COLCA CANYON HIKE
One of the main destination during my travels in South America, Colca with it’s 2km deep valleys offers great hiking trails, spectacular views and opportunity to see wild condors!
Colca canyon is the world’s 3rd deepest canyon and apart from hiking trails, it offers numerous treats like thermal baths for relaxation, zip-lines for the thrill seekers and much more! It is home to majestic condors, the biggest flying birds on the planet, which can be observed from view points along the canyon. The main hiking trail leads to the bottom of the canyon to an “oasis”, a tourist village, where you spend a night and regain energy for climb back up.
Colca Canyons’ Location
Condors are vultures – due to their size, the agility is not one of their treats.
How to get there
Colca is located to the north of Arequipa, approximately 4 hours drive and the best way to get there is to take a tour – not just because its fairly cheap (around 60EUR in total for a two day trip), but also everything is taken care of so there is no need for planning. Just simply go to Plaza de Armas (main square) and find any travel agency and book a tour on spot.
The journey takes around 4 hours from Arequipa, so be prepared that you have to wake up as early as 3 a.m.
If you decide to take a tour, bear in mind that it starts as early as 3 a.m. You will be picked up conveniently at your hotel and with group of around 12 people, you will embark for the 4 hour ride. You will then stop at around 6 a.m. to have a breakfast in local city Chivay, after which you will be taken to the edge of the canyon. From here, you will start to see ancient farming terraces (some of which dates back more than thousand years), above which you will see majestic condors.
At around 8 a.m., you will start a hike, which is approximately 15km long, mostly downhill (even though your are descending to the bottom of the canyon, you would be surprised that some parts will are quite steep uphill). You will have a lunch in the middle and once reached the bottom of the canyon, there is a small village “oasis”, where you have your dinner and good sleep before the morning ascend.
Rent your mule
If you do not want to climb back up on your own, there is an option to rent a mule that will carry you and your stuff for 18EUR.
Depending on the guide and group you are with, you are start the hike between 4-5am. The ascend takes between 2-3 hours and once at the top, you will have a breakfast and will be taken to souvenir shopping and baby alpaca hotspot, where you can take a selfie. The next stop (my favourite) is at the thermal baths, but unfortunately just for an hour (I could have spent there all day). Following that, you will have a few more stops to observe wild alpacas and active volcanos, which is by the way at around 5km MSL. You will be back in Arequipa around 5 p.m.
Agencies offer 1 day trips just for 35EUR, but beware! There is no hiking experience. If hiking is what you seek, opt for at least 2 day or more. I would recommend 1 day trip just if you have no time to spare.
Colca canyon trip was intense & unique experience and if you find yourself in Arequipa, it is definitely worth your time. Without a doubt, it is one of Peru’s best places to visit.