3-day, 2-night trek at the world's second-deepest canyon
Are you touring around Peru with you're own vehicle and are wanting to hike the Colca Canyon? Here is your complete guide with costs*, accommodation, where to store your vehicle, and everything you should know before starting.
*Disclaimer: cost will depend on accommodation, food, drink, snacks (and anything else you purchase), as well as the exchange rate.
Table of Contents
2. How to Get to Colca Canyon
1. Quick Glance
Time: 3 days, 2 nights
Trail: Loop (Cabanaconde-Llahuar-Sangalle (Oasis)-Cabanaconde)
What to bring: 2L water, snacks, electrolytes, hiking poles, a hat, and sunscreen.
Elevation: Starts at ~3287m, descends to ~2100m, and back up
Other information: Very little shade, limited internet until you get to your accommodation, there are shops to buy things at but make sure you have enough to make it for a few hours, bring cash.
2. How to Get to Colca Canyon
There are a few options on how to get to the Colca Canyon. These involve driving yourself there, taking a tour, or using public transport. I will specifically only talk about driving there with your own vehicle.
On Your Own:
If you have your own vehicle/van, driving from Arequipa to Cabanaconde is fairly straightforward but the road gets quite windy, you'll pass an elevation of 4900m (which we had engine issues going back to Arequipa) and there are limited gas stations/restaurants between Arequipa and Chivay (an hour from Cabanaconde).
It is about a 4-6 hour drive (depending on traffic and how your vehicle does with the elevation) to Cabanaconde. Make sure to fuel up and take snacks before you leave Arequipa. There are a couple of places to pull over and rest and a few points of interest you can stop at.
Chivay is a small town, an hour from Cabanaconde which has a gas station (cash only), restaurants, and shops to pick up anything. The streets are super narrow and our van felt like it just fit! There is also accommodation if you need to stay overnight.
The road from Chivay to Cabanaconde is not in the best condition and it is half pavement and half gravel. Not something we were expecting. If you do not make it all the way to Cabanaconde, you can park and sleep at Mirador del Cruz Parking Lot (which is what we did) for free. The parking lot is big with a lot of space. The bathrooms close around 4 pm and do not open again till 7:30/8 am.
Mirador del Cruz Parking lot where you can park and stay overnight
If you make it to Cabanaconde and need a place to stay and store your vehicle, Hospedaje Arum Qurpawasi (hostel) has rooms and charges S/. 10/night to store your vehicle and allows you to use their shower after the hike (and it's proper hot!). You park your vehicle behind a locked metal gate and it can fit about 2 vans.
With a Tour or Using Public Transport
There are many tour options in Arequipa you can choose from or you can take public transport. Just keep in mind that both options may be an early start (leaving Arequipa at 3 am).
Unfortunately, there is limited transport once you're at the Colca Canyon to continue on to another town. Most require you to go back to Arequipa and then go. There is a 4M bus that goes from Chivary to Cusco or Puno but it only leaves on specific days, it is expensive and after reading reviews, it may cancel if there aren't enough people. Here is their website if you want to check them out but I would suggest going back to Arequipa.
3. Trail Information for Colca Canyon
Welcome to the world's second-deepest canyon! And with that, your knees will feel that descend. Hiking the Colca Canyon has a few different options from 1-day hikes to multi-day hikes, depending on how long you have.
There are 3 entrances: one leading to Llahuar, one to Sangalle Oasis, and one towards San Juan De Chuccho. There is an entrance fee and somebody will be standing at each entrance collecting it. It cost S/. 70 (cash). Which entrance you start at depends on your trail route (I heard the 'easiest' descent and ascend loop is to start at Cabanaconde and go down towards Llahuar and then come back up from San Juan De Chuccho to Cabanaconde)
There's accommodation along the way that serves food and drinks (extra cost) as well as a few little shops along the way you can buy some items from. You can also camp if you want to carry the extra gear. Make sure to stock up on food and snacks in Cabanaconde before you leave.
You will be hiking anywhere from 4-6 hours, 5-15kms/day. There is very little shade on this trail, getting the most shade from the mountains in the morning. Saying that it is best to start as early as you can and wear a hat and sunscreen.
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4. 3-Day Itinerary
Day 1: Cabanaconde-Llahuar (10.5km, 4-6 hrs)
Distance: 10.5 km | Time: 4-6 hours | Elevation: 1187m elevation lost | Cost: S/. 152 ($39.70 USD)
Start this day as early as possible as you will be in the sun the whole time and there are only a few spots with shade. Wear a hat and bring sunscreen. Pick up any snacks, food, water, or anything else you need before leaving Cabanaconde as the next little shop is just before Llahuar.
If you don't have hiking sticks, I would highly recommend renting some (I read Pachamama Hostel in Cabanaconde rents them or rent them in Arequipa if you will be traveling back to it) or getting a stick to help with the 1200m descend.
Colca Canyon Entrance Ticket: You will pass a checkpoint where you will need to pay S/. 70 (cash) for a ticket to enter the canyon. Make sure to keep it as you may need to show proof later (once we had the ticket, we didn't have to show it again).
Meals: Pick up something in Cabanaconde before you leave. There are restaurants or some shops that sell cheese and bread for a quick meal to go. Your next meal option will be at your accommodation in Llahuar.
Supper: S/. 28
Drinks: Beer-S/.13, Pisco Sour-S/. 10
Water: S/. 6
Accommodation: there are a few options in Llahuar to stay but most stay at Llahuar Lodge as it's the first building you arrive at. They have hot springs to enjoy, WIFI, and have rooms with either a double bed, 2 twins, or a triplet room with shared bathrooms (with showers that run on solar panels-I highly recommend showering when you arrive to get a little bit of hot water) or they have a space where you can camp at. Depending on what season you go in, a booking may be required. We went at the end of August and we just showed up and got a room. They also have a supper menu with different options (vegetarian available) and prices. If you decide to eat supper there, you need to let them know by 5 pm and supper is at 7:30 pm. They also sell some simple snacks and drinks.
Twin Room: S/.50 (S/. 25 each)
Accommodation at Llahuar Lodge on the Colca Canyon hike
Day 2: Llahuar to Sangalle
Distance: ~14.5 km | Time: 4-6 hours | Highest Elevation: 2787m (~687 elevation gain) | Cost: S/.68 ($17.75 USD)
We initially wanted to hike to San Juan de Chuccho but we could see the pools at Sangalle and they were calling our names. Again, an early start is necessary to try and beat the afternoon heat.
For the majority of this section, we just followed the road. The map on AllTrails shows the trail alongside the road. I would recommend just following the road as it seemed like the trail was a bit overgrown. Do be careful as there are cars that come up and down the road.
The road does have some up-and-down sections but the real descent starts when you go down to Sangalle. You will pass through a 'cactus farm' where there is a local who has a shop that sells snacks and drinks.
Meals: Llahuar Lodge serves a simple breakfast of 2 pancakes with tea/coffee. You can purchase extra pancakes for S/. 5 each. For lunch, I brought some snacks to eat, and for supper, we ate at our lodging in Sangalle.
Breakfast: S/. 10
Supper: S/. 20
Breakfast at Llahuar Lodge; supper at Jardin el Eden
Accommodation: Sangalle has a few lodging options from basic to 'luxury' (as luxury as you can get on a hike), and most have a pool (some can even be booked online). We stayed at Jardin el Eden which is the first place you walk into. We stayed in a very basic dorm room that doubled as a storage room. It had 7 beds with basic showers and bathrooms that are shared. *If you're not used to staying in very basic accommodation, this might not be the place for you. Check the rooms first before you pay. If they aren't up to your standard, check out a different guest house.* They did have WIFI, snacks, and meals to buy. Their meal at supper is the same for everyone (vegetarian option) and it is served at 7:30 pm. Their shower is more a cold shower, I would recommend showering when it's still daylight.
Dorm Room: S/.25 each
Dorm room and pool at Jardin el Eden
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Day 3: Sangalle to Cabanaconde
Distance: 5 km | Time: 3-4 hours | Highest Elevation: 3287 m (~1034 m elevation gain) | Cost: S/. 20 ($5.22 USD)
It is only 5 km but you will gain an elevation of over 1000 m. Go slow, take your time, and hydrate when you need to. It is also a good idea to start early on this trail. Do be aware that mules will also be using this trail to bring people back up to Cabanaconde.
When you reach the top at the ticket entrance, there's a little shop to buy snacks and drinks at. After that, it's only a short walk back to Cabanaconde if you want to eat at a restaurant.
Meals: Jardin el Eden served a very basic breakfast with 2 pieces of bread, jam, coffee, and tea.
Breakfast: S/. 10
Parking: We parked at Hospedaje Arum Qurpawasi which charged S/. 10/night to store the vehicle, along with a hot shower when we got back.
Parking: S/. 20 (S/. 10 each)
TOTAL COST OF 3D/2N COLCA CANYON: S/. 240 ($62.18 USD)
The total cost of this trek was S/. 240 or $62.18 USD. This is just a rough estimate of how much to budget. Depending on accommodation preference, food, snacks, etc, it might be more or less. This does not take into consideration accommodation/food you might have needed/bought before starting the trek.
There is no internet for most of the hike until you get to a guesthouse.
Trekking poles are a must to help save your knees!
Bring cash. Stop at an ATM in Arequipa before leaving.
Bring extra socks and change them as soon as they get wet or you will get blisters.
There are only a few shops along the way, make sure to have enough snacks for the day.
Bring water tablets or a filtration system.
Bring a towel as not all accommodation supplies it.
Bring a hat and sunscreen as there's limited shade.
Fill up or buy water from your accommodation before heading out.
It still gets cold at night, bring a thin long sleeve with you.
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