Hiking in the Colca Canyon

The Colca Canyon is one of the world’s deepest – almost twice as deep as the Grand Canyon – with a depth of over 3200-meters. A spectacular sight to see, we decided to take it one step further – hike down to the bottom and back again on a 2-day, 18-kilometer hike. We spent a day in Arequipa – the nearest major city – adjusting to the altitude before undertaking the hike.

The Canyon is about 160 km North-West of Arequipa. The drive between Arequipa and Chivay takes you to a stunning 5000-meters above sea-level, with views of the many surrounding volcanoes.

The canyon itself is spectacular. The views from the top of the ridge before you descend are some of the best; It’s hard to put into words or even capture in photos just how big the canyon actually is. It is also one of the few places where you can see the massive Andean Condor in its natural habitat. Inside the valley, are several small local villages, who still live a fairly traditional lifestyle.

The only way in and out of the canyon is by foot or by donkey. Our guide told us a story about how he once won a race against other guides, making the climb from the bottom of the valley to the top in a mere 45 minutes. For a point of reference, this same journey took us just over 3-hours. The locals go up and downhill the way we would walk on flat ground.

Cruz del Condor:

We drove through the morning straight from Arequipa and had breakfast just outside of Chivay, the main city for entering the Canyon. After Chivay, we drove towards the canyon, making our entrance around the town of Cabanaconde. Before this, we made a stop at a popular tourist look-out known as the Cruz del Condor (Condor’s Cross). From here we got our first view of the massive canyon and got to see many Condors gliding around the valley. This was very cool. Even if you don’t have the time (or physical ability to make the hike) this is something that you should experience.

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Flight of the Condors. 2017.

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Colca Canyon. 2017.

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Flight of the Condors. 2017.

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 Flight of the Condors. 2017.

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Flight of the Condors. 2017.

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Colca Canyon. 2017.

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The Andean Condors. 2017.

Colca Canyon:

This was a challenging hike. It was hot and dry, and the paths were not easy to traverse. We began the first day of our two-day trek walking down a long winding path into the valley bottom. We descended close to 1200-meters in 3 hours – from 3300 meters to 2100. From here we walked through some of the villages in the valley on our way to the Oasis of Sangale, which sits around 1900 meters. The first day was around 12 kilometers of hiking in total.

We slept in the Oasis. The next day we woke up before sunrise to get up the mountain before it got too hot. This w its back up again, an intense 3 hour uphill hike. A zig-zagging path that took us about 3 hours to climb out of. This was an intense hike fueled by willpower alone. The hike began at 5 am with the help of flashlights and had us at the top in time for breakfast.

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Downward Spiral. 2017.

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The downward trail inside of the Colca Canyon. 2017.

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The Colca Canyon. 2017.

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Norma and Rob on our way into the Colca Canyon. 2017.

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The bridge at the bottom of the valley. 2017.

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Inside the Canyon. 2017.

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Cacti growing in the bottom of the Canyon. 2017.

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Endless Canyon. 2017.

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Hikers. 2017.

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Looking down at our goal for the first day, The Oasis of Sangale. 2017.

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Colca Canyon trail in the morning. 2017.

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Cross at the top of the Colca Canyon. 2017.

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Everyone made it to the bottom and back again. 2017.

Colca Valley and The Road between Chivay & Arequipa:

After our two day trek, we drove back to Arequipa. We first stopped at the hot springs in ___, just outside of Chivay.  After lunch, we had to drive back to Arequipa, which passes a 5000-meter summit, a wide-open plateau which felt like the top of the world. We were surrounded by many volcanoes and the view was spectacular. The altitude was rough; we could definitely feel the effects when we got out of the bus to take some pictures.

Not only did we get to see some amazing views of the surrounding volcanos, we also found some great wildlife to see. We pulled over to the side of the road and found a herd of Llamas, being herded by a local Quechua man. But the real highlight was that we were lucky enough to see some wild Vicunas wandering the plains. We were back in Arequipa in time for dinner.

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The Colca Valley. 2017.

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Volcan Misti. 2017.

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5000 meters above sea level, surrounded by volcanos. 2017.

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Wild Vicunas. 2017.

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Colca Valley. 2017.

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Llamas. 2017.

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Andean Woman herding cows. 2017.

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Colca River. 2017.

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Llama in the Colca Valley. 2017.

 

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