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Cusco’s other rainbow mountain

Palccoyo is less well-known than Vinicunca mountain

While the better known Vinicunca “rainbow mountain” is visited daily by many hundreds of travelers on one- or two-day excursions from Cusco, the similar geological feature known as the Palccoyo rainbow range lies well off the beaten track.

Situated just 20 kilometers south of its more famous rival attraction, this spectacular destination offers visitors the chance to see and photograph a series of three mountains composed of alternating layers of yellow, red, green, blue and white geological deposits, with a view uninterrupted by the handful of other travelers usually seen there on any given day.

The route to Palccoyo passes the village of Checacupe, where a bridge has stood for hundreds of years, since the time of the Incas. After a three-hour drive through typical high Andean scenery from the city of Cusco, it is a short walk to the Palccoyo range, along a relatively flat trail which contrasts with the steep ascent required on the approach to Vinicunca.

The three rainbow mountains at Palccoyo can be viewed from the place where the road ends in a parking area for vehicles; however, for an even better view the short walk to the mountain range is undemanding.

The best time to visit Palccoyo is from April to November, because during the rainy season precipitation at such altitudes can sometimes fall as snow, covering the brightly colored mountain in a white mantle. Cloud cover and mist can also shroud the peaks at this time of year.

Close to the Palccoyo rainbow range, another unusual geological feature in the form of extravagantly eroded rock formations offers visitors an additional highly photogenic attraction.

Palccoyo is situated at 4900 meters (16,000 feet) above sea level. While the altitude should of course be respected, and visitors should remain hydrated and walk at a pace they find comfortable, the flat trail to the viewing point ought not to present problems for any traveler with an average level of fitness (particularly those travelers who have already spent two or three days in the Cusco region to acclimate), unlike the far more demanding approach to the rainbow mountain at Vinicunca. 

If you’d like to experience the destinations and activities mentioned in this article, contact us and we’ll help you create your Peru vacation!
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