What a beautiful hike! And a hard one.
If you visit Peru, you must take a day trip to hike Rainbow Mountain, but be prepared! It was one of the hardest things I've done. I was picked up at 3am by American Inca Trail (the tour company I used). It was a tiring start, but I managed to sleep a bit at first. The ride to the start of the hike was very bumpy. Many people were carsick and it was uncomfortable, but we made it.
As we started the hike, I was determined to make it to the top within the 2 hour time limit they gave us. It was only 6km which isn’t that bad. The hike started off strong, but quickly came to a halt. The mountain starts at such a high elevation, which creates a risk for altitude sickness. The total elevation from sea level is 5,200 meters. Overall I never felt sick at all, but I did have a very hard time breathing. With the lack of oxygen so high up, it makes it really difficult to hike up a mountain without losing your breath right away. It took me a total of 2.5 hours to make it to the top, with frequent breaks to catch my breath. There were so many times I wanted to quit, but I could see the end and it was so worth it. The entire hike was beautiful. A gorgeous view around every corner, and snow-capped mountains surrounding the trail. It was so nice to just walk and enjoy your surroundings. No music. No talking or gossiping. Just truly being.
Well, I made it to the top and cried! It was such a relief to be there at the top. I survived to the end and I am so proud of myself! What an amazing experience. After a few moments of enjoying the view and taking some pictures, I started to make my way down. It took me 1 hour to get back down, and it was much easier to breathe. Making it to the end, I was dusty, tired, sunburnt and VERY hungry. Thankfully the tour included a nice lunch before our 3 hour drive back to Cusco.
It was the best part of my trip, I think. With the amazing views and the huge accomplishment it was to make it to the top. It was an experience I think everyone should have. If you’re visiting Cusco, I highly suggest reaching out to American Inca trail and booking a trip to Rainbow Mountain. BUT before you go, make sure you’ve been in Cusco for at LEAST a week, to acclimatize, you have coca candies (they are legal in Peru), and you know your limits. Don’t over-push yourself. Take the time you need and know when to take a step back. The altitude can hit you at the most unexpected times.