Which countries to visit in South America? I give you some ideas in this blog to prepare your next trip.
HIKE IN ONE OF THE DEEPEST CANYONS OF THE WORLD
Near Arequipa, there’s a hike in Peru that’s quite famous, the Colca Canyon, also know as Cañón del Colca. It’s possible to do it in 2 or 3 days, most hikers do it in 2 days. You can do it without a guide like Tales From the Lens did, or like me, with an agency. Why did I prefer to use an agency? Because traveling alone, and after few incidents that happened in this canyon, I decided to go with a group. It also saved me time on logistics and transportation. The different cost between doing it without or with an agency isn’t that much. So I did the Colca Canyon tour in collaboration with Metys Tours.
HOW IS THE COLCA CANYON 2 DAYS TREK?
DAY 1: GOING DOWN INTO COLCA CANYON
13 km - 1,200 m of negative elevation - 350 m of elevation gain
Before taking the Colca Canyon tour, ask your accommodation if they can store your large bags for you, and leave with what you need for the Colca Canyon 2 days trek. Don’t take too much, because you’ll feel it during the ascent on the second day.
And here we go for an early start! Meet at the reception of my accommodation in Arequipa between 3 a.m. and 3:30 a.m. I reassure you, you can continue your night in the mini-van, because there’s at least a 3-hour drive to the Chivay village. I realize we’re a lot of people in the car. But during the breakfast, we understand that there are different groups gathered in this same car. We make a quick stop of thirty minutes in order to eat something at an altitude of 3,600 m. It’s also an opportunity for us to acclimatize. The guide collects PEN 70* from each person to pay the entrance of the park. Then we go back on the road again for an hour to arrive at Mirador Antahuilque. A very beautiful view of the valley and the different terraces. We have a 10 minute break, enough to enjoy the view and take photos. We also stop for 10 minutes at Mirador Wayracpunku, where we can see the beginning of the canyon and other agricultural terraces. But the most interesting viewpoint is the next one, the Mirador Cruz del Cóndor! We’re at an altitude of 3,800 m at around 8:30 a.m. to have the chance to observe the condors flying above one of the deepest canyons of the world (around 3,200 m)! And we saw some of them. It’s a beautiful landscape that we watch for about twenty minutes.
Back to the car to our starting point for the Colca Canyon tour, in San Miguel, at around 9:15 a.m. The groups are divided at this point and we meet our guide for the next two days. There’s a small shop with some food and drink if you need to purchase something. We’re 6 people starting the hike with our guide Evelyn who speaks English and Spanish very well. We go down around 1,200 m during approximately 3 hours, depending on the pace of the group. The descent into the Colca Canyon is super beautiful! The trail offers us incredible views on this immensity of nature! We see some communities living there. We go down to the river. It looks completely different than the Grand Canyon, a landscape with orange and yellow colors, and an incredible light blue river! If you are scared of heights, there are some moments that are a bit impressive, but overall it was okay because the path’s quite wide. It aslo depends on how much you are afraid of heights. Also be prepared to cover yourself from the sun as there’s no shade the entire way down.
We finally arrive at the bridge to go to San Juan de Chuccho which crosses the river to reach the other side of the Colca Canyon. We walk for around thirty minutes to have lunch at Colibrí Lodge, which also makes delicious guacamole! After an hour of lunch, we take our bags back to continue our way towards the Oasis. I thought the trail would be flat at the bottom of the Canyon, but not at all. We still have some small elevation changes. I was quite surprised by all the vegetation there’s in the Colca Canyon. After 2.5 hours of walking, we arrive in the Sangalle community where there’s an oasis. We sleep at Tropical Lodge for the night. A little take a dip in the pool before dinner around 7:30 p.m., and spend a cool night.
Click here to view the first day’s itinerary.
DAY 2: GOING UP THE COLCA CANYON
5 km - 1,200 m elevation gain
Waking up early in for the second day of the Colca Canyon tour, departure at 4:30 a.m.! Why so early? To avoid the heat of the sun during this climb, which seems endless to be honest. Take something to protect yourself from the sun for the end of the climb. We have 1,200 m of elevation gain in 5 km. Before the hike, the breakfast isn’t available, bring snacks (they sell some at the accommodation if you’ve forgotten). We hike for about 1 hour into the night before seeing the sun rising! The colors of the morning are magnificent! I admit that I stopped several times to watch it rise to the top of these immense cliffs. Don’t hesitate to do it because the views are really beautiful during the ascent. The end of the climb begins to be difficult because the heat arrives and there’s no shade. Go at your own pace because it might seem very long. I admit that I found this hike more difficult than the Cerro Chirripó in Costa Rica. You still need to be in good physical condition to do it.
Once we arrive at the top, we have about twenty minutes walk to get to breakfast in Cabanaconde. We stay there for a while before taking the car for an hour to arrive at the hot springs. There aren’t included in the Colca Canyon tour, it costs PEN 15*. I hesitated for a long time before entering but we stayed there for a long time, and it was quite pleasant! They have several pools at different temperatures. It’s really good for the muscles. The next day, I didn’t have any pain thanks to that.
Then at around 12 p.m. we go to a restaurant. Please note that as it isn’t included, you don’t have to stay there! You can ask the guide about other possible options in the area. After lunch, we head back to Arequipa with a stop at the Mirador de Los Andes to admire several volcanoes on the horizon, and a few alpacas also on the road. We’re back in town around 5/5:30 p.m.
Click here to view the route for the second day.
CONCLUSION OF THE COLCA CANYON 2 DAYS TREK WITH AN AGENCY
The views in the Colca Canyon are truly incredible! A very beautiful place! This hike isn’t for everyone, you need to be in good physical condition. As I said, given the price difference between doing it with or without an agency, I found it was really worth it! The agency is responsive, I was able to book overnight because I was there in low season, the food’s quite good. The guide gave lots of explanations during the hike. In addition, going with the agency allowed us to make the different stops at the viewpoints. A beautiful hike to include in your Peru itinerary.
Price of the 2-day excursion with guide, transport, 2 breakfasts, 1 lunch, 1 dinner and accommodation: PEN 180*
Park entrance price: PEN 70*
Entrance price to the hot springs: PEN 15*
WHERE TO SLEEP IN AREQUIPA? MY ACCOMMODATION IN AREQUIPA
MISTI HOSTEL B&B
Puente Bolognesi 214 Segundo Piso,
Price: around PEN 50* / night / person in a shared room with private bathroom.
Click here to book a night.
Accommodation without a kitchen and where you share a private room with strangers. I was lucky to be in low season so I was able to arrange with reception not to have other people because there are no lockers in the rooms. The bathrooms are private. Cheap accommodation right near the city center. For a few nights, that might be enough.
THE PRACTICAL MAP OF THE COLCA CANYON EXCURSION
HOW MANY DAYS DOES IT TAKE TO HIKE COLCA CANYON?
Different options are available to you. It’s possible to do it in 2 or 3 days. The route remains exactly the same, the only difference is that you stay longer in the Canyon. The disadvantage you have with the 3 day excursion is that most agencies put you with the 2 day group, the guide leaves you at one place then the next day you join another group who does it in 2 days. In terms of integration into a group, it’s a little less fun. So ask for details with the agency before booking the Colca Canyon tour.
WHAT’S THE BEST MONTHS TO DO THE COLCA CANYON TOUR?
From April to June, and in September, the weather conditions are favorable and with fewer tourists than in July and August.
|In the middle of the rainy season, the paths can be slippery, but temperatures remain pleasant, around 16 to 23°C. At night, temperatures can be lower, all year round.
|Temperatures are the same as January but there are more rainy days.
|It’s the end of the rainy season, and temperatures are gradually increasing.
|The dry season begins and temperatures are more pleasant.
|Just like the month of April, conditions are good for visiting Colca Canyon.
|The weather is a little drier with fewer rainy days.
|The tourist season begins, it can be a little crowded.
|Just like July, a month where there can be quite a few tourists.
|It’s the end of the summer tourist season and conditions remain pleasant for the excursion.
|The rainy season begins.
|Several days of rain with dropping temperatures.
|At the heart of the rainy season but temperatures remain the same as the rest of the year.
WHAT BUDGET TO EXPECT FOR THE COLCA CANYON EXCURSION?
The following budget corresponds to a backpackers budget, but doing the Colca Canyon trek with an agency:
- Accommodation: Plan one night before and one night after the excursion. Count around PEN 25* for a night in a hostel close to the city center.
- Food: The lunch of the second day isn’t included. You should also plan on an average of between PEN 10 and 20* depending on where you eat and if it’s in local restaurants.
- Transport: The agency picks you up and drops you off near the city center. If your hostel is close by, you won’t need to budget for this expense.
- Activities: The excursion costs PEN 180* with transport, guide, and some meals included. Drinks and snacks are also to be expected. Entrance to the park to access the Colca Canyon costs PEN 70*. If you do the hot springs, the entrance fee is PEN 15*.
- Others: In the accommodation, they sell alcoholic and non-alcoholic snacks and drinks. If you plan to take it at some point, bring around PEN 40* in cash so you don’t have to restrict yourself.
For the Colca Canyon tour in 2 days, count on a budget of around PEN 290* or even PEN 350* to be really large.
MY TRAVEL TIPS TO DO THE COLCA CANYON TREK
- Start the hike in the early morning for the ascension so as not to get too hot during your hike.
- Visit the agencies in the city and clarify with them what’s included or not. Asking the number of participants can also be helpful in knowing the size of the group.
- Bring plenty of water and something to protect yourself from the sun, there’s rarely shadow in the Colca Canyon.
*Prices are as of June 2023.