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Vinicunca vs Palccoyo Rainbow Mountain

Cusco is a beautiful city in the Peruvian Andes, nestled in the middle of the mountain range, with a lot of history, tradition, and culture. However, this region of Peru hides many fascinating spots with unique landscapes. The Vinicunca Rainbow Mountain and The Palccoyo Rainbow Mountain must be on the bucket list of every traveler who visits Cusco and Peru.

Vinicunca vs Palccoyo Rainbow Mountain
Vinicunca vs Palccoyo Rainbow Mountain

In this article, let’s talk and compare the great options for you before deciding which rainbow mountain is the most suitable option for you.

Where is the Rainbow Mountain?

Both Rainbow Mountains are located in the Vilcanota range of the Cusco region, a few hours drive from Cusco city. Actually, those two mountains offer stunning views, and you can see the stunning colors that Mother Nature formed.

Why you should hike to the Rainbow Mountain?

For many people visiting Cusco, it means only   Machu Picchu and some Inca ruins; however, you have to consider adding this tour to your itinerary. A tour that will transport you to see something spectacular once in a lifetime. Hiking through picturesque Andean villages with herds of alpacas, discovering the local traditions away from the big cities, and being amazed by nature creations

Vinicunca Rainbow Mountain vs Palccoyo Rainbow Mountain: what is the difference?

  Vinicunca Rainbow Mountain, also known as the Mountains of Seven Colors, has become so popular that it is one of the top things to do in Cusco. It is located on the southern side of Cusco city, and it takes about 3 hours of driving plus an hour and a half of hiking to reach the mountain. Nowadays, hundreds of people visit it every day due to its popularity.
Its colors are unreal and can be appreciated from a viewpoint; it can be clearly distinguished by its seven colors.

The classic Rainbow Mountain of Peru
Vinicunca Rainbow Mountain

  Palccoyo Rainbow Mountain is the new alternative route for those who want to go away from the crowds. It is also located in the south of Cusco, about 4 hours drive plus 30 minutes hike to reach and see the beautiful colored mountains around. Only a few groups visit this place, which is well recommended for beginners hiking at high altitude.

 Alternative Rainbow Mountain
Palccoyo Rainbow Mountain

Altitude of Vinicunca and Palccoyo Rainbow Mountain

Hiking in the Andes is quite difficult because of the altitude; every meter counts. Vinicunca is nestled at a higher altitude of 5,036 meters (16,522 feet). While Palccoyo is at 4,910 meters (16,108 feet),
Whatever your choice, you must be well acclimatized. Spending a few days in Cusco before hiking to Rainbow Mountain will help a lot with your performance hiking up for any of those tours.
If you have a huge problem with the elevation in Cusco and you don’t want to miss out on the Rainbow Mountain, we highly suggest going for Palccoyo.

Hike distance: What is the difference?

The hiking distance and the time are very important if it’s about walking in the mountains at such a high altitude. Vinicunca takes about 1:30 hours to hike up. While Palccoyo is only 30 minutes away (only one way for both mountains), the same goes for coming down.
Keep in mind that the hiking time will be according to the physical condition that you have, and it can vary due to the altitude. You could get tired easily while you are climbing up; this is one of the factors that you have to consider before choosing which mountain is for you.

What is the weather in the Rainbow Mountain?

No matter which trek you do, the weather will be cold and windy. You might find Vinicunca to be a little colder due to the altitude, and it is closer to the highest snow mountain peak in Cusco, Ausangate. Palccoyo is a little farther from Ausangate Mountain, therefore it is less cold.

What is the best time to visit the Rainbow Mountain?

The best time to visit these fantastic places is between May and September, or even mid-October; this is the dry season in Cusco. You will have more chance to enjoy the colors of the mountains and the snow-capped peaks around them.
If you decide to visit those mountains between November and April, you could have some rainy or snowy days during your tour. It is also quite risky due to the slippery path.


Landscapes Experience

Of course, both Rainbow Mountains offer stunning views in the Peruvian Andes that will amaze you with their colors, whatever your choice. But each mountain has unique features that make it stand out.

When visiting Vinicunca Mountain, you will get closer and admire its incredible colors just a few meters away. On the other side, you will see the highest snow mountain in all of Cusco, Ausangate, with its 6,384 meters, considered by many locals to be the deity. You can also opt to visit the Red Valley, another fantastic spot that makes you feel like you are on Mars.

The classic Rainbow Mountain of Peru
Rainbow Mountain and Red Valley

If you choose   Palccoyo Mountain, you will also see the incredible colors of the mountain; even better, you will get to see three rainbow mountains, the stone forest, some Andean people, and the most impressive farming land located at the high altitude, growing some crops. A more authentic trip to the Andes mountains is what makes this Palccoyo Rainbow Mountain different.

Palccoyo Rainbow Mountain and Red river
Palccoyo mountain & the Red river



Both mountains are considered difficult; however, if you want to go deeper and see which one is easier,
The Vinicunca hike starts at 4,620 meters (15,156 feet) and climbs much more gradually to reach 5,036 meters (16,522 feet). It is more than 400 meters of hiking up to
On the other hand, we have the Palccoyo hike, which starts at 4,820 meters (15,813 feet) and climbs to reach 4,910 meters (16,108 feet). The hike is more gentle and less hard than Vinicunca.
In general terms, the Vinicunca Rainbow Mountain hike is a difficult, 1.30 to 2 hour uphill climb that can be quite strenuous for most people, while the Palcoyo Rainbow Mountain hike is much flatter and gentler and takes just 30-45 minutes to reach.


Prepare for the Altitude

Whatever you choose, we recommend preparing for the altitude. Spending a few days in Cusco or similar altitudes to acclimatize will help your body adapt more easily to the altitude of the Andes.
Drinking more water than usual also helps to adjust your body to the altitude; the water helps bring oxygen to your brain. Resting well the night before your hike will help you complete your tour of one of these mountains. Check out the following article to see how to prevent altitude sickness in Cusco.
  Cusco Altitude Sickness

How to book a tour for the Rainbow Mountain?

Ready to hike to the Rainbow Mountain of Peru? More of the tour operators in Cusco will take bookings in advance; below, check out our tour details for Vinicunca Rainbow Mountain or Palccoyo Rainbow Mountain.

You’ll also find that most accept bookings the day or two before in Cusco, but to make sure your spot is secured, we urge you to book before you arrive. This way, you can enjoy your vacation without having to worry about anything once you’re here.


Do you want to visit Vinicunca Rainbow Mountain but are wondering how to avoid the crowds?

No worries; here we will provide you with the best option to visit the classic Vinicunca Rainbow Mountain without the crowds. We know that this place has become very popular in the last few years, and taking the classic tour from Cusco means you will be with a lot of people at the same time in Rainbow Mountain. At Vidal Expeditions, we have designed some itineraries that will allow you to explore this amazing natural marvel away from the crowds.


Vinicunca Rainbow Mountain Day Tour

This tour is quite similar to what other companies offer; however, what makes it different is that we leave our hotel in Cusco at 3:30 a.m. and reach the   Rainbow Mountain before the crowds arrive. We usually get to the view point between 8:00 a.m. and 8:30 a.m., at which time the other groups are starting the hike at the bus station. Getting out of your comfortable bed too early can seem tedious, but it will be worth it.


Vinicunca Rainbow Mountain 2 Days Tour

If you like hiking in the mountains and exploring beautiful landscapes away from the crowds, Then the 2-day tour of Rainbow Mountain is what you are looking for, a perfect itinerary designed for you to reach Rainbow Mountain before the crowds of the day tour arrive.

Spend a night at the bottom of this spectacular Rainbow mountain with a clear sky during the night and hike early in the morning to the rainbow mountain to enjoy the sunrise and the wonderful view of this iconic colored mountain. End your hike in the Red Valley, which seems like you are on Mars.

 Rainbow Mountain Peru
Avoid the crowds in the Rainbow Mountain

What to pack for your trek to Vinicunca or Palccoyo Rainbow Mountain?

Wondering what to pack for your day trek to Vinicunca or Palccoyo Rainbow Mountain? Being prepared for your trek is essential, and the best way to be ready is to look at the packing list so you know exactly what to bring for your day trip.

This is the list what we recommend to pack for your trip

  • Waterproof and windproof jacket/poncho (It can get very windy and rain or even snow on these routes)
  • Warm sweater/thermals
  • Warm socks
  • Comfortable pants
  • Long sleeved t shirt (Layers are good to take on and off depending on how you feel)
  • Beanie and gloves
  • Comfy walking boots/shoes
  • Trekking poles (optional; depends if you like to use them or not)
  • Sun hat
  • Sun screen
  • Sunglasses
  • Toilet paper (in case you need it)
  • Water bottle
  • Snacks
  • Cash for snacks/water

Which is better Vinicunca or Palccoyo?

Based on the previous information you just looked at, now is the time for you to decide which tour to join: Vinicunca vs. Palccoyo. To make the best decision, keep in mind which factors are most important to you:
Are you looking for a genuine challenge? Want to share the popular photo on your social media channels? Want to meet other hikers on route? If the answer is yes, the Vinicunca Rainbow Mountain tour is probably your best choice.
By contrast, if you are looking for an easy hike, want to observe more than one colored mountain, and want to escape from the crowds, then the Palccoyo Rainbow Mountain tour might be the right choice for you.

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