Colca Canyon Hiking, Peru

Colca Canyon overview, Peru

Colca Canyon overview, photo by Jim Stevenson.

How to hike Colca Canyon

Most tourists do the Colca Canyon trip over a couple of days, with about 5 hours in the canyon (trekking is spectacular) and only an hour at Cruz del Condor, staying in the canyon for one night. Picking up a package in Arequipa is easy or just take a local bus if you have plenty of time.
Cabanaconde is a good town to stay over and do some proper hikes; a local bus takes about 5 hours to get there.

If you have to do it in one day it’s a lot of travel time: you leave Arequipa about 3 am and drive for 5-6 hours straight to Cruz Del Condor to probably see some condors. After that you will drive back, stopping off at some interesting viewpoints and towns along the way and then arriving in Arequipa by 8 pm.

Jim Stevenson decided to do a three day walk, which was tough but very satisfying!

Hikers start off down into Colca Canyon on a long and dusty walk, Peru

Hikers start off down into the Canyon on a long and sweaty walk. Photo by Jim Stevenson.

Colca Canyon Views

An Andean Condor in flight over their favourite hunting ground, Colca Canyon, Peru

An Andean Condor in flight over their favourite hunting ground, Colca Canyon. Photo by Martin St-Amant.

Mirador la Cruz del Condor, at Colca Canyon, near Arequipa, Peru

And this is the place to watch condors cruise by Mirador la Cruz del Condor, at Colca. Photo by Elemaki.

Colca's zig-zag trails and Inca terracing, Colca Canyon, Peru

A first sight of Colca’s zig-zag trails and Inca terracing that Jim spent 3 days sweating on, photo by Jim Stevenson.

Colca Canyon 3 day hike, November

Jim: “Colca Canyon can be done in a two day one night hike where you hike down to a camp with spring swimming pools and then exit the next morning by a very steep hike up what seems like a thousand steps, very tough, people not making it out order donkey assistance.
Its very hot and dry here, 40C plus. We did the longer hike around the inside of the canyon for 3 days 2 nights. Very tough. You have to ask to do this and you can no longer enter the canyon without a guide as still people die here from steep falls. All sheep trails are vertical. You spend a lot of time try trying to get a decent footing.

Coshnirwa village in Colca Canyon, Peru

Coshnirwa village in the canyon.

You just bring a light overnight bag for this, first night you stay with local family who have hot spring pools at there house along the river bed. We were only asked if we wanted to try the 3 day trek because another couple who trek all over the world wanted a hard hike. The man found this one OTT and soon became sick with vertigo, heat, lack of air and steep climbs.
The guide was awesome though showed us what foods we could eat, plants to heal cuts and sicknesses. He was like Peruvian Macguyver. We saw no other hikers until the second night when you meet up with everyone doing the two day hike down to canyon base.
Easily drinking 9 to 10 liters of water a day. You also see a lot of condors. There is nowhere to take breaks out of the sun, never sweated so much in my life”.

Jim: the 3 day hike is really worth it if you want a proper walk, no tourists, great isolated place to stay beside the river on first night.
The walk at the end of the second day down through the oasis is beautiful. You have a great feeling of satisfaction when you arrive at the last camp. I know what I wrote makes the hike sound harsh but all the people we talked to loved the canyon hike, was just letting the fat f***s know its not easy.
No one had a bad word, I think its because the canyon has a lot more to offer than you expect when you start out.
You need to be in good shape for the 3 day hike and don’t expect snack bars on the way. Can’t say the Colca Canyon trek is a hidden gem but we didn’t know about until a Canadian couple told us about it Bolivia, so we decided to do it. Best unplanned part of the trip!

Jim taking a hot bath after an excessive 3 day hike in Colca Canyon, Peru

Jim taking a hot bath during the 3 day hike.

The Oasis at the bottom of Colca Canyon, Peru

The Oasis at the bottom of Colca Canyon, one of the more common, shorter treks. Photo by Steve Bennet.

A traditional two day Colca Canyon hiking itinerary

Day 1
Pick up by minibus 2am – 4am in Arequipa. 4 hour drive to the canyon. First stop is half an hour at Cruz del Condor lookout. At about 9 am start the hike down to the Oasis (photo above), amazing views but quite hard walking for 6 hours but if you’re lucky your Oasis accommodation will have a pool. However, there’s no electricity in the Oasis and beds may be ‘basic’!

Day 2
Wake at 5am and trek back up the canyon for 3 hours. Have breakfast at the top and perhaps jump into a hot spring for a good soak. Drive to Chivay for lunch. Then return to Arequipa around 6pm.

Remember to take essentials such as sun block, hat, bathing suit, towel, torch, toilet paper, band aid for blisters, water and perhaps a walking stick.