The rainbow mountain is rapidly becoming the fastest growing destination in the region of Cusco and receiving about 1000 travelers per day. As there is no government involvement (yet) the excursion is still somewhat informal.
Your day will start at around 4 am, the reason to start early is that afternoons have more possibility of rain, clouds, and even snow. The drive takes about 3 hours, some groups start with a stop for breakfast, our recommendation would be to start with a breakfast box and do a good lunch stop on the way back. From the parking lot of Cusipata, there is just one trail leading up to the outlook point of the rainbow mountain. The trail itself is not that hard, but what makes it difficult is that you will start climbing at 4,300 meters and reach the outlook point at 5,200 meters of altitude. Most groups just do the hike to the rainbow mountain outlook, which should take around 3 hours round trip, some groups offer an extension to an outlook over the Red Valley.
The scenery is absolutely amazing and this could easily be one of the absolute highlights if organized well. When Matilde, Karin, and the Cusco team hiked the rainbow mountain, they did an off the beaten track version that included a more extensive hike to the Red Valley. In total, this takes more time than just the rainbow mountain, but the experience is very exclusive and no one hikes this part.
- It is very important that the traveler understands the physical demand, has no health restrictions and is really fit (!)
- It is important to do this trail at the end of the Cusco stay, when the traveler has had the most time to acclimatise to at least 3600m
- It is better to pay a bit more for a really small group (no more than 10), a good guide and do this alternative trail
- It is important the traveler knows that the horses that are available, should be for emergency use only.