For many people Arequipa is a stop off point before visiting the world’s second deepest canyon, the Colca Canyon. You can visit the canyon independently, using local transport, but it can be more hassle than its worth. Going with a tour group is recommended. A tour of the canyon can be booked in many of the tour offices that occupy Arequipa’s Plaza de Armas. Tours are generally two or three days, but you can stay for longer if you wish to. Be sure to ask exactly what the tour cost includes. There is a national park entrance fee of S/70, so be sure that you have paid for this within your package. Tour prices can vary depending on the type and standard of accommodation you require and the quality of the food varies also. Tour companies should give you a succinct list of what to bring and what to wear. Ask in your hotel for tour company recommendations or contact experts at Totally Latin America for advice or help booking.
The view Down into the Canyon from the Strating Point of the Trek
What to Expect on a Two Day Tour
A typical two day tour of the Colca Canyon will begin very early, at approximately 3am, with a pick up from your hotel. The start point for the trek is about six hours drive away. This early drive is broken up by stopping for breakfast in a small village and then a stop at Cruz del Cóndor. Here you will have the opportunity to spot these amazing birds glide below you in the canyon. For avid bird watchers it can be helpful to take a pair of binoculars. From here there’s only a short drive to where you will begin your trek. Before you begin hiking the guide will give you a brief overview of the plan for the day. The first day is mostly downhill, taking in some breathtaking views and interesting sights of the Colca Canyon. The terrain can change quite often so make sure to wear shoes that are good for walking and mind your footing at times. After roughly three hours there is a break for lunch and bathroom facilities. And then it’s onwards again for another three hours. The guides are inforamtive and knowledgable. ALoong the hike they will stop at numerous occassions to talk about flora and fauna. You might even have an opportunity take some of Peru‘s fruits growing on trees and bushes in the valley. Make sure to take plenty of water with you as it can be expensive to buy in your accommodation when you reach the Colca Canyon valley. The nights can get chilly so have something warm to wrap up and then enjoy a quiet, fuss free night deep in the canyon. There is an oasis deep in the canyon that is now dotted with lodges, guesthouses that offer various accommodation options.
Condor Spotting High Above the Canyon
Geneally speaking an evening meal should be included in your tour package. Meals can vary but are usually typically Peruvian. Drinks aren’t normally included in your package. If you wish to purchase snacks, beer or sodas try to have small notes and coins as many lodgings find it difficult to break larger notes. There is free time after dinner for you to take some time out, take a walk or just rest and chat to fellow travelers. For those who opt to take the 3 day Colca Canyon tour, there is more free time available to you.
Making Friends With a Local Llama in the Canyon
Get a good night’s sleep as tomorrow it’s all up hill! Groups will set out early, between 4.30 and 5.30am, and at staggered times to avoid traffic and ensure there is ample space on the track for hikers. Take your time and go at a pace that suits you. The guide will generally stay at the back of the group for support. If you are feeling fit and ready to face it the track is easily navigable, so power on! It’s very easy to get caught up in just focusing on the uphill track and putting one foot in fron of the other and to forget to look around at the stunning scenery the Colca Canyon has to offer. So don’t forget to look around you and appreciate where you are. Let the striking views and setting sink in.
If you are not feeling too energetic for the uphill walk or perhaps endured an injury, there is another option in getting to the top. Tourists can hire a mule for approximatey S/70. The mule can take just your bags too, if you don’t wish to lug them back up with you. Ask your guide the night before the uphill hike. They can easily organise this for you. There is a weight restrction of 120kg for the mules. So again suss this out with your guide.
The View on the Trek Back to the Top of Colca Canyon
When you make it back up to the top, after you catch your breath, take in the amazing views of the Colca Canyon. Locals wait at the top with drinks and food stalls. Allow yourself to indulge in a Sublime (chocolate bar) or a Powerade to boost energy levels. And of course take photos and be proud of this feat. From here tours can vary. Generally after a good breakfast close by some tours take in the nearby town of Chivay, some take you to local thermal baths, some will visit small otdoor markets to buy local wares, and others to various viewing points on the return to Arequipa. Some of these stops require small payments, for example entry to the baths is S/10. Expect to return to your hotel at about 6pm on the evening.
What to Take With You to the Colca Canyon
Overall try to pack as light as possible. Don’t bring anything unnecessary. Remember you need to carry it back up with you to the top of the canyon.
- Good walking shoes
- Light comfortable clothes for hiking
- A change of clothes
- Something warm to wear in the evening
- Swimming gear and a towel for thermal baths
- Sunglasses and a hat
- Plenty of water
- Some money, but in small bills
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