Palccoyo Rainbow Mountain Excursion

Winicunca is not the only Rainbow Mountain you can visit in Cusco. Three hours from the imperial city, the Palccoyo Rainbow mountain is a tourist attraction worth exploring.

Palccoyo Rainbow Mountain, 4,900m /16,076ft, is formed by colourful peaks of multitudinous colour. Such decoration is due to a mineralization process that has taken millions of years. Due to its elevation and climatic conditions, the mountain has been always blanketed by snow. Consistent temperature increases of recent years, however, have caused snow-melt and fewer snowfalls which has revealed the colourful strata of the mountain’s slopes.

The beauty of its natural landscape of Palccoyo is just as amazing as the famous Winicunca Rainbow Mountain, though Palccoyo is more easily accessed from Cusco.

Rainbow Mountain Tour

If you’re keen to experience the majesty and colour of the mountain on a day-trip from Cusco, this is the experience for you. The trek is on a low-difficulty trail, which for most of the distance, traverses level ground. A 2hr round-trip trek, Palccoyo is perfect for novice trekkers, children and those who want to take it easy and soak up the scenery.

This private tour commences with Cusco hotel pickup at 5am and a 2hr drive to charming Checacupe where we stop for a visit.

Rainbow Mountain first stop: Checacupe

During the Palccoyo Rainbow Mountain tour, we will visit the town of Checacupe, which is famous for its colonial church and its three bridges from the Inca, Colonial and Republican periods. The most fascinating is the Inca bridge – a hand-woven suspended bridge built by the Incas to help facilitate imperial trade.

Church of the Immaculate Virgin of Checacupe

Built in 1575, this church is one of the most beautiful churches of the region featuring the oldest image of the Immaculate Conception in Cusco province. The dazzling baroque interior features an ornate gilt altarpiece and a large collection of paintings from the escuela cusqueña.

The tall adobe tower next to the church was built to supplant local Inca authority. Original masonry from the Inca palace is still evident in the tower base. A short walk from the church and main plaza are the sequence of historic bridges.

Inca Bridge Built in the 15th century by order of the Inca Wiracocha, it was part of an ancient network of roads that linked the most important cities and towns of the Inca Empire. While the foundations are original, the suspension bridge is renewed every few years.

Colonial Bridge Located next to the Inca bridge, this colonial construction was built by order of the King of Spain in the 17th century. The arch-shaped structure is comprised of ashlar and limestonewhile its surfaceis decorated with tiny layered stones which form extraordinary geometric figures.

Republican Bridge This 19th century iron bridge was built for the early railways.

From here, we continue by car for 1hr to Palccoyo where we will start the walk.

Rainbow Mountain Trek

Palccoyo Rainbow Mountain is located at 4,900m / 16,076ft. The hike usually takes 45-60min each way. On the way we will appreciate the communities that inhabit the area, the coloured mountains, the “stone forest” and the region which is home to llamas, alpacas, guanacos and the Andean condor.

The low temperatures here are due to the elevation. There are stunning views of Apu Ausangate, one of the highest mountains in Peru. Apu is a Quechua word meaning: mountain and god. Apus are mountain spirits that are considered to be protector deities by Andean cultures.

When you reach the top of the trail, you will have time to enjoy the breathtaking natural beauty of the Vilcanota mountain range. After some time to rest and soak up the ambience, we will make our descent back to our vehicle. We will arrive in Cusco around 3pm.

Recommendations

Before going to Palccoyo Rainbow Mountain, it is important to be acclimatized. We recommend spending at least 2 days in Cusco, or the Sacred Valley, prior to embarking on this excursion. The city of Cusco is located at about 3,399m / 11,151ft, so you will have time to acclimate.

Walk at your own pace, don’t rush, as you will be at 4,900m / 16,076ft.

Coca leaves help with altitude sickness. In Cusco you can buy coca candy or even the raw material, coca leaves. As the taste can be quite bitter if chewed raw, we recommend you to have a coca tea during breakfast. All hotels and restaurants offer this local infusion.

At high altitude, digestion is slower, therefore it is always beneficial to eat lightly until you are acclimatized.

The cold at this altitude can be intense and it is usually very windy. Warm clothing is essential for your walk.

Palccoyo Rainbow Mountain Packing List

Trekking shoes/boots

Long-sleeved shirts

Trekking pants

Warm jacket/parka

Winter hat, sunglasses and gloves

Walking stick

Phone/Camera, extra batteries and sufficient available memory

In a small/medium backpack:

Sunscreen, insect repellent, toilet paper

Water bottle

Personal medications (headache, anti-inflammatory drugs)

Extra money in local currency, Peruvian Nuevo Soles

Rain poncho

Snacks (energy bars, fresh or dried fruit, nuts)

Coca leaves (or derivatives: candies, cookies, etc.)