At over 3km deep the Colca Canyon is one of the deepest canyons in the world. Trekking into the its depths takes you through multiple ecosystems and environments and is an experience many backpackers in Peru look to do. There’s plenty of tours available from Arequipa which will happily take you into the Canyon, but a self-guided Colca Canyon hike is much more of an adventure.
There are numerous different paths in the Colca Canyon which can be explored in anything from 1-5 days. One of the most popular and accessibly places to start a Colca Canyon hike is in Cabanaconde. Here we will explain the route we took for our 3 day self-guided Colca Canyon hike.
From Cabanaconde head out of town towards the west, past the school towards Mirador Achachilhua. If you are in Cabanaconde looking towards the Canyon then this will be on your left. Continue down this path as it skirts the rim of the canyon and then starts zigzagging downhill into the canyon. The path crosses over a small river and then continues downhill. There aren’t any other paths so you can’t go wrong, just keep going downhill.
When the path merges with the road you can either follow the road to the bottom of the canyon or continue down the path (we missed this path though). When you reach the base of the canyon cross over the bridge and turn left. Follow the road uphill for around 750m. As the road turns right there is a path on the left. Take this path through a small village down to another river. Cross the river and enter Llahuar, where you will spend your first night on the Colca Canyon hike.
We stayed in Llahuar Lodge which was probably our favourite place in the Colca Canyon. The food and accommodation is cheap and basic, but what makes Llahuar are the hot springs. There are 2 pools right by the river with water from the hot springs continuously running into them. They are PROPERLY hot and the perfect place to chill out in and soak your feet after a long day hiking!
Leave Llahuar the same way you entered across the river. When you reach the road turn left and head uphill.
There are a few different routes you can take to the Oasis de Sangalle. The safest route is to continue along the road for around 6km until you see a signpost to the right for Oasis de Sangalle. We took this route and only passed 3 cars all day so it’s quite pleasant and easier than the other route.
If you are feeling more adventurous when you get to Paclla you can take the footpath to the left. You can either follow this up until it rejoins the road or take the path higher to the footpath which runs above but parallel to the road until it comes down and rejoins the road at Mirador Apacheta.
After rejoining the road continue until you see a signpost to the right for Oasis de Sangalle. Take this footpath and follow it all the way down into the Canyon until you reach Oasis de Sangalle.
We were tired and stopped at the first place we saw; Oasis Paraiso Ecolodge. The accommodation was cheap and cheerful, the food was reasonable and hearty and the natural water pools were delightful to relax in.
The final day is the hardest day of the Colca Canyon hike as you have to hike out. It’s hard, but we were pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t as horrendous as we anticipated.
From Oasis de Sangalle take the footpath up the hill and follow it as it zig-zags back up the slopes of the canyon side until you arrive in Cabanaconde.
We stayed in La Casa de Santiago, which was delightful! It isn’t the cheapest hostel but it was really quite luxurious. We had a gorgeous room with an en suite and spent the afternoon reading in the sunshine in the courtyard. The food in the restaurant was also exceptional!
Because there are so many lovely hostels offering food, drink and lodgings you really don’t need to bring much with you. We only took one small backpack between the two of us.
Water is available to buy in each of the hostels, or you can purify your own. Note that there aren’t many streams or springs en route so carry what you will need for the whole day until you reach the next hostel.
There are two direct tourist buses from Puno to Chivay. The cheapest is with Ruta del Sur (60 sol pp, 6 hours). We took this tour and were the only people on the bus! But it was pretty comfy and efficient. Tickets can be bought from … on Jr. Lima.
There are buses around 4 times a day from Chivay which cost 5 sol and take 2-3 hours. They are often really overcrowded so make sure you get in the queue early!
Alternatively hop in a collective from Chivay which leaves whenever they are full for 15 sol pp.
Buses leave Arequipa from ‘Terminal Terrestre de Arequipa’ 4 times daily for Cabanaconde and more regularly for Chivay.
If you only have 2 days to spend on a Colca Canyon hike then consider hiking straight down into the canyon from Cabanaconde to Oasis de Sangallle and then back out the following day.
We are Nic and Kingsley… we married and now we are Kic (sic). We are currently taking some time out of our busy careers to travel Central and South America. This blog will detail our adventures from the volcanoes of Nicaragua down to the mountains of Peru. Hope you enjoy reading and let us know what you think!