My 2 day Colca Canyon Trek was one of my highlights of my trip in Peru. Colca Canyon is one of the deepest canyons in the world and with its impressive volcanic rock formations, it is definitely not one to miss during your trip to Peru.
There are 2 main options of how to visit Colca Canyon, to hike it or to just visit the view points. If you want to hike, you can do it over 2 or 3 days. I chose to do the colca canyon tour 2 day trek and loved it! Here you have all you need to know before you go on a Colca Canyon Trek.
I started the tour Colca Canyon tour from Arequipa and chose to pay extra for a transfer to Puno after the hike as I was going to Lake Titicaca for my next stop. There is a spot that you can leave your big main luggage so you don’t need to carry it with you if you do this option.
How to book The Colca Canyon Trek
I booked the tour with Peru Andes tour company, it cost $100 for 2 days 1 night with the extra transfer to Puno. It was $60 without the transfer. You must pay an entrance fee for 70Soles on the day for the canyon, it is not allowed for tour companies to include this in their tour price. I booked the Colca Canyon tour online before I arrived in Peru.
It is possible to hike the canyon on your own without a tour company but it is a lot easier as the bus transfers are included and all of the meals are prepped and ready when you arrive to each points. If you have your own transport, to hike the canyon without a guide is easy as the paths are clear.
During the hike, you don’t need to stay with the group the whole time and keep the same pace. The guide allows each person to go at their own pace and meet up at certain points on the way. I really liked this because it didn’t feel like there was any pressure to go faster or slower than you want.
The Stats for the Colca Canyon Trek
If you love hiking or running, you know the phrase ‘if its not on strava it didn’t happen’ and it is obviously true here! (hehe just kidding of course) Here are my stats from my GPS watch:
Day 1: 13.5km, 450m elevation gain (to balance out over 1600m descent)
Day 2: 5.5km, 1100m elevation gain (no descent!)
Itinerary Colca Canyon Trek Day 1: Arequipa to Sangalle
The Drive from Arequipa
The day starts early, like ouchy early. If you are not a fan of early mornings (like yours truly), this is the hardest part of the trip! The bus comes to your accommodation and the pick-up is at 3-3.30am from Arequipa. This meant a 2.30am alarm for me, ouch.
The bus collects from many accommodation points across Arequipa so the bus doesn’t leave Arequipa until earliest 3.30am. The drive from Arequipa is then approx. 3 hours. This is where you can try and catch up on missed precious sleep. The bus does get pretty chilly so make sure you bring a nice warm jumper, they provided blankets on our bus which was needed.
The drive takes us to Patapampa Pass, with a view of many volcanoes. This is at an altitude of 4910m which is a big change from Arequipa. On the first day, you don’t stop at this viewpoint but this was the time that a few people on my bus started to feel altitude sickness. The guide was very good at taking care of them and we got back on the road as soon as possible, as the road descends quickly from here, so this is the best remedy for altitude sickness.
After about 3 hours, it is time for breakfast, yay! The breakfast is in a small outside café in Chivay, it was scrambled eggs and bread. The breakfast place was very simple with long tables for the whole group. My favourite part of this was the table overlooked the beautiful valley which was really special.
After breakfast, jump back in the bus to drive 45 mins to the condor view point. On the way to the condor look out point, the bus stops at a view point on the way to see the first glimpse of the Colca Canyon. From here, you get a beautiful panorama of the valley and the agricultural land.
Cruz Del Condor View Point
The last stop before the hike is the Cruz del Condor view point. When I was there we saw over 20 Condors and they were very close, it was amazing! Condors are some of the worlds biggest birds with a wing span over up to 3m. Condors live until about 70 years old in the wild which is truly impressive! Adult condors are black and white while the young ones are brown meaning they are less than 6 years old.
After about 30 minutes at the Condor Look Out, back on the bus for another 15 mins to get to the hike start point at Mirador de Pampa San Miguel. This is where you can drop any luggage that you do not want to take with you. Leave as much as you can and learn from my mistake, I took way too much stuff and my bag was uncomfortably heavy!
The Morning Trek
Just before the hike, you have a chance to change your clothes to suit the warmer weather. The hike starts at approx. 10am and so the sun is strong so only shorts and tshirt is needed. Put on lots of suncream here, the hike is quite exposed and there is very little shade before lunch.
Hike starts at 3300m altitude then descends 1200m over 6km. For the first 6km, the walk is just downhill. You get some magnificent views of the canyon at this point, it is stunning. The descent ends at a bridge the crosses the Colca River at 2100m. After the bridge, there is a shady area to sit can have some water before the next stage.
Beyond the bridge, the walk is 1km to go to go to lunch at in San Juan de Chuccho. There is an ascent of about 200m to get to lunch, but it’s well worth it. We had lunch of a vegetable/quinoa soup follow by alpaca stew with rice. This was the first time I had Alpaca meat and I really liked it, it was yummy!
The Afternoon Trek
After lunch, the walk is 6km to the lodge. The afternoon hike ‘Peruvian Flat’ which means up and down all afternoon but is not so steep. You will find shops on the path to buy water and snacks. If you haven’t brought any already, buy stuff for breakfast the next day. The stalls tend to be cheaper than the lodge and sell fruit and veg. There is no fruit available at lodge to buy.
After the walk, I stayed at the Pablo Oasis Lodge. I was very tired by the end of the day and very happy to end at the lodge. My legs were very pleased to be sat down.
There is swimming pool and bar at the lodge. It was so refreshing jumping in the pool after such a long day! I even ordered a Pisco Sour (Peruvian cocktail) to the pool, with the view over the canyon, it was just dreamy. Towels are not provided at the lodge so don’t forget to pack that, and your swimming stuff. Your possessions that are left at the beginning of the hike are not brought to the lodge so many sure to pack everything you need in your day bag.
The lodge had a really nice environment and it’s a great time to get to know your fellow hikers better. There are also lots of friendly dogs wandering around that are happy to receive cuddles. We then had dinner of vegetable soup followed by pesto pasta which was tasty.
The dinner is outside and whilst it is not extremely cold at night, you definitely need a jacket. I was not cold sleeping at night and had a very early night ready for the next day.
Itinerary Colca Canyon Trek Day 2: Sangalle to Arequipa/Puno
Day 2 is another early morning, departure time for the hike is 4.30am. (Ouch). Breakfast is not provided by the lodge at this time. So make sure you have some form of breakfast or snack food to give some energy for the ascent. As well as this, it is dark when you start so a headtorch is definitely needed.
The hike starts with a 1200m ascent over 4.5km. This is quite intense hike especially with altitude of 3300m at the end. I drank lots of water and took breaks often so I didn’t push myself too much. There are no shops on the way up so the snacks we brought were a great energy boost! Some of the dogs from the lodge are keen to join the hike too! They even stop at the half way point to take any snacks tourists might share, very clever if you ask me.
Is the Colca Canyon trek Difficult?
Is the Colca Canyon Trek Difficult? Yes. Especially if you are not used to hiking it is intense. If you are struggling, you can request to ascend on a mule. Mules are used to transport a lot of goods to the villages within Colca Canyon so are readily available. A couple of people in my group chose this option and it was great to have a good backup option.
After reaching top of hike (woohoo!), there is a 1km actually flat walk to breakfast. I was so happy when I reached the top, the sense of achievement was really strong. Breakfast was again scrambled eggs and bread, I don’t think I have ever earned a breakfast that much before.
After breakfast, you get back on bus to go to the hot springs in Yanque (with a quick stop off to collect any bags at the start point). The hot springs are natural and are mix of different temperatures of hot water and 1 cold water pool for a contrast. The cold contrasting with the warm is apparently good for muscles after the hike. We had 1 hour in the hot springs which was really relaxing.
After the hot springs, its back on bus for quick 10 minute drive to Chivay for lunch. The restaurant is an all you can eat buffet, and is not included in tour. It was 35 soles per person, for lunch. The food was really good with a great variety of dishes with both vegetarian and meat options.
Transfer to Arequipa or Puno
This is the point in which the bus changes if you go back to Arequipa or to Puno. I went to Puno to limit my travel time as I was going there anyway. It was about 6 hours in total, you will probably be tired enough to sleep well on this bus even if you don’t normally!
On the bus back (for both Puno and Arequipa), the bus will stop at volcano view point at Patapampa Pass where we drove past on the way there. This is the highest point on the trip at 4910m elevation and you have an incredible view of volcanos. One of the volcanoes was even smoking the day I was there. After this, the bus will then stop of to see some wild alpacas grazing. This was only a 2 minute stop but was quite cool to see for me early in my Peru trip.
What to pack for a Colca Canyon Trek
- Breakfast for day 2
- Suncream: sun very strong
- Swimwear and towel
- Warm clothes for the evening
- Toilet paper
- Drinking water
- Wear hiking boots
- Insect repellent for wet season
- Must have copy of passport
- Change of clothes for day 2, start hike in the dark on day 2, so hike in trousers. Bring a change of shorts for later in the day
Thats all you need to know for the Colca Canyon Trek
Now you know all you need to for a trek in the Colca Canyon. It is not the easiest hike but well worth the amazing views.