Searching For the Rainbow in the Mountain

Searching For the Rainbow in the Mountain

Peru has simply been amazing.

I love Peru. So it was not a surprise that I ended up spending two months in this country and having some truly memorable experiences. Not least of which was the remarkable area surrounding Ausungate, the largest peak in the Cusco region. I ended up doing two treks in the area, one traditional circuit around Ausungate, and one very non-traditional search for Vinicunca.

Horses on the Pass

Jose leads his horses down a 17,000 foot pass.


I had head rumors of this incredibly colorful landscape near Ausungate. When I did the Ausungate circuit, I expected to encounter this wild scene. But it turns out the landscape I was looking for was off the circuit, and how to actually get there, very few people seemed to know.

The first campsite on the Ausungate circuit.


After returning from the traditional Ausungate trek, I began looking into Vinicunca for a return trip. But finding information was incredibly difficult. Most people, even locals who’d guided in the Ausungate region for years, had never even heard of this place. But luckily I found someone online who had been there before, and gave me just enough information to find it on Google Earth.

Mirrored Lake

One of the many lovely sights along the way to Vinicunca


That meant I knew it’s approximate location on my topographical map. As for specifically how to get there, I did not know. I found a guy who lives in the village of Tinke, the traditional starting point for the Ausungate trek, who claimed he could get me there. So we made a deal and set a meeting time in Tinke.

Snow Selfie

Selfie in a snow (graupel) storm


I found the smiling face of Jose in Tinke and we began to pour over my map and make a plan, but he kept pointing to the wrong part of the map. Turns out there is some other place he thought I was referring to, and had no idea where I actually had in mind. But we decided we would go anyway and just figure it out as we went.

Moonrise Over the Rocks

The moon rises simultaneously with the sunset at our last campsite.


Nervous that this return trip would be a bust, I set off with Jose. We ended up having a marvelous time. The Ausungate region is incredibly colorful, even outside of the magical landscape of Vinicunca. And as we went, we consulted with local alpaca shepherds as to the whereabouts of Vinicunca. We were able to gather enough information from the people who spent their lives roaming these mountains to eventually encounter Vinicunca.

The Rainbow in the Mountain, it speaks for itself.

There she is, Vinicunca. The Rainbow in the Mountain.

Full panoramic view of Vinicunca.

On the diving board, overlooking Vinicunca.


Getting back to Cusco was no easy task either. As Jose and I did not do a loop, but on the fourth day we encountered a road that would head back to village. When I got to the road, I waited two hours for a chicken truck that picked me up and hauled me in the open air bed, full of local Peruvians, to a town where I could pick up a bus to Cusco. It was a fitting way to end this off-the-beaten-path adventure. One that I will not forget soon.

Photographer, filmmaker, journalist, adventurer. I'm somewhere, maybe Flagstaff, AZ.

56 comments on this post

  1. Andre

    June 29, 2015

    Hi Eric.

    I will go to cuzco this september., and the pictures of this place,Vinicunca, are incredible.

    How many days your roundtrip from Cuzco to this spot took?

    Can you e-mail me so you could give me some directions in order I could get there please?

    Thanks, hope to hear from you soon

  2. LeAnn Morris

    October 3, 2015

    Hi Eric,
    Thanks for the trip report! I found your Instagram thread with another who gave some good info, but I’m wondering if you have any other tips. What town did you start from. Is there anyway of contacting the same guide that you used as he (hopefully) would remember the way. Any help is appreciated thanks!!

  3. Michael

    October 13, 2015

    This is awesome! How far is this from Cusco to the trail head if I wanted to get to the painted mountains?

    how long is the trek?

  4. Grace

    October 15, 2015

    Amazing! I would most definitely like to make this trip. I will be in Cusco in December.

    Would it be possible for you to send me a map with this place pin-pointed? That would be fantastic.
    I was also wondering the same thing as others, how long does this take from the city of Cusco?

  5. Tracy

    October 21, 2015

    This is so awesome! Would you happen to have any additional information regarding directions/instructions on how to get there/helpful tips. I am planning a trip to Cusco and would love to check this out.

    Any information would be helpful. Thanks!

  6. Louise

    October 22, 2015

    Hi, Eric! Great post!

    I’m brazilian and I am going to Cusco in January and I would like to know if it’s possible to visit those mountains in 4 days. Also, I would be very grateful if you could give me more information about getting there. I looked into some agencies but they charge a lot. I would like to go on my own.

    Could you mail me back?

    Thanks very much,


  7. Linnea

    October 28, 2015

    Hi Eric! I’m going to Cusco tomorrow. I’m interested to know how exactly you did get to vinicunca?

    Answer by mail please 🙂

    , Linnea Eriksson.

  8. Mallory

    November 2, 2015

    Hey! Like other comments I am looking for more specific information. I’m in cusco Noe hoping to leave for the ausangate trek on my own without a company this week, can you provide me with extra info, how much the local guide cost and anything at all.

  9. Marie

    November 17, 2015

    Can you send me more information about the non-taditional trek. I searching information about vinicunca and i want to know how I will get there (low cost). I hope you can help me.

  10. Annelise

    November 18, 2015

    Hello Eric!
    I enjoyed this writing piece and I am also on a search for Vinicunca. Any leads or connections to people, guides or other travelers that might be trekking in the area that you know would be very helpful if you have the time!
    Muchas gracias,

  11. Delphine

    November 23, 2015

    Hi! Thank you for your post, I really want to have more informations, I’ve got the same questions than the others, can you send me a message?
    Thank you!

  12. Fernanda

    November 25, 2015

    Hey Eric!

    Amazing post!

    I´m planning a backpacking to Peru next year and would love to visit this place. Can you send me an email with coordinates, please?

    Thanks and Best Regards,


  13. Angel Corbera

    November 25, 2015

    Hi Eric, I am going to Peru next May 2016. Can you give me more information on how to get to the rainbow mountain? I found the coordinates, but I don’t know the trail to get there. Thanks.

    • TANIA

      December 4, 2015

      we are also tour operator for VINICUNCA the rainbow mountain in 2 or 3 days

      • Anonymous

        February 13, 2016

        What is the hiking altitude?
        I did the Inca trail, over 15 years ago…but I was younger then.

  14. Xiongjie LIU

    November 26, 2015

    Hi Eric.

    I will go to cuzco next May., and your pictures of this place, Vinicunca, are so amazing.

    How many days did you do this trek?

    Can you please give me some information about how to get tothis place or do you know any agencies who run this tour?

    Thanks, hope to hear from you

  15. TANIA

    December 4, 2015

    We are glad you visited our Country Cusco – Peru and much more Vinicunca Cerro Colorado, maybe next time to take easy way via Cusco-Pitumarca-chillca-Vinicunca-chillca-Cusco only in two days camping.
    again, we are so grateful for your comments about Ausangate – the rainbow mountain

  16. Courtney

    December 8, 2015

    Hi Eric,
    I am like most of the other comments on your page, wondering how you got to these spectacular mountains. I will be in Cusco in May 2016 and would love to do this trek. If you can, please send me any information you have! Thanks in advance!!

  17. tompark

    December 9, 2015

    Hey all, you’ll find more by searching “yauricunca ausangate”.
    For example, see
    GPS loc is -71.30296,-13.869534.

  18. jhennyffer

    December 12, 2015

    Oi Eric, que lugar incrível..estarei indo para Cusco e gostaria muito de informacoes sobre como chegar em Vanicunca.
    se der tempo quero muito ir a esse lugar!!

    desde já agradeco!

  19. Vanessa Mongeon

    December 12, 2015

    Hi Eric! It seems that, like most of people on your page, I will be very thanksfull if you can email me. I am VERRY interested to go trekking in Vinicunca. It seems to be a off the track trip and, because of that, I found absolutely no information on how to go there and how long it take to do the trek. I am going to Lima on the december 16th! 🙂 Thanks a lot! [email protected]

  20. Lennart Ostberg

    December 13, 2015

    Hi Eric,
    I too like to get some info the great mountains you benen to. I will be in Peru 22/12-16/1 starting in Cusco.
    Look forward to your feedback
    Rgds, Lennart

  21. Don

    December 15, 2015

    since Eric seems to be incommunicado here is a link that might help those seeking more information

  22. Peter

    January 3, 2016

    I went through, without a doubt one of the best experiences of my life, they have a day trip option. – [email protected] is the email I believe.

    • Crystal

      July 21, 2016

      Peter, I’m sure it was incredible, but how much did they charge you? Many of us trekkers really can’t afford these expensive guided tours…..

  23. cristina

    January 11, 2016


    I’m doing a 6 months tour in South America with Peru being the last destination. Your post has just made me add this trek on my list :). Thanks!

  24. allview

    January 16, 2016

    we did Vinicunca the rainbow mountain only a day trip and with this company–cusco–a-day-trip

  25. Emily

    January 20, 2016

    try they go via day trip as well and are a great company!

  26. Deb J

    February 10, 2016

    Thanks Eric, just stunning, thank you for tracking them down. I love Peru, and will be back… this is on my list now 🙂

  27. medalit

    February 12, 2016

    How much the trip to tinki to vinicunca cost? or well how much you pay to the man who tooke you there

  28. Paul Schrum

    February 13, 2016

    I would like to see this on google earth or something. Do you know the lat/long for Vinicunca?

  29. Jane

    February 22, 2016


    Your post is totally inspiring and hopefully we will be able to find these mountains in the summer when we travel to Peru.

    Any help you can offer in terms of directions, contact details of your guide, exact location would be really gratefully received.

    Many thanks


  30. Marjorie

    March 18, 2016

    Hi Eric,

    What an amazing adventure! I’m looking to go to Peru later in the year and am very interested in Macchu Pichu, Ausangate and Vinicunca.

    Like many other who have queried, would be much appreciate if you could offer some specific guidance in terms of directions, contact details of your guide, and any other information that would be useful in planning and whilst on the trek.

    Thank you

  31. Maya

    March 28, 2016

    Truly incredible! If you have more information and can shoot it to me, I’d be incredibly appreciative. Thanks so much for your story in any case.

  32. Nikkie

    April 7, 2016

    After your blogpost i’ve started to look around all over the internet to find a way to get there in a day at a reasonable price.
    And I found it! Maybe interesting for other people here:

    They offer day trips between $40-$80 per person (depending on the size of the group)
    Cannot wait to go see it myself!

  33. Rumy

    April 7, 2016

    Hi my name is Rumy I would like to recommend a Local travel company who give the best service to explore Vinicunca RainbowMountain, they have the best local English speak guides and best organization for a memorable tour .
    You should visit.

  34. Ryem

    April 9, 2016


    as all the former speakers i am also interested how to get there.
    Maybe your friend Jose likes to guide me too;-) it is posible if you hand me his contact?
    Thanks in advance, greets Ryem

  35. Mayara Delgado

    April 26, 2016

    Dear Eric,
    Congratulations for your text. It’s amazing.
    Can I shared your picture in my instagran @snowmassturismo ?
    Thank you.
    Best regards,

  36. Mia Natter

    May 7, 2016

    Hey Eric,
    same questions. We are a group of 5 and wanna see the rainbow mountains the next days. We are located in Cusco, doing volunteer work. As we are working in a school, we just have limited time. 1 or 2 days to go.
    And we don’t wanna book a tour. So could you give us some tips, where to go from Cusco. Where to start the track then.
    Would be great.
    Thanks Mia

  37. Martin Habel

    May 11, 2016

    Hi Eric,
    I know it is nice to have a quiet nature spot, a hidden treasure but I have the same questions as the others.
    Would you have the topographic coordinates for the Vinicunca mountain ?
    Just the coordinates would be wonderful, cause the Google earth images could be confusing a bit.

  38. Gerry

    June 22, 2016

    Sharing it.

    Been there last May and it was a great experience.

  39. Christian Weinberger

    July 26, 2016

    I am a selfdriver, traveling with a landrover, so i dont want to go there by comercial tour from cusco, i want to drive so far up as possible, and then walk the trail so far. i searched a lot in the internet, but i cannot figure our, to which place the tours drive to start the hike. do you have gps positions or a description hot to get there? thanks for helping., christian

  40. Elysia

    August 5, 2016

    Hello everyone! Hope I’m not too late to the party for those who have yet to see Rainbow Mountain. I did a one-day hike in July and it was the highlight of my time in Peru. Do not fear, there is a multitude of options depending on your budget and timeframe – I booked my tour two days prior for only 80 soles (roughly $26 or so). There are many tour operating companies in Cusco that you can go through, and almost all of the ones I inquired offered tours daily. Although you can book ahead of time online, know that it isn’t the only option (and you’ll probably get a better deal if you book in person)! Have a marvelous time.

  41. Rob Whittaker

    August 13, 2016

    Thanks for your great article.
    I did the trip to Vinicunca, now that there is a road to Queshuny it is a lot easier logistically.
    There were still very few people on the trail, so it was fantastic. I have written some information here with details of a tour company in Cusco.

  42. Vinicunca

    August 23, 2016

    Vinicunca, is a mountain of colors, also called the mountain rainbow, is located on the perimeter of Ausangate. in Cusco Peru.
    It is an amazing place leaving anyone visitor coming up there, (5000 meters) marvel at this natural wonder. look at the video.

  43. Rumy

    August 24, 2016

    Hi my name is Rumy I would like to recommend a Local travel company who give the best service to explore Vinicunca RainbowMountain, they have the best local English speak guides and best organization for a memorable tour .
    You should visit.

  44. Edwin Gonzales

    November 28, 2016

    I would like to do the Rainbow Mountain Peru, and our friends recommended the Inca Trail Hiking Tours, the price is best, or what do you recommend?

  45. Emelina

    December 7, 2016

    Wow, looking amazing rainbow mountain. I was there for seven days with the help of travel agency named Green Peru Adventures. This provides good service. I hope if I get a chance to travel again, then I will never miss it.

  46. Angela Kitzmann

    February 3, 2017

    *WARNING* – While there are many budget tours around Cusco, they aren’t properly outfitted for trekkers, leaving them in dangerous situations – where group sizes are to large for the guides to handle and watch over the customers. I experienced this and when I began to fall ill my guide was no where to be found, and I was left on the trail for hours until they returned back. At that time the guide also didn’t carry safety equipment and oxygen. Also I later found out that the budget tours all go at the same time and pool toghether travellers from many different tour companies so you dont actually know who is operating it or taking you. Spend the extra money – you will have a much better experience.

  47. Oliver

    December 19, 2017

    Awesome post Eric, appreciate that and looks like you’ve been the pioneer of the Rainbow Mountain! Thanks for sharing all this great and helpful information with us. Now this place is pretty crowded but luckily there is an alternative route to another spot of the Rainbow Mountain I found. There was no one up there, just us and our guide Roger, was incredible! But in general the place is a must visit when you’re in Cusco!

  48. Brad Clinston

    January 12, 2018

    Great post Eric, and amazing pictures! Wow! So cool that you could stay in Peru for 2 months, I wish I would have had that much time as well. I also really enjoyed the rainbow mountain trek, but instead of the regular Vinicunca trek I did an alternative tour to the rainbow mountains (I think it’s the same as the person that mentioned it above) that starts at 5:00am and where you only hike around 45 minutes but you can see various rainbow mountains and the red valley as well 🙂 The tour itself was awesome and I’d really recommend you doing it in case you get a chance to return to Cusco/Peru one day! I did the tour with, a local operator from Peru. Cheers mate!

    Here you can check it out for yourself: