The Colca Canyon is the third-most-visited tourist attraction in Peru. It is located northwest of Arequipa, Peru’s second most populous city.
How to get to Arequipa
Local buses work out quite well in Perú. Get to the main bus terminal and haggle the rates or wait for a last minute price to get the best deal.
− Those coming from Titicaca lake – Copacabana (Bolivia) are asked to change bus in Puno (Perú). Buses depart late in the afternoon, so expect a 12h night ride from Copacabana to Arequipa.
− From Cuzco, Perú’s most visited city and Macchu Pichu treks starting point, it takes about 9h with a 50km/h night bus.
− For those touring the Peruvian coast, Arequipa is located about 17h by bus from Lima, 14h from Paracas and 10h from Nazca
Where to stay in Arequipa
More than 50 hostels are located in the colonial Arequipa, know as the white city due to the volcanic white stoned buildings that were used long ago to build this beautiful city surrounded by volcanoes.
Tip: Try to stay as close to the main square as possible to get all sightseeing done by walk during the day and avoid taking endless taxis rides.
When is the best time to visit the Colca Canyon
The best time to travel to Arequipa is during the southern hemisphere’s winter season (it doesn’t mean cold, but dry), which runs from May through September.
If you are planning your trip for July and August, make sure to organize it in advance since they are the most crowded months.
Less recommended months are from November through April, which is summer in the southern hemisphere and wet season.
What should you do there
- Take a free city tour to get to know the city better and discover the main touristic points and history facts
- Although the “free city tour” stops at the “Mercado central”, come back during lunchtime and enjoy Peruvian homemade gastronomy. Oh! And do not miss the “Queso helado” (frozen cheese or cheese ice-cream, which doesn’t contain a bit of cheese! That’s what made it famous)
- Visit Monasterio de Santa Catalina (Santa Catalina Monastery) and enjoy its beautiful architecture. It was built predominantly in the Mudéjar style and is characterized by its vividly painted walls.
- Climb one of the surrounding volcanoes
- And do not miss the Colca Canyon, it’s most important tourist attraction and the 2nd deepest in the world; 4,160 meters. 1, 2 or 3 days tours are available in Arequipa.
How much time will you need at Arequipa
Depending of the excursions and tours willing to take, a minimum of 2/3 days to visit the city, plus the Colca Canyon trek, are recommended.
The Colca Canyon, Arequipa’s main attraction
2-days Colca Canyon hike from Arequipa
120 Soles (35€/37$)
− Minivan transport, from and to Arequipa
− Meals: 2 breakfasts, 1 lunch (the second day lunch is an optional buffet – 30 Soles), 1 night accommodation with dinner included in an oasis lodge at the bottom of the canyon
− English local guide
What’s not included:
− Entrance ticket to Canyon: 70 Soles
− Entrance to the Hot Springs: about 15 Soles (Optional the second day of the tour)
− Last lunch in Chivay (2n day)
Day 1: Arequipa to Chivay to Condor’s cross to Sangalle
Around 3:30am, the tour departs to Cabanaconde in the Colca Canyon, which is about a 6 hour drive from Arequipa and on the way, breakfast is served.
Next stop is at La Cruz del Condor, which is the best place to watch the Canyon and the famous Andean Condor birds.
From here, the bus drives for 20 more minutes to the trek starting-point. The first part is entirely downhill for approximately 3 ½ hours: From 3.300 metres to 2.100 metres into the Canyon.
Upon arrival, lunch is served in San Juan de Chuccho, where hikers can get some rest (see that the 3 days/2 nights tour finishes its first journey here).
From there, the trek gets to the deepest part to reach “Sangalle”, a village at an altitude of approximately 1.900 metres further into the Canyon (another 3h downhill/flat trek), crossing small towns such as Cosñirhua and Malata on the way.
The arrival at Sangalle is at approximately 5pm, where the accommodation is located and dinner is served after enjoying a warm swimming pool to relax after a long day’s hiking.
Day 2: Sangalle to Chivay to Arequipa City
The trek starts at 4am uphill for approximately 3 hours to the town of Cabanaconde, where breakfast is served upon arrival.
From there, the tour heads to Chivay to visit the rewarded hot springs, with water temperatures of 38°C and to enjoy a buffet (none of them included).
In the afternoon, the bus heads back towards Arequipa, descending from 4.830 metres to 2.325 metres and stopping on the way at the national reserve and Pampa Cañahuas, which is a South American camelids natural habitat; llama, alpaca, vicuña and guanaco.
The end of the tour is about 6/7pm back in Arequipa main square.
Note: Mules can be hired for about 50 Soles for those who do not wish to hike out of the canyon.
How many days trip?
This is a 2 days / 1 night tour.
1 day tour is also available without trekking, and the two nights trek splits the 1st day of the described tour above in 2 days, so It turns to be more relaxed.
Can you walk up without a guide?
It is allowed but not recommended, since there are many little villages to cross and a lack of signs to follow.