Montana de Colores, or better known as Rainbow Mountain – is an epic place Ty and I had the privilege to see while in the Andes mountains of Peru. Most people go for the Instagram picture, and literally about half an hour after we reached the summit (and had luckily snuck in and got our own picture) there was a huge queue stretching back as far as the mountain top allowed it to get the best picture. It was chaos. But, I think it was worth it.
Rainbow mountain was one of those things I had briefly heard the name of, and of course had seen the pictures. But I had no clue how or why it existed. Safe to say though it became a must see on our ´things to do in Peru´ because of its uniqueness.
However you could say that Rainbow Mountain has a kind of sad story. Before 2010 it wasn´t even on the map. The colours that you can see in the stripes are made from it´s unique mineralogical composition. The colours can be seen on the summit and on some of the mountains surrounding Mountain Vinicunca (the official name of rainbow mountain). What is known as the red valley sits just behind the mountain and the impressive red colour (made from iron) stretches far from the summit. It´s not exactly the view you would see from the top of most mountains
The sad part about this mountain is that these colours have only recently been discovered. Not because they weren´t always there, but because before 2010 they were covered by a glacier. This is just one of the many examples of the effects of climate change happening all around the world. Although on this particular occasion it just happened to create something as equally beautiful, if not more unique, than a snow capped mountain.
On the day of our tour we set off – like many things in Peru, it´s often cheaper and easier to do it with a tour compared to by yourself, 4.30am was the pick up, with the departure from Cusco the old Inca capital – we were already up at 3700m above sea level and at 4.30am it was damn chilly. Ty actually wore jeans for this hike, which may not sound too dramatic but that’s just how cold it was, considering he´ll wear shorts for pretty much all weather.
For this tour we were again the only foreigners in our group. But lucky for us the guide spoke English as well as Spanish so we got to hear all the information. Although that´s pretty much where the guiding ends, as for the hike it´s every man for himself as you start to make the steep climb up.
The hike itself up to the summit is a short 1.5km and it only takes around an hour and a half to reach the top. The mountain itself is pretty inaccessible by road as it is in the middle of a large valley. The way to access it is it along a twisty dirt track road that takes you most of the way, but walking is still how everyone must reach the summit. The hike itself was stunning, you can see a dried up river in the valley below and the only wildlife around is a few desert plants and many alpacas and llamas. The mountain is 5200m above sea level so there isn´t a lot of wildlife diversity up there. But it makes for an intense looking view with snow capped mountains all around with a deserty vibe.
Being so high up is an experience in itself. Many people struggle on the steep part of the short hike, simply because of the lack of oxygen. And despite the strong sun beating down on you the air is still cold, at the summit it´s simply freezing. It was a good thing Ty did wear jeans for this one. Hats, gloves, scarves, the full winter works were required for the top. Being at the top also meant no protection from the mountains around it so the wind came at full freezing force.
Everything about this little adventure felt a bit intense and the top certainly did not disappoint. I still don´t feel like the pictures do it justice because in person the colours I think are very impressive. Plus just the all round 360 views of the mountains, snow and the valley below. Despite the crowds of tourists this was still a great tour. Touristy places are touristy for a reason.