I feel ashamed for the time that has passed since my previous blog post, but hey, time flies when you’re having fun (and suddenly have obligations again when you’re back from holidays).
So, picking up where we left: after enjoying two must do’s in Arequipa, Lucas and I were excited to explore world’s second-deepest canyon, Colca Canyon. You wouldn’t say, but the Grand Canyon is not the biggest, it’s actually ranked third. Cotahuasi Canyon in Peru is the deepest, followed by Colca Canyon that is twice as deep as the Grand Canyon. You can join a tour group to hike through the canyon, but it’s as easy to organize it yourself, as we did. Nevertheless, we lacked some information upon arrival (and changed plans drastically), so are dedicated to share.
The Canyon and its sights
The Upper Canyon is actually still a valley. It’s less visited, but definitely worth the stop at the viewpoint that offers an amazing sight of pre-Inca terraces. The traditional town Chivay is located in the Middle Canyon which is easy accessible and very popular among tourists. Do not miss Cruz del Cóndor, where you might be lucky – depending on season and weather – to spot Andean condors. The best time to visit is during dry season, between 8 am and 10 am. It’s beyond magical to see them glide effortlessly on thermal air rising from the canyon, combined with a view to kill. The Lower Canyon, the deepest point where Cabanaconde is located, offers the true canyon experience: less tourists, more authenticity. It is the perfect starting point for different hikes.
The most popular hikes start in Chivay or Cabanaconde. In Chivay you have two options: go northeast to the villages of Tuti and Sibayo, or go west to the villages of Coporaque, Ichupampa, Lari and Madrigal. In Cabanaconde, most hikes lead to Sangalle, a picture-perfect oasis that contrasts perfectly with the raw scenery of the canyon. There are a couple of options for trekking to Sangalle:
Short option: 3-hour steep hike zig-zagging down from Cabanaconde to Sangalle
Long option: 3,5-hour hike from Cabanaconde to the village of San Juan, followed by a 2,5-hour hike to Sangalle via the villages of Cosnirhua and Malata. You can also add the optional 2-hour hike from San Juan to Tapay and back to Cosnirhua where you continue to Sangalle via Malata
Longest option: 4,5-hour hike from Cabanaconde to Llahuar, followed by a 4-hour hike to Sangalle via the village of Paccla
Most people do one of the above hikes to Sangalle in one day, relax and sleep in the oasis and return back to Cabanaconde on the second day via the short option.
Location & Transportation
Colca Canyon is part of the well-known Gringo Trail. Getting there and away is the most convenient via Arequipa, also if you come from / go to Cusco or Puno. From Cusco it’s very complicated and therefore not recommended, from Puno it’s cheaper to go via Arequipa, although you can win some hours by taking a direct bus with 4M Express. Both public transport and tourist buses get you easily from Colca Canyon to Arequipa and vice versa.
Most tourist buses from Arequipa to Colca Canyon leave early in the morning (3 am, auch) and stop at the different viewpoints, including Cruz del Cóndor. Most tourist buses back to Arequipa leave once a day at 10 am and stop at the hot springs of Yanque and Patapampa Andes Viewpoint.
At the entrance to Chivay or in Cabanaconde you (as a foreigner) need to buy a boleto turístico, which is 70 soles (+/- 19 EUR, +/- 21 USD). Carry the ticket always with you as it could be checked.
We hope it helps! If any questions, don’t hesitate getting in touch. Good luck!