Mother Nature in her element.
At first glance, Vinicunca may seem like the product of an artist’s vivid imagination. As otherworldly as it looks, the place exists – a unique geologic formation that stands alongside such wonders as The Giant’s Causeway in Ireland and the Grand Canyon in the USA.
Towering at 5,200 metres above sea level, Vinicunca, popularly known as Montana de Siete Colores (aptly, Rainbow Mountain) is located in the Cusco region of Peru.
Alongside its neighbour, the 6,300-metre Ausangate, it is considered a holy mountain by the locals and a central feature in ancient Incan mythology.
The biggest draw for tourists, adventurers and hikers is its colourful candy-cane pattern, which runs in bright, alternating stripes of lavender, turquoise and terracotta down the sides of the mountain.
The rainbow-like hues are due to the multi-coloured minerals being exposed to the environment for millions of years.
Accessing the remote location used to be difficult and dangerous, even with guides, but thanks to the building of a new road, the drive from Cusco now takes just three hours, making the Rainbow Mountain a popular day-trip attraction for visitors in town to visit nearby Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley.
More adventurous travellers, however, can opt to hike up the Ausangate trail, where they will be rewarded with stunning vistas of the countryside with beautiful adobe-style houses, grazing llamas and alpacas, as well as quaint villages and hot springs.