The Colca Canyon trek in Peru is one of those big-ticket items during any backpacking trip in South America. An immense canyon, breathtaking condors and enjoyable hiking – the Colca Canyon trek has it all! Better yet, getting from Arequipa to Colca Canyon is super easy. All you have to do is join one of the many guided group tours on offer. Of course, it’s possible to trek Colca Canyon independently. But, it’s hard to turn down the tours when they’re so cheap and convenient, especially the 2 day Colca Canyon tours. Although, there are many companies in Arequipa offering them. It’s hard to know which tour company will suit you best.
In this guide, we’ll talk about one of the best 2 day Colca Canyon tours available. Sure, all of the 2 day Colca Canyon tours run very similarly. But, it’s the small things that make a big difference. To that end, the cheapest tours have the biggest groups. Personally, hiking Colca Canyon in a group of 30–40 people didn’t sound very appealing. Although, with that in mind, it’s hard to justify an expensive private tour when the group tours are so reasonably priced. Alas, we’ve found a 2 day Colca Canyon tour that’s the perfect balance. It’s very affordable and group sizes are small.
Also, in this Colca Canyon hiking guide, you’ll basically find everything else that you need to know. Whether it’s a map of Colca Canyon, total costs or accommodation options, we’ll have you covered!
We hope you find this guide useful. For a lesser-known adventure in Arequipa, check out our guide on the Ruta del Sillar.
Table of Contents
Colca Canyon Trek: An Overview
The Colca Canyon in Arequipa, Peru, is one of the country’s best natural attractions. Otherwise known as Canyon de Colca, tourists have been flocking here to trek and see condors for many years. Of course, Colca Canyon isn’t as popular as Machu Picchu. But, this doesn’t make Colca Canyon any less special. If anything, Colca Canyon offers many tourists the chance to partake in a Peruvian multi-day trek. Something that many tourists may not have time to do otherwise.
I mean, not everyone has the time for the 8 day Huayhuash Circuit or 5 day Ausangate trek. But, the Colca Canyon trek, AKA the Canyon del Colca trek, Canyon Colca trek, or Colca Canyon hike, is just a 2 day (or 3 day) affair. So, most tourists, even those without much time, have the chance to experience the magic of a multiday trek in Peru. Thank you Colca Canyon.
Whether you hike the Colca Canyon over 2 or 3 days, you’ll essentially hike down into the valley and then back out again. It’s that simple. Needless to say, there’s more to it than that. Whilst hiking the Colca Canyon, expect to see soaring condors, spectacular natural scenery and even an oasis! Additionally, it seems there are endless tour companies offering Colca Canyon tours. So, getting from Arequipa to Colca Canyon to hike is super straightforward. Basically, if you find yourself in Arequipa, there’s no excuse to skip the Colca Canyon trek!
So, where exactly is the Colca Canyon located in Peru?
Where Is Colca Canyon?
Colca Canyon is located in the province of Caylloma, in the department of Arequipa. It’s roughly 200km north–northwest of the city of Arequipa. You can expect the drive from downtown Arequipa to Colca Canyon to take around 4 hours. As you can see, Colca Canyon isn’t exactly close to the city of Arequipa. But, thankfully, it’s super simple to get from Arequipa to Colca Canyon by joining a tour. They’ll always organise your transport as part of the tour. Anyway, before we look into the nitty-gritty details of Colca Canyon tours, let’s check out the Colca Canyon trekking route. That way, you’ll know what you’re getting yourself into!
Colca Canyon Trek Map and Quick Stats
If you hike Colca Canyon independently, it’ll be useful to have some guidance on directions. Of course, you can go old-school with a Colca Canyon map. We’re sure you can easily pick one up in Arequipa. But, if you’re after something a bit more on the digital side of things, you can see our exact Colca Canyon route below. We recorded GPS-guided directions which you can download on Wikiloc.
Thankfully, trail navigation on the Colca Canyon trek in Peru is fairly obvious. The trail is well defined. In addition, it’s a very popular trek. So, you’ll see loads of other people around following the trail. Basically, it would be hard to get lost. But, you never know! Always have some sort of map on a multi-day trek!
If you’re doing one of the guided Colca Canyon tours, then you won’t really need a map. Simply follow the guide! But, at the very least, it’s good to have some awareness about the hike itself. To that end, here are some quick stats concerning the 2 day Colca Canyon trek in Peru.
- Type: Multi-day trek
- Distance: 18.7km
- Time: 2 days (although, it’s really only 1.5 days – read here for more information)
- Colca Canyon trek elevation gain: 2,135m
- Colca Canyon trek elevation loss: 2,215m
- Colca Canyon trek difficulty: Hard
- Trailhead: San Miguel
Yes, the Colca Canyon trek is pretty hard! It’s got a high level of elevation loss and gain over a relatively short distance. This means it’s quite seep in sections. But, rest assured, many tourists successfully complete the Colca Canyon trek in Peru without much prior trekking experience.
For a map and quick stats regarding the Colca Canyon 3 day trek, click here.
Visiting Colca Canyon
When you visit Colca Canyon, will it be with a tour group or on your own? Of course, this choice all comes down to personal preference. Personally, Beck and I love hiking independently. It’s just what we’re used to. But, for the Colca Canyon trek, with all things considered, it just made sense to do one of the guided Colca Canyon tours. Mainly, when you look at costs and convenience, a Colca Canyon tour from Arequipa is hard to turn down.
Colca Canyon Tours From Arequipa
Naturally, most tourists will base themselves in Arequipa before doing the Colca Canyon trek. After all, Arequipa is the closest major city to Colca Canyon. Although, Arequipa is a beautiful city to visit in its own right. Anyway, Arequipa tours to Colca Canyon are aplenty. Just walk around the historic centre and you’ll find Arequipa to Colca Canyon tours being offered on every street corner! Indeed, Colca Canyon tours from Arequipa are easy to come by.
But, is it better to do a Colca Canyon trekking tour rather than hike independently? Yes, we think so! That’s because, simply put, tours are super cheap and great value for money. Usually, one of the benefits of choosing to hike independently, rather then joining a group tour, in Peru, is saving money. But, that’s not the case with Colca Canyon tours. By doing a 2 day Colca Canyon tour, you’ll spend roughly the same amount of money as you would by doing it independently. Also, by doing one of the Colca Canyon tours, everything is organised for you. You don’t have to do any major trip planning. May as well just do a Colca Canyon tour right?!
Well, the question you should be asking is, ‘which Colca Canyon tour is best?’ As always, money talks. For most tourists, it comes down to costs. But, other big factor are enjoyment and experience. Of course, you want to have a great time during any tour that you pay for. Certainly, some Colca Canyon tours are more enjoyable than others. Honestly speaking, all 2 day Colca Canyon tours all offer the same service. But, it’s the group sizes that are usually the defining difference between what the tour companies offer.
Colca Canyon Tours: What’s Included and Excluded
There are countless Colca Canyon trek companies in Arequipa. As part of the 2 day Colca Canyon tours on offer, they all offer shared roundtrip transportation from your accommodation in Arequipa. They usually offer an English-speaking guide. Perhaps, the cheapest of the cheap tours only offers a Spanish-speaking guide. Also included are 2 x breakfasts, 1 x lunch and 1 x dinner. Plus, one night’s shared accommodation in one of the Colca Canyon hotels around the oasis.
Excluded in the price of the 2 day Colca Canyon tours is often the S/70 ($18USD) entrance fee, lunch on the second day (approx. S/35) and the S/15 ($4USD) entrance fee for the Colca Canyon Hot Springs.
Colca Canyon Trek Companies
Personally, I contacted around 10 Colca Canyon trek companies to get the low down on prices and what they offer. Sure, what’s included in the Colca Canyon tours is just about identical. But, the main difference is the price and group size. You’ll find 2 day Colca Canyon group tours in Arequipa vary from $38–170USD. On average, most charge between $50–75USD. For around $100–150USD, some companies even offer shared transportation but include a private guide. Personally, this option defeats the whole idea of choosing a Colca Canyon tour based on the fact it’s super cheap! Additionally, all of the Colca Canyon trek companies offer private accommodation, usually for an extra $20–30USD.
As mentioned, the major difference is the group sizes. Generally speaking, the cheapest tours that are around $38–50USD have huge group sizes between 25–40 people. By the same token, no one wants to pay triple that amount to have a smaller group. Thankfully, we found the perfect solution. Arequipa Tour – Operator Peru offers the 2 day Colca Canyon tour for only $72USD per person. But, their group sizes are a maximum of 10 people. Basically, you pay only approx. $20USD more, and you’ll have a much more enjoyable and peaceful hiking experience in a smaller group. Beck and I chose to do the 2 day Colca Canyon tour with Arequipa Tour – Operator Peru and really enjoyed it!
To book the 2 day Colca Canyon tour with Arequipa Tour – Operator Peru, simply contact them on Whatsapp (+51 519 596 88125). Otherwise, drop into their office in Arequipa (Calle Jerusalén 311A, Segundo Piso, Office #6) to find out more information. Also, feel free to check them out on Facebook and Instagram.
Colca Canyon Private Tours
You’ll find plenty of the Colca Canyon tour companies also offer a private tour service. Although, these are quite expensive. For a private 2 day Colca Canyon trekking tour, you’ll pay around $300–420USD per person. It’s about six to nine times the price of a group tour! Personally, we don’t think it’s worth it. If you’re after some privacy on the group tour, we’d recommend paying an extra $20–30USD for a private room instead of the shared accommodation. No need for a private tour!
Colca Canyon on Your Own
If you like to trek on your own, hiking Colca Canyon independently is fairly straightforward. Sure, it isn’t as easy and convenient as choosing to do one of the Colca Canyon tours. And, inevitably, you’ll pay around the same price. It costs around $75–90USD to hike Colca Canyon over 2 days on your own. Yes, that’s about the same as doing a Colca Canyon tour.
Really though, we get the whole being masters of your own fate thing. That’s why we chose to hike the Santa Cruz trek independently.
So, if you’re down on hiking Colca Canyon independently, here are some important things to know below. Let’s start with how to get from Arequipa to Colca Canyon.
How to Get to Colca Canyon From Arequipa
Basically, there are two options for getting from Arequipa to Colca Canyon independently – bus or colectivo! Specifically, from Arequipa, you’ll need to get to the town of Cabanaconde. If you hike independently, this is where your Colca Canyon trek will likely start and finish. Let’s look at the popular Arequipa to Colca Canyon bus option.
Arequipa to Colca Canyon Bus
The bus from Arequipa to Colca Canyon, or, more specifically, the bus from Arequipa to Cabanaconde, leaves from the Arequipa Bus Terminal. Before the pandemic, there were a few bus companies running this route. But, as it stands, in mid-2022, it seems only Andalucia is running the route. Their departure times are 12:30am, 4:30am, 10:30am and 1:30pm. The journey from Arequipa to Cabanaconde takes around 5–6 hours. This includes a short break in the town of Chivay – the gateway to the Colca Canyon. So, realistically, you’ll want to get the 4:30am bus to allow yourself enough time to hike on the first day. Bus costs are usually around S/26 ($6.50USD).
If for some reason you miss the Arequipa to Colca Canyon bus, don’t stress! Another option is to get a colectivo from Arequipa to Colca Canyon.
FYI – there’s likely to be limited bus services on a Sunday. If you plan on travelling on this day, we’d recommend heading to the Arequipa Bus Station a day or two ahead of time to double-check departure times.
Arequipa to Colca Canyon Colectivo
There are a few companies offering the colectivo service from Arequipa to Colca Canyon. Specifically, the colectivo service from Arequipa runs to Chivay. You’ll then need to get another colectivo from Chivay to Cabanaconde. Two reputable companies offering the Arequipa to Chivay route include Transportes Centella and Transportes Caminos del Inca. Transportes Centella has a few daily morning departures from 3am, that run hourly. Transportes Caminos del Inca also has a few daily morning departures from 5am, that run hourly. The journey time from Arequipa to Chivay is roughly 3.5 hours and costs around S/20 ($5USD).
Once you arrive in Chivay, you’ll need to get a colectivo to Cabanaconde. Basically, there should be a colectivo waiting for you, at the place where you arrive in Chivay. Or, a local should be at the ready to direct you to one. The colectivo from Chivay to Cabanaconde takes around 2 hours and should cost S/10 ($2.50USD).
So, what’s better – the colectivo or bus? Well, overall, the bus is more direct and slightly cheaper. Having just one bus to organise is more straightforward than two colectivos. But, with catching the bus, there’s less flexibility on departure times. You’ll also spend longer on the one bus journey than the two colectivo journeys combined. So, it’s up to you!
How to Get Back to Arequipa
Once again, to get back to Arequipa from Colca Canyon, you have the option of bus or colectivo.
Bus: from the Plaza de Armas in the Cabanaconde town centre, there’s a 6:30am, 9:30am and 1:30pm departure time to Arequipa. Expect the journey time to be around 5–6 hours and costs should be around S/26 ($6.50USD).
Colectivo: getting a colectivo from Cabanaconde to Chivay doesn’t seem to be a popular option, owing to the fact that most travellers get the bus. But, to save time, it’s possible to pay around S/5–10 ($1–2.50USD) to get the bus from Cabanaconde to Chivay. Then, you could catch a colectivo from Chivay to Arequipa for around S/20 ($5USD). Colectivos from Chivay to Arequipa run regularly (hourly) from around midday to early evening. There are numerous companies based at the Chivay Bus Station offering this route.
Overall, the colectivo from Chivay to Arequipa is much quicker than the bus ride. But, the bus from Cabanaconde to Arequipa is direct (only a short break in Chivay). So, again, it’s up to you as to which option is better.
Colca Canyon Flights
Of course, you’ll need to get to Arequipa in Peru in the first place if you want to trek and spot condors at Colca Canyon. To do this trip from abroad, it makes sense to fly to Arequipa. When booking flights, you should use Skyscanner to search for the cheapest flights. Although, because of the pandemic, booking directly with the airlines is the safest option. You know, just in case.
Anyway, if you’re UK or US-based, you should sign up to Jack’s Flight Club for the best flight deal alert service. By simply subscribing to the free weekly newsletter or buying premium membership, you could save lots of money on international flights. For the Aussies, we recommend subscribing to I Want That Flight for the best flight deal alerts.
Total Costs Overview: Tour vs Independent
Whether you hike Colca Canyon independently or with a tour company over 2 days, you’ll be paying roughly about the same. For those wanting to hike independently, here’s a breakdown of the costs to do the 2 day Colca Canyon trek:
- Getting to and from Arequipa Bus Station from accommodation: S/10–20 ($2.50–5USD)
- Bus/colectivo to and from Arequipa: S/50–62 ($12–15USD)
- Colca Canyon Ticket: S/70 ($18USD)
- Colca Canyon Accommodation: S/30–80 ($8–20USD)
- Meals/snacks/drinks for 2 days: S/120 ($30USD)
- Colca Canyon Hot Springs: S/15 ($4USD)
Based on our calculations, hiking Colca Canyon independently over 2 days costs around $74.50–92USD. Of course, if you walked to the Arequipa Bus Station, chose basic shared accommodation, bought inexpensive snacks, skipped beers at the Colca Canyon Oasis and missed the hot springs, you could be looking at around $55–65USD.
As mentioned earlier, Colca Canyon tours offered in Arequipa, usually cost between $50–75USD. When you add on the Colca Canyon entrance fee, beers and the hot springs entrance fee, it’s another $25–35USD. So, really, doing a 2 day Colca Canyon tour really costs around $75–110USD. Add on private room accommodation and you’re looking at $85–120USD.
If you’re an avid shoestring traveller, then the cheapest option would be to hike independently. But, in this case, the price difference isn’t much at all. Usually, in Peru, the price difference between hiking independently and doing a tour for multi-day treks is massive. For instance, the Choquequirao and Salkantay treks could be as low as $100–150USD to do independently versus $300–500USD to do as a group tour. With this in mind, the Colca Canyon tours are great value for money. So, we think you may as well do a Colca Canyon tour on this occasion.
Colca Trek 2 Days
Now that we’ve discussed some of the logistics, let’s get into the fun stuff – the highlights of the 2 day Colca Canyon trek. Of course, it’s possible to trek Colca Canyon over 3 days. Or, you could even skip the trekking and just do a full day tour. We’ll discuss those other options here: Other Colca Canyon Trekking Options.
But, the 2 day Colca Canyon trek is by far the most popular option. It’s what Beck and I did, and also recommended. So, let’s go through what you’ll see and experience during a typical 2 day trek of Colca Canyon in Peru. Let’s start with those awesome Colca Canyon condors!
On the first day of your Colca Canyon tour, expect to be picked up at around 3–3:30am. From there, you’ll make the approx. 3.5 hour journey to Chivay where you’ll have breakfast. After scoffing that down and paying your entrance fee, it’s off to Mirador Cruz del Condor – an epic viewpoint of Colca Canyon where you’ll hopefully see plenty of condors.
Colca Canyon Condors
When we first rocked up at Mirador Cruz del Condor, which is perched on the very edge of the Colca Canyon, there wasn’t a whole lot to see. But, soon enough, the condors at Colca Canyon came out to play. It’s like they were waiting for a bigger crowd to appear before putting on a show! Watching the Colca Canyon condors in full flight was an amazing spectacle. Beck and I would have been happy to see just one or two condors at Colca Canyon. But, from this brilliant Colca Canyon viewpoint, we managed to see around a dozen condors!
Other than condors, you can also expect to see other Colca Canyon birds. During your time at Colca Canyon, expect to see vultures, geese and hummingbirds – although, admittedly, these aren’t quite as spectacular as the condors!
You’ll spend around 30 minutes checking out the Colca Canyon condors, before heading to San Miguel to start the hike!
From the San Miguel trailhead, you’ll begin the 2 day Colca Canyon trek. If you’re hiking independently, you’ll hike around 2.5km from Cabanaconde to reach this trailhead. Initially, the trail is relatively flat, revealing gorgeous views of the Colca Valley and hopefully more glimpses of condors. There are a few viewpoints along the initial part of the trek, including Mirador Cosnirgua. From here, you’re approx. 1,100 metres above the canyon floor. So, as you can imagine, the views are mindblowing!
After 1km or so, the trail begins to descend into Colca Valley. Expect the uneven dirt trail to become harder to negotiate as you begin to steeply wind down into the valley. Around each bend, you’ll have a slightly different angle of the scenic canyon to enjoy. Keep an eye out for condors, they’ll hopefully continue to pop in and out of view during your Colca Canyon trek.
After descending around 1,100 metres, you’ll reach Colca River. Here, you’ll find a footbridge that crosses the river. With jelly legs galore, you’ll be relieved to finally reach this flat section of trail. Although, this flat section doesn’t last for long. Right around the corner from the Colca River footbridge, the trail ascends fairly sharply. So, make sure to have a rest, snack and drink at the sheltered area just after the footbridge. Thankfully, the inevitable ascent out from the Colca River footbridge is only short-lived. Soon enough, you’ll reach Posada Gloria for lunch.
After a decent feed, your trek continues north of Colca River on the opposing side of the valley. This part of the trek undulates as you pass through areas of thicker vegetation. Eventually, you’ll reach a steeper section of the trail. This part of the trek is the steepest ascent you’ll encounter on the first day. After recently completing three multi-day treks in Cusco, including Choquequirao, Salkantay and Ausangate, Beck and I were feeling pretty buggered by this stage. But, thankfully, the ascent didn’t seem to drag on for too long! Before you know it, you’ll arrive at the final steep descent of the day. This part of the trail leads you to a shorter footbridge, connecting you with Colca Canyon Oasis.
Colca Canyon Oasis
Admittedly, arriving at the Colca Canyon Oasis is a surreal experience. Around this part of the canyon floor, you’ll find waterfalls, tropical-like surroundings and an abundance of Colca Canyon hotels with pools. The area is called Sangelle. This is where you’ll spend the night. Thankfully, you should arrive with at least an hour left of daylight. So, grab your swimmers, buy yourself a beer and relax around the pool. Admittedly though, by the time we were ready for a swim, Sangelle was covered in shade, which meant it wasn’t exactly warm enough for a swim. But, of course, you only live once! After a quick dip, you’ll have some downtime before dinner. Then, it’s time to hit the hay nice and early, as you’ll be getting up uber early to start your climb out of the canyon the next day.
On your second and final day, you’ll set off at around 4am. With your head torch fastened, it’s time to hike out of the canyon. After a fairly big day of hiking on the first day, don’t be surprised if you start today’s trekking with achy legs. Thankfully, the sensational night sky is a welcome distraction. As you gain elevation, you’ll notice the stars and planets give way to an emerging light. Soon enough, the sun’s glow parades throughout the valley, lighting up the canyon walls. It’s truly a spectacle to see the canyon covered in an orange tinge.
After countless switchbacks and false peaks, you’ll eventually reach the top of the canyon. Here, you’ll see crowds of tourists waiting for their mates to finish. You’ll also find a local who has set up shop. So, if you’ve run out of food or water, you can fill your boots here. Once your entire group has emerged from Colca Valley, it’s time to walk to the town of Cabanaconde. Here, you’ll have breakfast, before jumping back into the tour company’s van and heading to the Colca Canyon Hot Springs.
Colca Canyon Hot Springs
After a gruelling hike down and out of Colca Canyon, the La Calera thermal baths are a welcome sight. Here, you’ll have plenty of small hot springs to choose from. Some are much hotter than others. You’ll have to sample a few to figure out which pool’s temperature suits you most.
Apparently, the hot springs further from the entrance are hotter as they approach closer to the river. This was partly true. Beck and I discovered that the hot springs did get warmer the further away they were from the entrance. Except, the pools that were furthest away weren’t actually the hottest. Most tourists assume these are boiling hot and to avoid frying like lobsters, won’t even feel the water’s temperature. But, to our surprise, the empty pools furthest from the entrance were actually the perfect temperature. And, we had it all to ourselves!
At the Colca Canyon Hot Springs, it’s possible to rent a towel for around S/5 ($1USD). There are plenty of changing rooms, toilets and a small shop. It’s also possible to zipline here!
Colca Canyon Zipline
Located around 400 metres up the road from the La Calera thermal baths, you’ll find Colca Zip Lining. We found most hikers were happy enough to just soak in the Colca Canyon Hot Springs and skipped the opportunity to zipline. But, if you’re interested, it’s possible to do a quick session of ziplining whilst everyone else soaks in the hot springs. Colca Zip Lining offers an approx. 30-minute package, where you get 2 rides for S/50 ($12USD). From the hot springs, a couple of the lines are directly overhead. It was interesting to watch the ziplining take place right above us as we chilled in the hot springs.
Unfortunately, you probably won’t have time to enjoy both the Colca Canyon hot springs and ziplining. Thankfully, it’s possible to do day trips from Arequipa for around $25–30USD, where you can solely visit Colca Canyon to do ziplining. So, that’s always an option if you don’t get time to zipline on the second day of the Colca Canyon trekking tour.
More Colca Canyon Attractions
After either enjoying the hot springs or ziplining, it’s time for lunch. We ate at the cleverly named IncaFe Restaraunt. Here, we enjoyed a delicious buffet lunch for S/35 ($11USD). After the feast, it’s time to finally finish your Colca Canyon trip. But, not before a few more short stops.
First, you’ll check out Mirador de los Andes – an awesome viewpoint of all of the volcanoes surrounding Arequipa. It’s actually the highest point of the Colca Canyon area at 4,800 metres above sea level. Then, you’ll drive through the scenic Pampas Cañahuas National Reserve. Here, you’ll make a quick stop to gawk at llamas, alpacas, vicuñas and guanaco. Last but not least, you’ll make a quick stop at a restaurant and restroom at Patahuasi, before heading back to Arequipa.
Other Colca Canyon Trekking Options
As mentioned, there are Colca Canyon hikes to choose from other than just the 2 day option. Following the 2 day option, the 3 day Colca Canyon trek is the next most popular option. Let’s look at the 3 day Colca Canyon trek options in a bit more detail below.
Colca Trek 3 Days
Depending on your itinerary, the 3 day Colca Canyon trek in Peru, will be either much easier or much harder than the 2 day version. Let us explain. Over three days, you can either complete the same two day route or complete a longer circuit.
Obviously, by completing the two day route over three days, the hiking is more spread out and manageable. By trekking over three days, you can really take your time to explore. This way, you’ll increase your chances of seeing more Colca Canyon condors! Basically, when you see tour companies in Arequipa offering the 3 day Colca Canyon tour, this is what they’re offering. Generally, you’re looking at around $75–150USD for this option. If you’re after a recommendation, we trust Arequipa Peru – Operater Peru, who offer the Colca Canyon 3 day tour for $108USD.
On the other hand, if you’re wanting to explore more of Colca Canyon, it’s possible to do a longer circuit. Admittedly, tour companies in Arequipa don’t really offer this longer circuit in group tours. That’s because it’s not a popular option. So, to do the longer 3 day Colca Canyon trek, you’d have to do a private tour ($350USD+) or hike independently. Instead, you’ll probably stay your first night at San Juan de Chuccho and the second night at Llahuar. Head to Colca Canyon Accommodation to find out where to stay. Below, you’ll find a map of the longer circuit and also some quick stats regarding the hike.
Colca Trek 3 Days Map and Quick Stats
- Type: Multi-day trek
- Distance: 40km
- Time: 3 days
- Colca Canyon trek elevation gain: 3,580m
- Colca Canyon trek elevation loss: 3,580m
- Colca Canyon trek difficulty: Very hard
- Trailhead: San Miguel or Cabanaconde
- Map: Wikiloc
As you can see from the stats, the longer circuit option is well over twice as long as the standard 2 day Colca Canyon trek in Peru. You’ll also take on way more elevation gain and loss with an even heavier backpack (extra food and gear for an additional day). Certainly, if you’re a keen hiker, the challenge of the 3 day Colca Canyon trekking tour would be tempting.
Choosing the Colca Canyon 2 or 3-day Trek
Personally, Beck and I feel that the 2 day Colca Canyon trek provides ample time to explore the canyon, and see plenty of condors. We usually purposefully look for longer trekking routes and options to extend our time out on the trails. But, on this occasion, we felt two days exploring Colca Canyon would suffice. And it did. After all, we still had other multi-day treks in Peru on the cards (Huayhuash and Santa Cruz). So, it made sense for us to conserve some energy for these other longer hikes.
Of course, the three day option may be perfect for you. If you’re an older traveller, someone with more time up your sleeve or someone who may struggle with the physical demands of the two day version, then the slower-paced 3 Day Colca Canyon trek may be a great choice. Conversely, if you’re a keen and fit hiker with the wanderlust to explore more of the canyon, unguided, then the longer circuit over three days might be a perfect fit.
But, who said that you have to hike the Colca Canyon? It’s certainly possible to simply visit the stunning canyon without having to hike in and out of it. Let’s explore that option below.
Colca Canyon Full Day Tour
A Colca Canyon day tour, without trekking, is a very popular option. Doing a Colca Canyon day trip from Arequipa, means you only have to cough up one day of your Peru trip to see and enjoy the canyon. Basically, most 1 day Colca Canyon tours include everything that the 2 and 3 day tours include, without the trekking. That means the tours include a guide, roundtrip transportation from your accommodation in Arequipa and 1 x breakfast. You’ll then head to the Mirador Cruz del Condor to watch Colca Canyon condors in action. Next, you’ll go to the Colca Canyon Hot Springs before heading to Chivay for lunch. In the afternoon, you’ll also go to Mirador de los Andes and drive through Pampas Cañahuas National Reserve.
Best of all, a Colca Canyon full day tour is the cheapest tour of the canyon on offer. Most companies in Arequipa charge between $20–30USD for a Colca Canyon tour. Again, if you’re after a recommendation of a tour company, we highly rate Arequipa Tour – Operator Peru. They offer the Colca Canyon full day tour for $28USD. They’re one of the best tour companies in Arequipa and have excellent guides. Similar to the trekking tours, the Colca Canyon entrance fee and lunch in Chivay aren’t generally included in these one day tours.
To Trek or Day Tour?
Given how amazing the Colca Canyon trek is, we really think you should consider trekking there, rather than just visiting. Sure, if you don’t have much time in Peru, then seeing Colca Canyon on a full day tour, without any trekking, is better than not seeing the canyon at all. In addition, not everyone has the capacity to hike down and out of one of the deepest canyons in the world! Also, for the absolute shoestring travellers, the day tour option without trekking is the cheapest tour on offer. But, if time, fitness and money aren’t a problem, we 100% recommend trekking Colca Canyon rather than merely just visiting the viewpoints and surrounding areas. To really appreciate the canyon, you’ve gotta get down and dirty and hike in and out of it!
Colca Canyon Accommodation
Whether you’re doing the 2 or 3 day Colca Canyon trek, you’ll find plenty of accommodation options along the way. Unlike other multi-day treks in Peru (Huayhuash, Ausangate, Santa Cruz), camping isn’t necessary along the trail. Indeed, similar to the Salkantay and Choquequirao multi-day treks, there are plenty of hotels, cabins and lodges en route. Let’s look at these Colca Canyon hotels and other lodging options in a bit more detail. Particularly, if you’re hiking independently, this next section will be very useful to help plan your accommodation along the route.
Colca Canyon Hotels
Along the Colca Canyon trek, there are plenty of decent accommodation options. This means you don’t have to worry about camping. Personally, we found the hotels in Colca Canyon to be in pretty good shape. Sure, don’t expect luxury. But, the Colca Canyon hotels and other lodging options along the trail were better than we had expected. For each possible stopping place along the Colca Canyon route, we’ve handpicked the best accommodation.
FYI – during peak season (dry season), we’d recommend booking in advance, where possible, to avoid disappointment!
Cabanaconde is a small town where the Colca Canyon trek in Peru starts and finishes. Given the usual 2 or 3 day Colca Canyon trekking itinerary, it’s unlikely that you’ll spend a night here. But, it’s always an option if you want to acclimatise or avoid the rush to and from Arequipa.
- Homestay Pachamama: this is THE go-to option when it comes to accommodation in Cabanaconde. Homestay Pachamama is a highly-rated and popular hotel that offers guests advice on the Colca Canyon treks. We’ve heard they even give out maps for free!
- Hotel Kuntur Wassi: this is another great option if you want to stay in Cabanaconde before or after the Colca Canyon trek. Hotel Kuntur Wassi features a lovely garden, free breakfast and stylish rooms.
- Las Palmeras Eco Hostel: another fantastic hotel option. Las Palmeras Eco Hostel is also highly-rated and conveniently positioned for the Colca Canyon trek.
San Juan de Chuccho
After hiking down into Colca Canyon, crossing the footbridge and briefly hiking up the other side of the valley, you’ll arrive at San Juan de Chuccho. It’s a small hamlet with a few accommodation options. Whether you’re doing the easier or longer circuit version of the 3 day Colca Canyon trek, you’ll likely stay here on your first night. That’s assuming you’re doing the Colca Canyon trek in Peru in a traditional anti-clockwise direction. If you’re hiking independently and keen on something different, then hiking in a clockwise direction is possible. That means you’ll stay at San Juan de Chuccho on your second and final night.
- Posada Roy: this is one of the first accommodation options you’ll see once you arrive at San Juan de Chuccho. From all accounts, the owners are lovely and provide great food and hospitality. The only drawback is that you can’t book this one online. Most hikers want to have a bed guaranteed en route, so are more likely to go with the other two popular lodging options.
- Posada Gloria: this lodge is the most popular option in San Juan de Chuccho. You’ll see a bunch of signs and markings for Posada Gloria as you approach it. The owners here are super friendly, providing decent rooms and great meals. There’s even a small shop here. Beck and I really enjoyed lunch here on the first day.
- Colibri Lodge: this lodge hasn’t quite got the reputation that Posada Gloria has. But, Colibri Lodge is still a highly-rated accommodation option in San Juan de Chuccho with plenty of fantastic reviews.
Oasis Sangelle Colca Canyon
The Colca Canyon Oasis, AKA, Sangelle, is one of those places you just have to see to believe. Reaching Sangelle at the end of our first day of the 2 Day Colca Canyon trek was an incredible moment. Having worked hard all day, trekking in the heat, it was awesome to arrive at this oasis haven. You’ll find quite a few options here, all with their own pools, restaurants and bars.
- Paraiso Las Palmeras Lodge: Beck and I really enjoyed our stay here. Paraiso Las Palmeras Lodge is a highly-rated accommodation option with shared and private rooms available. They easily have some of the best facilities in Sangelle. Their pool, restaurant and shop were all excellent given their precarious location at the bottom of a canyon!
- Oasis Paraiso Ecolodge: this ecolodge, alongside Paraiso Las Palmeras Lode, are the two most popular options in Sangelle. Oasis Paraiso Ecolodge also provides exceptional facilities with an awesome pool, restaurant and sun lounge area.
- Tropical Lodge: we’d call this the backup option if the other two accommodation options are booked out. Sure, it has a similar vibe to Paraiso Las Palmeras Lodge and Oasis Paraiso Ecolodge. But, it hasn’t got quite as good reviews.
If you’re doing the 2 day Colca Canyon trek, you won’t go to Llahuar. So, personally, Beck and I didn’t visit here. This place is reserved for trekkers doing the 3 day Colca Canyon longer circuit option. If you’re doing the longer circuit in the usual anti-clockwise direction, you’ll stay here on your second night. Compared with Cabanaconde, San Juan de Chuccho and Sangelle, there are fewer options here. In fact, there are only two lodging options.
- Llahuar Lodge: this highly-rated lodge is beautifully set near the river and hot springs. Expect a great stay at Llahuar Lodge.
- Casa Virginia: although smaller in size, Casa Virginia is another lovely place to stay. With fewer rooms on offer, you might end up at Llahuar Lodge if this place is booked out. But, if there’s availability, definitely go with Casa Virginia. We’ve heard it’s a bit quieter and more relaxed compared with Llahuar Lodge.
Facilities Along the Trail
The facilities along the Colca Canyon trek in Peru are top-notch. Well, considering you’re trekking in and out of a fairly remote canyon, the facilities are better than you’d expect. At the major dwellings along the route (San Juan de Chuccho and Sangelle), you’ll find small shops, restaurants, bathrooms and private/shared rooms. All the basic stuff you’d need for a multi-day trek, you can find along the trail.
Food Along the Trail
There are plenty of lodges along the Colca Canyon trek in Peru, that provide hot meals, drinks and snacks. No need to pack any cooking equipment. You’ll find affordable and generous hot meals at lunch and dinner time. Sure, it’s cheaper to bring your own snacks from Arequipa. Also, in Arequipa, there’s a much better variety of snacks for hiking. But, if you run out of food, you won’t go hungry. Thankfully, all of the lodges have fridges with cold drinks. After hiking in the heat all day, there’s nothing quite like a cold beer at the Colca Canyon Oasis!
Staying hydrated: the conditions at Colca Canyon in Peru are hot and humid! Very quickly, you’ll become dehydrated if you don’t have an adequate supply of water. Thankfully, each lodge has plenty of bottled water so you can replace what you’ve already drunk. Of course, plastic bottles aren’t great for the environment or the wallet. If you’re prepared and eco-friendly, take a filter water bottle or water filtration tablets. You can easily fill up from the Colca River or from taps at lodges along the way.
Colca Canyon Altitude
Altitude of Colca Canyon Peru: the altitude of Colca Canyon varies from 1,000–2000 metres above sea level at the bottom of the canyon. The highest Colca Canyon elevation is around 3,000–4,000 metres above sea level at its edges. The Colca Canyon altitude varies considerably because it has a length of 70km. Over such a large distance, the canyon dramatically changes in its shape, structure and formation. So, the depth and height significantly vary in different sections of the canyon.
In terms of Colca Canyon trek altitude, you’ll start and end the route at around 3,350–3,400 metres above sea level. During the trek, you’ll lose around 1,100 metres of elevation, reaching as low as 2,250 metres above sea level at Sangalle.
Colca Canyon Altitude Sickness
It’s important to acclimatise before doing the Colca Canyon trek. Altitude sickness (AKA Acute Mountain Sickness) is an illness experienced by travellers when they reach high altitudes. The main symptoms include headache, shortness of breath, nausea, lightheadedness, dizziness, indigestion and loss of appetite. No one can predict who will get altitude sickness. Even if you have avoided altitude sickness at higher altitudes before, that doesn’t mean you won’t get it the next time!
You’ll hear about all sorts of things you can do to avoid altitude sickness. But, the most important way to reduce your chance of getting altitude sickness is to avoid going up too high, too quickly! Generally speaking, you shouldn’t go higher than 500 metres a day, once you’re beyond 2,000 metres above sea level.
In practice, if you fly into Arequipa (2,355 metres above sea level), you should have at least one rest day before you explore or hike. This will give your body time to adjust and acclimatise. Although, on the Colca Canyon trek, you’ll be heading from Arequipa to Mirador Cruz del Condor (3,900m) and then starting the trek at Cabanaconde (approx. 3,400m). In theory, by going higher than 500 metres in a day (in this case – over 1,000m+ in a day), you are at risk of experiencing altitude sickness.
Thankfully, the trek proceeds down to the bottom of the canyon where you’ll be re-acquainted with a lower height of around 2,250 metres. So, by going back down to this level over the first day of the trek, any potential altitude sickness symptoms should alleviate.
How to Avoid Altitude Sickness
Like many travellers, Beck and I had acclimatised in and hiked in Cusco before going to Arequipa to do the Colca Canyon trek. Given Cusco is around the same height as the highest point on the Colca Canyon trek (3,400m), we didn’t experience any altitude sickness. If you also visit Cusco before doing the Colca Canyon trek in Peru, this should decrease your chances of getting altitude sickness.
But, if you’re not visiting Cusco before doing the Colca Canyon trek, there are other ways you can reduce your chances of getting altitude sickness. For those hiking independently, you could spend a night or two in Cabanaconde to acclimatise before the trek. But, honestly speaking, given that you’ll be hiking down the canyon and reaching low heights on your first day of trekking, this means acclimitising in Cabanaconde probably isn’t necessary.
Besides this, there are some simple tips you can follow to help reduce your chance of getting altitude sickness. Firstly, don’t rush. Walk slowly and take it easy. Secondly, eat lighter meals and don’t eat them too quickly. Also, drink plenty of water. You could also factor in coca leaves, tea and/or sweets. The locals will tell you this helps. Finally, there are altitude sickness tablets (such as Diamox) available. But, if you acclimatise properly in the first place, you shouldn’t need these.
Colca Canyon Temperature
Thankfully, the temperatures are warm and pleasant all year round at Colca Canyon in Peru. On average, daytime temperatures are similar throughout the year with a range between 19.5–22°C. In terms of average nighttime temperatures, there’s a slightly higher variance in the range (13.4–17.3°C). The so-called colder months with cooler nighttime temperatures are between June–August, which coincides with the dry season.
The dry season runs from May to October. Basically, between May to November, there’s about a 0% chance of rain at Colca Canyon in Peru. So, expect clear skies and sunny days. But, as mentioned, temperatures can drop in the evening. In the dry season, you’ll also have a higher chance of spotting Colca Canyon condors! But, honestly speaking, you have a pretty good chance of seeing condors at Colca Canyon all year round.
Of course, the dry season is also the peak tourist season. So, this is when the Colca Canyon trek in Peru is at its busiest. Beck and visited at the end of May. And, indeed, it was very busy! This means a higher chance of Colca Canyon accommodation booking out. So, make sure to book in advance if you’re trekking during the high season.
The rainy season is from November to April. During this period, there’s a very small chance of rain (approx. 2–8%). So, your chances of experiencing rain during this time are very low. During the rainy season, not as many tourists will make their way to Peru. That’s why there’ll be far fewer people doing the trek this time of year.
Best Time of Year to Hike
Fortunately, there’s no bad time of year to hike the Colca Canyon trek in Peru. With virtually all year round sunshine, we can’t recommend a specific time of year to do one of the Colca Canyon tours. If you enjoy a quieter trail, then you should consider visiting during the non-peak season (rainy season). Besides, the chances of rain are very slim. But if you’re totally risk adverse, then we’d advise going in the dry season. This way, it’s almost a foregone conclusion you won’t experience any rain or dreary days. That means almost a guarantee of spotting Colca Canyon condors!
Training and Preparation for the Trek
Other than acclimatising properly, you should try and be in reasonably good shape for the 2 day Colca Canyon tour in Peru. Certainly, it’s a challenging hike. It’s not so much the distance (total of 18.7km over 2 days) that’s challenging. It’s dealing with the considerable elevation loss and gain (approx. 1,100m loss and gain, respectively, over 2 days). Trekking in the heat on the first day also makes it pretty tough. Also, the high altitude when climbing back out of the canyon on the second day makes for difficult conditions.
So, in reality, you’ll manage the hike much better and enjoy it even more if you’re in good physical condition. Of course, we found many people doing the trek hadn’t hiked much before and hadn’t really prepared for the trek. Most of them managed fine. Although, the odd person required assistance to get up and out of the canyon from being ill or too tired on the second day. Read What Happens if I Can’t Continue the Trek? for more information.
In terms of knowing what to wear and pack, check out our Colca Canyon Packing List. This checklist will ensure that you have all of the essentials and don’t forget anything. You’ll also want to make sure you have travel insurance that covers trekking up to 3,500m.
Five Hiking Essentials
Here are some hiking essentials for the 2 day Colca Canyon tour in Peru.
- Merrell Moab Mid Gore-Tex Hiking Boots: these hiking boots are super comfortable and lightweight.
- The North Face Venture Jacket: a fantastic windproof/waterproof jacket.
- Osprey Skarab 30L Day Backpack: a great backpack for hiking, which has plenty of space to store your gear.
- The North Face TKA Glacier Fleece Jacket: an excellent warmth:weight ratio fleece jacket that’ll help keep you warm.
- Columbia Convertible Trousers: a value for money pair of water-resistant convertible trousers.
Other than the five hiking essentials, here’s a general list of other things to wear/pack for the Colca Canyon trekking tours in Peru. Of course, the quantity of these items will depend on how many days you are trekking.
- Quick-dry T-Shirts
- Waterproof trousers, or water-resistance trousers and packable waterproof over-trousers
- Warm clothes: down jacket, long-sleeve top, etc.
- Hat (cap)
- Neck gaiter
- Spare pairs of underwear and quick-dry hiking socks
- Toothbrush/biodegradable toothpaste
- Toilet paper
- Bug spray
- Ear plugs
- Trekking poles
- Any necessary medications
- Action Camera (GoPro Hero 9)
- Phone (alarm clock/watch)
- Water filter bottle / filtration tablets
For a more complete gear list, check out our 66 Travel Accessories That You Must Travel With. Or, for a general summary of everything you’d need for a trip to Peru, visit our Ultimate Packing Checklist.
You’d be nuts to travel without travel insurance! Particularly when you’re doing high-altitude treks. SafetyWing is an excellent budget-friendly travel insurance provider. Personally, Beck and I have used SafetyWing’s Nomad Insurance many times. This insurance isn’t just for digital nomads, it’s for everyone and anyone needing travel insurance for their trips. The Nomad Insurance is great value for money with just a small additional cost to add a partner. Unlike most other insurance companies, there’s an option to pay on a monthly basis, similar to having a prepaid phone plan. Better yet, there’s no lock-in contract – you can cancel any time you want, which will take effect the following month.
For shorter trips, it’s also possible to use Nomad Insurance for trips lasting days or weeks. Indeed, SafetyWing is cheaper than almost all other travel insurance policies and covers just as much and sometimes more. Specifically, Nomad Insurance includes medical cover as well as standard cover for travel-related mishaps.
SafetyWing is a modern travel insurance company that is certainly leading the way in terms of how travel insurance should work in the future. Press on the image below to find out more.
Colca Canyon Facts
Now that you’re clued up on and prepared to conquer any of the Colca Canyon trekking tours, it’s time for some fun facts about this impressive condor-filled canyon.
Colca Canyon Depth
How deep is Colca Canyon? Depending on who you ask, the greatest depth of Colca Canyon has been measured between 3,400 metres and 4,160 metres. Some even claim that Colca Canyon is the deepest canyon in the world. But, in reality, Colca Canyon is actually the second deepest canyon in the world after Cotahuasi Canyon, which is also located in Peru!
Colca Canyon vs Grand Canyon
Colca Canyon is much deeper than the Grand Canyon in the United States. The greatest depth of the Grand Canyon is around 1,857 metres. In terms of beauty, both are spectacular in their own right!
In this section, we’ll answer the most commonly asked questions about Colca Canyon trekking tours in Arequipa, Peru.
How Long Does the Trek Take?
That depends on which Colca Canyon route you choose. The standard 2 day Colca Canyon trek actually only takes 1.5 days. The rest of the time on the second day includes visiting other attractions as part of the Colca Canyon tour. Similarly, the 3 day Colca Canyon trek really only takes 2.5 days. The rest of the time on the third day is usually spent getting transport back from Colca Canyon to Arequipa.
Where Does the Colca Canyon Trek Start?
Specifically, Colca Canyon trekking tours start at the San Miguel viewpoint. If you’re hiking independently, you’ll start at the nearby Cabanaconde.
Is Colca Canyon Worth It?
Yes, trekking Colca Canyon in Peru is absolutely worth it. By hiking at Colca Canyon, you’ll have the best chance of seeing the incredible condors in action. Watching the condors at Colca Canyon was one of our highlights of travelling in Peru. Of course, there’s more to Colca Canyon than just condors. The canyon itself is breathtaking and completing the hike should give you a sense of accomplishment.
Does the Colca Canyon Trek Need to Be Booked in Advance?
No, it’s possible to book Colca Canyon tours last-minute in Arequipa. Tours running from Arequipa to Colca Canyon run daily and are operated by many tour agencies.
If you’re hiking independently, it would be wise to book your Colca Canyon accommodation in advance during the dry season when the canyon sees most visitors. But, during the rainy season, it’s unlikely that the lodges will book out. So, you could probably get away with booking on the fly during the wet season.
What Happens If I Can’t Continue the Trek?
Although most tourists finish the Colca Canyon trek, some are unable to finish for various reasons. Usually, it’s during the tough ascent on the second day that people aren’t able to continue due to illness, injury or tiredness. If this happens to you, don’t worry. There’s an option to take a mule/donkey to the finish line if you can’t continue the trek. It’ll cost around S/50 ($12USD) for this assistance.
- Pack your own snacks: tour companies won’t feed you breakfast on the second day until you’ve finished the huge +1,000 metre climb. We found this bizarre as this is when you’ll need energy the most! So, make sure to pack your own snacks for the early morning hike on the second day.
- There’s more to Peru than Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail: go and explore the lesser-known areas and treks of Peru. Why not do the Huchuy Qosqo, Golden Shadow or Laguna Shallap treks?!
- Respect the locals: it’s an absolute privilege to be able to explore the immensely gorgeous Colca Canyon. Make sure to be polite to locals who live in the communities in and around the canyon. And, don’t even dream of littering!
We’d like to keep this guide as up-to-date as possible for you. Please let us know in the comments if any of our information needs to be updated. Thanks in advance!
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