All You Need to Know About a 2-Day Colca Canyon Hike

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Last updated Feb 1, 2023

Colca Canyon is the second deepest canyon in the world and this 2-Day Colca Canyon hike is a perfect way to explore it. Outside of Peru, the canyon may not be as popular but in Peru, and especially in Arequipa, it is a place expected to be visited. Everyone from the hotel check-in clerk to a guy working a sandwich stand at the market has asked us “When are you visiting Colca Canyon?”

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The 2-Day Colca Canyon hike is an amazing adventure to do in Peru, not as popular as Inca Trail. It can be done individually or with a guided tour. It starts with either a public or private transfer from Arequipa to Colca Canyon.

Most visitors come to Arequipa to visit Colca Canyon but don’t underestimate the beauty of Arequipa itself. Sheltered by its three volcanos, “The White City” is full of stunning colonial buildings made of pearly sillar stone and worth exploring.

Things to know about Colca Canyon Hike

CURRENCY – the official currency of Peru is Soles (PEN) and make sure you bring plenty of cash with you – small bills.

ACCOMMODATIONS – the tour company prearranges accommodations. Make sure you state ahead of time if you would like a private room (this means that a private bathroom is part of your accommodations). This upgrade is not included in the cost and is an additional 20 PEN/person.

ALTITUDE – you will not be dealing with Cusco, Salcantay, or Inca Trail altitudes but the hike does start at over 10,000 ft elevation and while driving from Arequipa there is a part of the drive that is over 15,000 ft. Something to keep in mind and get prepared for.

WATER – you are responsible for your own water. There are some spots along the trek where you can buy extra water or other refreshments. I will point them out below. Make sure you stay hydrated. Do not drink tap water in Peru!

LUGGAGE TRANSFER – no luggage transfer. You will need to carry everything you need in your day pack.

WHAT TO PACK – layers. It is cold in the mornings/nights and really hot during the day. Toilet paper, towel, sunscreen, and toiletries. Lightweight sleeping liner if you are worried about bed bugs, we used ours just to be safe, but the bungalow seemed pretty clean.

COST – we booked a trek through Find Local Trips, but the tour operator ended up being Peru Adventures. The trek cost was 225 PEN (~$60) per person. Things that are not included: room with a private toilet, hot springs, second-day buffet lunch, any snacks or refreshments, and tip for your guide.

MEALS – most meals are included in the price of the tour – 2 breakfast, 1 lunch, and 1 dinner. The buffet-style lunch on the day of return is not included in the tour and costs 35 PEN (~$10) per person.

TOILETS AND SHOWERS – carry toilet paper with you. Everywhere you stop it will cost 1 – 2 PEN to use the toilet, some will have toilet paper others will not. The showers are available at the Oasis Ecolodge, you will have to bring your towel and toiletries and you may not have hot water.

For more details about visiting Peru. especially the first-time visitors check out Things to Know About Peru – For the First Time Visitors.

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Colca Canyon Hike Details

Distance: 18 km (11 miles)

Elevation: 1,463 meters (4,800 ft.) descend, 1,433 meters (4,700 ft) ascend

Length: 2 days

Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult

Food and Water: Available on the trail

Lodging: Huts at the Sangalle Oasis

Day 1: Colca Canyon – Oasis Ecolodge

Day 1 starts with the pick-up at your accommodations at 3 AM. Yes, you read it right. And every hotel in town knows this is when visitors to the canyon get picked up. Some hotels even have a to-go lunch bag ready for you.

The drive is 4 hours long and it takes you over some very high elevation, over 15,000 ft. You may experience altitude symptoms during this drive but hopefully, you will be snoozing and not feel much of it at all. Around 7 AM you will arrive in Chivay and have breakfast at one of the local restaurants.

After breakfast, you will make your way to Mirador Cruz Del Condor to get a glimpse of Andean Condors flying over the Colca Canyon. The tour buses try to be there between 8 AM and 9 AM. We stood there for about 30 minutes before seeing any of them and then suddenly they were everywhere.

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By 9:30 am you will arrive at the trailhead. Here you will have an opportunity to use the toilets, apply sunscreen and make a final decision on what you are wearing. Keep in mind it was cold when you got ready at 3 AM, even colder where you had breakfast so you may have some layers on, but the hiking into the canyon can get brutally hot over 30°C (86°F).

Once you are ready, your guide will identify who all is in your group and you will start your descent. The altitude at the rim is 10,830 ft, and Oasis Ecolodge (where you will be spending a night) is at 6,235 ft. You already know the next day is going to be brutal, hiking out of the canyon.

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We were in a group of 6, but our guide was helping with the larger group as well, so he pretty much told us to continue downhill until we get to the first suspension bridge and wait for him there. So, we did.

The trail starts off gradually, then turns into very steep downhill switchbacks. Shade is pretty much nonexistent, and it is essential you remember to drink water, reapply sunscreen or wear protective clothing. The trail is also very narrow, and you need to be very careful when passing someone or if someone is passing you, as you are on the cliff of the canyon and there is not much room for maneuvering.

When you make your way to the bridge, 4300 ft descend from the rim, there may be some vendors selling ‘cold’ drinks and snacks and restrooms you can use. Make sure you carry toilet paper with you.

From the bridge, it is about a 20-minute walk uphill to the lunch place in one of the local villages. Our lunch was soup and lomo slatado with alpaca meat or a vegetarian option.

After lunch the hike continues mostly uphill, hiking through different villages, learning about their way of life and seeing the canyon from the other side. Once at about 8,500 ft elevation, the last push down into the Oasis Sangalle starts and the true meaning of Oasis becomes clear.

Colca Canyon Hike

Oasis Ecolodge has a set of different bamboo bungalows, single beds, and multiple beds as well as private or shared bathrooms. For a private bathroom, it is an additional 20 PEN/person. We sat by the pool with some adult beverages before heading to our rooms to prepare for dinner at 7:30.

Colca Canyon Hike

TIP: Our bungalow had a private bathroom with a sink, toilet, and a shower. Toilet paper was the only thing available, no towels and no toiletries. We also didn’t have any hot water, but some other bungalows did.

For dinner, the soup and pasta pesto dish were served. Make sure you stock up on water and snacks for the next morning’s hike after dinner.

Enjoy the evening and try not to think about the next day’s climb out of the canyon.

Day 2 – Oasis Ecolodge to Colca Canyon Rim

The hike today starts at 5 AM. No breakfast is available until out of the canyon, and it takes approximately 3 hours to get to the rim. It is pitch black at 5 am so make sure you have your headlamp.

The hike starts with brutal switchbacks right off the bat and it doesn’t stop until the end. Today’s hike is pretty gruesome so take your time and hike at your own pace. There is an option of taking a horse at an additional cost but you have to make that decision before starting the hike in the morning. Even if you are not taking a horse, remember that they will be passing you at some point and try to stay on the mountainside when they do.

As the sun starts appearing the colors in the canyon start changing and showing their magic. Take a few breaks to catch your breath and enjoy the view.

Colca Canyon Hike

At the rim, there will be vendors selling refreshments, possibly even avocado sandwiches while waiting for the rest of your group to hike up. Around 8:30 AM, your group will walk to the breakfast place in the local village. The breakfast is pretty basic – bread, butter, jam, eggs, coffee, and tea.

After breakfast you will get on the van and drive to local hot springs, an additional 15 PEN per person to get in, and spend about an hour here. Some people used the hot springs, and others just relaxed in the area. After approximately an hour at the hot springs, you will drive back to Chivay for buffet-style lunch – an additional 35 PEN per person.

TIP: If interested in traveling to Puno, instead of going back to Arequipa, after lunch is where you change buses to Puno – for a visit to Lake Titicaca.

On your way back to Arequipa, depending on the time and weather, you will stop at the viewpoint of 6 volcanos Mirador de Los Volcanes, and also see alpacas, llamas, guanacos, and vicuñas on the side of the road in the national park Salinas y Aguada Blanca National Reserve. Once again, the elevation here is over 15,000 ft and the altitude sickness may impact you.

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You will arrive in Arequipa city center between 5 and 6 PM and walk back to your accommodations.

Colca Canyon Trek vs. Tour

This can be confusing but what it boils down to is Colca Canyon Trek is either a 2- or 3-day hiking adventure where you hike down into the canyon and out of it. And the hiking adventure is not an easy one.

Colca Canyon tour is usually one day adventure from Arequipa that includes minimal hiking but a visit to the Canyon rim and some observation points and maybe some time in town Chivay. This is more appropriate for people that are strapped for time or are just not hikers.

Colca Canyon Necessary Gear

FOOTWEAR – either hiking boots or shoes will work for this hike. The terrain is very dusty and rocky and you want to make sure you have good traction.
CLOTHING – a fleece sweatshirt for cold mornings and night, a T-shirt to wear and a spare in the daypack for the next day, hiking pants (convertible if possible), two pairs of socks, and if expecting rain a waterproof jacket or a poncho.
HIKING POLES – descending into the canyon, hiking poles are a must. The switchbacks are very steep and dry and the dusty/rocky trail can be very slippery.
BACKPACK – a daypack is all you need for this hike if you have prearranged accommodations. Bringing a backpack rain cover is a good idea.
WATERwater reservoir is the best way to carry water and have it evenly distributed. Bottles of water will work too.
SUN PROTECTION – it gets brutally hot in the canyon and the shade is pretty much non-existant. Make sure you bring and apply plenty of sunscreen, a neck gaiter, and a hat.
TOWEL – bring a lightweight towel. You may have a sink and a shower in your accommodations, but it is unlikely that there will be a towel too. Also, bring small toiletries.
HEADLAMP – to move around the lodge and the first part of the 2nd day morning hike, a headlamp is necessary.
FIRST AID – always remember to bring your medicine with you. Some other good things to remember are bandaids, blister tape, and a knee brace.

Other helpful posts…

Things to Know About Peru – For the First-Time Visitors
Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu – 5 Day Hike
Visit to Rainbow Mountain from Cusco
Amazing 13-Days in Chile Travel Itinerary
16-Day in Argentina Travel Guide
7 Iconic Hikes In Peru

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