If you’re in Peru, the Colca Canyon won’t be the most obvious choice of hike but we were seriously glad we did it. We found a very affordable guided tour from Arequipa with so, although there’s not really any need to have a guide, it was just much easier to do it this way. Our tour guide didn’t actually tell us much about the area but he did organise our accommodation (which was great) and our food (which was not so great).
The tour also included a stop at Cruz del Condor to see the amazing condors up close (I’m pretty sure most tours would include this). We were told that they kill donkeys to attract the condors to this spot but it’s the only way to guarantee an up-close view and we weren’t sure how true it was, so we just went with it.
On the 3-day trek (the same route can be completed in two days), each day consists of only about 4 hours of walking but the descent into the canyon on day one and the ascent out of the canyon on day three were incredibly challenging.
Accommodation was basic but far better than camping. The place on the first night had double rooms and best of all electricity (meaning cold beer!). We stayed in a dorm on the second night but why would you really care about your room when you are swimming in a resort-style swimming pool at the bottom of a harsh rocky canyon in Peru?!
On the final day we were offered mules to carry one person or four backpacks out of the canyon for 50 soles (about $25AU). After a bit of debating it was decided we would share one for our packs. There were people in our group who rode donkeys out but it certainly wasn’t something I considered. I came to hike this canyon!
A stop at Cruz del Condor to see the Andean Condor was part of the tour package we bought through our hostel. If planning to hike the canyon independently, make sure you stop here for a look anyway.
Beware of donkeys on the narrow mountain tracks. They can kick when spooked, so you really don’t want to be on the wrong side of them.
Last Visited: 30/07/2009
Length (km): 22 km
Time (hrs/min): 3 days (including the return trip from Arequipa, and a Condor viewing stop at Cruz del Condor)
Grade: Moderate / Difficult
Return / Circuit / One-Way / Partial Circuit: Circuit
Park: Colca Canyon National Park
Closest Town: Cabanaconde (the walk begins from the town)
Maximum Elevation: approx. 3,500 m (according to MapMyHike.com)
Total Ascent: approx. 1,200 m (according to our guide)
Further Info: WikiPedia entry: Colca Canyon and BestHike.com page: Colca Canyon Trek
Getting There: We made our own way to Arequipa and booked the tour through our hostel (inc. transfers from Arequipa and a stop at Cruz del Condor). The hike can definitely be done independently but since we used a guide, I wouldn’t have a clue how to go about doing that. It might be worth
checking the Lonely Planet Thorntree forums searching the web for advice.
Have you visited the Colca Canyon? If you have any stories, updates or corrections, please let us know by commenting below.