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Facts about Rainbow Mountain Peru

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Last Updated on August 12, 2021 by Travels with Kids

If you are interested in the colorful mountains in Peru then you have come to the right place!  Here we share the best facts about rainbow mountain!  For example, we explain why the Rainbow Mountain is also called Vinicunca, its altitude, and where it is located.   We also share about the local fauna and some of the cutest residents of the area – the llamas and alpacas.  We also correct some other bloggers out there that have shared incorrect facts about the Rainbow Mountains Peru!

The Rainbow Mountain Peru is such a spectacular place that it has been named in several National Geographic “must-see places” lists.  If you are researching facts about Rainbow Mountain Peru for your next vacation, know that there is SO much more to see and do in Peru.  For more info on Peru,  check out Peru With Kids and Fun Peru Facts For Kids.

Facts about Rainbow Mountain Peru

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Facts about Rainbow Mountain Peru

When was the Rainbow Mountain Discovered?

If you traveled to Peru prior to 2015 chances are, you wouldn’t have heard of Rainbow Mountain.  That’s because it has only recently become popular as a tourist destination!

The Rainbow Mountain Peru is a social media phenomenon, having only been become popular from one famous Instagram post back in 2015.  Incredibly just 4 years later it has become one of Peru’s most recognizable attractions!  While 2500 people visit Machu Picchu each day, 1000 people visit the Rainbow Mountain daily (before the Covid Pandemic).

Facts about Rainbow Mountain Peru

Is it the only Colourful Mountain in Peru?

No, there are plenty of colorful striped, or “rainbow mountains” in Peru.  The author of this post, Mumma traveler remembers seeing stunning ones during her exploration of the Andes around 2002-2005.

If you want to see a less touristed place, why not consider the Palcoyo Rainbow Mountain?  Note, you will also see this referred to as the Rainbow Mountain alternative or ‘Palccoyo’.  As we mentioned above Vinicunca is super popular, which means lots of hikers.  If you are looking for something more private and serene Palcoyo is a great alternative.  Also, this mountain is closer to Cusco, a less difficult hike, and especially much more recommended if you are not especially fit.

Remember you are at a high altitude, which makes any hike more challenging.  Make sure you take precautions against altitude sickness no matter which mountain you choose.  Want to learn more about what altitude sickness is and how to avoid it?  Read our Tips For Acclimating To Altitude With Kids.

Facts about Rainbow Mountain Peru

How does the Rainbow Mountain get its Colors?

There are quite a few striped mountains in the Cusco region, most of them varying shades of grey, white and yellow.  In the Rainbow Mountain area, the main colors people notice on the mountain are cochineal red, terracotta yellow, pink, white, turquoise, brown, and orange.

Each of these colors is caused by a specific combination of mineral deposits.  The red colors are from the presence of iron oxide, the green colors are from chlorite, and the white colors are from sandstone.  Some of the minerals even mix together to form unique colors on the mountains.

We only see the Rainbow Mountain due to Climate Change

While the Rainbow Mountain has been accessible for the past 10-15 years via a 6-day lodge to lodge walk, it is believed that prior to that the ridge was covered with snow for much of the year.  The colors have only been revealed with weathering.  Due to climate change, there is much less snow.  As the temperature rose, the glaciers melted revealing the colorful mountains we see today.

 

Do the Colors of Rainbow Mountains Change?

Like other famous natural features around the world (I’m thinking of Uluru and Wave Rock in Australia) the colors of the Rainbow Mountain change according to the time of the day, and the weather.  Sunny clear days are best for viewing the Rainbow Mountain of Peru.  That is when the colors are brighter.  If there is bad weather or overcast skies, the colors will be darker and not as vibrant.

We mentioned Uluru and Wave Rock in Australia.  Have you heard of either of these places?  They are just as amazing as the Rainbow Mountains of Peru.  Read more about them in Interesting Uluru Facts For Kids and Facts About Wave Rock Australia – Everything you need to know!

the Rainbow Mountain

What does Vinicunca mean in Quechua?

For us, one of the most interesting facts about Rainbow Mountain Peru is its name.  In the Quechua language the name of this mountain is Vinicunca.  It is made up of the words “wini” and “kunca”.  “Wini” being the name for the black stones that cover the area, and “kunca” meaning neck.

You will also see it written Winikunca.  I’m currently asking friends about the meaning of the Palccoyo Rainbow mountain which is considered a “Rainbow Mountain alternative” if you are looking for an off-the-beaten-track experience, away from the crowds.

How did the Rainbow Mountains Peru Form?

As with a lot of mountains, the Andes were formed due to subduction.  That is when one plate of the earth’s crust goes under another plate of the earth’s crust.  In this case, the Nazca Plate subducted under the South American Plate forming the mountains that we call today the Andes.

Rainbow Mountains Peru

What Animals call the Rainbow Mountains Peru Home? 

There are many animals that live in the mountains where the Rainbow Mountains are.  Besides llamas and alpacas, there are skunks, deer, Andean Geese, condors, foxes, Guanaco, tapir, chinchillas, guinea pigs, and even a speckled bear.  Whew, that is a lot of animals.

The most well-known of these, and synonymous with Peru,  are the llama and alpaca.  Check out our post Fun Alpaca And Llama Facts For Kids to learn more about these interesting creatures.  Also, if you are like most people, you might have a hard time telling the difference between the two species.  Check out our guide Alpaca Vs Llama -What’s The Difference Between A Llama And An Alpaca.

Rainbow Mountains Peru

Is the Rainbow Mountain Worth the Hike?

We say yes!  However, make sure you check the Rainbow Mountain Peru weather before making the journey.  As we said before, good weather makes the hills more vibrant and more like what you usually see in all the Rainbow Mountain Peru Instagram photos.  That isn’t to say don’t go if the weather isn’t perfect.  Just know they won’t be as vibrant as you might imagine.

Also, in addition to the Rainbow Mountain Peru weather, make sure you take into consideration the altitude.  Be sure to acclimatize properly beforehand.  Otherwise, what should be an awe-inspiring hike could turn into an awful one without proper preparation.

What Exactly is the Rainbow Mountain Weather Like?

Just know the weather can change rapidly from snow to rain to blistering sun in the space of an hour.  The best time to trek the Rainbow Mountains of Peru is generally between March and November.  January and February are the wettest months (think snow and poor visibility!), while from June to August you will typically find blue skies perfect for viewing the mountain’s amazing colors.  As we said, be warned, the weather can change quickly when you are high in the Andes.

Rainbow Mountains of China

 How does it compare with the Rainbow Mountains in China?

Both are beautiful in their own right.   The Rainbow Mountains of China are located in the Zhangye Danxia Landform Geological Park.  Much like the Rainbow Mountains of Peru, the Rainbow Mountains of China were formed in the same way and get their spectacular color from the different mineral deposits in the sandstone.

The Rainbow Mountains of China are a bit easier to visit as they are more of an actual touristed place that requires less hiking.  You can get bussed into the sites and the viewing platforms require little effort to reach on foot.

It is worth noting that some people find these mountains less colorful than anticipated.  The main color is the red color, formed by the iron oxide in the sandstone.  However, if in this region in China, they are still worth a visit.

What about other Rock Waves?

That’s right, there are a number of different rock waves around the world, not just the Rainbow Mountain Peru.  In our post on Wave Rock Australia, we’ve written a comparison between the Wave Rock Australia and how it compares to the Wave in Arizona.

Besides the geological difference, one is located in Arizona in the USA and one is located in Western Australia, they are similar.  Both of these fantastic geological features are worth a visit when in their perspective countries!

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Do you want to visit the Rainbow Mountain Peru?

We hope you’ve enjoyed this small collection of Rainbow Mountain Peru facts.  If you are interested in visiting why not take a look at The Rainbow Mountain Peru with Kids.

Corrections to other Rainbow Mountains Facts!

There is nothing New about the Rainbow Mountain

It’s been around for years – and was visited by tourists, but wasn’t famous until that Instagram post!

Vinicunca
The author of the post has visited QollorRiti festival three times, and particularly enjoys the greeting to the sun at this remote mountainside spot.

It is NOT the Location of the Qoylluri Riti Festival!

We read on another site that the Rainbow Mountain is the site of a traditional festival named the Snow Star Festival (Qoyllur Rit’i).  Having been to Qoylluri Riti three times in my life, I can tell you it is absolutely NOT at the Rainbow Mountains!

The Rainbow Mountain is located at the back of the Ausangate Mountain and accessed via the turnoff at Checacupe.  The Snow Star festival is located on the other side of Ausangate Mountain, accessed via the Ccatca and Ocongate road that runs to the jungle.  I’ve personally hiked from the front side of Ausangate (at the hot springs of Pacchanta ) over to Mahuayni which is the point where you begin the pilgrimage up the 12 stations of the cross to the Sanctuary of our Lord of Qolloriti.  Each year thousands of people hike to Qolloriti to venerate the mountains.  As far as I know, Vinicunca is NOT an important holy and spiritual site.

If you would like to visit Qollor Riti or learn more information, then definitely check out the Apus Peru Trek Page.

 

Interested in other Andes Mountain Facts for Kids?

The Highest Active Volcano in the World is Found in the Andes!

Yep, standing at over 6,900 meters tall Ojos del Salado is the tallest active volcano in the entire world.  Ojos del Salado is found in an extremely remote section of the Andes located close to the Chile/Argentina border.  In fact, most of the mountain peaks in the Andes are volcanic peaks.

The Amazon River Originates in the Andes Mountains

The Andes are an absolutely amazing mountain range in and of themselves, and it also gives birth to one of the most amazing rivers in the world, the Amazon River.  The Amazon River originates high in the Andes mountains in Peru.  It then travels through Ecuador, Columbia, Venezuela, Bolivia, and Brazil before dumping into the Atlantic Ocean.

 

Andes Mountain Facts for Kids

 

The Verdict – Facts about Rainbow Mountains Peru

The Rainbow Mountains Peru have certainly become a famous Peruvian landmark in recent years, and with good reason.  They are absolutely stunning.  We hope we have presented some Rainbow Mountain facts for you that are not only interesting but useful if you ever choose to visit Peru.  The Rainbow Mountains of Peru should be on your must-see Peru list.  And, as we pointed out, there are options depending on your style.  Palccoyo Rainbow Mountain is a good alternative to Vinicunca for those looking for something less touristed or an easier trek.

As Peru is a special and important country to our family, we have a wealth of knowledge to share.  For more information, start with our Peru Destination Guide.  If you have any questions on the famous Rainbow Mountains Peru, or Peru travel in general, drop us a comment below.

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Facts about Rainbow Mountain Peru

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