Rainbow Mountains: The most exhausting Hike of my Life

Our last excursion in Peru was to the Rainbow Mountains. The name already gives it away: the mountains are coloured. The colours result from minerals in the ground that oxidize over time. Hiking up there was an unforgettable experience and the views are impressive.

We drove for about three hours up to a point where we had breakfast and then started the hike. The peak of the mountain lies at 5.200 m above sea level. It’s to mention that our first hike in Peru was to 4.200 m above sea level which was already really exhausting due to the high altitude. You can imagine that this hike was even worse.

Me at the beginning of the trek, still happy when I had no clue about what was about to come.

At the beginning everything was fine. Walking was exhausting but it wasn’t too bad. Unfortunately it was raining but we were well equipped so it didn’t bother us. The higher we got the more breaks we had to take and the slower we had to walk because of the lack of oxygen. Halfway up it even started snowing and the ground was wet and muddy.

I wanted to keep going but I started to suffer from altitude sickness. My stomach felt bad and I constantly had the feeling of having to throw up. In addition to that it was really hard to breath. Walking uphill made it even harder. Every single step was so exhausting and the distance to the peak didn’t seem to get smaller.

My friends didn’t get sick from the altitude but some others felt even worse than me and had to stop the hike. Somehow I managed to continue walking even though I felt really bad. After what felt like an eternity we finally reached the peak.

This was for sure the most exhausting hike of my life. Not because of the distance or the steepness. But as soon as your body reacts to the altitude it makes you feel so bad that you think you can’t breath anymore. I was chewing coca leaves the whole time because they are supposed to help but in my case they didn’t really make it better.

The smile of having made it to the peak at 5.200 m above sea level

I was so relieved when we reached the top that at the first moment I couldn’t even enjoy the view. I was just glad that I had made it and that my heartbeat was calming down a bit. Then I could take in the breathtaking view: a mountain range with red, green, yellow and brown stripes. That was when I knew it was worth all the effort to reach the peak.

Rainbow Mountains with a bit of snow


  • Get used to the altitude first. Stay a few days in Cusco or go to other high places. Don’t make this the first trip of your stay!
  • Bring waterproof shoes. At least if you go during rainy season.
  • Take coca leaves with you or anything that helps against altitude sickness.
  • If you don’t like hiking you can rent a horse and ride up.

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