Last updated on January 7th, 2018

Taparaco breathed heavily. I felt his breaths with my legs pressed against his body. Taparaco was the horse I rode for the Rainbow Mountain tour.

Rainbow Mountain is located outside of Cusco, Peru. It’s also known as Vinicunca or The Mountain of Colors.

I paid 100 soles for the Rainbow Mountain day tour which included transportation from Cusco to the base of the hike, a simple breakfast, and a complete lunch after the hike. I paid an additional 10 soles for the park fee.

The horses aren’t available for hire before the start of Rainbow Mountain tour. I first had to hike about 30 to 45 minutes from the base to the horse pick-up point. There were several Quechuans waiting with their horses.

Quechuan horse guides near Rainbow Mountain, Peru

I was assigned a Quechuan guide, Octavio, and his horse, Taparaco. When Taparaco saw me, he stood on both hind feet and catapulted his chest towards the sky with the backlit sun. It was magical.

Okay, that was lie. I was just happy he didn’t look like a donkey or donkey-pony hybrid. I needed a stallion.

Taparaco

Taparaco

The horse costed 85 soles for the round-trip which I paid at the end. I was originally quoted 80 soles by tour guide from Cusco. Octavio insisted I should pay 90 soles for the horse because I was heavy. I don’t think I’m that big, maybe around 85 kilograms. The normal price of the round-trip to Rainbow Mountain by horseback is 70 soles. My friend paid 70 soles without any hassle (she was also quoted 80 soles by the tour guide). I was just a sucker.

But I put Octavio and Taparaco to work. I felt bad for the horse. He took a few breaks to catch his breath.

Octavio provided me information about the surrounding mountains and towns, none of which I could remember. However, he mentioned pumas are common in the area. I kept an eye-out for them but the pumas were elusive.

I was lucky to see the trail to Rainbow Mountain and its colors. “This was covered in snow yesterday,” Octavio said to me.

I was happy I did the Rainbow Mountain tour by horse. I was able to enjoy the scenery. And for the first time in a month, I was able to daydream. I forgot how daydreaming felt since the Galapagos.

To Rainbow Mountain by horseback

The whole trek can’t be done by horseback. There were a few steep paths where I had to get off and hike on my own. This was for the safety of the horse and I. Even though I only hiked a bit myself, it made me tired. Eventually, I reached an elevation of 5030 metres.

What amazed me about the Quechuan horse guides was that they were all wearing sandals; stepping on horseshit, snow, and all. Now that’s down the beaten path.

After looking back at this, I don’t recommend riding a horse to Rainbow Mountain. I’m not confident if the horses don’t feel any pain beyond being tired. I’m ashamed I did it in the first place.

Machu Picchu on a Budget