Purple mountain majesties are a central part of what makes America beautiful. However, South America may just have North America beat! In Peru, there are mountains with a multitude of vibrant colors and they deserve a spot on your travel bucket list.
Vinicunca Mountain in the Andes features all the stunning colors of the rainbow — purple, red, green and then some. It’s better known as Rainbow Mountain, but don’t feel bad if you haven’t heard of it before. A few hours drive from the city of Cusco, Rainbow Mountain is tucked away in a remote region of Peru and accessible on foot or horseback.
Thousands of years ago, the area was home to glaciers, but over time the ice receded and left behind the colorful mineral deposits that make it so irresistible today. Oxidized iron produces red, the yellow comes from iron sulphide, goethite or oxidized limonite causes the purple hue, and chlorite produces shades of green. Hence the nickname, the “painted mountain.”
A Sight to See
If the over-16,000-foot altitude, roaming alpacas and llamas and treacherous hike don’t take your breath away, the prismatic panorama certainly will. And it will make the early morning wake-up call and long journey all worth it. Here’s a snapshot of a tired but happy tour group:
A bright clear day will bring out the most vibrant shades. However, a few clouds can create a beautiful frame for the magical mountain slope:
You can experience the mountain in all its technicolor glory with a variety of tour companies and expert guides. For example, the travel agency Rainbow Mountain Peru specializes in the trip and offers a whirlwind one-day excursion, a two-day/one-night tour or a deep-dive four-day/three-night trek.
Vinicunca isn’t the only prismatic peak in the area. Palccoyo, which is in the Vilcanota Mountain Range, offers a more accessible alternative with similar bright hues.
This shorter route is excellent for families and surprisingly draws fewer visitors. In fact, the hike is only two miles round-trip and relatively flat. It still promises views of the brilliant slopes and peaks of the mountains Ausangate, Mariposa and Nevado del Inca.
Here’s a look at Palccoyo:
Tasting the rainbow might be catchy, but hiking the rainbow is the tops!