Colca Canyon is the second deepest canyon in the world and it’s an awesome place for budget-friendly, unguided hiking in Peru. If you don’t have much experience with unguided multi-day hikes, Colca is a great place to start. The hike is well marked and you’ll pass by locals who walk the trails every day and can point you in the right direction if Maps.me fails you. You won’t need to camp because there are cozy hostels in the canyon where you can take in the views from a hammock or relax in a hot tub. You’ll pass through many small villages along the way, some abandoned and some inhabited.
It’s best to start your day early because the sun gets very hot by mid-day and there isn’t much shade on the trail. If you have the energy, there are plenty of alternate routes that pass through the most scenic parts of the canyon.
How to Get to Colca Canyon
Cabanaconde is the town near the start of the trail and there are direct buses from Arequipa’s main terminal. Andalucía bus company has departures at 1:30 AM, 4:00 AM, and 1:00 PM, and the 6-hour ride costs 25 soles (S/).
Where to Spend the Night in Cabanaconde
The owner of Homestay Pachamama is a licensed guide who’s very knowledgeable about the trek. He provides a wonderful map, free breakfast, and luggage storage.
Do I Need to Bring Food and Water?
The hostels along the trail offer breakfast and dinner. I recommend bringing lots of snacks for the day because the hostels in Llahuar don’t sell boxed lunches. There are mini-markets in the villages of Malata, Cosñirhua, and Tapay, but they only sell drinks, cookies, and overripe bananas. You can buy water at hostels (2x normal prices) or fill from the tap, but you’ll need a Steripen or purifying tablets.
Paying the Entrance Fee
There will be someone at the start of the trail in Cabanaconde selling the entrance ticket and it costs S/70.
The Hiking Route
Day 1: Cabanaconde to Llahuar
Day 1 is a rather straightforward descent into the canyon with a few switchbacks and only one tricky part. At the first river crossing, there are two bridges. The bridge to the right is uncrossable and you must follow the main road to the river to cross the other bridge. At a quick pace, you can arrive in Llahuar in 3 hours. From Llahuar, you can carry on a further 90 minutes to the village of Llatica. If you’re really feeling good, the abandoned village of Fure and its waterfalls is another 45-60 minutes away.
The trail from Llatica to Fure is steep and slippery in some parts, so exercise caution. Unless you bring camping gear and food to stay in Fure, you’ll have to backtrack to Llahuar for the night. I packed light, was well acclimated from hiking in Ecuador, and this was a very tough 7.5-hour day.
Where to stay in Llahuar
Casa de Virginia offers private rooms with breakfast included for S/55. There is a hot tub & pool, hammocks, and streaming quality wifi.
Day 2: Llahuar to San Juan de Chuccho
The morning starts with a tough 700-meter ascent to Mirador de Apacheta where you’ll get beautiful views as you round the ridge. 3 hours into the day you’ll pass by the Sangalle Oasis and continue on to the villages of Malata and Cosñirhua. At the end of Cosñirhua, you can turn right to San Juan de Chuccho or left to Tapay.
I highly recommend going to Tapay before ending the day in San Juan de Chuccho. It’s a nice village with sweeping views and a beautiful plaza. The steep ascent to Tapay takes 45-60 minutes. With a visit to Tapay the hiking for the day amounted to 6.5 hours. In San Juan de Chuccho you can buy lunch at Posada Gloria for S/20.
Where to Stay in San Juan de Chuccho
Colibrí Lodge is an excellent choice for a comfy bed and the food is delicious here. Plus, the owner speaks English and is happy to talk about what it’s like living in a tiny village.
Day 3: San Juan de Chuccho to Cabanaconde
The day starts off easy as you descend to the river. Enjoy it while it lasts because the climb out of the canyon is very challenging. The river is at 2,000 meters which means you’ll need to climb 1,200 meters out of the canyon to reach Cabanaconde. The good news is once you reach the top of the canyon, the last 2 km is an easy downhill stroll. In total, it takes 3.5-4.5 hours.
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Transport to Arequipa, Cusco, and Puno
After hiking the Colca Canyon, you’re in for a long bus ride to your next destination in Peru. Buses to Arequipa leave at 6:30 AM and 1:30 PM and you can buy tickets in the main square. If your next stop is Puno or Cusco there are expensive direct tourist buses (>S/150) that leave from Chivay.
The daily bus to Puno leaves at 1:15 PM and to Cusco, it leaves at 7:00 AM three times a week (M, W, F). For the tourist buses, I recommend asking your accommodation in Cabanaconde about the bus schedule to Chivay to ensure you will arrive in time.
Surprisingly, it’s cheaper to take the afternoon bus to Arequipa and an overnight bus to either Puno or Cusco. Although, the road from Arequipa to Puno is horrible, and hitting bumps and potholes every 5 minutes makes it nearly impossible to sleep.
Bookaway is a great resource to secure your seat in advance!
What to Pack
- Hiking boots
- Hiking pants
- Long sleeve shirt
- Shorts/swimsuit for hot tub/pool
- Winter jacket for mornings and night
- Footwear to change into at night
- Bug spray
- Neck gaiter
- Ibuprofen, Bandaids, Imodium
- Power bank
- At least S/400 per person
Where to Next
Arequipa – The “White City” has beautiful architecture and delicious regional food.
Cusco – One of the continent’s gems is a hiker’s paradise full of incredible Inca ruins.
Puno – Spend a night with an indigenous family on one of Lake Titicaca’s islands.
That wraps up the guide to hiking the Colca Canyon in Peru. I wouldn’t say hiking in the canyon is a must for any visit to Peru because the hiking in Cusco and Huaraz is simply more scenic. However, if you plan on spending a few weeks in the country, it’s definitely worth it!