Palcoyo Mountain (All About The Rainbow Mountains)

Palcoyo Mountain

The Palcoyo rainbow mountain isn’t just another rainbow mountain in Cusco. This beautiful place is a better alternative to Vinicunca, Peru’s most famous rainbow mountain. But Vinicunca is filled to the brim with tourists. So, if you want to enjoy the rainbow mountains properly, visit The Palcoyo Rainbow Mountain instead! And in this article, we’ll talk all about The Palcoyo. 

Palcoyo Mountains – The Rainbow Mountains:

The Palcoyo rainbow mountain is a much shorter alternative to Vinicunca. A hike to the Palcoyo mountain will take only about an hour. In addition, you’ll come across beautiful attractions such as the Red River during the hike. While Vinicunca is super busy, Palcoyo is lesser known to the public. This makes it the perfect rainbow mountain to visit, as the experience is much more intimate. In addition, Palcoyo is cold, filled with Alpacas, and very colorful. So if you are in Cusco, make the drive and do the climb; you will not regret it!

Why Is The Palcoyo Rainbow Mountain Called The Alternative Rainbow Mountain? 

Vinicunca is one of the most famous rainbow mountains in Cusco. But because of how tourist-infested it has become, day by day, Vinicunca is losing its charm. The trails are muddy, and the colors are slowly fading away. You would have to stand in line to just take one picture. 

Palcoyo Mountains - The Rainbow Mountains

This, of course, affects the experience a lot. But luckily, there is an alternative to Vinicunca. The lesser-known and much shorter Palcoyo mountain. Palcoyo is amongst the three rainbow mountains in Cusco that you can visit. 

It’s known as the alternative rainbow mountain because of how it holds the lost charm of Vinicunca even though it’s lesser-known. The hike up the Palcoyo rainbow mountain is only about an hour. But this one-hour hike is so beautiful and intimate that it will change your life. 

The beautiful colors of the rainbow mountains, along with beautiful sites like the Red River and stone forest, visit one to remember. But, more importantly, the place hardly has any tourists. The only visitors you might have are the adorable alpacas scattered around the mountains. 

There are three viewing points, and every peak you reach feels like another win. Unlike Vinicunca these days, Palcoyo is beautiful, clean, and offers a much more intimate experience. And because of this, it’s known as the Alternative rainbow mountain. 

Where Are The Palcoyo Rainbow Mountains located?

The Palcoyo Rainbow mountains are around 3-4 hours south of Cusco. And around 20 KM from Vinicunca. So, the trip isn’t short and will take your whole day. Usually, it’s better to plan a day trip from Cusco to Palcoyo. That way you can properly enjoy your visit. 

Why Is The Palcoyo Rainbow Mountain Called The Alternative Rainbow Mountain? 

How To Get To The Palcoyo Rainbow Mountains? 

Before you get going, you need to do a lot of planning. This is mainly because the whole trip to Palcoyo is not short and is much more likely to take the whole day. To put it in perspective, If you start your trip from Lima, the capital of Peru, it will take you almost 22 hours to get to Palcoyo. 

So, make sure you start your trip from Cusco. From Cusco, it’ll take you around 3 hours by road to reach the Combapata district. Then you’ll need to turn left toward the Checacupe bridge. From here, you’ll have to continue traveling for another hour on the highway. 

After that, you’ll drive until you start seeing the mountain of colors. There will be a parking lot for your car; from there, you will have to start the first hike. This hike is almost an hour and will take you to the summit of Palcoyo. 

The hike is a good warmup, and the beauty surrounding the area really wakes you up. Also, it’s best to make this trip through a travel agency. Yes, you can make the trip yourself, but it would be costly and quite a hassle. 

There are many travel agencies in Cusco, and quite a few of them offer trips to Palcoyo. These agencies help you get there faster and at a much cheaper rate. 

What To Bring On Your Hike To The Palcoyo Rainbow Mountains?

Now that you know how to get to The Palcoyo Rainbow Mountains, it’s time to know what you need to pack. After all, you are going on a very long hike, and you must have packed everything that you might need. So, here is what you need to bring on your hike to Palcoyo: 

1. Warm Clothes

The one thing about Palcoyo that never goes unnoticed is how cold it is. The weather is very unpredictable. Because of this, it’s best to bring warm clothes. At least that way, if you get hot, you can take a few layers off. 

Where Are The Palcoyo Rainbow Mountains located?

2. Hiking Shoes 

The hike up the Palcoyo mountains is not too easy on your foot. Especially if you’re somebody who’s not used to hiking all that much, it’s wise to bring suitable footwear like a pair of hiking shoes. 

3. Drinking Water 

Water is incredibly important, especially for a hike. But sadly, there are not many vendors near Palcoyo from whom you can get water. Also, the tour operators don’t provide water either. So, it’s best to bring your own drinking water. You’d be surprised at how thirsty you’ll get during the hike. 

4. Raincoat or Rain Jacket 

As we said, the weather at Palcoyo is very unpredictable. And because of this, it’s important to bring a waterproof layer in case rain comes down. You can also get a rain poncho for just 3-5 soles in Cusco. 

5. Sunscreen 

Solar radiation is quite scary at that altitude. Having some sunscreen with you can help protect you from that. 

6. Hats 

Palcoyo can get quite bright on a clear day. And for that, I recommend you bring your own hats and sunglasses. Also, it looks fantastic! 

7. Snacks and Toiletry 

As we said, there aren’t many vendors around Palcoyo. So, in case you get hungry you should bring some snacks for yourself. With that, try to bring toilet paper or wet wipes in case nature calls! 

Preparing For Your Hike In Palcoyo Mountains:

Before you start trekking along the Palcoyo mountains, there are a few things you need to do. These things will prepare you for the trip to Palcoyo and will help you enjoy the trip to the fullest. So, here are some of the things you need to prepare before your hike in Palcoyo: 

1. Acclimate 

Acclimatation is the process of getting used to an area’s climate. This is quite important as the altitude in Palcoyo is very high, and it’s not something most of us are used to. With a high altitude comes altitude sickness, which can easily ruin the whole trip. 

How To Get To The Palcoyo Rainbow Mountains? 

So, it’s best not to visit Palcoyo on your first day in Cusco. Instead, acclimate for 2-3 days before you make the trip. Acclimating is not hard or complicated! And if anything it gives you a very good excuse to look around the city of Cusco. 

2. Check the Weather Forecast 

The weather at Palcoyo is very unpredictable. So, it’s best to check the weather forecast beforehand. We recommend not making the trip on a rainy day as it raises a few risks. The trails get muddy, and the chances of thunder striking also increase. 

The wind up there is also quite hard. So, it’s best not to visit Palcoyo on a cloudy day. But, on the other hand, sometimes the days can get quite hot, and you don’t want that either. Hence, you should check the weather forecast and choose the weather that suits you best. 

3. Pack some Coca Leaves 

Coca leaves are known to help with the altitude. And it’s always best to keep some with you during your hike. So take a coca leaf and cram it in the side of your mouth and let the coca leaf do its magic. 

Trekking At The Palcoyo Rainbow Mountains- Your Full Trip Guide:

Now that you’re prepared and have everything in place for the trip, it’s time to get going. So pack your bags and get your sleep because you’ll have to wake up quite early. The trip will begin at 3 am. You would have to wake up and ensure you have everything you need for the day. 

Then the drive to Palcoyo starts at 4 am. After a 3-4 hour drive, you’ll start the first hike. This hike will take you through the first viewpoint. During the entire hike on Palcoyo, you’ll come across three viewpoints. And every viewpoint you reach feels like a win in itself! 

What To Bring On Your Hike To The Palcoyo Rainbow Mountains?

During the hike, you’ll notice some incredible scenes around you. The array of colors and the stunning mountain range makes it feel like another world. 

Take breaks whenever you need them. It can get complicated for you if you’re not used to hiking. Especially the hike to the last viewpoint will be quite hard. So take breaks when you need to and drink enough water. 

Soon the hike will bring you to your final viewpoint. Over there, you’ll be able to take pictures and enjoy the beautiful rainbow mountains with a stunning view. Just behind the rainbow mountain is the stone forest. 

The hike up to the stone forest is a little harder, but it’s absolutely worth it. The view from the stone forest is even more stunning. 

During the trip, you will come across many Alpacas and locals. They are adorable and incredibly friendly. It’s easy to get attached to a place where everything surrounding it is so beautiful. The Palcoyo rainbow mountains do that. 

Finally, the hike will come to an end once you make your way back to the meeting point. From there, you’ll begin your way back to Cusco. And this whole trip altogether will take the whole day. And if you’re like me, you’re much more likely to fall asleep on your way back! 

What Is The Best Time To Visit The Palcoyo Rainbow Mountains? 

The best time to visit the Palcoyo rainbow mountains is during the dry seasons. So, May to September is the most convenient time to visit the rainbow mountains. However, these months are also the busiest in Peru. Therefore, you can visit the mountains from December to April if you prefer the rainy seasons. 

During these months, the landscapes look incredible. The lush greenery and the stunning colors are something straight out of a movie. But the downside is that with rain comes many risks. For example, risks of lightning, hailstorms, etc., increase during these seasons. So, visiting during these seasons can be a real hit or miss. 

Preparing For Your Hike In Palcoyo Mountains:

Why Do The Palcoyo Mountains look Like A Rainbow? 

The easy answer is that the coloration happened because of the vast amount of minerals in the mountains. These minerals got exposed over time because of global warming. So, in many ways, global warming is responsible for these beautiful rainbow mountains. 

Palcoyo is just an example of that. Over time because of global warming, the ice melted, and the frozen minerals started coming down the surface of the mountains. And these various minerals all brought out different colors, leaving a beautiful colorful look on the mountains. 

Are There Toilets Along The Palcoyo Mountains? 

Yes, unlike Vinicunca, Palcoyo has a few restrooms that you can use around the beginning of the trail. These restrooms are sanitary and will cost you a few cents. A good thing to remember is to bring your own toilet paper roll just in case you need it. Also, there are no restrooms at the top, so be careful! 

Other Things To See During Your Visit To Palcoyo:

The rainbow mountains are the main attraction in Palcoyo, but that’s not all. During your hike, you’ll see a few things that will blow your mind away. Let’s see what those things are: 

1. The Red River 

If you visit Palcoyo from January to April, you might get a chance to see the beautiful Red River. The red river is a unique phenomenon that’s made up of red-colored water. This water cuts through the mountainside. 

So what’s the science behind it? This crimson-colored water is caused by the same minerals that bring out the different colors of Palcoyo. During the rainy seasons, the water washes through the minerals causing the water to look like a pretty dream. 

2. The Stone Forest 

Once the hike to the peak of Palcoyo mountain is done and you’ve reached your third and final viewpoint, look behind. You will be able to see a fascinating phenomenon called the Stone Forest. To enter the Stone Forest, you must take another 20 min hike up the mountain. 

While it may sound tiring, we recommend you do it! Cause the view from up there is incredible. You’ll see all three rainbow mountains from the stone forest in one picture! It’s just the perfect ending to an incredible journey! 

Trekking At The Palcoyo Rainbow Mountains- Your Full Trip Guide:

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q. Where Is Palcoyo?

Ans: The Palcoyo Mountain is located in the province of Canchis, Pitumarca district, nearly 76 miles /125 KM southeast of Cusco

Q. Why Are The Mountains In Cusco Called The Rainbow Mountains? 

Ans: for displaying a colorful rainbow-like pattern on the body of the mountains. 

Q. How Did Rainbow Mountain Get Its Color?

Ans: This rainbow-like appearance is created by the sediment of minerals throughout the area

Q. When Were The Rainbow Mountains Discovered? 

Ans: The rainbow mountains were discovered in 2015. 


So, is the Palcoyo Rainbow Mountain worth it? Well, it definitely is! The rainbow mountains in Cusco are incredible wonders of nature. And if you’re planning a vacation to Peru, you should definitely check out one of them! 

Vinicunca isn’t as beautiful as it once was, but the alternative rainbow mountain Palcoyo definitely does the work! So, make the trip! And until next time, thank you for reading! Goodbye!