Vinicunca Vs. Palcoyo: Which Rainbow Mountain Is Right for You?

Peru’s Rainbow Mountain, Vinicunca, has grown in popularity since discovered for tourism in 2015. Though still a very new travel destination, hundreds of people have already flocked to witness the array of colors first-hand, and almost every tour agency in Cusco offers one-day trips. However, what most people don’t know is that there are various Rainbow Mountains located in Valle Rojo, or Red Valley, and trips to a second Rainbow Mountain, Palcoyo, have begun to take place.

Now that you know you have two Rainbow Mountain options, you might be wondering which one is right for you. Well, lots of factors should be considered before making a decision such as your hiking preferences, physical ability, and goals.

Hiking in Groups v. Solo Hiking

As mentioned earlier, Vinicunca is the more popular Rainbow Mountain which attracts hundreds of visitors daily. Almost every tour agency in Cusco makes it easy for you to book a one-day tour, which usually includes round-trip transportation, breakfast, lunch, and hiking equipment. However, due to its popularity Vinicunca will likely be more crowded with tourists than the beautiful isolation of Palcoyo.

For some, hiking can be an extremely intimate experience which helps to connect you with nature. It might remind you of how small you are in comparison to the vast world around us, or how incomparable the beauty of nature really is. Hiking can also help you to connect deeply with yourself and your breathing as you traverse difficult trails with the goal of accomplishing what you set out to do.

Unfortunately, Vinicunca might not allow the experience of self-reflection, peace, and contemplation along the hike as you will be hiking alongside other groups hoping to reach the top for its incredible views. The magical landscapes you encounter will be unforgettable no matter how many people are around, but losing yourself in its abundance, with the beautiful feeling of being the only person breathing for miles around is a luxury afforded to those who don’t mind breaking the bank for an alternate route. Therefore, it isn’t impossible for one to enjoy Vinicunca in isolation, but it will cost up to 10 times as much for the exclusive trail (i.e $30 v. $300). But if $300 sounds too steep for a hike, try your luck with Palcoyo which draws less crowds and allows for the intimate experience you might be seeking.

 

Physical Ability & Goals

A hike is a hike is a hike, therefore, you can expect each of the treks to be roughly 2 hours, and tiresome. Both mountains are also thousands of feet above sea level causing altitude sickness in some. Before attempting either of these hikes, spend some time becoming accustomed to the altitude in Cusco, and make sure to stay hydrated, and pack coca leaves and a snack so you aren’t affected too harshly. Another consideration for both is the weather. The cold winds of the rural mountains intertwine with the hot sun beaming down on you from an open sky, making it difficult to determine the appropriate dress for such a hike.

Though both hikes take around the same time to complete, one is much more physically demanding than the other. Vinicunca is a battle of steep inclines, and hard-to-brake declines, causing you to lunge your way up some parts, and keep your balance from falling over on others. Add this to the confusion in temperatures and layering, and it is sure to prove a challenging trek. And just when you think it’s over, it isn’t. After finally being able to see the long-awaited rainbow mountain, you realize you have another 300 foot incline to the very top of the view point for the best views of Vinicunca and the Red Valley. Palcoyo, on the other hand, is a steady and leveled hike making it much easier to accomplish.

Therefore, if you are seeking a challenge, or have the goal of accomplishing a challenging hike, Vinicunca might be the choice for you. But if you are more interested in an easier trek with equally stunning views, try your hand at Palcoyo. Still, this isn’t to say Vinicunca can’t be considered. The locals in the area offer horseback rides to the top of the mountain for those who prefer not to hike. Keep in mind though that the horse will only go as far as to where you can see the mountain, so you will still need to complete a very short, steep hike which takes about 10-15 minutes.

Here you can find the most common questions about the weather at the Rainbow Mountain:

1

When is the best season to visit the Rainbow Mountain?

The best season to visit the Rainbow Mountain is between April to October, as during those months is the dry season and it is mostly sunny days. with minimum percentage of rain or bad days. The temperature during this season is about  21° / 2° (Celsius) during the trek, however it is generally colder (below O° C) and windy once you arrive to the summit. During those months there is a minimum possibility to find the Rainbow Mountain covered by snow too. For this season, the most recommended packing list is the following: sunglasses, sunscreen, cap, trekking footwear, backpack, long sleeve shirt,snacks, water.


2

How is the rainy season at the Rainbow Mountain?

The rainy season at the Rainbow Mountain is between November to March, and it low season for tourism too so it is not really bad for doing this tour during this months especially if you would like to avoid the crowds, and see all green. The temperature during this season is about  17° / -2° (Celsius) during the trek, however it is generally colder (below -5° C) and windy once you arrive to the summit. During those months there is a high possibility to find the rainbow mountain covered by snow, cloudy day, and also be hit by the rain in the afternoon (on the way back. For this season, the most recommended packing list is the following: sunglasses, sunscreen, beanie, globes, trekking footwear, walking sticks, waterproof clothes, and rain poncho.

What to pack for Rainbow Mountain?

What to pack for Rainbow Mountain? When one goes to the Mountain Mountain it is very common to see people in high heels, sneakers and sometimes with shorts and a shirt, and one thinks they are crazy!

We must to consider that it takes 2 hour hiking up approximately to a height of 5000 masl (16,522 feet) and with temperature of around 0 ° with  a very changeable climate. It is true that it is hot sometimes during the walk, especially in the morning but we must be prepared worse weather that happens sometimes as the cold, rain , or snow in order to care ourselves. Here what we would recommend packing:

Confortable trekking shoes (waterproof for rainy season which is from Oct – Mar)

Confortable trekking shoes (waterproof for rainy season which is from Oct – Mar)

Pantalones a prueba de agua.

Guantes de lana.

Gorra de lana.

Hat or cap

Sunglasses  and Sunscreen (Strongly recommended in case of snow, to care our eyes)

Lip balm with sunscreen (Don’t forget it! to get burned lips is common)

Cash for extras ( Recommended about $80 USD or S/.250 USD )

Poncho de lluvia.

Botella de agua.

Snacks (nuts, chocolate and a fruit)