Vinicunca, also known as Montaña Arco Iris (“Rainbow Mountain” in Spanish), is most definitely one of the trendiest spots near Cusco. Travellers claim it’s stunningly beautiful and the picture-perfect scenery make it into a superb setting for a mini photo shoot. It is a rather unusual natural formation, where the mountain appears striped in many different colors, as if it had been painted, resembling a huge rainbow.
This gem is one of the scenes travellers come across while on the 6 day Ausangate trek. However, there are now other options to enjoy it on a full day tour or a 2 days/1 night trek. In any case, while you don’t need to be an experienced hiker, getting to Vinincunca is not like a light stroll along the promenade. It does take a fairly good physical condition, but there are also some tips to reach the top and make the most out of the experience.
Before undertaking this walk… be sure you are in a generally good physical state and acclimatized to the altitude, as the low level of oxygen can actually make it that much more demanding (you will walk over 4,000 meters above sea level!). It is advisable to have arrived in Cusco a couple of days earlier… unless you are already coming from a higher place, like Puno, for example.
Also, let your tour operator know if you have any dietary or special requirements.
On the day of the walk, you should take with you…
- Proper hiking shoes, with good traction and preferably waterproof.
- Comfortable trekking clothes and use them in layers, prepared for cold weather during the early morning and late afternoon, even an eventual snowstorm, but also ready for some pretty warm moments while walking (many hikers are actually in shorts and t-shirts for parts of the way)
- A rain jacket or poncho (just in case)
- Warm hat and gloves (wool or soft shell)
- Hat, sunglasses, sunscreen and lip balm (also with sunscreen!)
- Water bottle (for the whole day) and maybe some snacks
- Coca candy or coca leaves (ask your tour guide about this)
- Any medicine that you might need… paracetamol or aspirin and some altitude sickness meds are not a bad idea, just in case
- Some cash for horse renting or any other fees not included in your tour (ask about this beforehand!)
- Camera with full battery and lots of space for some AMAZING PICTURES! 😉
Pack everything in a small backpack, as you will be carrying your own things (at least on the full day tours).
During the walk… First of all, find your own pace and stick to it! Also, let your guide know if you are having any trouble or doubts about anything. And, should you not be feeling too well, feel free to rent a horse, many tourists do so. Just bare in mind this is usually not included in the tour’s price. Chewing on coca leaves can also help with altitude and tiredness.
After the walk… make your friends jealous with all those wonderful pictures and brag about your altitude trekking performance! 😉