Which Is The Best Rainbow Mountain Tour Company For Backpackers?

The multi-coloured mountain known to backpackers as Rainbow Mountain has quickly become one of Peru’s most popular tourist destinations. With up to 14 different colours streaking across is surface, surrounded by beautiful Andean mountain ranges covered in snow - Rainbow Mountain is a sight to behold. Here is a comparison of three companies so you can decide which Rainbow Mountain tour is the best option for you.

Contents

Which Is The Best Rainbow Mountain Tour Company?

In my opinion, Rainbow Mountain Travels is the best tour company to choose when booking a trip to Rainbow Mountain.

 

Rainbow Mountain Travels ticks all the boxes of a great tour.

 

They offer a reasonable price ($49) that comes with a quality experience. They are reliable and pick you up on time. They get you up the mountain early enough to avoid huge crowds. They also provide a quality experience that makes the day out feel more than just paying for transport by providing excellent food and engaging tour guides.

 

It’s a no brainer really. This is definitely the best tour company for backpackers as you are getting a quality tour for a reasonable price. Make sure to pick Rainbow Mountain Travels.

What To Expect On A Rainbow Mountain Tour?

Almost all the Rainbow Mountain tours on offer from Cusco have the same itinerary.

 

Pick up from Cusco, a 3-hour drive to the mountain, breakfast, hiking up the mountain, and then returning back to Cusco (possibly with lunch included as well).

 

Here is a breakdown of the itinerary to give you a better idea of how the day is organised:

 

  • 3:30 AM – Minibus pick up in Cusco
  • 5:00 AM – Breakfast stop
  • 7:30 AM – Arrive at Rainbow Mountain / Briefing
  • 8:00 AM – 10:00 AM – Trek to summit
  • 10:00 AM – 11:00 AM – Red Valley trek
  • 12:00 PM – Head back to Cusco
  • 13:30 PM – Lunch
  • 15:00 PM – Arrive back in Cusco

Any difference in price between tour companies will be due to the service you receive, the quality of transport and how many meals are included.

 

One significant difference in price is due departures times from Cusco –  with more expensive tours leaving at 3:00 AM compared to 5:00 AM.

 

Part of this cost is because the tour guides are up in the middle of the night. However, you are also paying extra to arrive before other companies and hopefully have the mountain to yourself for a time before everyone else turns up.

 

Aside from this, the mountain and the hike are the same for everyone.

For more details on the full trek, what to expect and how to pack – head to the Rainbow Mountain trek guide linked below:

 

 

Rainbow Mountain Tour Company Comparisons

I’ve researched three Rainbow Mountain tour companies –  one cheap, one mid-price and one expensive – and compared them on reviews, price, pick-up times, group size, and food options.

 

Here’s a quick price breakdown:

 

  • Cheap Rainbow Mountain Tour – Cusco Street Vendor or Local Tour – $15-30
  • Mid-Range Rainbow Mountain Tour – Rainbow Mountain Travels – $49
  • Expensive Rainbow Mountain Tour – Visit South America – $125

Here’s a table comparing the three types of Rainbow Mountain Tour you can book from Cusco: 

Rainbow Mountain Tour Company Comparison Table

Local Company Rainbow Mountain Travels Visit South America
Cost
$15 - 30
$49
$150+
Trip Advisor Reviews
N/A
4.5 stars (481 reviews)
5 stars (218 Reviews)
Pick-up Time
5:00 AM onwards
3:00 AM - 3:30 AM
2:15 - 2:30 AM
Group Size
Large Bus (20+)
Mini Van (15 people max)
Mini Van (2 people minimum)
Food
Small breakfast, lunch, no snacks
Buffet breakfast and lunch, no snacks
Buffet breakfast and lunch + snacks and hot drinks

Option #1 - Cheap Rainbow Mountain Tour

  • Who: Street Vendor or Local Agency
  • Price: $15-30

Pros – great for budget backpackers who aren’t too bothered about the crowds or reaching the summit early 

 

Cons – quality isn’t guaranteed, they can often be unreliable and turn up late. You may not get a bilingual guide

This type of tour is cheapest option available for backpackers wanting to visit Rainbow Mountain.

 

It will be best for backpackers on a shoestring budget who just want to see Rainbow Mountain and aren’t bothered about how they go about it.

 

You should be able to find prices for around $30 from the street vendors and smaller tour companies around Cusco, mainly ones that cater to locals rather than backpackers.

 

Although the pick-up might be as early as 3:30 AM, these are usually larger tours with more people, so most of the morning is spent driving around the town picking people up.

 

Another concern is that you may not always get a bilingual guide so make sure you ask about this before booking. Finally, the quality of the places you stop at for food may not be up to everyone’s standards either, so if you are a fussy eater then go for one of the more well established tours. 

 

If you read the trip advisor reviews in the link here, you’ll also notice they may be a little bit more unreliable. Basically, you get what you pay for.

Option #2 - Mid-Range Price Rainbow Mountain Tour

Pros – Reasonable price for a quality tour. Reliable company that turn up on time and look after their customers. Leaves earlier than most tour companies so you avoid the crowds. 

 

Cons – the early pick-up time may not be for everyone

In my opinion, this tour offered by Rainbow Mountains Travels is the best Rainbow Mountain tour for most tourists, especially backpackers.

 

One of the reasons why this is such a popular tour is that you are picked up between 3:00 AM and 3:30 AM so that you can get to the mountain before all the other tours. It also means you will be able to trek to  the top unimpeded. Most other tours will pick you up at around 5:00 AM so you probably won’t beat the crowds.

 

By the time I was coming back down, there were queues of people slowly making the final trek to the summit, all stuck behind each other. This is an extremely popular tourist destination with approximately 1,500 people visiting a day and the path can get busy once all the tour buses have arrived.

 

Pick up was bang on time at 3:30 AM, and we were given thick blankets for the first part of the journey so we could stay warm and fall back asleep on the long drive. Our buffet breakfast and lunch were at the same restaurant, but the food was fantastic and substantial, providing all the energy we needed for the day.

 

The guides were incredible and spoke perfect English. They were attentive and made sure everyone felt safe and welcome. Overall, it was a fantastic tour in everyway and it was difficult to find any faults with it. 

For more detailed information on Rainbow Mountain Travels tour, itinerary and other useful tips and tricks for hiking Rainbow Mountain, head to the full guide below:

 

 

Other Mid-Priced Rainbow Mountain Tours

The official Rainbow Mountain tourism website suggests Rainbow Mountain Travels as its number one recommended tour. However, they do provide a list of other reputable tours.

 

 

 

Number 2 is Kantu Peru Tours which can be booked through Find Local Trips. This costs $59.

 

 

 

The third recommended is Rasgos Del Peru for $65.

 

Option #3 - Expensive Rainbow Mountain Private Tour

Pros – high quality, personalised experience and you will be the first people at the top of the mountain with no crowds. 

 

Cons – most expensive option so not necessarily affordable for backpackers

The final option to visit Rainbow Mountain is on a private tour.

 

For the extortionate price of $150, you get the same exact experience as Rainbow Mountain Travels offers with only a couple of small differences.

 

Firstly, this tour starts at 2:30AM, and you will literally be the only ones on top of the mountain with no other tourist in sight. This may be worth it for some people.

 

You will have a unique and personal experience unimpeded by other tourists. If you are big on photography, then you will have time to take photos without worrying about a queue behind you or people getting in your way.

 

Leaving this early means you will also catch the sunrise which will be an incredible sight.

 

Whilst I haven’t been on this tour myself, I imagine the entire experience is also a lot better and done to a much higher standard – for example you will get lots of extra added comforts such as snacks throughout the day and hot drinks. The places you stop at for food will also likely be a lot better.

Other Private Rainbow Mountain Tour Options

Another private tour option is to go back to Rainbow Mountain Travels. They offer a private tour for 2-3 people for $119 per person.

 

However, this gets cheaper if you begin to add more people:

 

  • 4-5 people: $109 per person
  • 6-8 people: $99 per person
  • 9-12 people: $89 per person

This is a great option for backpackers travelling in a small group who would prefer a private tour.

 

 

Alternative Rainbow Mountain Tours

If you are concerned about the difficulty of the Rainbow Mountain trek, but still want to experience the Andes mountains and the beauty of the countryside around Cusco, then there are alternative tours you can book.

 

A second ‘Rainbow Mountain’ has popped up alongside the original, known as Palccoyo Rainbow Mountain but this mountain isn’t just a cheap copy.

 

Palccoyo has many advantages over its larger, more famous sibling which I think everyone should know about and consider visiting on their travels. 

 

Palccoyo is a much easier trek compared to the original, reaching 5,000m with a much flatter route to the summit. The viewpoint is 200m (656 ft) lower than Vinicunca, and at these altitudes, it genuinely makes a difference. The hike is shorter in total, it’s around 1km, and you climb 150m. 

 

It’s considered more manageable than Vinicunca due to the shorter distance, less elevation gain and mostly flat route.

 

This is the better option for backpackers who don’t like hiking that much or suffer from altitude sickness easily.

Check out this simple comparison of the two mountains and tours to see if it’s for you:

 

 

Rainbow Mountain FAQs

Whilst this natural wonder is a must-see, there are a few things you should know before attempting the climb to decide whether it’s worth your time.

 

Here’s everything you need to know about preparing for Rainbow Mountain:

What Is Rainbow Mountain?

Rainbow Mountain, also known as Vinicunca, Montaña de Siete Colores, or Montaña de Colores is a multi-coloured mountain with varying layers of colours streaking across its surface.

 

The mountain’s colourful appearance is due to the different minerals present in the slopes; clay, iron, sandstone, magnesium, and many others create an array of blues, yellows, greens, and deep reds.

 

It’s one of Peru’s most famous tourist attractions and is well worth a visit. I’ve included it in one of my 13 reasons to visit Peru:

 

 

How Do You Get To Rainbow Mountain?

The best way to get to Rainbow Mountain is to book through a tour company in Cusco. Tour companies set off from Cusco, but the actual mountain is located 100 km south-east of Cusco.

 

The journey takes around 3-4 hours from Cusco to the starting point of the trek. Then it takes 1-2 hours to reach the summit depending on your level of fitness.

 

For more backpacking guides on Cusco including the best places to stay and fun activities to do, check out the posts linked below:

 

 

Can I Go To Rainbow Mountain By Myself?

I personally wouldn’t recommend going to Rainbow Mountain without a tour company or guide as it would be way too much admin.

 

Firstly, you would have to drive there yourself and likely find some accommodation in the small towns close to the mountain. Also, the final section of the drive up through the valley is not for the faint-hearted and is probably best left to experienced guides. The roads are muddy and full of alpaca.

 

Overall, it would be a difficult thing to manage and is likely dangerous. Best to stick with the tours and the expert knowledge of the locals.

How Long Does It Take To Hike Rainbow Mountain?

The Rainbow Mountain trek lasts roughly 3 hours in total.

 

From the start to the summit, it takes about 1 hour to hike Rainbow Mountain. This will vary depending on your fitness levels, however. You start at 5000m and only need to trek 200m to reach the summit, so it isn’t a long hike at all in terms of distance – it just takes long because everyone is so out of breath.

 

Getting back down should take an hour, maybe less as going down is always faster.

 

After the trek, there is also an option to trek to the red valley. This is another short but steep climb to see even more incredible scenery. This takes an hour to reach the viewpoint and then climb back down. Tour companies give you enough time to do both if you want.

 

Love trekking and want to see what else Cusco has to offer in terms of incredible hikes? Check out the posts below:

 

 

How Long Does It Take To Hike Rainbow Mountain?

The Rainbow Mountain hike is difficult in terms of altitude, not so much in terms of distance and elevation.

 

You will be spending the whole time at an altitude of over 5,000m (16,400 ft). Once you step out of the van, you will feel it instantly. You will have obviously experienced the high altitude in Cusco, but at this height, it’s even harder to breathe.

 

The viewpoint is 5,200m (17,060 ft) above sea level, so the climb to the top is challenging.

 

Due to the altitude and incline, it then takes about 45 minutes to an hour to make it to the top. This part is only around 100m in elevation but it’s so hard to breathe that you can’t go faster than a snail’s pace.

For more on backpacking in Peru, check out our itineraries and travel routes:

 

Don't Miss Out On The Best Newsletter For Backpacking In South America!

Sign up to our monthly newsletter with all the best travel tips, guides and itineraries for South America including bonus content not seen on website!