Hiking from Ausangate to Rainbow Mountain, Peru

I was reasonably hesitant about hiking to Rainbow Mountain. The second most advertised ‘tour’ in Cusco was a day hike to Rainbow Mountain – cue overly saturated photos on posters everywhere throughout the city. Was it just a tourist trap?

After contemplating whether to do another hike in Peru after our hike from Choquequirao to Machu Picchu (which was an epic feat and journey for us) and after a week of well-deserved rest, we dusted our hiking boots once again and set off for the Ausangate mountains.

A couple of resources: The Hiking Life’s trip report, Travel2Walk and Stingy Nomads.


Dark clouds over the mountain range on Day 1. We weren’t going to hike up those mountains (thank God) but we were going to hike around them.

28846R5-R01-017I’m embarrassed to say we didn’t complete the entire circuit. I learnt from this hike that the mental struggle is real and you really need to be in the right frame of mind to complete any multi-day hike.


By that stage of our trip, I think I was still tired after our Choquequirao to Machu Picchu hike. The altitude was also getting to me – small 400/500m ascents felt a lot harder to do! I was getting disheartened by Day 2 – is it going to get harder from here?

P2377754Towards the end of Day 1, we were going to set up camp: until we met a local villager who offered us to stay at his spare hut for 10 soles.

Staying in a solar-powered hut, made with mud and clay (I think!)

P237777528846R5-R01-03128846R5-R01-017It came to a point in the hike when I was physically and mentally fatigued. Each breath was a chore and each step felt heavier than the last. Whilst I was determined to complete the circuit, Nathan too admitted that it was difficult – and we could just find our way to Rainbow Mountain and call it a day for the hike.

As much as I hate to give up, I felt like it was the right thing to do. We ascended along the unknown pass towards Rainbow Mountain. While the trail around Ausangate was reasonably obvious, we detoured off-trail in a beeline towards Rainbow Mountain.

28846R5-R01-030We were fortunate enough to meet this beautiful stray dog who encouraged us on our last day of hiking towards Rainbow Mountain. He kept us company as we ascended and descended up the final pass, with Rainbow Mountain in sight now.P2377706


We did end up getting closer. The colours are pretty damn cool and I was glad we made the side trip to Rainbow Mountain. It did have hordes of tourists though, so that is something to be aware about when going on a day trip to Rainbow Mountain. We had hiked two or so days from Ausangate and we met three groups of hikers in our days.