The world’s largest continental mountain range is a great secret keeper. For centuries the jagged peaks of the Andes hid the legendary 16th-century Inca city Machu Picchu from the Spanish. Today, those same mountains hide one of Peru’s best kept secrets, the rainbow-colored Vinicunca mountain. Since pre-Incan times the Vinicunca mountain range has been a place of worship and offering. However, in a country overrun with adventure tourists, very little is found on the internet or in travel books about this stunning geological feature. With the amazing views and natural beauty, that is soon to change.
The 2 a.m. wake up call was rough, but the tour company FlashpackerConnect prides itself on being the first group of the day to reach the top of the mountains. The hike begins at daybreak. The dry, cold wind whips through the pastoral landscape, but does not seem to bother the packs of llamas and alpacas slowly grazing along the dirt path. The three-hour hike is a slow go as we ascend from 14,000 feet to 16,500 feet.Stops to catch one's breath are meet with incredible views of expansive high-altitude desert plants, snow-capped peaks, small mud-brick built villages and sparkling mountains streams.
The rainbow-colored Vinicunca Mountain is a slab of red, orange, turquoise, green and blue rock slanting upward from the Earth. It is not an easy climb, but nothing worth it ever is.