in the rain/snow. The guides have a tough job and work looooong days, but it’s still no excuse for leaving people in bad weather conditions on a mountain top like you mention. It’s irresponsible practices like that in combination with hoards of unprepared tourists (without the recommended gear you’ve mentioned) and a quickly deteriorating trail which is all a troublesome combination.
Louise Cotton says
Thank you so much for this. I was wondering whether or not to go to Rainbow Mountain later this week; saw the obvious photoshopped pictures, one guide whispered to me that the mountain wasn’t visible if it snowed, another guide said it never snows there but that it could be cloudy and thus disappointing if even visible … whilst others were talking it up.
So I think I shall instead spend the money saved from the tour on drinking overpriced cappuccinos in the safety and comfort of beautiful Cusco!
John Widmer says
Yeah, there’s certainly many mixed opinions about Rainbow Mountain. Am sure it’s nice on sunny day but I’d never want to pursue it again (nor recommend) under the conditions we went under. Hope you enjoy/ed that cappuccino in beautiful Cusco – we sure do miss it! 🙂
It seems like ya’ll should be mad at yourselves for agreeing to go on a shit weather day. Yes we all know there will be hundreds of tourists and the horses livelihood sucks but you’re bitching about a bad weather day. You yourself compared it to all different peaks and anyone who has ever hiked a 14er in Colorado knows how the weather can quickly change and shift the environment you’re in. Ya’ll should have been smarter and rescheduled your day. I went when it was cloudy and I have no reason to bitch about anything. You clearly missed out. Your fault. NOT the mountain’s. You can’t even speak positively about the INCREDIBLE, panoramic views of this location. Shame. Because you could’ve spent your time writing a blog about, yes, the reality of the trek with its negatives and positives, but you went on a lousy weather day and didn’t even get to see the 360 glorious views no one ever instagrams…every other angle of this mountain made it 100% completely worth going to. The only useful part of this article was the “tips” section. Everything else was just bitching and moaning from someone who was too stupid to rebook. Sorry not Sorry.
John Widmer says
Seems you’ve misunderstood many aspects of this post. It’s not bitching about bad weather, nor blaming the mountain. Rather, simply showing others what it’s really like to pursue this trek, particularly in bad weather, so they can make an informed decision and possibly avoid the same fate that sent people to the hospital and left everyone else that day wishing they hadn’t gone. Our comparison to other mountains is solely in regards to altitude. Of course weather can shift. Much more so in the unpredictable high Andes than in Colorado. Yes, it would have been great to reschedule this rainy day for better weather, as we advocate repeatedly in this article not to go in bad weather. Looks like that’s something we can agree upon and clearly you’re smart enough to already know that. In hindsight and after reviewing what we laid out in this post, it’s easy to see this hike shouldn’t be pursued under such weather. Unfortunately many rainbow mountain tour companies don’t allow cancelations or rescheduling. Also, like many people traveling through Cusco, time is limited and this was the only day possible to pursue the hike. So travelers must make a decision to: go in the rain or cancel without refund. Glad you were fortunate to be able to experience rainbow mountain under better conditions. If it makes you feel good about yourself to resort to name-calling, we’re happy to absorb your insult and show others how it can be “stupid” to pursue this trek in the rain. No shame here.
Everything you said, I thought. I live in Colorado and have hiked several of our 14ers here. Anyone with ANY hiking experience knows not to be on the mountain if there’s any chance of rain/hail/storms, etc – I think that if people want to hike this mountain, they should as long as *they* take the responsible precautions – to include weather conditions.
John Widmer says
I agree but many people don’t know this, hence our post with this warning. And once on the ground in Cusco, most agencies all claim that it’ll be fine and the weather won’t be a problem. So we want to show what it is like in inclement weather so that people can make an informed decision about whether or not to pursue what otherwise can look like an amazing trek.
I think you chose the wrong route!! Rainbow and the ranges surrounding them were bright! We started on ausangate and the ranges were ridiculously gorgeous, but we had really good weather!!
John Widmer says
Perhaps, but I think having good weather is a more important factor than the route.
Well, I think I’d still have to disagree. We did a 4 day trek and rainbow Mountain was the last stop. We were the first to arrive. The days before consisted of countless lakes and large glaciers tumbling into the bright blue lakes. One of my best treks, but we have the right to have a difference in opinions, but I wanted to say mountain rainbow trek choice does make a difference. It just depends how motivated one is!
John Widmer says
Sounds like a great hike! But that’s not the same trek we’re talking about in this post (although both include Rainbow Mountain). Taking the time to do this longer 4-day trek, as you did, sounds like a fantastic trek. I’d certainly recommend that over the 1-day crowded rush over the badly damaged trail. I may have mis-read your initial comment, so apologies. I do agree with you that the route you took is a much better alternative than the 1-day route.
This article is a entirely dramatic. Weren’t there also corpses on the side of the trail?
I hiked up to the Rainbow Mountain a couple of weeks ago and whilst the weather was not ideal, we had a great experience.
It had snowed the day before and so some parts of the mountain were covered in snow which only added to the experience.
You might have been unlucky with the weather the day you went on but on the day I went no one seemed to have any difficulties save for the altitude sickness. No one was crying, limping or whatever else this article is claiming. The path to reach the lookout is completely fine.
Not all photos are photoshopped in Cusco. Some travel agencies even have videos of the rainbow mountain which provide a good overview of what to expect. Travel agencies are obviously not in a position to guarantee anything as they do not control the weather.
Again, you may have been unlucky with the weather but some sunshine would have rendered your experience entirely different.
Lastly, Inka Time is the only company that offers the rainbow mountain combined with the red valley. I would highly recommend this company which only charged us $90 albeit a little more than most travel agencies in Cusco. We were able to hike up to the rainbow mountains and continue onto the red valley (as opposed to walking back down the same path). The red valley was simply stunning.
I was personally disappointed with the rainbow mountain given that the colours were not as bright as they could have been due to the weather. However, I saw photos from friends who went a couple of days later and those pictures showed very bright colours with blue sky and sunshine.
John Widmer says
No corpses, lol. Only blood and broken bones. I can understand how our account may seem overly dramatic, but this is what we experienced. It was indeed dramatic. And we don’t want to hide that.
Fair enough, not ALL agencies in Cusco display photoshopped images of Rainbow Mountain. But most of the adverts and posters we saw, most certainly did. I find that to be misleading. It gives travelers a false sense of what to expect. You mention yourself how you were disappointed with the colours. Kuddos to the agencies who give a more honest overview.
I agree that a day of sunshine may have rendered our experience differently. Overall, I think most people that go in great weather seem to have a worthwhile experience, despite some of the other misgivings we’ve mentioned. It’s why we suggest that “if the weather is decent, you’re acclimatized, and in good physical condition, then do go ahead and consider this trek.”
Thank you for the useful recommendation of continuing onward to the Red Valley. The price seems steep, but sounds like it may be worth it.
We are a group of 8 that are doing the Inca trail at the start of April then hoping to do the day trip to The Rainbow mountains on the 7th/8th April. We saw a company that runs the trip for 100 USD but now realise it would be worth buying it once there depending on weather conditions. Is there a lot of tour operators? Only thinking because we are a big group and would like to go together! 🙂
John Widmer says
Yes, there are hundreds of tour agencies in Cusco that all offer the Rainbow Mountain tour for about a third of the cost you were quoted online. I’d definitely recommend to wait until arriving in Cusco to book it, so you can get a better idea of weather conditions and to save compared to the online prices. And even with eight of you, it should be no problem at all to find a tour to Rainbow Mountain last minute. Hope you arrive to a bright sunny weather and have a great trip to Peru!
Once again, guys, thank you for the NOT sugar-coated account of your trip! As many have mentioned before, such honest stories are harder and harder to find these days!
I hiked this track in the end of March this year, just like you, and for me the whole experience was like a never-ending torture in all the seven circles of Dante’s Inferno!
I’ve just posted my at my own blog about it and here’s the link if anyone wants to compare experiences:
But now, when it’s all over and in the past, I remember this day with a smile, as one of the worst ones in my life that, somehow, I am masochistically happy about…
P.S. haters gonna hate, but keep your head up!
John Widmer says
Nice to hear from someone who likewise didn’t have an “amazing” experience on Rainbow Mountain. Thanks for sharing. “Seven circles of Dante’s Inferno” – haha! We can definitely relate to your tale. And it sounds like we went around the same time, as we also did the hike at the end of March earlier this year. All the best for some more happy and less masochistic travel experiences into 2018! 🙂
Horrible blog that I couldn’t even finish! You’re writing style made be want to slit my wrists! It seemed like you were ill-prepared and had unrealistic expectations!
John Widmer says
Lol! My writing was just criticized by someone who leaves a comment full of typos. Oh, the irony. Yes, my writing style clearly isn’t for people like you. Although with nearly 100K readers per month, it seems others like it just fine. Yes, perhaps our expectations were a bit unrealistic, given all the photoshopped pics that often portray it differently. Ill-prepared? If anything, we were probably over-prepared. I think I was the only person on the mountain wearing rain pants that day. Anyways, instead of simply bashing this post, perhaps a more helpful approach could be to offer advice on how to be better prepared for such a trek, since you seem to know better. And before going through with your suicide attempt, perhaps just consider clicking off the page rather than leaving a trolling comment.
Thanks for your honest opinion and post. I read this blog before I went to Peru and was really unsure if I should do this trek being the start of November. Arriving back in Cusco with beautiful weather after the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu I decided I would go ahead. 3 of us decided to hire a private guide with a 4×4. Wow what a difference our experiences were. The drive was stunning and comfortable (think it would have been scary in a bus ). We had an amazing picnic breakfast before starting our hike. It was a hot and dry day, I was in singlet and tights the whole way apart from the summit where it was a hit windy. The colours really shown through with the sunlight. Yes I do believe a lot of the photos are photoshopped but on my day I was actually really impressed by how vibrant the mountain was. We also arrived at the summit before the hoards of people. After coming back down we had an awesome picnic lunch with music from the car. I am so happy with my experience that I just wanted to share mine 🙂
John Widmer says
Thanks for sharing your experience. That sounds like a really nice day, between the picnic lunches, private 4×4, and sunny weather! 🙂 Perhaps that’s the way to go.
I have to say that our experience was exactly the opposite. It is a shame you went at the wrong time as this was basically the best part of our trip to Peru. The mountain was indeed colourful like a rainbow, the way back was amazing as we could enjoy the view without the difficulties of going up. Once at the top, it feels great to not only see this natural beauty but also to know that you have made it (many people can’t handle the altitude). It is still not that popular so it was not crowded at all. We went in June 2017 and the weather was nice, it was cold as you can only expect at 5100m above the sea level but it was bearable …… and gorgeous.
The Rainbow Mountain remains a must for us and we always recommend.
John Widmer says
Glad you were able to see it in nice weather and have a good experience. It’s also encouraging to hear your trek was not crowded. Certainly different than what we encountered. Thank you for sharing your experience and perspective.
Lydia Kesler says
Ok – back from our 10 day trip to the Scared Valley, including a 4 day Inca Trail Trek (amazing, very challenging!), followed by a day trip to the alternate Rainbow Mtn. It’s called Palcoyo Mountain. In an earlier post I promised to report back. It’s in the same vicinity (could actually see Rainbow Mtn in the distance). Once you turn off the main road it’s a dirt road for almost an hour thru potato growing villages, then as you travel above the tree line there are tons of alpaca and llama. It’s my understading that this roadway is relatively new. It becomes quite remote. The ride takes you to almost 15,400ft then you hike the rest (up to a little over 16K) and follow a ridge (perhaps total of 1.5 hr r/t hiking w/ stops) on a fairly good trail. The colors were evident but it was overcast and then we had “thundersnow”! And lightning! All was white for a while. So you never know about the weather. But it was a very good day trip with pick-up at hotel at 7am and return by 5pm or so. I almost hate to mention this location because it is pretty pristine at this time. No crowds. But the area is very poor and the villages are able to make a little bit of money with a “toll” that our guide paid after registering us. Entire area is fascinating. We booked it thru Eric Adventures in Cusco because that’s who we used for our trek and when we asked about Rainbow Mtn they said they go to this location. So I can’t compare it to Rainbow Mtn. but I can say it was a very good experience, even in crazy weather.
John Widmer says
Wow, that sounds great! Thank you so much for sharing this information. The pristine natural setting and the lack of crowds makes this alternate Rainbow Mountain sound wonderful. What an interesting experience it must have been in “thundersnow.” Am sure it’s even more beautiful under better weather. Yet either in thundersnow or sun, this alternative rainbow mountain really sounds like a great find! 🙂 Knowing about such a place can be nice for savvy travelers to ultimately have a better experience and help divert a little traffic from the influx that the original Rainbow Mountain is receiving. Thanks again for sharing and helping other travelers! 🙂
I find this to be one of the most over-exaggerated articles I have read. I do understand that this is your personal opinion on your trek but using the terms such as “victims” is a bit much. I did the trek yesterday, and unfortunately it rained, snowed and stormed that we as well got about 2 minutes once we reached the top to snap some pictures before the mountain disappeared behind fog. And yes, I witnessed people fall down the muddy hill, get upset over the lack of oxygen and some who hurt themselves, but let’s be honest here, it’s a trek, it’s not a nicely paved nature walk. Calling for a better path is unnecessary, its suppose to be rugged, and you get warned about the altitude way ahead of time. As for the colors, anybody thinking they will go and see the mountain looking like the brochure you posted or the photoshop picture you paid for (which in my opinion looks just as fake) has obviously not done their research, but the colors of the mountains on the way up are still a beautiful site, I remember looking at the Blue of one hill and couldn’t imagine how the world has such beauty like this. As well, a friend of mine went a few days before me and got an amazing unedited photo, one that makes me jealous since I got the crappy weather, so it’s not a lie the majestic colors of the mountain. As for the guides, I did not see one guide rush their people, everybody is free to do it at their own pace, unfortunately this means waiting in the van for the others to return but everybody has their own pace, especially in that high altitude. In saying that, when the storm started at the top the guides called for everyone to come down as it was dangerous for us to be there.
As I said I get that this is your opinion, but it sounds like you are just angry you didn’t get that “perfect” day to do such a trek. And you should have cancelled it yourself if you knew the weather conditions were way less than ideal. I feel very happy about my trek experience even though I got caught in a snow storm, froze, had that not so great food (cause yes that I 100% agree with!), my knee is in pain today from going so slow down hill as to not fall, got a blister, i still had a great day. Feel so proud of myself that my asthmatic lungs didn’t give out on me and I managed to hike the whole way up. It’s in the experience and the way you look at your adventure. Scaring people off of this experience by calling the hikers “victims” and belittling the mountain itself is unfortunate. Yes people should not do this in horrid weather conditions, but I don’t know why they would think that’s a good idea in the first place, and unfortunately that is on them for deciding to go ahead with it. I’m sorry your experience sucked so much, I just hope people aren’t turned off from this experience based off this article!
John Widmer says
The use of “victims” is simply prose to get the point across. Yet when witnessing several people that ended their day in the hospital, I think the use of “victims” is an appropriate word choice.
Yes, I agree the pic I had photoshopped looks fake. That was part of my point in doing so.
We find a better trail necessary given the hoards of people that are trudging through this otherwise beautiful mountain landscape every day ruining it. Sure, I’d also love to have a more rugged experience with no trail at all. But unfortunately that would end up destroying the mountain with the thousands of people walking all over it.
Am glad to hear the guides weren’t rushing during your trip and seemed to be alert of dangerous conditions. Sounds like quite an improvement from when we were there.
Yes, it’s good to have different opinions, which is why I wrote this piece in the first place since everything else we’d seen online was so one-sided about how amazing Rainbow Mountain is. In that same spirit, I welcome your opinion. You’re actually the first person we’ve heard from that trekked it in bad weather and still had a positive experience overall. Perhaps conditions at the end of dry season weren’t quite as bad or perhaps you’re have a more optimistic outlook than us. Whatever the case, we are happy to show your account as proof that you can, in fact, have a good day here despite bad weather. And glad you enjoyed it.
Still, I stand by our recommendation not to pursue in such conditions and I don’t think it is exaggerated or unwarrented. Before posting our experience and opinion of Rainbow Mountain, we sought some consensus with others. On the way back to Cusco, I asked our van full of 20-something people of varying nationalities and skill levels if they would recommend the trek to a friend if weather was the same. Every single person unanimously said “no way.” Also, before posting this article, I also sought opinions in a popular South America backpacking FB group. The response: every single person that went in bad weather said they wouldn’t recommend. Yet everything I read online seemed to only gush about it.
I agree with you in that we should have cancelled the trek given the weather. We really should have. But we trek in storms all the time, so we thought we could salvage a good experience given what an amazing place this seemed like. If only there was some article online that would have left us better informed about what it’s like to trek Rainbow Mountain in the rain. Hence this post.
What a poor judgement. The mountains look amazing to me even from your own pictures. Would not dare missing this opportunity while in Bolivia! Also, agree that you should have been well prepared for this.
John Widmer says
Glad you are able to find the beauty in these pics. It’s definitely more appealing to view as a picture, as it was difficult for us to truly enjoy in the conditions we experienced. Also, just to clarify – this is in Peru, not Bolivia.
Gioko Pat says
This article is very informative. You really did not leave anything out for the packing list, did you? About the coca leaf candies though, just never tried something like that before. From the pictures, it looks as if the weather can turn with little or no notice. Much better to plan for cold weather.
John Widmer says
Yes, the weather sure can change quickly. Best to come prepared for sure! The coca leaf candies are great! They help with the altitude and provide a little energy boost! 🙂
Daniel Nowicki says
I thought it was amazing!!!! I think you should stick to Disneyland
John Widmer says
We’re glad that you, like many others, found it to be “amazing!!!!” We’ll tell Mickey you say hello.
Hi, I’m a young traveller that would love to go to Latin America. I just wanted to say thank you for being so honest and realistic. I would like to hike up and see the mountains, but you are completely right. I will possibly go on to Peru during a future trip and will definitely keep this in mind. It would be great to go but safety comes first. I really appreciate that you have taking your time to write and to share your experience. Enjoy your travels!
John Widmer says
Thanks for your the supportive sentiments. This post was intended to show the actual experience that we had during bad weather, so that others can have realistic expectations of Rainbow Mountain and decide for themselves if it’s something they want to pursue. It’s refreshing to hear from someone that understands that. We hope you make it to South America one day to experience all the beautiful this continent has to offer. Happy travels!
I must disagree. It is glaring obvious that the pictures provided in the travel agencies are enhanced, but it is not true pictures of other tourists are too. I went with a friend of mine 2 weeks ago and maybe by a stroke of good luck the weather was so nice that the whole trek provided the most stunning landscape views. I do believe in rain it does look a bit disappointing, but what doesnt? I agree though that there were way too many tourists and the poor horses carrying them. Hotel pick up was early, but our agency picked us up at 5am. So the pick up time varies. It is cold, of course it is… what to expect in such altitude anyway? I also agree that the guides were rushing people. Ours was too not taking into account that not everyone is adjusted to the altitude. What is more concerning than the actual Rainbow Mountain, which I personally am happy I got to see, is the road there. If God forbid, the car slips by just few cm, you are essentially done. There are no side road barriers off the cliff road to prevent accidents. I am not aware of any happening, but just something I observed.
John Widmer says
Thanks for chiming in with your experience. Glad to hear you had clear weather and an overall positive experience despite the crowds and being rushed. And yeah, those roads leading there – yikes!
We are about to head to Peru/Sacred Valley for 10 days. We went ahead and booked a private tour at the end of our visit to a different “colorful” mountain in the same area. It is supposed to be much less traveled and we won’t be rushed. We go rain or shine so we are of course hoping for reasonable weather. It is called Palcoyo Mtn. We booked it thru Eric Adventures, who is coordinating our 4 day Inca Trail trek. So far we have been very happy with them (been planning for a year). Fingers crossed and I will report back on the experience of this mountain.
Cassie Coble says
You sound like an uppity, spoiled brat. An “experienced hiker” would be well aware of the effects of rain on a mountain. Also, would an “experienced hiker” trust a guided tour? Would an “experienced hiker” be prepared with proper attire, food, water and footwear. Yes, an “experienced hiker” would know all this. You my dear, are awful. Go back to Boulder, or Oregon and flaunt your fancy North Face puffer on a nice gravel trail. Leave the tough shit for those of us that use our brain, instead of putting all out trust in a tour guide. Jesus, i can’t imagine what you’re like at a restaurant.
John Widmer says
Sigh, another troll. It’s baffling to me that an article warning about the dangers of doing this trek in the rain is somehow becoming controversial. But what is absolutely mind-boggling is that it’s eliciting so much hate that it has led to personal attacks. Wow, just wow. It seems this has really pissed you off. Relax. I was going to address your criticisms and argue them, but it’s not even worth the time to continue typing to prove to you. I’ll just say your judgements couldn’t be any further off the mark. Also, please know that I am able to delete comments or not approve them entirely, but I’ll continue to leave trolling posts up. This engagement actually helps our Google ranking somehow. So thanks, I guess. And we’re sorry if this blog post ruined your day.
I am sorry too John. I don’t understand this kind of commentary at all. If people thought that their family, friends and employer would know who they are when they write like this it would be a better social media world. But this helps your ratings?! Go figure. You can delete this post so it doesn’t start a whole string of comments about something other than the Rainbow Mtn. – this is just a message to you.
very honest..one more reason to look for better trails…like humantay for one day, without a guide of course!!! i’ll be heading for abancay instead..thanks…
John Widmer says
Yes, probably a good call. Treks from Abancay look beautiful! And nice to be able to do on your own. We weren’t able to find a cost-effective way to trek rainbow mountain in a day without the tours on offer, hence booking the one we did. Enjoy your time around Abancay! 🙂
I’m sorry that you had such a terrible experience, but I climbed Rainbow Mountain last year and it was one of the most magical places I’ve ever visited. I had no issues with altitude, although a fellow traveler I met did so you’re correct not to underestimate the altitude. The colours were vibrant and even the the photos and videos I took on my iPhone were incredible with NO EDITING. Hopefully others have the experience that I did, because I’ve been to 36 counties in 6 continents and Ausangate is still one of the most incredible places I’ve ever experienced.
John Widmer says
Thank you for sharing your experience. There are certainly two sides to this mountain. And I know many people, like you, who have had a great time and got some nice photos, unedited. Am so glad you had a much better experience than we did under bad weather conditions. It’s nice to see a positive and respectful comment here showing support for what can ultimately be great experience for some.
Sarena Wilson says
perfect article.I really, really appreciate your time and efforts for writing such a quality article.
paul pierce says
so pleased to have found your site before I leave for peru in november. WAS planning to visit the Rainbow Mtn but not after reading all that people have said on this blog…at least not in November. I do trail re-hab work here in Wa. state and would love to bring a crew to those trails and spend a few weeks.
John Widmer says
Glad to hear the post helped you to make a informed decision. Ahh, it would be so great for that trail to get some much needed rehab. Am sure it would pose some logistical challenges, yet sounds like a great idea! Hope you have a great trip to Peru in November!
Jimmy Obvious says
Seriously? You went here expecting anything less than a shit show? You guys should go to Theodore rosevelt national park next and complain about the lack of Starbucks and hot chocolate! Seems to fit in with the pretty obvious reviews you write. 👎👎
John Widmer says
Thanks for the comment Jimmy Obvious. (love the name, btw!) Not sure how it relates to Rainbow Mountain, but we think Theodore Roosevelt NP is a pretty awesome place. Loved seeing all the rock formations and the bison up there in North Dakota. But I wouldn’t go there looking for a latte. That seems like a rather un-obvious pursuit. But anyways, good on you for being so well informed about Rainbow Mountain to already know it’s a shit show. Although you find this obvious, others may not. We also appreciate you helping our site traffic by having taken the time to look at all our other reviews! 👍👍
George Gaston says
Why would you go to Peru in February, the peak of rainy season?
John Widmer says
Actually we were there at the end of March. (Never mentioned we were there in Feb.) We knew that this time was the towards the end rainy season but that was the only time we had to travel Peru. We did our research and found it doesn’t rain all day every day during this time. There’s simply increased chances of rain. I wasn’t going to let a little rain stop us from traveling through an entire country. We often travel through places when it’s rainy season and find it isn’t really that bad. That held true with Peru too, as we got very little rain during the few weeks we were there and we even lucked out with clear skies at Machu Picchu. But we certainly learned our lesson the hard way not do go to Rainbow Mountain in the rain/snow, and wanted to pass that along here.
We too went in March about 4 years ago. It turned out to be a good time to go.
I think that is among the so much significant information for me.
And i’m glad reading your article. But want to observation on few
basic things, The site taste is perfect, the articles is actually great :
D. Just right job, cheers
Thank you VERY much for your honest and realistic review. There are many websites that expound on the undoubted beauty of this hike but your post warns us loud and clear – lots of rain, beware! Anyone researching a visit to the Sacred Valley should have already learned that the weather is unpredictable so this firsthand experience is a valuable illustration. And thanks also for your detailed info such as the snacks – always better to say it than not for those who may assume incorrectly. We will have one day in early October (after an Inca Trail trek) to see the Rainbow Mountain area. There are other mountains to hike within this geographical vicinity, with similar features, so we will probably look into doing that. They are also much less crowded.
I sure hope the Peruvian Ministry of Culture is able to become involved in PROTECTING and maintaining the trail to Rainbow Mountain.
John Widmer says
Thanks for stopping by and chiming in. Yes, we also really hope the area can be preserved. It was disappointing to see how much wear the area leading to the mountain was receiving during our trip. Thankfully the Rainbow Mountain itself does seem to be protected. But the delicate environment in route there… not so much. I hope you have great visit to Machu Picchu and hiking the Inca Trail. And hope you have some great weather in October too, whether trekking Rainbow Mountain or elsewhere! 😉
Just did the hike and it ws great. It seems as if your article has 1 valid point (don’t do it when wet) and then you just then tried to pad the article out by writing generic things that aren’t unique to Rainbow Mountain:
Wow really things don’t look as good in the fog wow who knew that?? Any tour for anything in Peru costs about 4 times as much online and dumb yankie tourists are always going to get ripped off because they happily just pay whatever. Who cares if you need to get up early, stop complaining about little things. Your ‘tips’ are so generic “bring snacks” on a hike?
John Widmer says
Haters gonna hate. Hey Jeff, when you put yourself out there to start a blog and write a far superior article to this one without all the generic tips I included – please write me back so I can follow it! 🙂
But this is not generic advice. We applaud you that you are so smart enough to know to buy the tour once you get there. Give yourself a pat on the back. Other people may not know this. Also, this isn’t just about things not looking good in the fog. It’s about how dangerous the trek can be under bad weather and warning of the reality of what you would experience in such weather. It actually wasn’t foggy when we went, so not sure where you got that from the article. It was snowing, no fog. Bring snacks? Yeah, some people might not know that lunch isn’t served until 4:00 pm. The tour operators don’t tell you that. And I wouldn’t think about bringing snacks on a mere 3-hour hike. Again, give yourself a pat on the back for having that foresight.
I understand that these tips didn’t help you since you are clearly so well-informed, but I’m confident they are helping others. Keep on trollin’
Zach Martinez says
Just got back from Rainbow Mountain paid 40 soles for a relatively easy hike. The view was amazing and we had clear conditions. Yes there are a lot of photoshopped pics but in reality for such a short cheap hike the site is beautiful. It is definitely worth it. I find your article very pessimistic. Sounds as if you are blaming the mountain for your own lack of research and planning. I got some great unedited pictures if you wanna see them. I hope your article doesn’t cause anyone to miss out on this hike.
John Widmer says
Am glad you had such a good experience as it sounds like you had some beautiful, clear weather. Awesome! But our article pessimistic? Not really, just realistic. This is what we encountered during bad weather. I’m not going to sugarcoat our experience to our audience and spin this as a great day out. Blaming the mountain? No, we actually did loads of research and planning, as we always do. Everything else online is very one-sided and only tells of how amazing an experience this is. Perhaps a few posts go on to include a single sentence about considerations for the weather. This article is meant to provide a balanced view to all those “amazing” depictions and to thoroughly warn of considerations when going in bad weather. You don’t need to send your unedited photos to prove you had a nice view of the mountains. We’ve seen plenty, and I’m sure yours are lovely. If the weather is looking clear and you’re prepared, we don’t disagree that this has the potential to be a great hike. That’s just not the reality we experienced and we hold firm that in our recommendation to not pursue if it’s been raining.
This is the ONE travel blog that I found most useful, honest and practical. Many travel blogs out there are out to sell a product so you can hardly tell which is the truth. Thank you so much.
John Widmer says
Thanks, we’re just trying to tell it as we saw it. In today’s world of advertorials and sponsored posts, it can be hard to tell what’s what. Am glad you found this useful in making a balanced decision of whether to pursue. Cheers!
Very interesting read. I appreciate the honest opinion that you’ve shared with us however, Ive discovered in my time as a traveler that most things aren’t always what they seem in photos vs what they are like in real life. I’ve experienced this all throughout Europe at very famous destinations but not once have I ever regretted ever going out and exploring these places. Half of traveling and sight seeing in my opinion is the journey and what you learn from it. . . Not just the pretty views. I understand that you may have experienced a particularly bad time to visit rainbow mountain but why not then just write an article on the best times to visit? 🙂 Either way thanks for the article!
John Widmer says
Yeah, I understand your point and agree that half the fun of traveling is getting out to explore and experiencing with your own eyes. Sure, it’s not all about the pretty views; it’s all part of the experience, good and bad. But trekking Rainbow Mountain in bad weather is one experience that we do regret embarking on and we simply want to warn others of the dangers involved that culminates in an obscured view. I wish we could write a more positive article on the best time to visit, but we would feel a little dishonest doing so and not revealing the treacherous conditions we encountered under bad weather. We’re just trying to keep in real and tell it as we experienced the trek ourselves. Thanks for chiming in, and if you head out on your own Rainbow Mountain trek, we hope you have a much better experience full of sun!
Thanks so much for this! I’m going to do the Inca Trail in January and have some days, left, was considering booking a Rainbow mountain tour – but given your honest (so hard to find these days!) review I think I will just wait and see what the weather is like once I’m there 🙂
Keep up the blogging!! It’s so needed to have some ‘real’ reviews once in a while!
John Widmer says
Great – glad this was helpful! Yeah, definitely a good idea to see what the weather is like. And if it’s good conditions, and you still feel up for it, it could be worth giving it a go. Like we’ve said, many people have raved about it in good weather, so I wouldn’t completely discourage a trip out there if it’s nice and sunny. But certainly don’t go if it has been raining! 🙂
Hi John & Heather! I’m so sorry to hear your experienced sucked so bad! We had some rain, but it didn’t take away from our experience as it cleared when we were heading to the summit (luck, I suppose)! My advice for anyone reading – don’t do the 1 day trek! You’re bound to be miserable (after-all, you’re signing up for a 24 hour marathon day) If you can swing it with your budget, I’d HIGHLY recommend the 2-day overnight camping trip with Ayni Peru. It was nothing short of magical. We were virtually alone aside from the locals herding the alpaca, sheep and llamas, and got to the summit an hour before any of the day-trippers got there. It’s also incredible to wake up in the middle of the night and see a sky unspoiled by artificial light in all its glory. If you check the photos on my instagram, they aren’t photoshopped! I bumped up the saturation a few points to reflect what I saw in real life – magic! If it makes you feel better, I once did a 5-day trip through the Outback and it pissed down rain for 5 full days. We almost couldn’t see Uluru! I supposed that’s just the nature of travel – you never know what you’re going to get! Anywho, I hope you can go back for a better experience some day! All the best, Wanderluluuxx @wanderluluu
John Widmer says
Yeah, I think the 2-day trek is probably the way to go if tackling Rainbow Mountain. (And going in decent weather too, of course!) The one-day trip really is quite the marathon day. It sounds like the 2-day trip may be worth the added expense. I know what you mean about being disappointed about bad weather ruining an incredible view like Uluru, but we felt this went well beyond that as conditions not only obscured the colorful mountain, but it made things downright dangerous. Anyways, am glad you had a good experience here and thank you for sharing your perspective and recommendation for the 2-day trek. If we were ever back in the area, I think I would only consider giving Rainbow Mountain a second chance under good weather and with the 2-day option.
Pablo Martín Podhorzer says
Of course there are colorful mountains :they are in ARGENTINA, and maybe in Bolivia.
John Widmer says
We did see some colorful mountains in Bolivia and Argentina too, but they seem to be much less popularized than these in Peru.
This was a really helpful article! I’m planning to be in Cusco in late July and we had talked about doing this trek…now I’m not so sure. Do you have other suggestions of day hikes around Cusco that would be good for less experienced hikers?
John Widmer says
In late July weather conditions should be much dryer. And despite the drawbacks we’ve covered here, other people seem to enjoy this trek under good weather, so it could still be worth considering. But definitely abort if it has been raining. As for other day hikes around Cusco, there are tons of great options! We can’t give you any personal recommendations because we only embarked on the the Rainbow Mountain trek and the Jungle Trek to Machu Picchu. But check these out for some one-day hiking inspiration from around Cusco. Looks like some great ideas:
I got such a kick out of this post. We were in Peru for a couple months last year and were tempted by Rainbow Mountain, but we had Machu Picchu in a couple days so opted against it. IMMEDIATELY we started hearing about all of the bad parts about it. My wife and I have a travel blog as well, and every time we end up at a really instagrammed place, it’s always the worst. It doesn’t surprise me the trails are crappy with all of the foot traffic.
Also, thank you for being so honest about your time! Sometimes people get really defensive about a place if they had a good time, and it’s like “…you know you don’t HAVE to love a place right?” The honesty is so refreshing!
John Widmer says
Haha, thanks for the support – totally agree with your sentiments! Some people have gotten super defensive about Rainbow Mountain in response to this post. And I wish we could have had a great experience and loved it like all the other blogs I’ve read, but we didn’t. And we’ve talked to many others who had similar experiences as us. So we wanted to show this side of the the mountain instead of the amazing place that so many others seem to find. “Amazing” was not our experience here, and we wanted to try to tell it how we saw it.
I just hiked Rainbow mountain and thought it was absolutely gorgeous. I made it to the top and had the same cloudy overcast weather as you, but after 30 minutes, it cleared up and was incredibly beautiful. The photos in the brochures are saturated with color, but the actual, unedited photos I took are still amazing and its very possible to see incredible colors when the sun is out. I was in South America for 3 months and the Rainbow Mountain hike is one of my favorite memories. I have never been anywhere more beautiful! Catch the hike on a clear day, and you’re guaranteed to have a great view of a super unique geographical phenomenon. Would absolutely recommend this hike. I also left my hotel in Cusco at 6AM instead of 2:30 (I honestly don’t understand why people leave so early???) and still finished the hike before dark. Got back to Cusco around 9:00PM. Don’t listen to this blog’s warnings! You will totally miss out!
John Widmer says
You clearly had a completely different experience than us and we’re glad you had nice weather and found it to be gorgeous. But… “Don’t listen to this blogs warnings!” Okay, then we cordially invite you to go to Rainbow Mountain in inclement weather like we did. Then please come back and comment on your experience as you type from a hospital bed, as many people ended their day there. Our warnings are no joke. If it’s a clear day, sure – go ahead, we don’t doubt it can be a lovely place. There’s hundreds of blogs that out there that share your sentiments and gush about how amazing it is. But under bad weather conditions, Rainbow Mountain is not just underwhelming, it’s straight-up dangerous and harmful to the mountain environment. I can certainly understand how you can have a great experience there. I wish you were able to see things from our perspective.
Nicole – did you go on your own or with a tour? Would love to know which tour groups leave later!
First of all, Hi Nicole 🙂 (our families are friends and a couple of years ago we did a hike down the Grand Canyon to Phantom Ranch for a night – so amazing, highly recommend, book 1 year ahead!!). We are doing the 4 day Inca Trail trek in Oct and the company that I have done most of our planning thru offers a 1 day hike to another, similar mountain in that geographical area. It leaves at 7am and is back in early evening. They say it is also very beautiful and much less crowded. I think it’s called Ausangate. However, it is pricey but can vary based on the number of people who sign up, but so far I have been very happy with my experience with this company (I will report back on any Rainbow Mt experience after we return). I’m getting more details about it. Our biggest concern is booking in advance because it sure sounds like you don’t want to do it on a rainy day or even after a very rainy day.
I’m not sure that is the correct name – but it’s in same vicinity as Rainbow Mt. Also a 3hr drive there and 3hr drive back. Company that offers this one is Eric Adventures in Cusco.
Oh my God, my experience with Rainbow Mountain was exactly the same! I wonder if we were there around the same time. I was there beginning of April this year. I regretted doing it immensely and I don’t recommend it to anyone unless they are 100% sure that conditions will be dry. You can’t even be sure of the weather though. When we started it was nice and sunny until we reached the top. Then the weather turned COMPLETELY and the exact experience you described above began, including guides, including everything… To everyone who’s thinking of going: Go at your own risk.
John Widmer says
We did our trek around one of the last days in March this year, so seems like nearly the same time. I think any day on Rainbow Mountain when rain is involved, trekkers will very likely have a similarly bad experience. Definitely agree with you about recommending not to go unless its completely dry. Thank you so much for chiming in and sharing your experience too. People need to know about this other side of Rainbow Mountain and be warned not to go in the rain. So we really appreciate you taking the time to weigh in here. The weather can be unpredictable in the high Andes, but the issues we saw here go beyond bad weather. I honestly felt like we would have been better off without a guide, and I think having no trail at all would have provided better trekking conditions than what was left there during our hike.
Pilot Mark says
Hey guys, what a shame that you didn’t have the best experience on the trek…I feel like its an important part of travelling to live both positive and not-so-positive experiences so we can truly appreciate things when the good times roll by! Anyway I loved the sincerity of your article and find it refreshing to be told a truthful story! Hope you have a great time on the rest of your trip!
We had same bad experience while hiking in rainbow moutain. It was the worst experience and worse tour I ever been. The guides were so rude to us . They discouraged us and forced us to take the horse where we refused to.after they started to block us from taking picture. And we were asked to pay for donation as to help the local community but in fact the money doesn’t goes to local community as claimed by the horse guide. During the hike we kept fell due to the super and muddy and slippery trail, and my friend got bruise from that . Instead of helping us, the guides kept hurry us and not even gave a hand when we tripped . In fact they just shouted Vamos on us. The view is stunning but we can’t enjoy much of it.
John Widmer says
Thank you for sharing your experience. Sounds all too familiar. We’ve heard quite a few stories just like this. I know there’s some other people out there who have challenged our claims of what we experienced on this trek, so we really do appreciate you chiming in. It’s absolutely ridiculous that the guides don’t help the people getting hurt. We saw so many people getting injured and it was us and other hikers who helped them out, while the guides meanwhile just tried to rush people along. Really a shame!
Brett Horting says
Zhangye Danxia National Geological Park
Sunan, Zhangye, Gansu, China, 734000
Is better, Gansu Province, not ready to get to, but better maintained and better weather on any given day.
Heather Widmer says
Thanks for the comment! We’d love to check out Zhangye Danxia National Geological Park one day too!
This post makes me sad. I went to the rainbow mountains in November 2015 and at the time no one knew about them. You could barely find any information on google. It was an amazing experience to find a local farmer on this small town to be my guide to the mountains. The whole hike was beautiful and there was not a set path and definitely no entrance fee. I hope the terrain doesn’t get ruined because this was one of my favorite experiences after 2 years of traveling
John Widmer says
Yeah, we think it may have shot to popularity a bit too quickly. Your experience sounds amazing and pretty special. I think you’re very fortunate (and smart) to have gone when you did! Unfortunately that is certainly not the scene that plays out there daily now. We can only hope they will be using those entrance fee funds to maintain what’s left of the trail and to protect the surrounding environment.
Rainbow mountain is on my wish list but I will head your advice- not in the rain! I would like to do the mountain as part of a longer hike and that will hopefully be less busy and disappointing. I’ll let you know when we make it there:)
Heather Widmer says
Thanks for the comment. A long hike sounds like a great option and will likely have less people on the trail. Please do report back and let us know how it goes!
Aleah | SolitaryWanderer says
I’ve seen photos of the Rainbow Mountain, and I agree, it seems to be one of the victims of Photoshopping. While I like hiking and trekking, too, doing so in snow and rain is definitely not my idea of a good trip. Thanks for sharing this with us!
John Widmer says
Yeah, it’s actually pretty amazing what photoshop can do to enhance Rainbow Mountain. We absolutely love trekking too and try to go hiking wherever we travel, but things were not only miserable, but dangerous, under these conditions.
Marian Anderson says
HERE IN NEW MEXICO WE HAVE ROCK COLORATIONS THAT DO NOT HAVE TO BE DIGITALY ENHANCED TO Be AWESOME. LOOK AT SOME OF THE AMAZING LANDSCAPE AROUND AND ABOUT ABIQUIQUI, NM (where Georgia O’Keeffe lived and painted) GOOGLE AREA AND THEN TAKE A COMFORTABLE DAY TRIP N. FROM SANTA FE. OR STAY AT ‘GHOST RANCH’ THERE AND HIKE OR DRIVE THE MANY BACKROADS AND CANYONS.EAT AND SLEEP IN COMFORT AND GO HOME INVIGORATED .. YOU DON’T HAVE TO TRAVEL OUT OF THIS COUNTRY TO FIND THE EXOTIC. I THINK THIS IS WHERE THE MOVIE “COWBOYS AND INDIANS ” WITH HARRISON FORD WAS SHOT. FROM HERE DRIVE WEST TO THE “BISTI BADLANDS S. OF FARMINGTON NM FOR ANOTHER UNWORLDLY AREA. PITCH A TENT IN THE ROCK FORMATIONS AND SPEND THE NIGHT AMONGST THE NEARBY NAVAJO HOGANS STARGAZING IN A PERFECT LIGHTLESS ENVIRONMENT…. IF IT WASN’T COLD IN THIS PART OF N.M. IT IS DEFINITELY WHERE I WOULD LIVE. I HAVE SETTLED FOR SUN COUNTRY THOUGH NEAR THE ‘WHITE SANDS NAT. MONUMENT IN SOUTHERN NM IN LAS CRUCES—WEST OF THE AWESOME ORGAN MTS. WHERE MY EVERY VIEW IS SPECTACULAR EVERY SUNNY DAY—AND THE LIVIN IS EASY !!! MARIAN ANDERSON –one of your faithful followers……..
John Widmer says
Hi Marian! Those places sound fascinating! I’ve been to White Sands NM (awesome!) but haven’t heard of the other places you mentioned. Googled them and they sure do look stunning. At some point we’ll be back roaming around the US and will definitely need to add some of those to our growing list of places to visit!
Paul Dixon says
Also, look up ‘Painted Hills’ outside of Bend, Oregon – although there’s no hiking there, it’s a drive-up job then walk on some boardwalk through the hills. Still quite pretty.
Some of the yahoos here were unreal – you deal with them very well.
John Widmer says
Just googled that – looks cool, had never heard of it. Thanks for the recommendation! Yeah, some of the people in these comments …wow.
I disagree. You can’t be surprised that it’s muddy during the rain… c’mon. It’s not a trail where there are wooden pathways (thank God for that). It looks colorful and beautiful when it’s sunny, nothing looks cool when it’s foggy.
“Under good weather conditions, it’s likely a nice yet challenging trek to see some pastel colors on a mountainside. If you want to wake up early to spend 6-7 hours in a van to see that, we say go for it.” <- there's so much more to this trek than just the colorful mountain. Bunch of alpacas everywhere, stunning scenery. That's why I recommend people to book last minute to be sure of the weather. Hope you'll go back and do it under better weather conditions.
John Widmer says
I hear ya. This was simply our experience and our opinions. Mud was no surprise but we did not expect to experience slopes that were literally impossible for anyone to walk on. Not sure how long ago you were there, but I can tell you that the trail has gotten really bad. I agree that wooden pathways may not be the answer, but they need to do something to repair the trail’s current condition. The mountainside is getting destroyed. No doubt that Rainbow Mountain is more colorful and beautiful under better conditions, but I hold firm that many of the tourism posters and Instagram shots are unrealistically photoshopped. I do most definitely agree with your advice to wait for the weather and book last minute. Unfortunately this rainy day was the only day we were able to squeeze in the trek. I admit that we should have just abandoned our Rainbow Mountain plans altogether under the bad weather conditions, which is what I’m hoping to now warn other travelers about since the tour operators certainly will not. Not sure we’ll have a chance to go back and see the bright and beautiful Rainbow Mountain in the sun, but I’d certainly consider it to have a balanced (and better) experience.
If they went between January and April this would explain
“Generally, May through October is the dry season; November through April is the rainy season, and the wettest months are January through April. In mountain areas, roads and trek paths can become impassable. Peru’s climate, though, is markedly different among its three regions.”
John Widmer says
Yes, we went towards the end of rainy season (late March, early April). It’s not an ideal time to go overall, although it is still possible to have decent weather even during rainy months.
Janet Newenham says
This is such a great article! I hardly ever read other people’s blog anymore as every article is always so positive and full of over-edited Instagram shots. I love how honest you were and feel your pain. I’ve been to a few places (The beach filming location in Thailand, for example) that were such a disappointment and i would not recommend anyone to join. Thanks for writing, sharing and shedding some light!
John Widmer says
Thanks Janet! We’re flattered. Happy to show a different perspective about this mountain. Yeah, completely agree with you about all the over-edited photos. Some of the Rainbow Mountain ones are particularly bad. I know what you mean about “The Beach” in Thailand. It’s a beautiful place but not when there’s a bazillion packed onto the beach from day tours! 🙂 Happy travels!