For those of us experiencing heightened wanderlust due to travel restrictions in 2020, filling our travel bucket lists is most likely among the next best thing. I’m sure that some of you may already have a long list of places you’re longing to visit and photograph. Still, I’d like to suggest an addition, if you don’t have it there yet: The surreal Rainbow Mountain in Peru.

In case you’re just reading about it now, Italian photographer and art director Paolo Pettigiani has some stunning landscape photos that will make you want to learn more.

Exploring nature’s paint box

According to Pettigiani, the Vinicunca, which is more popularly known as Montaña de Siete Colores or Rainbow Mountain, sits 5,200 meters above sea level. Nearby is titular Valle Rojo (The Red Valley), which leads to the Ausangate mountain in the Peruvian Andes. Both landmarks have become very popular among tourists and photographers for their beautiful colors.

The Rainbow Mountain, as its name indicates, is known for the streaks of colors seemingly dripping from its slopes. These colors, he shared, was a fairly recent addition in the region. The snow and ice that used to cover the mountain until some 10 years ago melted due to global warming. The water mixed with the minerals in the ground, which in turn transformed the landscape into the surreal wonders that they are today.

I can only imagine how spectacular and exciting it must be to explore these remarkable places. It’s almost like someone knocked over nature’s paint box and spilled paint all over the place!

Understanding the colors of the earth

Anyone standing before the Rainbow Mountain will surely wonder about what exactly makes up each of its colors. Pettigiani was also able to share the interesting findings of the Cultural Landscape Office of the Decentralization of the City of Cusco:

“The pink color comes from the red clay, fangolitas (mud) and arilitas (sand). The whitish coloring is from the quartzose, sandstone and marls, which are rich in calcium carbonate. The red is made up of clay stones (iron) and clay belonging to the upper tertiary. The green hue is due to the compound of phyllite and ferro magnesian-rich clay. The earthy brown was produced by fanglomerate composed of rock with magnesium belonging to the Quaternary era. The mustard yellow color comes from calcareous sandstones rich in sulfurous minerals.”

Therefore. it’s easy to see, why so many travelers and landscape photographers have been flocking to the Rainbow Mountain. Or, for those of us who are yet to visit, have it on our bucket list. It’s not just a pretty sight to see and photograph, but also a testament to the chemistry and artistry of the world we live in.

If you’re a fan of colorful and surreal landscape photography, make sure to check out Paolo Pettigiani’s website and Behance portfolio to see more of his work.

All photos by Paolo Pettigiani. Used with Creative Commons permission.