Strolling around the beautiful city of Arequipa the amount of agencies offering Colca Canyon tours is astounding. A five-day guided tour can cost you anywhere from $250USD. However I’m going to let you in on a little secret. It’s really easy to hike the colca canyon without a guide. And it’s actually better. You can take the canyon at your own pace, visit many other places the tours don’t take you. And you’ll save a stack of money. Here’s how I took a 6-day DIY Colca Canyon tour for less than 120 bucks!
Day 1 | Arequipa – Chivay
Head to the Terrestre bus station and take the 9:30 bus to Chivay. It will take you about 4 hours. Getting you there at the perfect time for lunch. After lunch grab a taxi (1 sole per person) to the hot springs (La camera). Entry will set you back 15 soles per person.
The hot springs feel really natural and very sulphuric (read – they stink). Gringos can only use pools one, two and five. While locals are free to check them all out. I’d recommend starting with the hottest (five) followed by one, and finishing with the coolest, two.
Finish your relaxing afternoon with a delicious meal in town. We went for the local Italian, which we were glad of as we were about to eat a hell of a lot of authentic Peruvian food.
Please note you can also change up this itinerary, and finish with the hot springs. Which would be a really relaxing way to finish off your Colca Canyon trek.
QUICK FACTS: DAILY BUDGET: $25USD
Day 2 | Chivay – Llahuar
As terrible as it sounds I highly recommend getting up bright and early to catch the 4am bus to Cruz Del Condor. The Condors are in flight from 8am – 10am and the bus ride (which stops multiple times to let locals on and off) will take around 2 – 2.5 hours and will set you back 5 soles.
From here you can either walk down to Cabanaconde (an easy 2 hour down-hill hike). Or you can catch a lift with one of the local shuttles (for 2 soles – needless to say, we took the lift).
After a quick breakfast in Cabanadonde it’s time to start the 5 hour trek downhill to Llahuar Colca Canyon. The earlier you start the better as the sun from about 11 is scorching are really zaps you of energy.
Luckily once you reach the bottom you can spend the afternoon relaxing in the hot springs that are part of Llahuar Lodge. I’d also recommend staying here as the beds are comfortable and the meals are yummy.
QUICK FACTS: DAILY BUDGET: $20USD | HIKE TIME: 5 hours | HIKE LEVEL: Medium/hard | ACCOMODATION: Llahuar Lodge Colca Canyon (15 – 20 soles per person)
Day 3 | Llahuar – Fure
Get up early for a 6:30am pancake breakfast (10 soles) at Llahuar Lodge and hit the road by 7am for the hike to Fure. The hike can be split into two parts to for ease of navigation. First, head to Llatica (A 1.5 hour easy mostly downhill hike from Llahuar Colca Canyon). Grab a snack in Llatica or stop for a drink by the bridge. Once you cross the bridge head left following the sign to Huaruro waterfall.
Now I have to warn you. This was probably one of the worst stretches of our Colca Canyon hike. It’s all uphill and you’re bush bashing through tonnes of flowers and vines getting attacked by big black bees. We did stop a few times and wonder whether we’d taken a wrong turn. But stick with it, eventually you’ll come out on the main path to Fure and find the little town about 10 minutes on.
There are a couple of hostels in Fure, we stayed at the 2nd one, further down the hill (15 sole per person). And experienced some of the best views from our hostel window I’ve ever seen. After a spot of lunch (10 soles) we set off for the main attraction of the town – Huaruro waterfall. Again this was another tough, confusing hike. It’s one of those walks where you think the waterfall is going to be around every corner but it’s not. It should take you about 1.5 hours to reach it and there’s a lovely rock to sit on and soak up the view.
Finish off your day with a quick dinner at the hostel (10 soles) and jump into bed early. Make sure you rug up. As it’s at the top of the canyon it can get cold at night.
QUICK FACTS: DAILY BUDGET: $15USD | HIKE TIME: 5 hours | HIKE LEVEL: Medium/hard
Day 4 | Fure – Sangalle
Sangalle seems to be one of the most polarising locations on the Colca Canyon tour. It seemed everyone in Arequipa believed it was too touristy and warned us not to visit. I’ll let you decide for yourself. But hiking into what the locals call ‘The Oasis’ was like walking up to the gates of heaven after 4 days of hiking the Colca Canyon.
We started the morning early again with a 6:30 breakfast (pancakes yet again) and were on the road by 7. From here the hike is pretty easy. After 1.5 hours you’ll hit a road. Follow that road for 1 hour and as you’re walking you’ll be able to see the two paths down the canyon to Sangalle. Take the first path. It’s unsigned apart from a large rock, but if you miss it, you’ll have to walk all the to Malata (another 30 minutes)
From this point, it’s 1.5 hours down to Sangalle. Halfway down there is a man selling supplies – water, Gatorade, beer etc. These are all at half the price of what it costs in Sangalle. And you’re about 30 mins away from ‘The Oasis’ so I’d recommend buying whatever you think you can carry. Finally, you’ll reach the paradise of Sangalle! Spend the afternoon lying by the pool and treat yourselves to a few cold beers/pisco sours in the evening. I have to say this was one of my favourite parts of our DIY Colca Canyon tour. We stayed at the second hostel, which was the best choice as there weren’t too many tourists and the food was filling and delicious.
QUICK FACTS: DAILY BUDGET: $20USD + however many beers you have | HIKE TIME: 4 hours | HIKE LEVEL: Easy/medium
Day 5 | Sangalle
Once we got to Sangalle we didn’t want to leave, so we spent an extra day poolside lapping up the sun. I highly recommend a good rest day before hiking back up the canyon. It’s the perfect place to chill out after your Colca Canyon tour.
QUICK FACTS: DAILY BUDGET: $15USD + however many beers you have
Day 6 | Sangalle – Cabanaconde
You’ll be glad you had your rest yesterday as it’s an early morning start. I’m talking 5 am. To embark on the 3-hour tough climb back up to finish your Colca Canyon tour. If you leave at this time you’ll miss most of the sun. Which according to all accounts can be absolutely hellish if you get caught in it. The climb up the canyon is steep and arduous, so make sure you take plenty of water. And watch out for people on mules on their way up.
Once you reach Cabanaconde you’ll have time for a quick breakfast before jumping on the 9 am bus (17 soles) back to Arequipa.
QUICK FACTS: DAILY BUDGET: $20USD | HIKE TIME: 3 hours | HIKE LEVEL: Hard
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