The best kept secret in Cusco, Peru!
By now we have all heard of Rainbow Mountain in Cusco Peru – beautiful views of an incredibly unique and colourful mountain side have made it a popular spot for taking some epic Instagram shots. But did you know that there is actually another Rainbow mountain in Cusco? Neither did I until I joined Rainbow Mountain Expeditions who run tours to this ‘secret spot’. I’ll tell you guys all about the experience and at the end of the blog will be a summary of all the important things to know, budget, time, what to bring, etc.
As with most adventures in Cusco our day started bright and early at 4:00 am (you’ll learn this when you sign up for any tour in Cusco, become a morning person 😉) We got picked up at our hotel in what felt like the middle of the night, but luckily our tour operator provided blankets, so I quickly fell asleep for a few more zzz’s. Unlike the traditional Rainbow mountain, known as Vinicunca, Palccoyo is about 3.5 hours drive away so fewer tour operators do this trek. But that is always a good thing in my book. On a busy day you’ll encounter 5,000-7,000 people trekking Vinicunca, whereas Palccoyo you’ll find a max of about 30-40. It is also a much shorter hike, only 1.5 hours compared to what is often described as a gruelling 4 hour hike at the traditional Rainbow mountain. Keep in mind, the high altitude makes these hikes much tougher and you should always go with a tour operator that puts safety first (and provide oxygen tanks!)
We stopped for a freshly made breakfast and continued to drive further into the Peruvian country side. Our guide Roger was incredibly passionate about his country and showing us all of the beauty, so we took a little detour and drove past 4 beautiful lakes. We had the opportunity to get out, take some lovely photos, and enjoy the serene morning.
As we continued to drive towards Palccoyo we saw lots and lots of Alpacas and even stopped to share some food, snacks, and candies we had with the local farmers and kids. I don’t think you get to have a more authentic experience than this, so I was already over the moon!
We arrived at Palccoyo timed perfectly with the weather. The sun illuminated the colors on the mountains and within 15 minutes of our hike we were rewarded by stunning colors and mountains all around us! Now it’s true that the rainbow mountains here are not as high as the one at Vinicunca, but instead you have incredible colours all around you! Oh and snacks, snacks are always great 😊 Roger shared some potatoes from the farmers with us, which were cooked underground in the traditional manner and were absolutely delicious!
The hike continued and as we got towards the top of the second viewpoint I was floored by the amazing views all around us (also partially because I was out of breath – we were at about 4,700 meters at this point!) But to our left we had the stone forest (we will get to that in a minute), behind us red valley, and in front of us the tallest glacier in Cusco. Oh and of course the famous rainbow colored mountains and more alpacas! I could have stayed up there all day – especially once the Alpacas wandered nearby.
I’ll just share a few photos of what it was like at the top with you guys now, because I don’t think any words can do these views justice!
We then hiked up another short but steep incline to get to the stone forest, which is incredibly aptly named. At an altitude of 5,030m this was no easy feat, but completely worth it. Towering rock formations with a back drop of the most surreal colors.. ugh can you tell I’m still gushing?!
When I could finally tear myself away from all the beauty views (I’m such a sucker for beautiful views…and alpacas) we hiked back down for about 45 minutes and returned to the little spot we had breakfast at – for a well deserved and needed lunch! The chef who accompanied us really delivered after such an amazing adventure with lots of veggies and even a vegetarian option for myself.
Overall, this is an amazing alternative to the traditional Rainbow Mountain and a much more off the beaten path trek. The park has only been open for about a year so it is definitely one of Cusco’s best kept secrets if you want to avoid the crowds and get to know this beautiful area of Peru.
Days needed - 1 (be ready for a super early morning start!)
Cost per Person - $95 for 2 people incl. Breakfast, lunch
Park Entrance – 10 Soles per person
Other Costs – 1 Sol for bathroom use
Company: Rainbow Mountain Expeditions (loved it, we were only 6 in our group and they don’t take more than 8!)
What to pack: water, good hiking shoes, sunscreen, rain coat, warm hat, warm layers, some snacks and candies for the kids, camera!
Nearest town/airport: Cusco, Peru