Peru’s rainbow mountain is beautiful and mind-boggling

3 mins
07 Dec 2022
Peru’s rainbow mountain is beautiful and mind-boggling

Explore miles upon miles of Peruvian hills bursting with astounding colours

image SCStock / Getty

words Lucy O'Brien

Welcome to Wanderlust Wonders: each week we’ll be cleansing your feed with a feel-good snapshot of somewhere beautiful, both in and out of this world.

Today, we’re taking you to the rainbow-coloured mountains of Vinicunca, Peru.

What am I looking at?

No, it’s not a scene straight out of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. And no, you’re not about to attempt a three-lap course of Mario Kart’s Rainbow Road. Because this gloriously baffling landscape, you’ll be glad to know, isn’t the stuff of fiction. Found in the Andes mountains of Peru, rainbow mountain (or, more formally, Vinicunca) is a popular hiking trail that attracts millions of tourists, nature lovers and photographers from across the globe. And who could blame them? As much as we love the great green outdoors, who could resist what can only be described as a real-life trippy wonderland (one that Alice would surely approve of).

Tell me more…

As magical as it looks, there is a science behind the aesthetic. The mountain is made up of six predominant colours – pink, white, red, brown, mustard and green – all of which have manifested as a result of the different composition of minerals found in the rock. Things like calcium, sandstone and quartzose have sedimented over thousands of years forming mass landscapes of different colours. The rare mineral makeup of the sedimentary rock created a marble effect once compressed, forming the picturesque scenery we can enjoy today.

Is the mountain under threat, and how can we help it?

Like any natural landscape, the mountain is at the mercy of many things: changing weather patterns, climate change and overconsumption from humans. The colours of the mountain are not exactly subtle, so just as tourists from all over the world have been drawn to their wonder, mining companies have long taken an interest in its mining potential (due to traces of copper and iron ore within the rock). In 2018, a lack of governmental protections allowed these mining companies to seek a concession, giving them access to exploit the mountain for its natural properties. But the move caused significant backlash and sparked protests from locals, causing the government to backtrack and place a 12-month ban on all mining practices

Calls to protect the mountain finally prevailed in 2019 when Peruvian President Martín Vizcarra announced at COP25 (the annual global climate summit) that the government would permanently register Vinicunca as an officially protected conservation area. As long as visitor guidelines and mining ambitions are kept under control, it looks like this magnificent wonderland is here to stay.

Best views from the grid

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Tune in next week for another dose of visual healing…

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