Palccoyo vs Vinicunca and Pallay Punchu. It is a kind of interesting fact when we hear about three Rainbow Mountains in three different places but all chained in one region, which is the case with Cusco. There we have the famed Rainbow Mountain, or Vinicunca, launched into tourism in 2016, and about a year later or so, Palccoyo Mountain became famous as well. Finally, by March 2020, during the outbreak of COVID-19 Pallay Puncho Mountain, the sharp rainbow mountain has blown up in popularity.

Vinicunca Palcoyo Pallay Poncho
Max Altitude
7 km/4.35 mi
3km/1.68 mi
5 km/ 3.107 mi
Hiking time
4 hours
2 hours
4 hours
25 Soles
15 soles


The difficulty of the hike is the real difference between them.

  • Rainbow Mountain trailhead is at 4649 m (12,249 ft); from there, 70% of the trail is almost flat and the last part of the trail is very steep until it gets to an altitude of 5040m (16,534 ft). The elevation gain is 400m(1,312 ft). Because of the altitude and distance, the hike to Rainbow Mountain is difficult.
  • The Palccoyo trailhead is at 4890m (16,043 ft) and you hike gradually to the highest point 4,990 m (16,371 ft). The elevation gain is only 100m(328 ft) so the hike is very easy. The trail is gradually up, not steep.  
  • Pallay punchu Trailhead is 4600 m( 15,091) and you hike uphill until you get to the highest point 4,791m(15,718). The elevation is 191 m(626 ft)

The Trail

  • Rainbow Mountain: The Trail to the Vinicunca is a dusty trail. So when it rains some áreas are muddy. There are 2 trails, one for the hikers and the other for the horses. 70% of the Trail is almost flat and the other 30% is steep.
  • Palcoyo Mountain: The Trail to this mountain is very well paved with rocks. Local people who manage this mountain maintain it very often. Like 10% of the Trail is steep and the rest is gradually up. It is not allowed horses on the Trail.
  • Pallay Punchu: The Trail to this Mountain is mostly uphill and dusty like in Vinicunca. It is not allowed horses on the train too.


  • Rainbow Mountain: You’ll hike through colorful mountains, see local people wearing their local dress and meet a lot of Llamas and Alpacas along this route. Also, you will see the Ausangate Mountain and you have a chance to hike to the impressive Red Valley which is a little like hiking on Mars!
  • Palcoyo Mountain: If you hike to Palcoyo, you will see 3 Rainbow Mountains instead of one. Driving on the way, you will see local people working in their fields with the typical dress and you will see Llamas and Alpacas grazing. The unique thing that you will see in Palcoyo is the Stone forest. Many of our customers mention that Palccoyo is a more authentic trip as you get closer to the Andean villages.  Palcoyo Mountain has its red valley too. But this one is not as impressive as in Vinivunca. If the snow covers the Mountain, it is less striking than Vinicunca.
  • Pallay Punchu: Something unique in this Mountain is the Langui Lake. You can take picture of Pallay punchu Mountain with the background of the lake. Also, you will see 4 Rainbow Mountains in this área.


  • Rainbow Mountain: It is the second most visited in all of Peru after Machu Picchu. In high season more than 2000 people hike this Impressive Mountain. It is very popular. 
  • Palcoyo Mountain: It is not well known so in high season, this Mountain receive 60 people per day.
  • Pallay punchu: It was discovered in 2020. This place is new and mostly visited by local people.

Rainbow Mountain(Vinicunca)

In early 2016, Rainbow Mountain or Vinicunca went viral on social media. It wasn´t known to the outside world yet up to that time, and following the unstoppable postings of pictures everywhere, travel companies offered tours. Later, tourists from all over the world got interested in visiting the beautiful colored hills and red valleys. 

Nowadays, this section of the Vilcanota mountain range has become the second most visited place after Machu Picchu and Sacred Valley. See more about Rainbow Mountain Peru. 


  • See the wonderful striped colored mountain
  • Have a 360 view at 5 000 m. (Rainbow mountain lookout)
  • See the Ausangate glacier on the east side
  • Extra hike to the red valley
  • Easy to get horse rentals
  • Foto shoots with alpacas along the way and at the rainbow mountain
  • If it gets snowed, it melts quicker due to exposure to morning sunlight
  • Rainbow mountain stamp and coca tea on the mountain


  • Many people are on the lookout after 8 am
  • Reduced lookout space and gets overrun quickly.
  • The highest spot is up to 5 040 m. (Rainbow mountain lookout)

palcoyo vs vinicunca

Palccoyo Mountain

Unlike the classic Rainbow Mountain, Palccoyo Mountain offers three rainbow-striped hills. Located beyond the Salqa valley in Combapata district, Canchis Provincia at 4 900 m. Since the first rainbow mountain became more and more renowned and subsequently got overrun, Palcoyo mountains which are in the same line direction, attracted tourists just like Vinicunca did. 

From the beginning, Palccoyo Rainbow Mountain has resulted in the alternative Rainbow Mountain because only a few people put it into their bucket list, maybe doubting if it is worthwhile or not. The fact is the few visitors ended up in an almost isolated place while some other hikers referred to it as quite a good opportunity to enjoy pure nature; cleaner and pristine, something that engaged their memories for days after the tour.  See more about Palcoyo Mountain.


  • See the red river in the rainy season, snaking through the Palccoyo Valley.
  • Easy short hike
  • Walk a stone forest and sharp pointing rocks.
  • Fewer visitors in general
  • Stone cobbled and sturdy path.
  • Easy for a family trip.
  • Chance to see Inca and colonial-era bridges at Checcacupe town.


  • If it gets snowed, it slowly melts, and the chance to see the colors is very little.
  • Takes a long drive from Cusco city. About 4 hours one way.

vinicunca vs palcoyo

Pallay puncho Rainbow Mountain

Located in the Layo district, Provincia de Canas, 114 miles south of Cusco. At an elevation of 4 700 m, Pallay puncho is one of the last sharp rainbow mountains found in the Cusco region. Before 2020 this section of sharped mountains did not even appear on any social media. 

What is particularly interesting about Pallay puncho is its features with patterns and stripes identical to a woolen poncho which is very popular among local Andean men. 

The dirt road connecting Layo with Langui, which is a neighboring district, runs along the shores of the Langui-Layo lake: the largest body of water in the region; hence makes it an ideal trip to Pallay puncho too as to taste some trout-based food. Then the views from the main lookout of Pallay Puncho Mountain are alluring, with the dark lagoon in the background and the stripes of the hill plus the vast brownish Andean straw extensions. 


  • Travel by the shores of Langui Layo lake
  • Newly launched to tourism, therefore, fewer visitors
  • The highest spot to get to is 4 700 m
  • See the colonial limestone bridge in Langui
  • Taste the fresh fried Langui Layo lake trout


  • Long drive from Cusco. About 4 hours one way
  • A steep ascent at the last portion

vinicunca vs pallay punchu

Aiming to finish some work on the route, at the moment in June 2021,  excursions stopped until further notice.    

By Aldair Choque

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