We will have a 05:30 wake-up call, only to find the ground and even the inside of the tent frozen! This will be a good incentive to get dressed quickly and tuck into a hearty, cooked breakfast.
The sun comes up at around 06:00 and it will be time to start the 11 kilometers / 6.8 miles uphill walk to the Rainbow Mountain. The slope will be gradual on firm ground through pastures, passing by small settlements and herds of alpacas. Accompanied by our guide, who greets the locals in Quechua and tells us stories about the area, it will be a spectacular walk with views of the Ausangate and other snow-covered peaks.
It is highly recommended to hire a horse (payable locally) if you need to rest. The walking will be not hard but many people will find the altitude challenging as they reach over 5,000 meters / 16,404 feet.
Nothing can prepare us for the spectacular sight of Vinicunca with its beautiful colours spreading across the horizon. At 5,100 meters /16,732 feet. We will have a 360-degree view of the Ausangate snow-caps on one side and the multi-coloured Vinicunca on the other side – it is pure magic!
The descent down the other side will be easy and as the oxygen returns, we will have a chance to breathe deeply and reflect on our amazing experiences over the last couple of days. Another wholesome, hot lunch will await at the bottom after which we will climb wearily into the vehicle for the return to Cusco, arriving at around 19:00.
It is highly recommended to do this excursion in 2 days with a night’s camping. This gives you the chance to visit Pitumarca and Machupitumarca, experience camping in the wilderness and enjoying the walk to and from Vinicunca at a leisurely pace. It is not a difficult walk, however the altitude can be problematic for some as you are climbing gently from 4,300 meters /14,107 feet to 5,100 meters /16,732 feet. It is imperative that you have a few days in Cusco first to acclimatize.
Trekking distance: 15 kilometers / 9 miles (6-7 hours)
Altitudes: Vinicunca: 5100 meters /16732 feet, Checacupe: 3.446 meters / 11,306 feet
Meals: breakfast, lunch