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Trekking in Colca Canyon, Peru.

PERU | Thursday, 20 April 2006 | Views [9696] | Comments [5]

A bridge at the bottom of the Canyon.

A bridge at the bottom of the Canyon.

Trekking in Colca Canyon is an easy and popular trek usually done from Arequipa in Southern Peru. Here are few notes on how to do it inderpendently.

The Canyon can be walked in ‘Tea House’ trekking style, staying in Hostals along the way who also provide simple meals. We camped on one of the nights and took our own supplies. The Hostals and the ‘Oasis’ campsite all provide simple meals of varying quality. If you are taking your own food, buy it in Arequipa as there is little choice in the villages near the Canyon. Water is a problem. All botttled drinks, Water and Beer have to be carried into the Canyon by Mule so are very expensive. 250ml of Water costs 8 Sols. We used a water filter.

All foreigners have to pay a fee of 35 Sols (US$11) to enter the Colca Canyon area. The toll is collected by Park Rangers (in uniform) who hang around the bus station, Cruz de Condor and patrol the buses to ensure everyone pays up. They also collect information on visitor numbers and what they are doing/seeing in the area, although they only seem to speak Spanish. We met a Ranger in the Canyon on a trekking path who asked to see our tickets, so they do check you have one.

Although most people see Colca Canyon on a tour you can see it inderpendantly. We took a local bus to Chivay, stayed the night there, then got the local bus at 0500 to Cruz de Condor arriving at 0630. We were the only people there and we did see some Condors. By 0730 you are going to be sharing the stop with 40 – 50 people. We then walked to another Mirador, Mirador del Tapay, about 5km or 1.5 hours away. Again we had the place to ourselves and dispite it being around 1000 by the time we got there, we did see some Condors up close. We then walked down a disused route from the Mirador to the main Cabanaconde – San Juan path. This is not recommened. The main route begins just outside Cabanaconde on the road to Chivay, it goes along a small plain before descending into the Canyon.

You do not need a guide to trek in the Canyon. The main routes are very well defined, and are used by mule trains as well as trekkers, just folllow the dung. You will also meet lots of friendly people along the way who will give you directions. There are also arrows painted on rocks, directing you to Hostals long before you get to them.

The route from Cabanaconde to the bottom of the Canyon takes about 4 hours. Cross the bridge and follow the signs to Hostal Roy. Very friendly people, they also do simple meals for around US$1.5 each. A room costs around 25 Sols and they have hot (solar powered) hot water. There are also three other Hostals in the center of the village. These have the slight advantage that they have electricity, whereas Hostal Roy does not.

The walk on from San Juan to Sangalle via the villages of Cosñirhua and Malata takes about three hours. Follow the path out of the center of San Juan up a gorge that joins the main canyon, the path follows a water course for part of the way. Cross the stream either by stepping across or on the bridge made of branches. The path then ascends up to Cosñirhua. At the top bear right at the water tank to walk through the center of the village. There is a simple place to stay here too. The path now contours along the valley to Malata. Passing through Malata you will come to a junction where the path continues right along a water course (this goes onto the village of Llahuar, which also has accomodation), to get to the Oasis you need to keep left and take the path that descends down the spur. On your right will be a basin with disused (olive?) terraces in it. Soon you will see the Oasis, with swimming pools below you, just follow the arrows. At Sangalle, there are two sites. The one furthest away from the trail probably has the best faclities. It’s a nice place to spend an afternoon lolling by the pool. Again simple meals can be bought here but water is expensive. Of course there’s no power so it’s early to bed.

The organised groups all start the climb up to Cabanaconde at 0200 or 0300 in the morning before it gets hot. It’s three to four hours up but you can hire mules to carry you or your kit. As you reach the top the paths to the village can by confusing. From here you can get a bus back to Arequipa but it’s worth spending some time here, it’s a very friendly village.

Tags: Trekking Route Descriptions




  PATICA Sep 25, 2006 6:03 AM


my boyfriend and me wanna do the Trek in the Colca Canyon on our own, too. As it is quite expensive to hire a tent and sleeping bag for three to four days I'd be interested to know if the campsite in Sangalle also rents tents and sleeping bags or if u have to bring your own equipment.
Thanks a lot in advance,

  Marianne Feb 1, 2007 1:50 PM


Hi. My wife and me want to do treking by ourself in Colca Canyon in June this year. We plan to use about 3 days. Can you suggest a route and give us some drawing or map to follow. The most worried part is the ascent as you told that we need to ascent up to ~3200 meter. We worried about the problem of mountain sickness. Please advice. Thanks you in advance!


  Richard Apr 9, 2007 5:19 PM


Dear Richard,

If you follow the route out of Cabanaconde as I suggest you should have no problems following the route as I’ve described above. The trek is a fairly easy three days. Many travel agencies in Arequipa have free maps of the canyon to give away, which are good enough for wayfinding. As I mention the routes are well defined and there are signposts. Walking at 3200 meters altitude should not present any particular problems, if you are fit. I forget how deep the canyon is, certainly the climb out at the end is the toughest part and there is no way around it. If you start early and are reasonably fit, it should present no problems.

Enjoy yourselves,

  Will Apr 20, 2007 11:49 PM


Many years ago I had heard of a deep valley in Peru that had been settled by the Spaniards 400-500 years ago and then forgotten about. The society and culture remained largely intact, right up to the recent time of "re-discovery". Is Colca Canyon what I am referring to, or are my memories off track? I had the "lost canyon" on my list of places to visit when I retire in a few years. Thanks for your excellent blog. -Jonathan ("It's never too late for a second childhood...or a third, or a fourth." Bates

  Jonathan Bates Oct 9, 2007 8:08 AM



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