The deepest canyons on our planet are very beautiful and breathtaking ecosystems. These house many plants, several birds and predatory animals. The Colca Canyon is a good example, it is the second deepest canyon in the world (~3,400 meters deep) and it is the habitat of the iconic Andean bird and the largest flying bird in our world, The Condor.
If you visit Arequipa, one of the things you cannot miss is to see the Colca Canyon. For the more adventurous, you can also do a trek through its beautiful landscape and this post is going to tell you how we did it and how you can do it too.
Many people doing this trek sometimes underestimate how physically demanding this trek is, the purpose of this trek is to see the canyon in all its glory from above and from the valley river bellow, which means you will have to walk downhill for 4 hours to the river at the bottom and at some point (on your second or third day) walk all the way up to go back to Arequipa. Although the trek was challenging at times, it was definitely worth it!. The view is amazing, a mix of Andean and Tropical vegetation plus the cultural experience of seeing the Andean daily life of the people who live here.
The trek can be done alone without a guide. However to avoid the hassle of organising accommodation and food after many hours of walking, we decided that the best way to do this was to hire a guide and the only thing we had to worry about was to carry our own small bags.
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Day 1: Welcome to Colca Canyon
The first day, our guide picked us from our accommodation very early in the morning to have breakfast at Chivay town and after that we headed to a viewpoint in Cruz del Condor at 6am to see the largest flying bird in the world: The Condor. The flight of the Andean Condor, the lord of the Canyon is something unique to see, by the time we arrived to this place there were 3 or 4 condors flying above us.
At 8.30 am our trek started, I have to be completely honest and say that even that myself and Carmen have done the Ausangate and Salkantay treks in Cuzco, we found this first day to be the toughest. The dry climate and strong rays of the sun in the morning made us feel dehydrated far quicker than other treks. We walked for about 3 or 4 hours all the way downhill, I thought that going downhill will be easy but it was tough at times especially because you have to put all your weight on your knees.
Dramatic landscape, with high cliffs..
Once at the bottom, we crossed the bridge and walked uphill for about 45 minutes to our basic homestay. The family lived there for many years and made us a small portion of food including a lomito saltado and a lovely pancake as a dessert. The family cooked the lunch with whatever they have available and not always (for some tourists) the portions given are fulfilling. Therefore, I would recommend to bring a few snacks in case you feel hungry afterwards.
With no TV or Wi-Fi and Whatsapp unavailable, we started to do what people used to do before these technologies appeared: talk to each other. We introduced ourselves, we made jokes meanwhile we had a couple of beers until the light went off and it was the time to go to sleep because we had early start in the morning.
Day 2: Sangalle Oasis
At 7 am after breakfast, we start hiking for another 4 to 5 hours this time the way was a little bit easier, uphills\, some flat parts and downhill again. The village looked very dark at night until the sunrise came illuminating the place where we were staying and the valley below.
Walking uphill gave us wonderful views of pre-incan terraces as well as the Colca River. Along the way, our guide explained to us the different types of plants that are used by the local communities for many different purposes. I had to borrow a bandana to cover my wrists, the sun was very strong on the first day and I forgot to put sun lotion on a small part around my wrists and hands which were now red and painful.
It is on this second day, that after a long walk we were rewarded with staying in what the locals call the “Oasis of Sangalle”. Here, is where we spent our second night in rooms made of bamboo. When we were 1 hour away, we could actually see the pool down at the bottom, a mixture of Andean and tropical vegetation.
The cool water of the pool plus the beautiful landscape of mountains and palms surrounded by the colca river was spectacular!!
Day 3: The challenging walk uphill
The next morning, we had to get up very early at 4am to have a breakfast and start the walk up to the top of the canyon at 6am. If you feel very tired or exhausted there are horses available to rent. The view from above is stunning.
I cannot finish this post without thanking our guide Giancarlo, who explained to us along our trek the beauty of the Colca. And also to the other members in our group, it made such a difference to have people that you can talk and have a laugh with during the trek.
Durations of the trek
This trek can be done in 2 or 3 days. Both treks cover the same distance. The difference is that on the 3 days trek you do it much slower and on the two days the you start the hike up at 2 am.
Important: There are no porters or mules for your large bags on this trek. Therefore, we recommend to leave it at your hotel or hostel in Arequipa and only bring a small daily bag with basic things.
Cost of the Tour:
As I mentioned previously the tour can be done alone or by tour from one of the agencies in Arequipa. The prices between one agency to another should not be very different.
- We paid 135 Soles for a 3-day Colca Canyon trek.
- And we had to pay an additional 70 Soles fee to enter the National park.
What is Included in our tour:
- Pick up from our hotel/hostel.
- Transport from Arequipa to Colca canyon and vice versa.
- First and second night in basic-basic accommodation.
- Meals: 3 breakfasts, 2 Lunches and 2 Dinner
What is not Included:
- Admission fee to Colca Canyon 70.00 Soles.
- Entrance to the thermal baths and Chivay (15.00 Soles) -Optional
- Last lunch in Chivay on 3rd day (30.00 soles) -Optional
- Drinks, snacks or water.
We recommend that you bring:
Given that on this trek there are no horses that can carry your large bags, we recommend to bring a small bags with basic things your need. We recommend the following items:
- Sun hat
- Walking poles (optional)
- Good comfortable hiking boots
- Hiking sock
- Blisters plasters
- Sun lotion and insect repellent
- Swim wear for the hostel in the oasis
- Personal cleaning toiletries
- Flash light and camera with extra batteries
Have you done this trek? How was your experience? Do you have any questions about this hike?
Let us know in the comments section below.