The Colca Canyon is part of every round trip in the south of Peru. Rightly so! The deepest canyon in the world has amazing views with straight walls, green villages and rock formations in all colours, while the mighty condors circle gracefully above the gorge. Hiking in the Colca Canyon without a guide or a tour is easy to do. Moreover, the freedom to decide your own pace and program is an absolute added value. The only condition is a good physical health. We walked three days in the Colca Canyon and are happy to provide you with all the information to do this beautiful hike when you go to Peru.
Cabanaconde is the starting point for all walks in the Colca Canyon. From here you can take one or two-day walks, although at least three days are recommended to enjoy the beautiful nature. We walked the three day hike Cabanaconde - San Juan de Chucho - Llahuar - Cabanaconde. A circuit of 33 kilometers with 2,300 altimeters.
Day 1: Cabana round to San Juan de Chucho | 9 kilometers | 4 hours From Cabanaconde you descend more than a thousand meters to the bottom of the canyon where a green-blue river flows. It is an intensive walk for the knees with the burning sun full on the face. From above you can see the winding mountain path descend deep down. The reward is great when you finally arrive in San Juan de Chucho. It is a collection of small guesthouses in a green oasis where only the sound of the wild river and the chirping birds resound.
Day 2: San Juan de Chucho to Llahuar | 11 kilometers | 5 hours On the second day you climb along green fields and constructed water channels out of the green oasis. You pass two small villages and climb higher and higher into the gorge to 2,800 meters. Then you descend back to the river and finally arrive in Llahuar where natural hot springs wait as the perfect reward for the legs.
Day 3: Llahuar to Cabanaconde | 11.5 kilometers | 5 hours The last stage is the toughest because you climb out of the canyon and you have to climb nearly 1,500 meters. The route is beautiful and the beauty of the canyon continues to amaze with every meter you climb. It is a steep climb where you will feel the altitude above 3,000 meters. However, these are the last steps of the beautiful hike.
The walk is also possible in the other direction, although we recommend our route. The hot springs are a nice reward on the second day, and the climb to Cabanaconde is less heavy from Llahuar than from San Juan de Chucho. The following map shows our route and all the usefull information.
In almost all villages there are small guesthouses to stay and they are very cheap. Reservations are not necessary because even in high season there is space enough. In San Juan de Chucho we slept in Posada Gloria (10 soles | € 2.50 pp), while in Llahuar we opted for Casa de Virginia (15 soles | € 4 pp, including hot springs). This is absolutely recommended compared to the touristic and busy Llahuar Lodge. It is also possible to bring your own tent. Most of the guesthouses have a beautiful garden where you can pitch your tent for a couple of soles. And there are plenty of beautiful spots for wild camping in the canyon.
You can get breakfast, lunch and dinner in the guesthouses. Breakfast costs 8 soles (€ 2) and are often pancakes, while a lunch or dinner costs 10 soles (€ 2.5). For this you get a plate of soup, a main course, a cup of tea and sometimes a desert. In the guesthouses is sometimes (old) bread available and some snacks and soft drinks. The water from the tap and the rivers is not drinkable, but there is water for sale everywhere. We carried our Care Plus water filter and thus always had purified drinking water from every tap.
In Peru there is a rainy season in the summer (December to February). It rains a lot with hazards on mudslides and falling rocks in the canyon. In the Peruvian winter, on the other hand, the climate is ideal. During the day it is warm and even hot in the sun. In the evening it cools down and you need a sweater and jacket. And there are hardly any mosquitoes in this period!
Arequipa is the base for the Colca Canyon, although it is a long bus ride. The cheapest option is the local bus that leaves from the bus terminal in Arequipa. The bus goes directly to Cabanaconde and takes between five and six hours depending on the traffic. Along the way you climb over a pass of almost 5,000 meters and you will feel the altitude in your head. This bus costs 17 soles (€ 4.5) and there are three companies offering the connection: Milagros, Reyna and Andalucia. You can simply buy your ticket on arrival at the terminal.
On the last walking day you have to be back in Cabanaconde before 2 pm, because then the last bus leaves for Arequipa. This bus is very popular so the earlier you arrive in Cabanaconde, the best chance you have to get a ticket.
From Cuzco there is a tourist bus that goes directly to Cabanaconde. This costs around € 45 per person, but it saves a lot of time. However, it does not run every day and must be booked in advance.