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Volunteer Weekends in Peru - Rainbow Mountain 

By Sarah Dean - Student Engagement Officer 


There are several wonders you’ll find in the beautiful country of Peru. While most people are quick to consider the mountain of Machu Picchu above all else, there is another mountain that we think is just as captivating 



“The mountains always had a beautiful view no matter where I was. It was also great how everyone helped each other as well on the hike. I didn’t expect any of this!” @tonyv_u Machu Picchu Challenge 

Known to the locals as Vinicunca (composed of the wordswini” and “kunca” – “winiis the name for the black stones that cover the area, and “kuncameaning neckreferring to the area of the mountain that resembles a necklace) or Montaña de Colores (Spanish: Mountain of colours), Rainbow Mountain is a magnificent mountain of the Andes of Peru 

You can hike Rainbow Mountain during your free weekend on your volunteer program in Peru. The hike is definitely testing, reaching an altitude of 5,200 meters above sea level (2,000 meters more than the city of Cusco where you will be staying), so you definitely get a sense of accomplishment once you finish the hike! 

The area is considered remote as it is over 3 hours away from Cusco before you even get to the start of the trail. But we think this is why visiting the mountain is a must... you’re seeing something that is rarely seen by other travellers.  


What creates those different colours?  


The main colours you will see are pink, yellow, white, turquoise, brown and red and as identified in the above image each are caused by a certain combination of mineral deposits. If you get the chance to see Rainbow mountain on your free volunteer weekend, know that when your eyes wonder across the different layers of sediment, you’re absorbing millions of years of history.  

You will have the chance to see unique wildlife too! This includes: deer, huallatas and partridges, vizcachas and of course the iconic alpaca and llama. In fact, the local Ausangate people are one of the last high-altitude shepherding communities left in the world. 

We asked Melinda about her experience while volunteering with us on the Machu Picchu Challenge and her response had us beaming ear to ear.  



“My favourite aspect of climbing rainbow mountain was the harmony and resilience of walking with such a great group of people. After spending a week volunteering with my fellow Challenges Abroad crew, it was such an amazing experience to walk this amazing mountain with people from all walks of life. It was by far one of the hardest walks I’ve ever done & to watch people of all ages and sizes put in the strength and power to get to the top, that’s breath taking in itself. Reaching the top of rainbow mountain was like floating on a cloud - it didn’t feel real. Looking out over all of the people hiking, seeing the phenomenal shades of minerals. It was like nothing I’d ever seen before. It was worth the 3am wake up. The rainbow mountain I expected had no snow, the rainbow mountain I witness superseded every expectation of viewing it in person. The snow hit one side of the mountain, as the sun shone on the other. What an utterly and truly magnificent sight. It was the highlight of my trip! So, it isn’t hard to write about something that has stayed with you every moment since.” – @_melindalee Machu Picchu Challenge 

The entire adventure to Rainbow Mountain generally takes up the whole day and involves a very early morning start (you can choose between a 3am or 5am pick up). As exhausting as it sounds, it's so worth it! To make sure you get the most out of the visit, we thought we’d give you a heads up on what you should consider packing for a day trip like this one.  

Like any long hike, you’ll want a safe and comfortable backpack to put all your necessities in. It’s worth checking out hiking stores like Macpac or Kathmandu for this. We’ve had volunteers find water packs quite handy to have, but bringing a water bottle or two will also do the trick. Chuck in some snacks (ones that give you energy), sunscreen, rain jacket, hat/beanie, sunglasses and you’ll want to pack some toilet paper too. Most importantly, remember to have a camera or your phone with you and fully charged because you’ll want to remember this site forever! 



“My favourite part of the rainbow mountain hike was climbing the extra 200m up to the peak to get a view across the mountain range and valley. The view was absolutely incredible. I loved getting to look down on the track we had taken and know that I had made it to the top. The hike overall was so much harder than I thought due to the altitude but so rewarding when we all reached the top together. Accomplishing something hard with my friends definitely made us all closer!”  @mikayla.hw Education Challenge 

Without a doubt you’ll be heavy breathing and smiling with all your friends when you reach your destination and you’ll be immensely proud of yourself for taking on the challenge. You definitely won’t regret spending part of your free time from volunteering at Rainbow Mountain! If this has made you think of travelling to Peru, come with us in 2021 and make a real difference. The challenge is waiting for you here 



That the sun came out for a moment when we were at the top considering we were there in the rainy season, and the mountain actually did look like a rainbow for a bit! Didnt really have any expectations for it just wanted the experience! @ellamacdonaldd Machu Picchu Challenge


Learn more about Peru, our charity The FutureSense Foundation and how we keep our volunteer programs sustainable and ethical