Lonely Planet Writer

Peru’s majestic Rainbow Mountain is surging in popularity

The Seven Colour Mountain, Rainbow Mountain, or simply “that colourful mountain in Peru that’s taken over my Instagram” – call it what you may, there’s no denying Vinicunca’s (as it’s officially termed in Peru) sudden spurt in popularity over the past few years.

The Rainbow Mountain in Peru. Image by Asmir Fetahovic / EyeEm / Getty Images

According to Peruvian chronicle Gestión, the colourful Andean mountain receives some 1500 daily visitors, about a third of the 4000 tourists racked up by Cuzco’s most famed attraction, Machu Picchu.

Less than four hours by car from Cuzco’s city centre and standing some 16,000 ft above sea level, a decade ago the colourful Vinicunca was not the international bucket-list destination it is today. Revered among locals and adventurists who would (and still do) embark on a six to seven-day hike along the Ausangate Trek, the site only soared to its popular status when travel operators began to offer day hikes towards the end of 2015.

Ausangate, Peru. Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

It didn’t take long before images (some heavily filtered) from international tourists went viral, showing off surreal blues, yellows and reds that paint the mountainside. The collection of colours can be owed to the oxidation of minerals found in the soil, such as iron oxide and iron sulphide.

While its growing popularity with tourists has led many to feel concerned for the mountain’s protection, Cuzco’s Regional Tourism Director, Guido Quiñónez, assured national media in Peru that he plans to meet with mayors in the surrounding area to develop a plan for sustainable tourism.

This comes nearly a year after local communities protested against digging rights of Camino Minerals, successfully preventing the Canadian mining company from tearing up areas nearby Vinicunca.

Women in traditional dress on Rainbow Mountain., Cuzco. Photo by: Janina Zasche/Oneworld Picture/UIG via Getty Images

Tourists planning to add the Rainbow Mountain to their Peru itinerary should take note that the four-hour day-trek is not an easy feat. The best time to visit the mountain is during the drier months (April-September) before the rain and fog obliterate nearly any view of the colours.