Ever since I first laid my eyes on pictures of the Rainbow Mountain, I knew that this was something I had to conquer, along with my journey to Machu Picchu. With beautiful colors ranging from gold to turquoise to maroon, it looked unreal, and I knew that this extraordinary sight was not to be missed. I wanted to witness firsthand the wonders of the colored minerals that make up the Rainbow Mountain. I read that this was an extremely difficult hike, with a day lasting anywhere from 14-16 hours, with the elevation rise of over 16,500 feet and highly unpredictable weather. This was not about to deter me from seeing the painted Ausangate Mountain deep within the Andes, but I knew I needed a good tour guide for this hike to ensure for the best experience.
The hike across the Rainbow Mountain
The layers of history that is associated within the mountain itself is shown by the varying shades of coloration in the minerals caused by reactions with environmental conditions. In this wild and remote trail, the Andean winds sweep by as a reminder that we are in sacred place (since pre-inca times), where the Quechua people make pilgrimages annually 60 days after Easter.
There are many ways to hike this trail, with some tours ranging from 4-5 days. I opted for the 1 day hike that covers over 6 miles of the Rainbow Mountain and the Red Valley. My day started at 1 a.m. in the morning, with a van to pick me up at 2:15 a.m.
I knew, before even getting to Peru, that I will be going by horseback (80 soles/$24 USD roundtrip). I had just came back from a hike up the Stairway to Heaven in Hawaii the week before, and I did not think my knees and ankles would be able to handle the entire journey without much distress and recovery. I had also hurt my left foot on my trip to Peru, so it was definitely a lifesaver, but I still had to walk 1/3 of the steepest way up to get to the most satisfying view.
Deciding on the Perfect Tour Company
With more than a dozen companies offering the same hike up and back from the Rainbow Mountain, it was overwhelming to know who to choose at first. As I did more research, I realized that although making essentially the same journey, each company offered a different level of care. With a hike this intense, I definitely appreciate a company like FlashpackerConnect that I felt will take good care of me. I decided that going with a small group in a private van that started earlier than other tours would be ideal. Having a small group makes for an easier trip, where we are more likely to beat the crowds and be the first tour to the trail. I am all for waking up early and beating the crowds to get that perfect crowd-less picture. The warnings of getting altitude sickness from trekking in an elevation over 16,500 feet is real, so having a tour that offers oxygen and a first aid kid is vital and gives me a peace of mind. FlashpackerConnect also provide coca leaves to make tea (illegal in the United States, so definitely try it here) that will help soothe the ailments you might get from altitude sickness.
The FlashpackerConnect day-tour includes Peruvian style breakfast and snacks for the trek (delicious warm quinoa breakfast drink, breakfast bar, chocolate, sandwich, fruits, and fruit juice) and lunch with a local community home, along with a rain poncho to use if the weather calls for it. Transportation to and from your hotel in Cusco is included, along with the fees to enter private land.
Pro Tip: Dress warmly in layers as the weather is unpredictable and can get incredibly cold (thermals/gloves/beanie). Also, sun block is a must, as the sun rays will still hit you hard. Bring your own toilet paper for makeshift hole in the ground bathrooms, and lots of water to hydrate yourself.