Rainbow Mountain lies far from the beaten track (a five-day hike away, in fact) deep in the Andes and reached only by the high-altitude Ausangate Trek. Deep valleys and soaring mountain ranges, more used to headlining any hike, fade into a backdrop for the deep rust red, sandy yellow and ethereal turquoise layers that rise vertically and paint the peak known locally as Rainbow Mountain.
The journey to reach Rainbow Mountain crosses mountain passes and is far from a gentle stroll, but this ensures that the unearthly rainbow ridge remains a rewarding and crowd-free quest for those equipped to embark on the trek. On this route active explorers tackle the remote ridges of the Andes, stopping overnight in comfortable lodges and relax by the warming fire on the cold nights.
On this Peru holiday, combine the high altitude trek in the lesser visited area around Apu Ausangate with the classic sights of the Cuzco, the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu. A short stay in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, home to a variety of adrenaline activities such as mountain biking, white water rafting and ziplining, will ease you into the mountain altitude.
Take the opportunity to visit Inca sites such as Ollantaytambo, the Andean terraces at Moray or the sparkling white salt pans of Moras. Weave through the valley by train to Aguas Calientes for a special day at the famous Inca citadel of Machu Picchu, with the Inca history brought to life by your local guide. Prior to your Rainbow Mountain adventure, spend a few days in the the Inca capital of Cuzco, a unique blend of historic buildings, cobblestone streets, modern restaurants and boutique shops. Soak up the rich history and immerse yourself in the Andean way before you lace up your hiking boots to tackle the Ausangate Trek.
Day 1 Depart the UK for your overnight flight to Bogota with connection onto Cuzco in the heart of the Peruvian Highlands.
Day 2 On arrival, transfer directly to your hotel in the lush Sacred Valley - the perfect place to acclimatise to the mountain altitude. With attractive colonial towns, Inca sites and adventure activities scattered through the Valley, this diverse and astoundingly scenic destination deserves a few nights' stay. Settle into your hotel and relax with a pisco sour in the sun then, as dusk falls, venture to the bustling town of Urubamba to sample the local specialties - including alpaca!
Day 3 Today discover the highlights of the Sacred Valley with a local guide. Begin in the typically Andean village of Chinchero; here families produce their own textiles for sale at the local market and you can visit the beautiful church. Stroll through the narrow cobblestone streets of Ollantaytambo and visit. Ollantaytambo fortress and temple which are the main highlight - spectacular Inca ruins which mark one of the few places where the Spanish conquistadors lost a major battle. It is also widely known for its “Andenes” - terraces dug into the slopes of mountains for agricultural purposes.
Day 4 The Sacred Valley offers far more activities for adrenaline junkies than just the well-known trekking routes. Ride the waves of the Urubamba River on a white water rafting excursion, saddle up for horseback riding or get off the beaten track by mountain bike. Scale the mountain rock face by via ferrata and zip line back to the valley floor or paraglide high above the clouds for a birds eye view of this beautiful region.
Day 5 Travel by early morning train to Aguas Calientes, the base for exploring Machu Picchu. Subject to permit availability, you have the opportunity to trek the final part of the Inca Trail from KM104. The world-famous sprawling Inca citadel is often shrouded by mist, making the first morning sighting as the clouds break truly magical. Learn about the history behind this famous Incan archaeological site as you admire the lush vegetation, towering snow-capped mountain peaks and steep escarpments around the site. It’s hard to believe this ancient site was only discovered in 1911 by the American, Hiram Bingham.
Day 6 For spectacular views over the great 15th-century Inca citadel, climb the 2780m peak of Huayna Picchu. Around an hour’s walk from the site is Intipunka (the Sun Gate), the final point of the iconic Inca Trail and a great spot to relax in the daytime sun with a magical view. After the days adventure and numerous photo opportunities, return to Aguas Calientes for the Vistadome train through the Urubamba valley to town of Poroy and onwards by road to the bustling town of Cuzco.
Day 7 Aquaint yourself with the city of Cuzco, a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site. With your local guide visit the Plaza de Armas main square, overlooked by the impressive Cathedral and enjoy the view of the beautiful Church of La Compañia de Jesus. Visit the Sacsayhuaman Fortress built of enormous stone blocks expertly shaped by the Incas situated on a hill overlooking the city boasting a fantastic view. End the introductory tour with visits to the archaeological sites of Qenko, Puca-Pucara, and Tambomachay, to find out each of their important roles in Incan history.
Day 8 The Inca capital of Cuzco is a great city to explore by foot. Wander the narrow cobblestone streets filled with colourful shops and admire the locals dressed in traditional skirt and bowler hats. Covering a steep hillside near the city centre, you will find the artist's neighbourhood of San Blas. The classic architecture featuring signature blue doors and narrow pedestrian streets has become a popular area for shops and restaurants. Rainbow Tours recommends a visit to Pachapapa, situated in a charming courtyard and offering traditional Peruvian dishes.
Day 9 Depart the city of Cuzco driving alongside the Vilcanota River towards the Cordillera Vilcanota, the second-largest glaciated system in Peru. This impressive range includes the mighty Nevado Ausangate which, standing at 6372m, is the highest point in the Cuzco region. En-route to the start of the trek, stop at Checacupe to visit the temple and browse the local market. From the valley above Pitumarca, hike approximately 3.3km along easy terrain to the first overnight lodge, reaching a maximum altitude of 4368m. Settle in and relax for the evening with a warming cup of coca tea.
Day 10 After a hearty breakfast, trek up the Phinaya Valley passing large herds of alpacas and llamas. After walking for around 90 minutes, the majestic Mount Ausangate appears. Admire the glaciers at Santa Catalina as you climb towards Pjachaj waterfalls before stopping for lunch. Surrounded by moraine walls, glaciers and lagoons, continue walking to the next lodge where you will be greeted with a warm welcome from the family that runs the lodge - the highest in the world. Trekking distance approx 14.9km, maximum altitude 4849m.
Day 11 After a good night’s rest, head steeply uphill from the lodge for an hour to the first mountain pass, the highest on the trek at 5150m.Savour the spectacular, panoramic views far into the distance as you inhale the beauty of the immense Andes with the backdrop of Ausangate. Descend around 600m to Ausangate Cocha Lake for lunch surrounded by red sandstone sediment formations. As you walk to the next lodge, look out for vicuñas and sometimes condors. Total distance 11.63km.
Day 12 Trek downhill by Lake Kayrawiri, surrounded by rugged mountain peaks and the great valley below. Admire the range of colours that decorate the mountains as you get closer to the iconic Rainbow Mountain, following Yauricunca pass. This route gives you ample time to enjoy the views and the sound of silence when you finally reach Rainbow Mountain itself. Continue along paths carved in the deep red rock to Carro Laya Grande, passing the massive glacie...
This trip has no fixed departures but restrictions may apply - check operator website
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