Depending on how it’s measured, Colca Canyon is said to be the world’s second deepest canyon–twice as deep as Arizona’s Grand Canyon. We trekked all the way into it, and out again the next morning. Although I was the last one in my group, I thought my 2:45 to climb up 1,300 vertical meters wasn’t too bad. Add to that the very dry air and the low oxygen level of the high altitude and you’ve got yourself one tough two-day hike.
The Colca Canyon is spectacular. Nearly the entire way, you’ve got a great view of the canyon. The blooming wildflowers and several species of cacti make the micro view interesting as well. The most popular trail starts just outside Carbanaconde and leads about 18 km down to Sangalle, the riverside oasis at the bottom of the canyon. Although few people do so, the Colca Canyon is possible to trek independently, using public transport to get to the starting point. Although this may take you a little longer to navigate. It’s also worth noting that it’s safe to hike here, with little threat of mugging that may occur elsewhere in Peru. The people in the villages along the way are quite friendly to outsiders. We used Peru Andes Expedition which was coordinated through our PeruHop bus service.
The shortest way into Colca is a three-hour journey from the beautiful colonial city of Arequipa. Most tour agencies offer treks that begin with van service from Arequipa. Two-day treks start at about $40 US. Tours of the canyon without trekking are also available and probably more popular.
Here are some of my favorite shots from trekking Colca Canyon:
Make sure to stop at La Cruz del Condor along the road from Chivay to Cabanaconde. It’s the best place to spot the majestic Andean Condor.