Carved during millions of years in the volcanic rock by the Colca river, the impressive Canyon — the second deepest in the world —, is the majestic Andean Condor’s favorite playground.
With a depth of 11,155 feet (3,400 m) — for the record, the Grand Canyon is only 5250 feet (1600 m) deep — it is a magnificent natural formation not to be missed.
According to your desire, you can simply admire the breathtaking views from one of the numerous lookouts or go for a 3000+ ft descent deep into the valley to reach the peaceful Sangalle hamlet, also called the Oasis.

HOW TO GET THERE?

TOURS

The easiest way is definitely to go with an agency. They are plenty in Arequipa and they organize 1 or 2-days trip to the lookouts but also 2 or 3-day guided hikes in the canyon.
It takes approximately 4 hours drive from Arequipa. Therefore, tour departures usually start around 3:00 am and return around 5:30 PM.
Price: ranges from 30$ to 50$ according to the chosen package.

ON YOUR OWN

If you have the time and especially, if you are the kind of person who avoid tours, you can easily go to the canyon by bus. However, be aware that the journey to get there may be considerably longer.
Indeed, it’s 1-stop journey: first you have to join Chivay and then Cabanaconde, your final destination. But the trick is you’ll rarely get a direct connection between the buses.

FROM AREQUIPA TO CHIVAY

Buses depart from the Arequipa bus terminal.
The Andalucia company is the one that has the most regular departures and that ensure three times a day, connections to Cabanaconde. It is also, with the company Reyna, the most recommendable.
Price: 16 soles (~ 5$).
Duration: ~ 3 hours.

TIMETABLES

Arequipa > Chivay

Andalucia Reyna Colca Milagros Transjesa Trebol
01:45 AM 01:00 AM 03:00 AM
06:30 AM 06:00 AM 05:00 AM 05:30 AM 05:00 AM 04:45
09:00 AM
11:45 AM 11:30 AM
01:45 PM 2:00 PM 2:00 PM
04:00 PM

FROM CHIVAY TO CABANACONDE

Buses depart from the same terminal as the ones arriving from Arequipa.
To take full advantage of the breathtaking view, choose a window seat on the right side of the bus.
Price: ~ 5 soles (1,5$)
Duration: ~ 2h.

TIMETABLES

Chivay > Cabanaconde

Andalucia

Reyna

Milagros

Transjesa

04:00 AM

04:00 AM

07:00 AM

08:00 AM

11:30 AM

03:00 PM

03:PM

05:00 PM

Cabanaconde > Chivay

Andalucia Reyna Milagros Transjesa
07:00 AM 07:00 AM
09:00 AM 11:00 AM
02:00 PM 02:00 PM
03:00 PM 10:00 PM

CABANACONDE

The town located at 10,825 ft (3300 m) above sea level and extending to the canyon cliff’s edge, is not really a charming one but it is the departure of all hikes. If you want to start one of the hikes in the canyon valley, you really should spend the previous night in Cabanaconde, first to acclimate to the altitude but also because it is safer and more pleasant to start your hikes at dawn rather than later in the day. The heat can really be overwhelming. And if you start the trek in the afternoon you’re taking serious risks of getting lost at night, especially as there are no signs on the numerous paths.
Note also that there is no bank or ATM in Cabanaconde. So, take enough cash with you.
Although some places may accept credit cards, don’t take this payment method as granted.

ACCOMODATION

Villa Pastor | From 8$ single room, 15$ double room.
The entrance is not very welcoming but this small clean and simple hostel is ideally located on the main square. In addition, it has a restaurant/bar upstairs.

Pachamama | Double room from 22$.
Probably the nicest hostel in Cabanaconde, with its bar/restaurant, a nice terrace but also a delicious breakfast included.

TO DO?

Most visitors come to the canyon for hiking. But most of the hikes are really demanding. Combine the 10,825 ft altitude with the 3000+ ft vertical drop between the village and the valley, add the overwhelming heat, and you’ll get an idea why it is essential to have a good idea why a good physical condition is essential. But next to the hikes in the canyon, there are several activities that will make you discover the beauty this natural wonder from other perspectives.

THE ALTERNATIVES

Whether or not you have the physical condition to hike in the canyon, the lookouts are gorgeous and should’t be missed. And if you’re lucky enough, you’ll observe majestic Andean condors flying.
There are several lookouts just outside Cabanaconde where you can admire the view of the canyon. Next to that, there’s also the gorgeous Mucurca Lagoon.

The Lookouts

Mirador Cruz del Condor
Located at 12km from Cabanaconde, back in the direction of Chivay, the lookout stands at 11975 ft above see level and it’s here that you most probably get to see the condors. Simply because it’s here that the rising winds are the strongest and sometimes they’re even flying close by.
And if you shouldn’t see any, the spectacular view of the canyon is worth the ride.

Mirador Cejana
Distance: 1.3 mile.
This lookout is at the beginning of the Sangalle (Oasis) trail.
To get there, you just have to take the Grau street until the sign “Sangalle”, turn right and keep going for about 0.6 mile.

Mirador de San Miguel
Distance: 1.3 mile.
This lookouts as the next 2 are on the way to the San Juan bridge/San Juan de Chuccho.
Start by taking the Calle Arequipa, going North then North-East. In total, you’ll have to follow the road for about 1 mile. First, you will pass by a graveyard, then, about 1650 feet further, you’ll reach a big chicane. Keep going and leave on your left side the path going to the Mirador San Miguel. Just a little bit further, the Calle Arequipa takes in a wide curve to the right. It is in the middle of the curve on the left side that the trail really starts.

Mirador Cosñirhua
Distance: 2.25 miles.

Mirador San Juan
Distance: 2.7 miles.

Mirador de Tapay
Ditstance: 3.4 miles.
This lookout is on the road heading to Chivay and is usually way less busy than El Mirador Cruz del Condor. It also offers a spectacular view on the valley.

Others

Lagoon Mucurca (4350m)
With its silver-blue reflections, surrounded by gold-colored Altiplano steppes and majestic snow-capped volcanoes, the lagoon offers an enchanting spectacle.
A new road connecting Cabanaconde to Arequipa, passing through Mucurca was in construition during my stay.
In theory, it was already possible to go to the lagoon with a mountain bike or with a 4×4 car. But for sure, there are also half-day tours organised by travel agencies or hostel in Cabanaconde, like the Pachamama hostel.

HIKES

There are several hikes options from Cabanaconde ranging from one to four days or even more.

National Park

Entrance to the park costs 70 soles (21$US).
It is mandatory to pay this amount for venturing into the park. There are few checkpoints throughout the park.
Although this amount may seem a little excessive, the revenues from the ticket sale is redistributed to the local communities but is also used to finance the Canyon preservation program (which includes the trails maintenance.

THE EASY ONE

Difficulty: easy.
Distance: 4.5 or 5.6 miles round trip.
If you feel like experiencing a hike in the canyon but don’t want to go all the way down to the oasis, then you can just hike a short section of the 3-Day Trek to San Juan de Chuccho (see corresponding paragraph) to one of the following lookouts:

⁃ Mirador Cosñirhua is at 2.25 miles from Cabanaconde
⁃ Mirador San Juan is at 2.7 miles from the village.

1 DAY TREK | OASIS SANGALLE

Difficulty: medium.
Distance: 4.7 miles round trip.
Duration: ~ 3h30 one way, ~ 3h30 return.
This is the shortest full hike. It starts from Cabanaconde to Sangalle and return on the same day.
It is recommended to sleep the night before in Cabanaconde in order to have an early start. This way, you’ll avoid the heat on the way to the valley. But you probably won’t be able to avoid it on the way back.
The hike begins at the corner of Calle Primero de Mayo and Calle Grau (which runs along Plaza Central). Go ahead continue until the lookout called Mirador de Cejana. From there, you’ll be able to see the entire trail.
The main trail is easy to follow and passes by different lookouts. Sometimes, it might happen the trails are going in different directions but with some basic orientation skills and by estimating your destination point, you should’t have any problem. In case of doubt, ask locals or hikers, it’s quite a busy trail.
Going down for about three or four hours, with some steep parts is a real test for your knees. This means that the descent is usually as long as the ascent. Wear good walking shoes.
As said, it is also one of the busiest trails, especially in the morning when hikers are either going to the oasis or heading back to Cabanaconde.

When arrived in Sangalle, you can enjoy the hostel’s swimming pools (~ 10 Soles).
To go back, climb up the same trail you previously took while getting down the Canyon.

Important
Before you leave the Canyon, take plenty of water (min. 2l) and enough energy food.
You’ll probably go back during the day’s hottest hours, so water gets away quickly.
And don’t forget to protect you from the sun (hat, long sleeves or sunblock).
If you don’t feel like hiking all the way back up to Cabanaconde, you can rent a mule that will do the job for you for about 60 soles (18$).

2 DAYS TREK | SAN JUAN DE CHUCCHO/SANGALLE

Difficulty: medium.
Distance: 14 miles.

Day 1
Distance: 5.5 miles.
Duration: ~ 4h00.
Start by taking the Calle Arequipa, going North then North-East. In total, you’ll have to follow the road for about 1 mile. First, you will pass by a graveyard, then, about 1650 feet further, you’ll reach a big chicane. Keep going and leave on your left side the path going to the Mirador San Miguel. Just a little bit further, the Calle Arequipa takes in a wide curve to the right. It is in the middle of the curve on the left side that the trail really starts. The path will plunge to Rio Colca. It will take you about 3 hours to walk to the San Juan Bridge. There you might meet some locals offering accommodations.

After the bridge, you can:
⁃ Turn left and follow the trail for 1.2 km
⁃ Take the path that goes off to the right and then climb up to the left for about 1.8km. Take this path if you plan to spend the night at Posada Roy Hostel which is 1 km after the San Juan Bridge.

Day 2
Distance: 7.57 miles.
Duration: ~ 7-8h.
Leave at 7am and head towards the Oasis of Sangalle. About 400 meters after leaving the village, the road forks.
Do not take the path on the left that goes down to the river to Sangalle. He is deemed « dangerous”.
Take the path on the right. About 1 km further, you will cross the point of the Cincu-Mayu River and then climb to the hamlets of Cosnirhua and Malata and then down to the oasis.

Important
Before you leave the Canyon, take plenty of water (min. 2l) and enough energy food.
You’ll probably go back during the day’s hottest hours, so water gets away quickly.
And don’t forget to protect you from the sun (hat, long sleeves or sunblock).

If you don’t feel like hiking all the way back up to Cabanaconde, you can rent a mule that will do the job for you for about 60 soles (18$).

3 DAYS TREK | SAN JUAN DE CHUCCHO – SANGALLE

Difficulty: average.
Distance: 8.7 miles8.7 miles.
It is a variant of the previous one where on the second night, you stay in Sangalle (see accomodations paragraph) instead of San Juan de Chuccho.
This will allow you to enjoy the area and explore the surroundings, like the waterfall of Sangalle (when there is water).

Day 1
See first day of San Juan de Chuccho trail.

Day 2
Difficulty: medium.
Distance: 4.35 miles.
Duration: ~ 3h.
Leave at 7am and head towards the Oasis of Sangalle. About 400 meters after leaving the village, the road forks.
Do not take the path on the left that goes down to the river to Sangalle. He is deemed « dangerous.
Take the path on the right. About 1 km further, you will cross the point of the Cincu-Mayu River and then climb to the hamlets of Cosnirhua and Malata and then down to the oasis.

Day 3
Difficulty: medium.
Distance: 3.5 miles.
Duration: ~ 3h30.
Leave early and climb up the 3 miles trail (~ 3h30) that faces the village until the park entrance.
Cabanaconde is half a mile away.

Important
Before you leave the Canyon, take plenty of water (min. 2l) and enough energy food.
You’ll probably go back during the day’s hottest hours, so water gets away quickly.
And don’t forget to protect you from the sun (hat, long sleeves or sunblock).
If you don’t feel like hiking all the way back up to Cabanaconde, you can rent a mule that will do the job for you for about 60 soles (18$).

4 DAYS TREK | SAN JUAN OF CHUCCHO – SANGALLE – LLAHUAR

Difficulty: medium / hard.
Distance: 22 miles.
This majestic loop will allow you to truly grasp the beauty of the canyon including the delicious thermal waters of Llahuar. But it is also the most difficult due to the section of path that goes practically vertical since Chuirca towards Cabanaconde. There are some difficult passages but they are quite within your reach if you have a good physical condition, are not too subject to vertigo (some very vertical passages), you leave early (to avoid hot weather) and take enough water and food.

Day 1 and 2
For the first two days, this hike takes the same route as the three-day hike through San Juan de Chuccho and Sangalle.

Day 3
Distance: 6 miles.
Duration: ~ 4h.
On the third day, instead of going back to Cabanaconde, return to your footsteps the day before, cross the Colca River and turn left until you reach a non-asphalted road. Follow it for about 4 kilometers to the hamlet of Belen. Then take the path down to the river, passing through Paclla and arrive at Llahuar.
In Llahuar, which counts in all and for all, two relax in its thermal waters.

Day 4
Distance: 7.5 miles.
Duration: ~ 4-5h.
Leave early! Fill up with water and food! The ascent is very physical.
Join the road and follow it to the river. After crossing the bridge, the road will turn right. It is at this bend that the trail begins. It will cross the road one last time 300 meters further to continue zigzag almost vertically and then a few difficult passage to reach the plateau of the canyon. From here, the topography is much flatter but fatigue will be felt. Then the path will take you to the entrance of Cabanaconde.

Important: Do not go up the canyon following the road, it takes a much longer path than the trail.
On the other hand, if you do not wish to make this last stage of the hike, there are buses passing by the road whose stop is just after the bridge. Ask the locals for schedules.

HOUSING IN CANYON

It is easy to find accommodation in the Colca Canyon. Many « tourist » infrastructures are emerging, but this development is unfortunately becoming more and more at the expense of local populations who have traditionally lived barter and they do not usually have the means to invest in developed infrastructures.
As in many places, it is the foreign investors who carve the lion’s share.
Do not hesitate to introduce yourself to the locals, they will be happy to tell you the inhabitants where you can spend the night. It will probably be a bit more rustic than in foreign-owned establishments, but you will really make the local economy live.

In San Juan de Chuccho

Posada Roy Hostel | Room from 8 €
Beautifully situated, these charming little stone huts with simple but pleasant comfort offer magnificent views of the canyon. In the evening, it is by candlelight that you will enjoy your little cocoon.
Private bathroom with hot shower.
Delicious dinner.

Posada Gloria | Room from 3 €.
Small, simple but comfortable lodging with comfortable rooms. The meals are delicious.
Breakfast: 2 €, meal: 3-4 €.
Private bathroom with hot shower.

Colibri Lodge | Room from 19 €.
Here you will find all the comfort to rest from your day of trekking.
Luxury rooms and bathrooms with small terraces.
Royal breakfast included.
Lunch / dinner: 5 €.

In Sangalle

Oasis Paraiso Ecolodge | Room from 35 €.
With its swimming pool and beautiful garden, it is an ideal place to relax after a long day of hiking.
If you are only passing, for 10 Soles (3 €), you can also use the pool, for half an hour without having to stay on site.

In Llahuar

Hostal Case de Virgina | Room from 11 €.
Magnificent property with its small stone huts and their beautiful little flower terraces.
The rooms are basic. Access to the thermal baths included.

Llahuar Lodge | Room from 15 €.
In cabins made of stone and wood, comfort basic rooms are located in a beautiful green setting. You can also dive into the relaxing springs of thermal waters.
Shared bathroom.
Dinner: 2 €