Rainbow Mountain in Cuzco – Palccoyo or Winicunca?

Are you thinking of making a trip to visit a Rainbow Mountain in Cuzco?

There are two Rainbow Mountains in Cuzco.

Whichever option you choose, you will be amazed by the vividly-coloured vistas awaiting you. A magical place for lovers of natural landscapes.

These surrealistic mountain ranges attract travellers from all over the world, keen to experience such unique landscapes.

Visitors ascend to behold rainbows of minerals and stone which settled millions of years ago and due to tectonic movement, were raised to become mountains.

Because of their proximity to one another, Palccoyo and Winicunca mountains have much in common, however, each offers a unique experience.

Similarities of Rainbow Mountains in Cuzco

Until a few years ago, both “Rainbow Mountains” remained hidden from the eyes of the world as the mountain range was covered with a thick layer of snow. Due to climatic changes, the snow has gradually melted, exposing the coloured veins of the mountainside.

In the wet season from November-March, the two mountains may be covered with snow, resulting in a dull greying of the colours or, at worst, a mountain completely covered with snow.

Keep in mind that when it rains in Cuzco it almost always means there will be accompanying snowfall in the mountains nearby.

What’s the Difference Between Winicunca and Palccoyo?

Winicunca has never been more popular, with almost 1000 visitors per day. It’s no surprise, therefore, that there’s usually a queue of people at the top waiting to take that all-important photo. Palccoyo, on the other hand, has significantly fewer visitors.

Another big difference is the difficulty of the walk and its duration, of which more below.

For both Winicunca and Palccoyo, travel time from Cuzco is 3.5hrs.

Winicunca (5200m / 17,060ft) is accessed via a challenging 7km trail with occasional steep sections, notably the finally 300m. Excluding time at the summit, it’s a round-trip trek of approximately 4hrs. Winicunca is not recommended for children due to the low temperatures, the duration of the trek and the extreme elevation. The tour starts at 3:30am and ends at 6pm. Winicunca is usually offered as a full-day round-trip from Cuzco.

Palccoyo (4900m / 16,076ft) is accessed via an easy 4km trail of gradual inclination. Excluding time at the summit, it’s a round-trip trek of approximately 2hrs. The tour starts at 5am and ends at 3pm. During the excursion to Palccoyo, visit the town of Checacupe, famous for its trio of Inca, Colonial and Republican era bridges. The most fascinating is the Inca Bridge, a hand-woven suspended bridge first established by the Incas to facilitate imperial trade.


Palccoyo Winicunca
# Daily Visitors 50 – 100 1000 – 2000
Round-trip Trek Duration 1.5 – 2 hrs 3 – 4 hrs
Difficulty Easy-Moderate High
Altitude 4900m / 16,076ft 5200m / 17,060ft
Horse Rental No Yes
Round-trip Transfer Time 3.5 hrs 3.5 hrs
Hotel Pick-up 5:00am 3:30am
Hotel Drop-off 3:00pm 6:00pm

Recommendations

Before going to Winicunca Rainbow Mountain, it is important to be acclimatized. We recommend spending at least 2 days in Cuzco, or the Sacred Valley, prior to embarking on this excursion. The city of Cuzco 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 high altitudes.

Coca leaves help with altitude sickness. In Cuzco 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.

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:

Passport

Change of clothes

Sunscreen, insect repellent, toilet paper

Water bottle

Personal medications (headache, anti-inflammatory drugs)

Extra money in local currency, Peruvian Soles

Rain poncho

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

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

Travel insurance

Binoculars

If you want to visit the stunning Rainbow Mountains of Cuzco take a look at our Rainbow Mountain Palccoyo Tour and Rainbow Mountain Winicunca Tour.