After spending some days in Arequipa, we decided to go to the Colca Canyon to undertake a 3 days trek. Every agency in Arequipa proposes this trek, but we prefered to organize it by ourselves as it offers more freedom and the price is a lot more reasonable! For this trip, we were with our friends met during the Santa Cruz Trek: Jin, Kuan and Sue.
We all took a collectivo at 11:00am from Cusco and after a 7 hours bus trip involving one of our tires taking fire, we finally arrived in Cabanaconde, the starting point of our trek. We randomly found a hostel and went to the Main Square for diner before heading to our room for an early night. Our plan was to spend two nights in the Canyon: the first one in Llahuar and the second one either in Sangalle (the Oasis) or in San Juan. Like for the Santa Cruz trek, we had a couple of dogs who did the whole trek with us – one of them actually slept in our room every night 🙂
Day 1 – 4 hours
I had started to feel dizzy and cold in my bed on the previous night and when I woke up this morning, I had fever… Not the best physical conditions to start the trek! Luckily, the way was mainly downhill for the first day as we went from Cabanaconde at the top of the Canyon to Llahuar, a small village located at the bottom of the Canyon, close to the river.
We started to walk around 06:45 am: placing one foot before the other required a lot of concentration and I felt really weak. Still the beautiful views on the canyon and the idea of falling soon on my bed kept me going at the slow but steady pace! We arrived after 5 walking hours at Llhahuar, but we were slower due to my condition – I guess it would have normally taken around 4 hours to get there.
Once in Llahuar, there are two hotels at your disposal: one at the top of the hill next to the restaurant, the other one next to the river. We went for the lowest one as it was closer to the hot springs and the river! Kai spent the whole afternoon chilling by the river and in the hot springs and I joined him after a couple of sleeping hours.
The diner was probably the richest in carbohydrates we had in our whole life! It started with a potatoes & noodles soup and the main dish consisted rice with quinoa and… potatoes croquettes! After this very light meal, we headed early to our beds.
Day 2 – 4,5 hours
We started walking around 07:00am and took the direction of the Oasis as San Juan was a little bit further and I was still feeling relatively weak. One advice for this part: take the “shortcuts”! There are not necessarily shorter, but they lead through small villages and it is so much nicer than walking on the road! We actually had a lot of fun on the first part of this day – we spent around 2 hours and a half going up the mountain on a small trail between many cactus!
After this uphill part, we walked for about 1 hour on the flat road and had a nice break on the top of the Canyon. Finally, we had to go back to the bottom of the Canyon where Sangalle (the Oasis) is located. The way down is really steep at the beginning, so mind your steps. After one hour, we finally arrived in Sangalle where we went for the first hotel on the left: indeed, based on Kai’s analysis from the top of the Canyon, this hotel had the best shaped swimming pool!
We again spent a very active afternoon between the swimming pool, the bar and the sun lounger! We had pasta for diner, which really pleased my stomach 😉
Day 3 – 3 hours
We had seen on the previous day the way we needed to take in order to go back to Cabanaconde and it looked bad – it is marked on orange on the picture below, and you can only see approximately half of the way up on the picture!
So we decided to leave early in order to avoid the hot hours as the sun shines pretty hard in the Canyon! We started walking at 06:00am, after filling our bottles with water. While heading out, we passed a group of donkeys and tourists which were preparing to leave in direction of Cabanaconde as well. Sadly Mean Dog, our nightly room companion, decided to stay with them instead of joining us for the last trip – we should have named him Lazzy Dog!
It was a really good decision to leave this early, as we were able to manage most of the climb outside direct sunshine and thus in agreeable temperatures. The climb was steep, but with several pauses we managed to arrive around 08:45 at the top of the cliff and took some final Colca Canyon pictures as well as a deserved break.
From there on it was another 15 minutes hike over mostly flat terrain towards Cabanaconde, where we arrived at 09:30. After buying our tickets for the return bus to Arequipa, we decided to go for a breakfast at the same restaurant we ate our dinner on the first day. Everybody got some rice with fried eggs and we passed our time chatting and eating until the bus departed.
Cusco – Cabanaconde
To go to the Colca Canyon, you can take a collectivo from the Bus terminal in Cusco. The trip takes 6 to 7 hours. We went with the bus company Reyna and paid 14 soles per person.
Cabanaconde – Cusco
We took a collectivo with the company Milagros at 11:30am from Cabanaconde and arrived at 06:45pm in Arequipa after much traffic jams. Price: 14 soles per person.
Accomodation in Cabanaconde: 40 soles per night
Accomodation in Llahuar: 20 soles per person for a double room with shared bathroom. Only available diner: 10 soles per person
Accomodation in Sangalle: 25 soles per person. Diner: 15 soles per person