Colca Canyon Trek (3 day)

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Arequipa, Peru

Colca Canyon Trek (3 day) Arequipa Reviews

jessikacr jessikacr
1 reviews
Good Hike Jan 22, 2011
It was fast but it was a good hike all the way down into the canyon
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Raches Raches
25 reviews
Jun 09, 2006
The 3-day Colca Canyon trek is fairly standard among the many travel agencies in Arequipa, although some groups take other routes and stay at different villages in the canyon. I booked the trek with Land Adventures (which is associated with The Point Hostel in Arequipa). On the first day, we met our guide at the hostel and took a taxi to the bus station, where we boarded a bus to Cabanaconde, a town near the top of the canyon. They say it takes 3 hours to get there, but it´s much more like 5 with the constant stopping. At Cabanaconde, we had lunch in a local restaurant with a few other tourists and their guides - standard menu fare (soup, rice and chicken, tea). At around 1.30pm we headed off, walking from the town centre through its outskirts and eventually following the trail that leads into the canyon itself.

The Colca Canyon is known as the deepest (or at least second deepest) canyon in the world - on average, 3,400m deep over 2 kilometres. The trail is a constant zigzag down, mostly grey gravelly rocks that, after awhile, makes you feel like you´re inhaling cement dust. Luckily the view is pretty spectacular, as you can see green trees far down and the white rooves of the village houses. The Colca River runs through the canyon and there is also an oasis which is green all year round due to water that springs from the mountainside.

The trail gets increasingly steeper as you get closer to the bottom but it´s not too bad (and I was extra careful, having had a knee operation a few years ago). At the bottom you cross a bridge and have to pay a tourist fee of 35 soles. Then it´s a short trek to the first town, San Juan de Chanchos (that name could be wrong, my memory doesn´t serve me too well these days), where most groups stay the night at little hostels. We soldiered on - by this time it was getting dark and cold - as the village we were to stay in, Cosiñihua, was another hour or so along the trek. We had to scale a smallish cliff face to get to the village, and were somewhat buggered by that time, so it was a relief to be able to relax in our ´hostel´. There was a big room with maybe 6 beds, lots of blankets, and it was quite warm, although there wasno electricty. Our ´hostel´ also had hot water - a luxury as we found out from other trekkers who stayed elsewhere. No electricity, no doors (only a shower curtain separating you from the outside world) but gas-powered hot water! Dinner was soup and a creamy pumpkinish dish with rice and more tea. The hostel is run by a woman who lives there with her daughter - friendly, hospitable people.

There is a lot of superstition inside the canyon, and our guide told us a few stories about goblins and bad spirits who walk the trails at night. No local people walk at night, even between the villages. One guide apparently had an encounter in one of the villages with an evil spirit... there used to be a mine in the side of the canyon and one day something happened (a shaft collapsed, or there was an earthquake) and many miners died, so it´s said that their unsettled spirits walk in the canyon at night.

Inside the canyon itself it´s not too cold at night, as you´re at a lower altitude than in Cabanaconde. After a comfortable sleep, we had a very nice breakfast of pancakes with strawberry jam, yoghurt and tea or coffee. After suffering through a day of horrible stomach pains, it was a relief to wake up feeling relatively normal, particularly as you have to climb out of the canyon on day two. A moderate walk takes you to the oasis, which houses a few swimming pools with little waterfalls and tropical-looking cabins. Here we congregated with another group of two Israeli guys and two American girls (there was only 2 people in my group, me and this nice but rather boring English guy from the hostel who finally decided to stop watching TV all day and do the trek with me). Had a quick swim and dried off before lunch of soup,vegetarian spaghetti and pineapple juice (an odd combination), followed by an hours´ siesta in one of the little cabins which literally have a bed in them and nothing else.

At 3pm we set off on the trail out of the canyon. I don´t know why they wait till 3pm, maybe so it´s not so hot, but by the time you get to the top (some 2-3 hours later, depending on your fitness), it´s dark, cold and you´re at altitude so you risk getting sick due to being covered in sweat but horribly cold. Anyhow, while I made it to the top with little problem, it´s not easy and several times I wondered why the hell I wanted to climb into and out of the deepest canyon in the world. The path is similar to the way down except sometimes there are rock steps, which are harder on your leg muscles than trudging slowly up a path. There are a few lookout stops though, which are nice to sit in and enjoy the view. Nothing beats the sense of achievement once you reach the top, though. From there it´s another 20 minutes of walking to Cabanaconde. You can hire a mule for 30 soles to take your bags up to the top but damned if I was going to do that - I wouldn´t be able to wear my free canyon t-shirt with pride if I didn´t carry my own pack!

Once back in the town, we went to Hostal Virgen de Carmel to put down our things and have a hot shower (warning: you might be standing stark naked for awhile waiting for the water to come on) before our celebratory dinner in a restaurant. Unfortunately, I don´t remember the name of the restaurant, but we had lomo saltado (kind of a Peruvian stir fry) with alpaca meat - very nice. And a few drinks of course, while we watched last year´s Live 8 DVD in the restaurant.

The third and last day of the ´trek´ is reallya lot of sitting around. We woke up early and had breakfast at the hostel (bread, jam, fried egg, tea) then caught a bus to Cruz del Condor. This is about 40 minutes´ ride from Cabanaconde, along the canyon, and is a lookout for the famous Andean condor. We perched on somewhat precarious rocks for almost an hour, and were treated to a little show by some eagles (which were cool in themselves). We were relatively unlucky as we only saw one or two condors - they´re huge birds with distinctive wing-tips - kind of like a hand on the end of each wing, with a dark body and sometimes white markings. These are birds with presence, and it´s quite breathtaking to spot one and watch it glide on the canyon´s currents. It was nice anyway sitting on the edge of the canyon and hearing the distant river and echoes of the canyon. As it happens, just as our bus was pulling away, a condor circled over the group of tourists still sitting at the lookout. Lucky bastards.

We caught a bus to Chivay before getting a taxi to the hot springs nearby. The water comes out of the mountains at some 70 degrees or more (celsius) and has to be cooled before being filtered into a big swimming pool. The temperature in there is around 37 degrees, I´m told - it was good for soaking your aching muscles, but just got way too hot with the midday sun beating down. But it was a nice way to end the tour. After lunch at Chivay (in a restaurant that served almost everything you could think of, from spaghetti to fried rice), we caught the bus back to Arequipa and got there well after dark.

For US$50, the tour is pretty good value, although the tourist entrance fee, hot springs and last lunch aren´t included in the price. But for people looking for a varied 3-day trip, I´d recommend it. And even if you´re not too fit, you´ll still make it up the canyon (if the English guy could do it, I´m sure many people can).
2 / 2 TravBuddies found this review helpful/trustworthy
geokid says:
Great blog!!!!!
Posted on: Sep 26, 2009
sylviandavid says:
good review... very interesting... sylvia
Posted on: Sep 26, 2009

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