Hiking Rainbow mountains Vinicunca, Palccoyo and Pallay Punchu 

There are three different rainbow mountains you can visit from Cusco: Vinicunca, Palccoyo and Pallay Punchu. All of them are about a 4 hour drive away from Cusco, but the one named Vinicunca is the most well known. It’s Cusco’s most popular tour, aside from Machu Picchu. All three are worth a visit, but since it requires a lot of travel time, most people choose to visit only one or two of them. Vinicunca and Palccoyo are more similar and Pallay Punchu has a different type of shape and color. This is why I’d recommend visiting either Vinicunca or Palccoyo and choosing Pallay Punchu as your second option. In this article I will compare the three and describe the best way to visit the Rainbow Mountains.

Rainbow mountain vinicunca

Comparison of Vinicunca, Palccoyo and Pally Punchu:

Vinicunca Palccoyo Pallay Punchu  
Max Altitude 5040m/16535ft 4950m/16200ft 4700m/15419ft
Hiking time 4 hours 2 hours 4 hours
Entrance 25 Soles 15 soles Free


  • (Vinicunca) Rainbow Mountain: In high season more than 2000 people visit this Impressive Mountain. You’ll have to share with other tourists.
  • Palcoyo Mountain: It is not well known so in high season, this mountain receives 60 visitors a day.
  • Pallay punchu: It’s only been a destinations since 2 years and you’re likely the only person there.


  • Rainbow Mountain: The hike there is through an absolutely stunning landscape of colorful mountains, before reaching the rainbow mountain you came for. The viewpoint gives you the perfect symmetrical view of the colors on rainbow mountain. There are usually local people in traditional clothing with alpaca’s you can take photos with. You’ll also find lots of Alpacas grazing along this route. Another big plus is you can also visit the impressive Red Valley, which to me was just as impressive as rainbow mountain.
  • Palcoyo Mountain: You’ll see 3 Rainbow Mountains instead of one and you’ll hike through the unique Stone forest.
  • Pallay Punchu: This rainbow mountain is of different color and shape than the others. The vibrant stripes at Pallay Punchu are the result of alternating copper and iron in the rock. The turquoise color in the copper is the result of oxidation. The iron turns a more red as it oxidizes, contrasting beautifully with the teal copper. The mountain overlooks a beautiful lake.
Vinicunca Rainbow Mountain
Vinicunca Rainbow Mountain
The red valley next to Vinicunca Rainbow Mountain
The red valley next to Vinicunca Rainbow Mountain
Pallay Punchu, Peru
Pallay Punchu

The Hike

Vinicunca Rainbow Mountain: The Trail to Vinicunca is a dusty and when it rains it can get muddy and slippery. the first 70% of the hike is almost flat and the last 30% is steep. The trail itself is easy, but what makes it difficult is the altitude. There are horses to take you up if you don’t feel up to it.

Vinicunca Rainbow Mountain View

Vinicunca Rainbow Mountain trail Vinicunca Rainbow Mountain trailVinicunca Rainbow Mountain

Palcoyo Mountain: The Trail to this mountain is well paved with rocks and well maintained by the locals. Only a small part of the trail is steep and the rest leads you up gradually. Horses are not allowed on the trail.

palccoyo trail

Pallay Punchu: The Trail to this Mountain is a lot shorter and you start going uphill almost immediately. The path is dusty and sometimes slippery, because of the gravel. There are no horses on the trail.

Pallay Punchu trail

How to get there?

For all of the mountains I’d advice against taking a tour and instead I’d advice to share a taxi with other travelers. This way you can leave at a more reasonable time and you are more flexible.  Cost of a taxi to Vinicunca Rainbow mountain or Palccoyo is 400 soles/€98/$107 in total. Pallay Punchu was 500 soles, because it is slightly further away. The taxi fit 6 people, so when you share it is very reasonable.

The morning tours to Vinicunca Rainbow mountain leave at 04:00 am. We decided to leave around 08:00. This way we arrived when most people where already leaving. For a little while we had the mountain almost to ourselves. For the other mountains you don’t have to worry as much about other tourists. I would advice leaving for Pallay Punchu at 06:00 am at the latest, because it’s such a long drive.

Pallay Punchu

Pallay Punchu

More tips for hiking the different rainbow mountains

  • Check the weather forecast: The colors will look their brightest on a clear day. If it has snowed, you may not be able to see the colors at all.
  • Take time to acclimatize: The rainbow mountains are all located at high altitude. Don’t underestimate the effects on your body. To avoid altitude sickness, take at least two days in Cusco to get acclimatized.
  • Bring coca leaves or coca candy: Coca leaves are known to help with altitude sickness.
  • Bring lots of layers: It can get really cold on the mountain, since you’re at 5000 meter. You’ll warm up a bit when you are hiking, but once you reach the top it can get cold very quickly. I advice a windproof jacket, hat and gloves.

Pallay Punchu