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It’s true: rainbow mountains exist! In fact, there are four around the world that you can explore, hike and of course, take stunning photos of for your Instagram.
These mountains are vibrant, colorful rock and sand formations created from a combination of tectonic plate movement, layered sediment and erosion. Basically, layered sandstone and minerals built up over millions of years and when tectonic plates moved, the colors began to appear. Combine that with water erosion, freezing and thawing and wind and voilà, epic rainbow-colored mountains appear.
So plan to add the following to your bucket list:
Vermilion Cliffs, Arizona, USA
Just south of Utah along Highway 89A, you can see these massive, colorful sand and rock formations from your car window. During the 19th century, a wagon route was created through the cliffs so settlers could get from Utah to Arizona. These days, these mountains are pretty isolated and deserted, making up a National Monument spanning almost 300,000 acres. The edges have some of the best rainbow formations, like the Paria River Gorge to the north and Coyote Buttes and the Wave to the west. The south and east edges are also impressive, with some of the most spectacular, towering cliffs.
Although the closest towns, Page, AZ, and Kanab, UT, are tiny, you can still use your points to stay there. The Hampton Inn Lake Powell is a Hilton property, and there’s also a Best Western Lake Powell. The Days Inn and Suites Kanab is a Wyndham property. We recommend flying into Phoenix or Las Vegas and then driving — it should take you around four hours from either city to reach the area. Plus, we think the Phoenix airport is pretty great, and we ranked it number one in the US in 2016.
Vinicunca Mountain, Peru
Also known as la Montaña de Siete Colores, or the seven-colored mountain, the nickname pretty much speaks for itself. A day trip away from Cusco, the hike is best done with a guide, because this particular section of the Andes can be difficult to find.
This is at 17,000 feet above sea level, and altitude sickness will likely strike if you plan to hike this wonder. Follow our tips to prevent and treat it. Plan to bring layers too, as it can get very cold as you near the top. This hike is not for beginners or anyone with disabilities or injuries — it can be extremely difficult and despite what tour agencies in Cusco might tell you, conditions can become very rough in rain or snow, so we don’t recommend attempting the hike in bad weather.
Speaking of Cusco, it’s a great jumping off point for not only visits to Rainbow Mountain, but to Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley. You can stay in several different hotels using points; we recommend SPG’s Palacio del Inka.
Zhangye National Geopark, Gansu, China
Repeatedly selected as one of China’s most beautiful national wonders, this national park has colorful mountains that aren’t quite as tall as some of the others on this list, but just as striking. The mountain range, named an UNESCO World Heritage Site, spans about 120 square miles and the highest peak is around 8,000 feet. The area is becoming more and more tourist friendly, with 2014 improvements like small roads, viewing platforms and boardwalks so people can explore these special rock formations. For those with mobility issues, there is a sightseeing bus that will take you around for a small fee, making this one of the more accessible rainbow mountains on this list.
You’ll have to find your way to the Gansu province in northern China to arrive here, though, and the best option is to fly into the Zhangye Ganzhou Airport (YZY). This is a rather remote area, so check out our list of Chinese airlines so you can figure out your best route and preferred airline.
Landmannalaugar Mountain, Iceland
If you want to see the breathtaking beauty of this Icelandic national wonder, prepare to work for it. To reach it, you’ll have to complete a four-day hike along the through the Fjallabak Nature Reserve. But it’s worth it — besides seeing the glorious, colorful peaks, you can also relax in pools of water as the whole area is full of geothermal hot springs. This will be also be a welcome rinse-off as you’ll have to camp along the trail. There aren’t any Starwood properties here!
We highly recommend doing this as a guided tour, especially if you aren’t an experienced hiker. Riding horses in the Reserve is another fun way to explore parts of the area not accessible by car. For more fun stuff to do in Iceland, stay tuned for coming posts on The Point Guy’s recent trip there to see the Northern Lights, hike through glaciers and snowmobile on black sand beaches. Plus, with so many deal alerts and new routes to Iceland, now is the time to go!
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