As one of the deepest canyons in the world, the expansive terraced ravines of Colca Canyon are a highlight of Peru and a must for outdoor enthusiasts and casual hikers alike. Awe inspiring vistas greet the trekker at every turn, while majestic condors glide overhead and indigenous villagers go about their everyday lives. Here’s everything you need to know about trekking through this magical region.
To tour or not to tour
Most travelers opt for a tour as an easy, hassle-free option. We know what you’re thinking, must be expensive, right? Not necessarily, because the Colca Canyon receives enough visitors (the third most popular place in Peru!) for group tours to depart every day, which brings costs right down. In fact, going it alone only works out a few dollars cheaper per day than the organized tour.
The two or the three day tour
Both tours leave Arequipa at the unholy hour of 3 am and cover the exact same route. The only difference is the two-day tour covers twice the distance on the first day which entails around eight hours hiking rather than four.
In short, those in a rush or who love active hiking should opt for the two-day option, while those with plenty of time who enjoy relaxing among beautiful surrounds are better off with the three-day trip. Comprende?
Where to buy the tour
Book locally to save huge sums of cash. Essentially, all the travel agents in Arequipa pool their clients together to provide tourists with a cheaper rate, meaning they all offer the exact same tour so just book with the cheapest or friendliest agent. At the time of research, the three-day tour cost 140 PEN (US$42) while the two-day option went for 100 PEN (US$30). These prices include guide, accommodation, transport and meals, but remember to factor in the 70 PEN (US$21) national park fee plus any incidentals such as bottled water, snacks, or beer.
But I want to go alone, dammit
We get it, not everyone wants to trek with a tour group. Thankfully, this extremely well trodden path is entirely possible to travel alone. First, grab a bus from the Arequipa terminal to the town of Cabanaconde (5 hours, 16 PEN / US$5). From here, trekkers can descend into the canyon and stay overnight at the settlements of Sangalle, Malata, Cosñinhua or Llahuar, most of which sell food and lodging. Once you’ve had enough, just head back to Arequipa the same way you came.
Will I see condors?
Yes, almost certainly. All tours stop at the Mirador de los Condores at around 9 am when these majestic beasts are most active in seeking out warm updrafts which propel them high into the air. It’s an amazing experience as the huge birds fly just meters away from the lookout, almost within touching distance. Those not on a tour can get here by taking the first bus from Cabanaconde.
Is it hard?
Yes and no, entirely depending on the route chosen and your own level of fitness. Those in good physical shape will have no trouble doing either tour, while those who are less sure of themselves should stick to the easier three-day tour. Note that it’s possible to hire horses to carry you out of the canyon on the last day, which is the steepest and most difficult part.
What to bring?
Basic accommodation and hot meals are available en route, so it’s not necessary to carry heavy camping equipment. Weather wise, expect warm sunny days and cold nights. Water, snacks, alcohol, and even souvenirs can be purchased at many points along the way. There is no ATM in the region so bring plenty of cash.
I don’t like trekking
Not a problem, because there are a number of tours that visit towns and viewpoints overlooking the canyon and don’t require long periods of walking. It’s even possible to visit the region on a (very long) day tour from Arequipa.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.