Sometimes Mother Nature produces a display of color so vibrant and varied, that it seems almost implausible that it could have occurred naturally. Yet as your eyes fall upon the beauty of Peru´s Rainbow Mountains (known locally as Vinicunca) and Red Valley you are quite literally looking at millions of years of geological history and a natural wonder seen almost nowhere else on Earth.
The best way to experience the stunning vistas of Vinicunca is via the Ausangate trail. This spectacular trail winds through remote Andean villages with their beautiful adobe style houses, passes herds of wild Llama casually gracing on the mountainside, and continually rewards us with views of the magnificent Ausangate Glacier. Standing at over 6,300m (20,900ft) this is the highest mountain in the Cusco region. Considered a holy mountain (or mountain spirit) by the local Peruvians, Ausangate is the deity of Cusco and since pre-Inca times has been a place of worship and offerings, a tradition that still continues today.
Most trips that give such unparalleled access to the Rainbow Mountains require a multi-day trek, but we have changed that with this itinerary; designing a spectacular, but challenging hike that can be taken as a day trip from Cusco!
With uninterrupted beauty and solitude, this is a trip for trekkers who love a true outdoor adventure, but are on a tight schedule. So why not allow us to take you on an inspiring and memorable trip, to one of Mother Nature’s true wonders.
In order to maximize our time on the trail and at the mountain, our day will start before dawn. Collecting you from your Cusco hotel around 3:30 AM, we make a 3 hour drive through the South Valley to the trailhead at Ccayrabiry (4,500 m / 14,763 ft). Our transportation is comfortable though, and we even provide blankets for those who want to take the opportunity for a little more sleep. Upon reaching the Ccayrabiry village, we provide a full continental breakfast, perfect fuel for the hiking ahead.
Our trek beings along the meandering path of a beautiful stream. As dawn continues to break around us, the surrounding herds of Alpacas and Llamas will be waking too, and our paths will often cross as we continue our hike.
The distant majesty of Ausangate Mountain will be our backdrop as we leave the stream to wander through the rustic villages that make up the remote communities of this area. You may even want to practice your Quechua with the local residents who will be going about their daily business!
Our early start means we are not rushing, and so we will have plenty of opportunities to stop for rest or snacks to keep our energy levels up.
Back on the trail we encounter even more of the traditional elements of this trail. The area is home to many Fincas (farms) and we will pass fields of potatoes and other vegetables which are the lifeblood of the farming community. We will also see some quite unique fauna, perhaps Chinchillas or even Vicunas. Vicunas are the only non-domesticated animal of the llama family found in Peru, so make sure you have your cameras ready. If that wasn’t enough, the vibrant colours of the red mountains all around us are also a highlight of this portion of the hike.
After hiking for around 2 hours, we finally reach our destination, the magnificent Rainbow Mountains (5,020 m / 16,466 ft). No photoshop or Instagram filters here, this awesome display of colour is 100% natural, and completely breathtaking.
We will take our time at the summit so that you can take pictures, explore the area or just take in the spectacular views. Then we take a short 20 minute walk into the Red Valley itself, a tranquil and beautiful hike amongst the crimson rocks that leads us to a spectacular view across the valley.
Your guide will let you know when it is time to return, and we hike downhill the way we came. In a sense though this is almost a different hike, as we take in the views that were behind us on our ascent. The hike down will take around 2 hours and our chef will be waiting for us with an incredible lunch when we return.
Then, it’s just a 3 hour drive back to Cusco. We will drop Imperial Cusco around 7pm, no doubt exhausted but with incredible memories of a unique day.