Arequipa is known as the white city as many of it’s colonial buildings are built from local volcanic rock and sparkle in the sun.
The city is beautiful and on a clear day from the roof top of our hostel, Mercarderes Backpackers, we could see 2 volcanoes near town. Pretty amazing view for eating breakfast.
On our first day we did a free walking tour. We got taken around the city, shown the sites and given few tasty testers of the local cuisine. Specialties include chichi, pisco sours, fried fish with chilli sauce and queso helado (cheese ice-cream). Yes that’s right, cheese ice-cream. HOWEVER, it’s important for me to note here that there is no cheese in said ice-cream, it’s cinnamon, sugar, milk, etc.. and delicious. It purely has the name because it LOOKS like cheese.
Now we were faced with an important decision to make, would we trek the Colca Canyon by ourselves (and save some $$$’s) or take the easy way out and do a tour?
We eventually decided on doing a tour, for no reason other than when we worked it our money wise it wasn’t going to be super different and we wouldn’t have to organise our own transport, accommodation and meals. So it was easier. I’m not saying this is what everyone should do but we were all happy with the decision and since doing the trek, we’ve still got no regrets.
We did a 2 day,1 night trek with Peru Schweiz. The tour cost 120 Peruvian nuevo soles (roughly $50 AUD) and included meals, accommodation and transport to and from the canyon. All we had to do was walk, at whatever pace we wanted.
Here is a super QUICK overview of of 2 day Colca Canyon trek. Read on for more information.
3:30 a.m. Hostel pick up and leave for Chivay.
6:30 a.m. Arrive to Chivay and have breakfast.
8:30 a.m. Arrive at Cruz del Condor (the Condor Cross) to observe canyon and hopefully condors
10:00 a.m. Arrive at San Miguel and start our descent into the canyon.
1:00 p.m. Arrive at San Juan de Chuccho for lunch and a break
2:30 p.m. Continue the walk via villages of Cosñirhua and Malata before beginning descent to Sangalle known as the Oasis.
5:00 p.m. We arrive to the Oasis, swim (if sun and group makes it in time) and settle in to accommodation
7:30 p.m. Dinner and overnight.
5:00 a.m. We ascend the canyon from the oasis to Cabanaconde.
8:30 am Breakfast and rest legs in Cabanaconde before heading off for rest of days activities in the van.
- Hot springs
- Lunch (buffet)
- View point
- National Reserve
6:00 pm Arrive back in Arequipa ready to sleep forever
We were picked up at 3:30am from our hostel and taken to Chivay for breakfast. From here we headed on to Cruz del Condor. WHERE WE ACTUALLY SAW A CONDOR! It was beautiful.. and huge! With a wingspan of 3m it is one of the largest flying birds in the world. As it’s the wet season in this part of Peru currently we were not expecting to see anything as they’re known to hide during rain and cloudy conditions. However luckily for us hit was a beautiful day, and we got to see a huge andean condor fly right over our heads several times, and land on a rocky outcrop for some awesome photo opportunities.
Day 1 consisted of 19 kilometres of walking. A tough on the knees 5km downhill start to the bottom of the canyon, followed by roughly 14km of up, down and flat terrain. Whilst it sounds like a lot, there was plenty of time for breaks and snacks along the way.
After the first downhill section we crossed a bridge at the bottom of the canyon and headed upward for roughly 20 minutes before stopping for lunch in San Juan de Chuccho. After a break and a tasty meal - alpaca, salad and rice - we headed onwards to Sangalle where we would spend the night at a well known hostel, The Oasis.
The Oasis is a series of small shacks with beds surrounding a much needed and refreshing pool. We had dinner and a couple of cheap mojitios before passing out early, ready for our pre 5am wake up.
We got up before dawn for a planned 5am start to trek up out of the Canyon to Cabanaconde. We got up in the dark and set off with out breakfast. We only needed torches for the first 20 minutes or so before first light, and the rest of the time we could just concentrate on walking
I’m not going to lie - the walk was hard. Not the toughest thing I have ever done, but far from the easiest. We climbed from about 2200m altitude at the base of the canyon to 3300m altitude at the top in just under 2 hours. However the scenery was absolutely amazing the entire time, and when we reached the top drenched in sweat just after the sun peaked over the horizon, we were treated to one of the most memorable views I have seen in my entire life. We got to hang around at the top for around an hour waiting for the rest of our group to complete the trek, and eating our own weight in bananas for sale by the lady at the edge of the canyon.
When the remainder of the group made it to the top, we set off again for another 20 minutes to a local restaurant in Cabanaconde for some well deserved breakkie. Plain scrambled eggs and nescafe had never tasted so good.
The rest of the day consisted of a visit to Chacapi thermal baths, a stop off at a national reserve to see some cheeky llamas and vicunas and lots of sleeping on the bus.
We got back to our hostel exhausted, bed at 8pm? Yes please.
We’ve got a few more days in Arequipa before we head onwards to Cusco where we’ll spend about a week before we do our Inca trail to Macchu Piccu!