This colorful mountain is 100% natural. It’s made up of 14 colorful minerals that give the mountain an amazing rainbow-like appearance.
Vinicunca, also known as Montaa de Siete Colores (Seven Colored Mountain), is part of Peru’s unique natural topography. It is situated in the Peruvian Andes, near Cusco, at an elevation of 17,100 feet (5200 meters). This multicolored geological wonder immediately became one of Peru’s must-see sights, and hundreds of tourists visit it every day. Hikers and visitors who want to view Vinicunca for themselves must complete a five-mile round journey. The journey is well worth it because the entire environment is as breathtaking as the peak itself.
However, because high elevations can be taxing on the body, the hike requires some athleticism and sufficient acclimatization. Furthermore, local Peruvian communities regard Vinicunca and its surrounds as sacred, and while visitors are always welcome, they are expected to behave properly in accordance with local traditions.
The beautiful colors of Vinicunca are attributed to its mineral makeup, according to the Cultural Landscape Office of the Decentralization of the City of Cusco. The red and pink colors are caused by red clay (iron), whereas the whitish coloring is caused by quartz, sandstone, and marls. While the green and turquoise hues are caused by phyllites and clays rich in ferro magnesian, the earthly brown and yellow hues are caused by fanglomerate and sulphurous sandstones.
But how did this incredible mountain come to be?
During the Tertiary and Quaternary periods (66 and 2,588 million years ago), the minerals in ancient soils were eroded and transported by huge water masses. In the course of several geological time periods, these minerals piled up over each other, forming different colored layers arranged according to the weight of each mineral.
For a long time, these colorful stratigraphic layers remained hidden, protected under the snow of the Peruvian Andes glacier. However, climate change caused the glaciers to melt, revealing the geological wonder that is Vinicunca. So, while it’s amazing that we can hike to the Rainbow Mountain and see it in all its beauty, we shouldn’t forget the reason why we can do that today, and what kind of changes are happening to our planet because of global warming.
This extraordinary place also holds a very diverse and amazing fauna. On this remote part of the Peruvian Andes you can see the famous llamas, and alpacas all over the place. But there are skunks, deer, foxes, tapir, guinea pigs, and chinchillas as well. Even more rare animals include the puma, Andean condor, and even the spectacled bear, the last remaining short-faced bear species in the world.
Given the fact, that Vinicunca lies at an altitude of more than half of Mount Everest, weather can be unpredictable, and temperatures often drop below 0. Nevertheless, in the course of only an hour, weather around Rainbow Mountain can change rapidly from blistering sun to rain, or even snow.
With all that being said, though, concerns are growing whether the discovery of the area, and the large amount of hikers contribute to the degradation of the previously unspoiled landscape.
While tourism around Vinicunca gave a new wind to the economy of the region by generating around 400,000 dollars a year for the locals, alarming changes can already be seen: a wetland that had been the home of migrating ducks was destroyed in order to build a parking lot for tourists, and the 5-mile-long hiking trail has been severely damaged by human presence. Mining companies also took the initiative to conduct metallic mining in the area, despite protests by locals in the Cusco region.