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Palccoyo: Peru's other rainbow mountain

Secondary Categories: South AmericaMachu Picchu

Many people researching a trip to Peru have seen pictures of a vibrant, multi-colored landscape and are, of course, keen to visit.  The most well-known rainbow mountain is called Vinicunca, but what most travelers don’t know is there is a neighboring rainbow mountain called Palccoyo, which is an equally worthwhile exploration.  Here’s why:

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One of SA’s hand-picked guides, Silver Ballon, gazes at the Palccoyo rainbow mountain range.

Accessibility: Less transit time, more enjoyment

Visiting Palccoyo requires less time in the car and less time hiking than Vinicunca.  You’ll depart Cusco via private transportation with your guide and drive about two hours south until you reach the small town of Combapata.  After turning onto a dirt road and passing a few switchbacks, you reach 4,900 meters above sea level (just over 16,000 ft) and the starting point of the circuit. Here you’ll notice a stone walking path which leads you on a walking circuit of approximately two hours; this route is much less physically demanding than the one-day Vinicunca hike, with just 140 meters of elevation gain (only 460 ft) and a total distance of four kilometers (2.5 mi).  Another benefit of visiting the Palccoyo rainbow mountain versus Vinicunca is that you’ll encounter fewer people on the trail – for now.

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A visit to Palccoyo includes spectacular views of infamous jagged Andean peaks.

Diversity: Rainbow mountains and so much more

Once you’re on the Palccoyo circuit, you’ll be treated to more than views of just one rainbow mountain.  From the starting point you’ll notice Peru’s mineral rich Red Valley amongst a breathtaking panoramic view of the Andes.  From there you’ll continue to the main view of Palccoyo, with an equally impressive view of the imposing Apu Ausangate around the corner, the highest peak in the Cuzco region.  If you’re feeling up for a bit of an uphill walk, you can continue about twenty minutes up to Palccoyo’s Rock Forest of staggering natural stone formations.  To see all this beauty in one short circuit is an amazing opportunity. Make the most of your time exploring a more off-the-beaten path part of Peru!

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Make sure to add “hike to an Andean rock forest” to your bucket list.

Customization: Make the experience yours

One of the main benefits of traveling with SA Expeditions is that you can design your dream itinerary with the help of one of our Destination Experts.  Since a visit to Palccoyo requires less time in the car and less time hiking, there’s more time to visit other attractions in the area, such as the Tupac Amaru Museum, Marangani Factory, or La Raya Hot Springs.  If you’d like a more in-depth exploration of the area, we can include a night in a local Casa de Campo, in a restored family-owned Hacienda. 

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No filter needed – the mountains really are this unbelievable hue of red.

If you’re curious to learn more about the colorful Palccoyo circuit and this alternate rainbow mountain, or if you’re already booking your flights to Peru, you can easily contact a Destination Expert to arrange a seamless and customized experience in the Andes.  For those not quite ready to travel but interested in staying up-to-date with SA Expeditions and our explorers’ journal, feel free to sign up for our newsletter or follow us on Instagram.  Photo credit: Julia Steck

About the author: Julia is a New Jersey native who has been living in Peru since 2015.  She’s happiest when spending time outdoors and enjoying good food.

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