Rainbow Mountains

On Earth there are a lot of natural wonders, some of them discovered only in the last decades and so become famous around the world only in recent times. This is the case of the colored mountains, aka rainbow mountains or montaña de siete colores. Those mountains offer a suggestive look thanks to the variegate color stratification on their peaks, just like a rainbow was painted on their top. The geological reasons of those colored rock layers are different and are depending on the place they were formed. To this end we boarded on Sentinel-2 satellites to admire and discover those beauty.

Salta (Argentina)

Our first step is in the northern part of Argentina, in the Jujuy province near Salta, on the Andean Mountains: here we can admire El Cerro de los Siete Colores (The Hill of Seven Colors). The astonishing sight of all the mountain range is composed by seven different colors, and so the analogy with the “rainbow”. Each color basically depends on a different type of rock and is the product of a complex geological history, including above all marine sediments, lake and river movements elevated with the movement of the tectonic plates.

Cerro de los Siete Colores (Salta) captured by Sentinel-2 MSI.

El Cerro has been captured by Sentinel-2 constellations in this completely free-cloud image and showed in the terrific 3D view above, in order to have a taste of the rock layers distribution and how they can appear from the ground. To this end here below there is a collection of pictures highlighting the rainbow colors of the mountaing range, including a classic view of Cerro captured from the outer space (Sentinel-2 as well).

Vinicunca (Perù)

Going north we reached Vinicunca mountain, near Cusco (Perù), sill on The Andes. The mountains are composed by sedimentary mineral layers that have been exposed by erosion, minerals showing a surreal look thanks to their particular colors. Red, Ochre, Blue and Turquoise: hence the name of Rainbow Mountain. For many years this rock composition was hided under snow and ice, consequently melted probably because of the climate change. Once the snow was totally dissolved the psychedelic look of the mountain was discovered and so brought into this world as one of the main Peruvian tourist attraction of the last years.

As you get closer to the top of the Rainbow Mountain (5000 m) you will begin to see the first signs of the colored minerals that formed the painted hills. In order to experience that here below a 3D view of a Sentinel-2 acquisition is showed.

Vinicunca Rainbow Mountains in Perù from Sentinel-2

The benchmark, in front of the snowy mountain, represents the most common spot from which the rainbow stratification is pictured basically from every tourist, as showed in one of the photo below (upper right): the rainbow peak is on the top left of the benchmark (click on the image above to zoom). Behind the peak, as showed in the picture on the bottom right as well, the other summits completely covered by red minerals.

Zhangye Danxia (China)

On the other part of World, we reached the northern part of China, south of Mongolia, to admire the colored mountains of Zhangye Danxia park. Those mountains are few hundreds meter high and their particular shapes, including towers, pillars, and ravines, have been formed by winds and rains in more than 24 million years. Their color layers formation is however similar to the other colored mountains all around the world, and so depending on deposits of sandstone and other kind of minerals.

Zhangye National Geopark from Sentinel-2

The image above has been acquired on September 2017 by Sentinel-2 constellation and gives a beautiful perspective from the outer space of the color stratification and mineral’s distribution all over the mountain range, admirable as well thanks to the image below pictured from the ground.

Contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data 2016-2017.


[1] https://nonsoloturisti.it/2017/04/rainbow-mountain-peru-tutto-quello-che-ce-da-sapere/

[2] http://www.mangiaviviviaggia.com/vinicunca-montagna-arcobaleno-peru/

[3] https://www.diariodelviajero.com/america/cerro-de-los-7-colores-argentina

[4] http://www.kuriositas.com/2013/07/cerro-de-los-siete-colores-hill-of.html

[5] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/asia/china/galleries/Colourful-rock-formations-in-the-Zhangye-Danxia-Landform-Geological-Park/

2 thoughts on “Rainbow Mountains

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.