The beautiful coloured striations of Rainbow Mountain in Peru's Andes are a spectacular sight, and undoubtedly the highlight of the lodge to lodge trek in Peru. Here we're telling you all about why the region is such a special place to visit, and why we think it should be on every outdoor enthusiast's bucket list.
The beautiful colours of Vinicunca (Rainbow Mountain)
The 'Camino del Apu Ausangate'
The 'Camino del Apu Ausangate' is a traditional hiking route in the Peruvian Andes, and roughly translates as 'the way of the life giver'. The region is a sacred place to Peruvians, and 'Vinicunca' (Rainbow Mountain), along with Ausangate, are the most significant mountains in the region, believed to be the deity of Cuzco, and the region's life-giver, respectively.
The hiking route varies in length there are several recognised start and end points for the trip - on our 'Alpaca' adventure, we take in a two-night-three-day section of the beautiful trail, starting near the Ausangate Community close to the small town of Chillca, and finishing in Ollantaytambo. Our 'Alpaca' trip also visits Machu Picchu as part of a packed 10-day Peru itinerary.
The Lodges ('Tambos')
Along the way we'll stay in 'Tambos', traditional, comfortably appointed mountain lodges designed specifically for hikers passing through the region.
Huampochoca Lodge, the location for our second night on the Apu Ausangate trail (image courtesy of andeanlodges.com)
The lodges on the hiking route have no electricity, so gas lamps are used for lighting, and gas stoves for cooking. Whilst we're on the trail, daily meals will be prepared by experienced chefs who love introducing guests to the huge variety of Peruvian dishes and produce. Our evening meals will be served at the lodge, and will be accompanied by authentic music played by locals - sure to liven up the 'tambo' experience!
The lunch tent on the Apu Ausangate Trek, ready to welcome hungry hikers!
The lack of electricity in these quaint, hidden mountain lodges add to the feeling of escape and seclusion in this beautiful part of the world. This place and these lodges are the perfect opportunity to switch off from life in the 'real world', appreciate the beauty of the natural environment, and connect to the spiritual significance of the area.
What causes the colouring of 'Vinicunca' (Rainbow Mountain)?
The incredible colours of Rainbow Mountain are caused by a very specific set of mineralogical and climatic conditions - both past and present. The subduction of the Nazca plate beneath the South America plate caused signifcant volcanic activity in the process of creating the Andes range, and along with that came a wide variety of minerals.
A local man pausing to enjoy the stunning colours of Vinicunca.
The dominant red colour of the landscape infers iron oxide rust is present - that tells us iron-rich sediments, when exposed to oxygen and water, rust, just like a nail does! The other colours are an indication of other mineral deposits, and the colouring is, in many cases, due to the tectonic activity and movement of the landscape's layers over time, and each mineral's interaction with others present in the geology. So in simple terms: red - iron oxide (rust!) yellow - iron sulphide, green - chlorite, brown - geothite or oxidised limonite.