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The Colca Canyon. If you plan to visit Arequipa you most likely have your eyes set on this magnificent place. Indeed, being one of the world’s deepest canyons and offering unique opportunities to spot the Andean condor, the Colca Canyon has for decades remained one of the most visited tourist attraction in all of Peru. But is it worth visiting or should you rather spend your precious holidays on some of Peru’s many other tourist attractions? In this post I’ll share the story of my trek in the Colca Canyon and provide tips and information than can help you decide whether you want to add this place to your itinerary.

The Colca Canyon is a prime location for condor spotting.


Let’s start off with some basic facts. The Colca Canyon is a roughly 70km long canyon located 160km northwest of Arequipa, and with a depth of up to 2km it is one of the deepest canyons in the world. If you want to visit the place as a tourist the two most common options are the following. You can either do a day-trip there, returning to Arequipa the same night, or do one of the treks offered by the many tour companies in Arequipa. The most typical trek is an approximately 21km long round-trip, which first takes you downhill into the canyon, crossing the Colca river twice and then back to the top by a steep 2-3 hour climb. It can be completed in either two days (one night sleepover) or three days (two nights sleepover) depending on your fitness. I personally opted for the two day trek, which cost me 160 PEN excluding the entrance fee to the park. The price included transportation to and from Arequipa, professional guides to assist you during the hike as well as meals and accomodation.

The trip commenced at 3am in the early morning hours, where I was picked up at my hostel in Arequipa. Having only slept a few hours, I took advantage of the three hour long drive to to sleep in the car and woke up to the smell of breakfast at our first stop just outside the actual destination. With our bellies well filled we continued into the canyon and made our second stop at the Mirador Cruz del Cóndor – a platform, which provides spectacular views over the ravine and is ideal for spotting condors. Indeed during our 40 minute stop I managed to spot no less than five condors slowly gliding over the canyon in search of prey. 

The Mirador Cruz del Condor – Arequipa


With condors crossed off the check-list we commenced the actual hike starting from the town of Cabaconde sitting at 3278m above sea level. Don’t let the altitude fool you though. The canyon is HOT, and I hiked in just a t-shirt cursing to myself about my bag pack, which be was filled to the brim with clothing for a much colder environment. The scenery was truly spectacular and during the ascent into the canyon we were told interesting things about the local vegetation by our guides. After roughly three hours of walking we stopped at a small village by the riverside, where we were served lunch and had time to relax. The second leg of the journey then consisted of another 3-4 hours of hiking going up and down in elevation and terminating at the small town of Oasis Sangalle, which as the name suggests is a true little oasis in the midst of the dry, rocky scenery of the canyon. Indeed, with its blue swimming pools and palm trees this place looked like something taken out of the Caribbean islands, so I was happy to discover that we were staying here overnight.

Oasis Sangalle


We commenced the last 7km leg of the journey at 5am the next morning. Don’t let the short distance fool you though. While the second day only involves 2-3 hours of hiking it is by far the toughest, as you’ll have to climb back up to where you started through a steep, rocky path. I must admit that I was surprised by the intensity of this last stretch and at points found myself envying those who had paid to be transported by a mule. However, at the top all the struggles felt worth it and sipping a cup of coffee up there while enjoying the sunrise view over the canyon was probably the best part of the whole trek for me. 

So would I recommend trekking the Colca Canyon? Most certainly. With its spectacular views and wild condors I really enjoyed this trek. Because of it’s short length it’s furthermore doable for most ages and physical conditions, so it offers a nice alternative to more demanding treks in Peru such as the Inca trail and Salkantay trek.




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