Reaching new heights in Peru

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I sat there in silence, marveling at the beauty that appeared right outside the window. It was a little after 5 a.m., and we had been traveling since 2:30 a.m. Asleep next to me in the van was my boyfriend, behind me sat our two hiking companions, and in front sat our guide and the driver.

For a few moments, I forgot anyone else was there. I was so absorbed in the beauty of nature that time stood still. Then a bump in the road snapped me back to reality and I woke my boyfriend up so he could see what I was seeing. He immediately grabbed his camera and started clicking pictures.

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We were on our way to trek to Rainbow Mountain in Peru. We had googled pictures of what the mountain looked like and honestly we were a little worried. All of the images appeared to be heavily photoshopped and we thought we might come to Rainbow Mountain not to find it so colorful and stunning in person. However, that thought couldn’t be further from the reality we experienced.

I can say that, without a doubt, Rainbow Mountain is the most beautiful place I have seen in my life. And that comes from someone whose job is to travel. However, the beauty of this place is not just in the mountain itself, but in the entire journey to get there. The clichéd saying “it’s all about the journey, not the destination” never rang truer in my life than when I visited Rainbow Mountain. My boyfriend couldn’t take more than three steps during our eight hour hike without stopping for another epic photo. And I couldn’t help but say “wow” and feel like there was no way this was real life. I felt like I was walking in a dream. (And yes, the colors of the mountain are even more beautiful in real life than in the photos.)

The magical journey we experienced was possible thanks to the company with which we made our trek, Flashpacker Login. Although a little more expensive than some of the other Rainbow Mountain hiking options, it’s well worth the extra expense. The 2:30 am pick-up time seemed questionable at the time (and honestly, brutal), but by the time we got to the trailhead for Rainbow Mountain, it all made sense. There was not another tourist to see. It was just the six of us and the locals who lived in the area (including the local alpacas).

The journey took us through the most stunning valley I have ever seen, with colorful mountains on the left and majestic streams, lakes and glaciers on the right. Add to that the llamas, alpacas, horses and locals dressed in colorful traditional clothing, and the fact that we had the mountain all to ourselves, and you have all the ingredients for a life-changing experience. Being the only explorers on the mountain made the trip even more beautiful.

By the time we reached the nearly 17,000 foot summit of our journey, we looked back to see hordes of ant-sized people coming up the trail. How amazing it was to have Rainbow Mountain all to ourselves and enjoy the beauty without other tourists in the way.

I would be lying if I said it wasn’t a physical struggle to get to the top. As a girl from LA, I live a few blocks from the beach at sea level and 17,000 feet was quite a challenge for my body. Slow and steady wins the race and luckily we had the freedom to be slow and enjoy the journey without rushing from the crowds behind us.

We enjoyed our time at the top, soaked in the glory and beauty of Pachamama (the Peruvian word for Mother Earth), and by the time the tourists behind us joined us at the top, we were ready to descend.

While most people take the same trail they took, our tour guide, Joaquin (if you decide to do this trek you have to request him as your guide) took us on a different route on the way down. So we had an extra experience that we weren’t expecting and, like on the way up, we had this trail entirely to ourselves. Words can’t even describe the feeling I had looking outside and seeing a field full of alpacas munching grass at the base of a mountain with a river running through it and glaciers behind. I could have stayed in that valley for hours longer, soaking up all of its grandeur.

This trip to Rainbow Mountain was one of the best days of my life.

And that experience made me more curious about the story behind Rainbow Mountain, so I did a little digging. Turns out Vinicunca (as the locals call it) was only discovered in 2014, when the snow covering it melted, revealing the incredible rainbow of colors below. . Locals have lived in this area for a long time, and despite the recent addition of over 1,000 tourists a day visiting the area, local communities live almost exactly the same way before the tourist explosion.

For Peruvians, it is a holy place. They view Rainbow Mountain as a symbol of masculinity and fatherhood and believe the mountain fertilizes Pachamama (Mother Earth).

So how did Rainbow Mountain get its vibrant coloring? Of the 14 different minerals that make up the mountain, each showing a different color. A chain of dormant volcanoes exists in this area and when the volcanoes were active they brought minerals that were deep within the Earth to the surface. These minerals were then put into place in different layers and the environmental conditions caused the colors to change and become brighter. It’s likely that this mountain isn’t the only one in the area to have this coloring – it’s just that the exterior of Rainbow Mountain has been faded and erased to reveal the magic below.

While Rainbow Mountain certainly stole the show in my eyes, we experienced so much beauty in Peru it was almost overwhelming. From Machu Picchu to the Sacred Valley, from Cusco to Huacachina, Peru is a truly magical country that rekindles your soul and spirit.

Where to stay

When traveling to Rainbow Mountain, the Flashpacker Connect tour and other tours usually depart from Cusco, so that’s where you want to stay. Cusco is a city that deserves a few days of adventure on its own, so be sure to book your stay with time to wander the beautiful streets of this city and discover the delicious cuisine, shops, markets, culture and stunning views.

Our favorite place to stay in Cusco was Casa Andina Premium. This five star hotel provided us with all the comforts of home with a touch of luxury to make our stay truly special. After our 18-hour trip to Rainbow Mountain, lying down in the hotel’s plush king-size bed was the greatest luxury of our lives. I’m a sucker for hotel robes and slippers, and these were excellent. The included breakfast was great too and full of a variety of options for all dietary restrictions. Peru prides itself on fresh, organic food and Casa Andina Premium definitely delivers.

The hotel is centrally located and puts you within walking distance of most of Cusco’s main tourist attractions. It is the perfect base for exploring all this city and its magical surroundings have to offer.



Click for more information on Casa Andina Premium.

Click for more information on Flashpacker Connect’s Rainbow Mountain Trek and other experiences around the world.

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