Palcoyo (Cusco): The Alternative tour to the Rainbow Mountain

The Palcoyo Mountain, are a set of 3 mountains that are made up of different shades of green, red, blue, white and yellow colors. This gives them that aspect similar to Vinicunca mountain or better known as Mountain of 7 Colors.

Unlike the Mountain of 7 Colors or Rainbow (Vinicunca) which is located at a higher altitude (5200 masl), Palcoyo (4900 masl) is easily accessible and does not require much effort to get there. Visiting this mountain only requires a gentle one-hour walk without unevenness, this makes it a less demanding alternative than the hike to the Mountain of 7 Colors called Vinicunca, which is located at more than 5,200 meters above sea level.

Detailed information about Palcoyo

  • Distance by car from Cusco to the start of the trek:(76 miles / 125 km)
  • Travel time:5 hours each way including a stop for breakfast, 1 hour each way and 4 hours each way including a stop for lunch.
  • Entrance:S / 10 / $3.00 USD for Peruvians and S. 20 / $6.00 USD for foreigners.
  • Altitude at the beginning of the walk:(15,400 feet / 4,700 masl.)
  • Difficulty:Easy to medium.
  • Trail to Palcoyo:dirt road at first, then there is a paved trail to the last viewpoint on the mountain. Most of it is flat with a gradual ascent. Then up to the top, the stone forest site
  • Path to the stone forest:It is a zigzag path of about 200 meters for a 20-minute walk.
  • Walking distance:(2.5 ML / 4 KM round trip)
  • Horse rental:Not available.
  • Walking time:The walk to the last viewpoint (with some breaks along the way) takes about 45 minutes. The return to the bus station takes 30 minutes.
  • Tips:From time to time, locals show up on the trail, walking an alpaca and offering a photo opportunity. In return, they just want a tip.
  • Maximum altitude:(16,076 feet / 4,900 masl.)
  • Duration of an average tour:10 hours
  • Elevation gain during the walk:(656 ft / 200 m).
  • Best time:From April to September, although you can visit every day of the year.

Where is the Palcoyo mountain?

The mountain of Palcoyo is located in the Vilcanota mountain range, in the District of Pitumarca, province of Canchis, south of the Mountain of 7 Colors.

How to get to Palcoyo?

From the city of Cusco we must travel by car about 3 hours to the south-east, towards the District of Combapata. Before reaching the town, you should turn left, right where the Checacupe bridge is (if you are not sure just ask the locals, they will kindly guide you).

Here is the suspension bridge made by the Incas to favor the connection of the Inca Empire. Then follow the dirt road for about 1 hour until you reach the parking lot to start the hike.

What to do and see in Palcoyo mountain?

From the beginning of the walk you will find mountain ranges of different shapes, sizes and colors that will leave you speechless. The walk, which lasts about 45 minutes, will take us to the Palcoyo viewpoint where we can observe this attraction in more detail.

Another attraction that we can find in the Palcoyo mountain is the Stone Forest, which can be reached from the viewpoint of the third mountain.

To get to the stone forest that is located at about 4900 meters above sea level, you will have to walk a few more minutes, the walk is light and does not require much effort. From here we can observe and contemplate in a 360º view the 3 mountains of Palcoyo, in addition to observing the Ausangate mountain that will be covered with snow.

Another thing that we can do is take photos with the locals who are dressed in typical costumes and alpacas, we will only have to give a tip and we will have unique photos of this place.

Another attraction that we can find is the Red River, which can only be seen in the rainy season, which is from November to March.

Where to eat in the mountain of Palcoyo?

The best option may be to take food from Cusco, but you can find along the road several tourist restaurants where you can have lunch.

You can also find small food stalls next to the parking lot, but remember, you must have a good stomach to eat and be careful that the food does not go bad.

The Palccoyo mountain range

As in the Mountain of 7 Colors or Rainbow Vinicunca, an extraordinary geological process aligned the different strata of the earth in layers of multicolored layers creating a unique effect.

From the point of view of the Palcoyo you can see the 3 colorful mountains in all their magnitude and solitary immensity. In the same place there is a curious forest of stones, which, as its name indicates, are rocky peaks the height of the trees that look like a true geological labyrinth.

Flora and fauna

For many tourists, this place is a place that leaves them speechless, the presence of alpacas and llamas that are in the mountains make a unique and beautiful landscape.

Llamas and alpacas in large numbers are the main inhabitants of these mountains. They do not live in the wild, but are raised by the inhabitants and serve as a means of subsistence. There are also foxes and chinchillas, which appear rarely, and birds, such as Cara Cara, Huallatas and other small birds, etc.

Regarding the vegetation of the mountain of Palcoyo and its surroundings, we can mention the abundance of straw and grasses that constitute the food of the camelids, as well as some cacti and all kinds of herbs and flowers that grow at ground level at more than 4500 masl.

How was it formed?

During the formation of the Earth’s stratosphere, minerals that fell under their own weight formed layers on top of each other and in the transformation of the earth with earthquakes and the movements of tectonic plates.

Sedimentary layers formed on mountains and slopes, exposed to the elements, and it was from there that, over time, the oxidized minerals gave attractive color tones, as we see them today.

What colors make up the Palcoyo mountain?

The colors that make up the Palcoyo mountain are similar to Vinicunca, these are:

  • Fuchsia pink Mixture of red clay, osfango and rheana.
  • Whitish quartz sand and limestone.
  • Purple or lavender Mixture of clay and calcium carbonate and silicates.
  • Red clays and clay.
  • Green clays rich in iron magnesium, (mixture of iron and magnesium and copper oxide).
  • Yellowish brown, mustard, gold Sulphurous calcareous sandstones combined with sulfur.


In the mountain of Palccoyo and in all of Cusco there is a climate divided into 2 throughout the year, which we will detail below:

  • The rainy season:From December to March, in this season the Palcoyo is usually covered in dense fog, accompanied by snow and hail, but the weather is also better on some days and you can enjoy the Palcoyo mountain.
  • The dry season:Includes from April to November. Between these months it is mostly sunny so the mountain of Palcoyo can be seen more clearly.

When does it snow on the mountain of Palcoyo?

Knowing this is crucial, the behavior of the climate in the area where the Montaña de Palcoyo is located. The snow seasons are usually in the rainy season of the Peruvian Andes, which is considered between November and April, but you have to be careful.

The weather is usually variable at this altitude of 4,000 meters above sea level, so untimely and unexpected snowfall can occur in early November or after April.

Best time to go to the Palcoyo mountain

As we know, the best time to go to Cusco and Palcoyo is in the dry season, from April to October. Although you can go in the other months, but keep in mind that you have a high chance of seeing the mountain covered in snow.

Palcoyo and Red River

If you are wondering what the Red River has to do with Palcoyo, you will see that a lot.

In the rainy season, when it rains and snow falls, the water begins to soak up the red colors of the mountains and they accumulate dirt and that makes the river red.

The red river comes from several mountain ranges and makes an extraordinary effect that you will never forget in your life, those who visit the 7-color mountain have a great opportunity to see this attraction that occurs only in the rainy season (November to March).

Recommendations to visit Palcoyo

  • As it is located at 4,900 meters, the risk of suffering from puna is always present. However, since the walk is irregular and lasts a maximum of an hour, most travelers (regardless of age) will not have any problems.
  • Spend about 2 days before in Cusco, to acclimatize.
  • Warm clothes.
  • Light windbreaker jackets.

How to get to Palcoyo?

There are two ways to get to the Palcoyo mountain. Most visitors prefer to hire travel agencies that offer one-day tours. On the other hand, there are also those who dare to venture out on their own. If you are going to do it with a travel agency, first you have to find out very well about the type of service they provide and also take the reviews on trip advisor and other platforms as a reference to avoid any dissatisfaction that can be caused by a bad selection or a last minute reservation.

It is important to take some time before and find out about the company that you are going to hire. They usually have everything included (pickups, lunch and entrance fees, first aid kit, oxygen tank, etc.) for a fixed price. The palcoyo mountain tour usually starts at 5 am and ends at 4 pm. Prices vary between agencies and types of services, so it may be wise to shop between two or more agencies to find out about costs.

How can I get to Palccoyo Mountain on my own?

Are you sure you’re going on your own? Yeah! And then let’s see where you can start. Although you can rent a private car from Cusco, you can also take the interprovincial vans that make the Cusco – Sicuani route. From the terminal, in the center of Cusco you only have to buy your ticket. Specifying your stop in the town of Combapata, this will take you a couple of hours and the ticket costs about 7 soles.

Being already in Combapata you have to ask for a car or taxi, which can take you to the Palcoyo mountain. Finding one to rent can take time because there is not always someone coming out on their own but hopefully you will find it right away. You have to negotiate the cost of the rental both for the round trip, that is very important because from the mountain it is very difficult to find one to return. This last section is by dirt cart and takes at least 1 hour and 20 minutes.

Do not forget to pay your entrance to the Palccoyo rainbow mountain, you pay at a control booth 10 minutes before the start of the walk, everything will be fine since you will also find restrooms right there but for a fee, 1 sol per person and some beverages, such as soda, water, fruit, and some sweets.

After the tour you will have to return to Combapata by the same path and finally to return to Cusco in the same way, just wait at the whereabouts and embark on the combis that travel to Cusco, some are full and others are almost empty depending on the time and they will not be you need a reserved ticket you can pay instantly. In any case, good luck on your next ride, friend.

The differences between Palcoyo and the Rainbow Mountain

There are many similarities between the two landscapes, the colors, the climate, but there are two important differences between the two mountains: the level of difficulty and the number of visitors.

Which one it is hardest?

Rainbow Mountain is more difficult than Palcoyo.

First of all, the Rainbow Mountain involves about 4 hours of walking in total (round trip), compared to 1h30 in Palcoyo. What a difference!

Secondly, in Palcoyo there is almost no unevenness during the walk (150 m), unlike Rainbow Mountain.

Which is more popular?

Right now there is a big difference between the two sites.

About 1,000 people visit Rainbow Mountain every day, while in Palcoyo there are still very few visitors, you hardly hear about it!

What are the other differences?

The tour to Palcoyo is usually more expensive than the one to the Rainbow Mountain because there are not so many visitors.

The Rainbow Mountain tour leaves Cuzco much earlier than the one from Palcoyo (3 am instead of 7 am.)

What is the best mountain between Palcoyo and the Rainbow Mountain?

There is no better mountain, since both are good destinations. It depends on what you enjoy more.

Both are impressive natural sites and offer the same type of landscape.

Palcoyo is less difficult, accessible to all, and therefore a better option for those who do not want or cannot do too much physical effort (due to altitude, age, etc.).

Rainbow Mountain is therefore more of a physical challenge, if that’s what you’re after.

On the other hand, the Rainbow Mountain has been invaded by tourism (unfortunately quite poorly organized and managed) and is beginning to suffer the consequences.

The great advantage of Palccoyo is, of course, that you can fully enjoy the landscape with hardly any people around.

Best Trekking and Tours in Peru

Many are the routes that take you to Machu Picchu, but none is like the Inca Trail Tours, the most famous pedestrian path in the Americas. After flying from the capital of Peru, Lima, you will arrive in Cusco to walk for four days along a path through forests and dense fog, millenary stone steps and discovering the ruins of ancient fortifications and Inca cities, and all the time enjoying majestic views.

  • Sacred Valley Bike Tour
  • Honeymoon in Machu Picchu
  • 1 Day Inca Trail Hike to Machu Picchu
  • Sacred Valley Tours
  • Lares Trek to Machu Picchu 4 Days
  • Huchuy Qosqo Trek to Machu Picchu
  • Short 2 Day Inca Trail Hike to Machu Picchu
  • 2 Day Inca Trail with Camping
  • Apu Ausangate Trek 7 days
  • 4 Day Jungle Trek to Machu Picchu
  • Inca Quarry Trail to Machu Picchu
  • Urubamba River Rafting
  • 5 Days Salkantay Mountain Trek
  • 3 Days Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu
  • Huchuy Qosqo Trek to Machu Picchu
  • 7 Lakes Ausangate Trek

If you want to visit Machu Picchu, we recommend you to book your Machu Picchu Ticket in advance, so you will enjoy your Vacation in Machu Picchu without any problem.


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