Vinicunca: how to explain the beauty of the mountain of seven colors that attracts thousands of tourists in Peru

Vinicunca: how to explain the beauty of the mountain of seven colors that attracts thousands of tourists in Peru


The Mountain of the Seven Colors is at 5,200 meters above sea level.

About 100 kilometers southeast of Cusco, Peru, there is a mountain rainbow.

It is about the mountain of the Seven Colors, also known as Vinicunca or Arcoíris.

The mountain is in the Cordillera del Vilcanota at 5,200 meters above sea level, in the district of Pitumarca.

Its slopes and summits are dyed by strips of intense shades of fuchsia, turquoise, lavender and gold .

The visual show that Vinicunca offers attracts visitors since the beginning of 2016, according to Haydee Pacheco, tourism official from the Municipality of Pitumarca, told BBC Mundo.

In just over two years, travelers who come to take pictures with the summit went from a few tens to about 1,000 a day, say Peruvian media, despite the cold and altitude of the place.

Andean woman sitting with her back to the Mountain of the Seven Colors.
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Image caption The inhabitants of the community of Pampachiri, in Pitumarca, usually work as guides or sellers of crafts around the mountain.

Thanks to its popularity, also driven by social networks, the hill became a regular destination in the rankings of tourist attractions in the world.

For example, in August of 2017, it appeared in the list of 100 places to visit before dyingRecommended by travel experts on the Business Insider website .

The tourist boom is quite recent, but the history of the mountain and its colors began millions of years ago.


The rainbow aspect of Vinicunca is due to “a complex geological history of marine, lake and river sediments,” according to a report by the Office of Cultural Landscape of the Decentralized Directorate of Culture of Cusco.

These sediments, transported by the water that once covered the area, date from between the tertiary and quaternary periods, that is, from about 65 to two million years ago.

Tourist standing with his back to the Mountain of the Seven Colors.
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Image caption Tourists walk a couple of hours to reach the viewpoint of the mountain and take the desired photo.

Over time, the sediments were forming layers (with different sizes of grains) that today are seen as the fringes that attract tourists so much.

The movement of the tectonic plates of the area elevated these sediments until they became mountains.

Then they were acquiring their striking colors because of the oxidation of their minerals, exerted by the humidity of the area, and the erosion of them, explains to BBC Mundo César Muñoz, member of the Geological Society of Peru (SGP).

Colorful mountains in the Zhangye Danxia Geological National Park.

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Image caption There are also colorful mountains in the Zhangye Danxia Geological National Park, in China.

Fabián Drenkhan, a researcher at the Institute of Nature Sciences of the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru, told BBC Mundo that these mixtures also contain iron oxides, which are usually reddish in color.

But, if these striking colors take millions of years staining the mountain, why became famous relatively recently?

Instagram ?

Some international and Peruvian media point out that Vinicunca was left uncovered because climate change melted the snow that covered it.

However, the geologists consulted by BBC did not support this claim 100%.

Juan Carlos Gómez, of the Geophysical Institute of Peru (IGP), told BBC Mundo that the hill was covered “partially” with ice and that it received temporary snow until the early 90s.

In the same line, Fabián Drenkhan said he does not believe that the summit was a glacier in recent years or decades.

“As long as I do not have the evidence of exactly what happened on this mountain, I would be careful to say it (that climate change left it uncovered), but it can be said that there has been a strong glacial melt around,” he said.

Mountain of the Seven Colors, Rainbow or Vinicunca.
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Image caption Sometimes temporary snow falls around the mountain, but it does not usually prevent tourism.

The people of Pitumarca -according to Haydee Pacheco, from the municipality of this district- say that there was snow some 70 years ago.

Pacheco explains that the mountain gained popularity thanks to the promotion of the tourists that passed walking by the place in the direction of the Ausangate, a snowed sacred for the cusqueños.

The Colombian magazine Semana attributes the success of the phenomenon to Instagram and Facebook users.

An article from July 2017 says that “the images that are shown (in the social network) are leading people to board an airplane to replicate the photo.”

When reading this article, were you already thinking about how many “I like” you would receive for a portrait with the solid rainbow behind?

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