Why you Should Visit the Palccoyo Rainbow Mountains
Updated: Jun 14
Looking for an alternative to the overcrowded Vinicunca Rainbow Mountain in Peru? Do you want to have the Rainbow Mountains all to yourself? Visit the Palccoyo Rainbow Mountains instead! This Valley full of Rainbow Mountains has been recently discovered and opened up to tourists. Avoid the tourist crowds of the classic Rainbow Mountain and experience the colorful mountains of the region! Here are 3 reasons why you should visit the Palccoyo Rainbow Mountains instead!
1. The Palccoyo Rainbow Mountains are the latest discovery!
The first Rainbow Mountain or Vinicunca was only discovered in 2015. Locals claim that the area used to be covered entirely in snow. Only recently, caused by global warming, the snow melted and revealed the colorful mountain beneath. Each color on the mountain comes from a different mineral. In this case, red suggests iron oxide rust and the turquoise indicates chlorite. The layers of the different colors are what sets this mountain apart from any other.
In 2018, the Palccoyo Rainbow Mountains were discovered and introduced to those tourists who want to avoid the crowds but still experience and view the colorful mountains of the region. The Palccoyo Rainbow Mountains are located a bit further away from Cusco (approx. 3.5 hours by car), at an altitude of 4,980 meters above sea level. Here you will not only find a colorful mountain but an impressive valley with more than three Rainbow Mountains and a Rock Forest. This is what makes the Palccoyo Rainbow Mountains at least as beautiful (if not more) than the classic one!
2. The Palccoyo Rainbow Mountains don't face overcrowdedness, environmental, and social challenges
One of the foremost reasons why you should visit the Palccoyo Rainbow Mountains instead of the classic Rainbow Mountain is to avoid massive amounts of tourists and reduce your environmental and social impact.
Thanks to heavy (social) media attention, the classic Rainbow Mountain has become a major tourist attraction in the region. Tour operators and agencies have recognized this and increasingly organize trips to this magnificent mountain range to serve the growing number of tourists. However, ever since tourism has been booming, problems have arisen. Tourists complain that the mountain has become overcrowded, taking away the magic of the place. Adding to that is the environmental destruction of the fragile alpine landscape that occurs from exceeding the carrying capacity. Finally, in spite of the economic benefits created, the nearby local communities are becoming fed up with the large influx of tourists and their loss of control over “their mountains”. The efforts of the government to restore peace have been unsuccessful thus far.
3. The Hike to the Palccoyo Rainbow Mountains is easier and more beautiful
The third reason why you should visit the Palccoyo Rainbow Mountains is that it makes for a pleasant and more relaxed day trip. On the one hand, the hike in the valley is relatively easy as the inclination is rather gradual and the distance is shorter. As such, the area can be explored in two to three hours. On the other hand, you are hiking amidst a valley filled with colorful rainbow mountains. You will find yourself in awe from the beginning of the hike until the end. The valley is filled with beautiful warm colors and has more than three Rainbow Mountains and a Rock Forest. Hiking up to the rock forest may be a challenge but is definitely a must as it offers the most spectacular views. On clear days it is possible to see the Vinicunca and the snow-capped peaks of the Ausangate, Mariposa, and other glaciated mountains in the distance!
As the mountain range is not easily accessible, it is mandatory to go with a tour guide. There are a number of tourism agencies in Cusco that offer day trips with a guide. These day tours are generally a little cheaper than the classic rainbow mountain and include an English speaking tour guide and lunch in a restaurant along the road!
The question remains whether this place will retain its authenticity and off-the-beaten-path image. A lot will depend on how much the government and tour operators have learned from their past…
Do you want to learn about more off-the-beaten-path destinations in Peru? Check out these blogs:
A guide to Marcahuasi: the gate to heaven (a truly off-the-beaten-path destination!)