Arequipa is your starting point for getting to Colca Canyon, the 1200 meter deep canyon that is home to the magnificent condors and loads of nitty gritty Peruvian adventure!
Get in, around, and out of Arequipa:
- You’ll have to catch a bus into Arequipa to get to Colca Canyon (learn all about Peruvian busses in this post about Lima). From Arequipa, it’s a 5 hour bus ride to Cabanaconde, the small town at the top of Colca Canyon. Be warned, this bus is small, crowded, and has no restroom. So if you’re going to catch food poisoning, best not to catch it before this bus.
- You’ll be asked to pay a park fee either on the way to or from Cabanaconde. They don’t really present it very well, and you may think it’s just someone trying to rip you off, but it’s legit. Just pay it ($10 or $20 I think).
Things I did and loved in Arequipa and Colca Canyon:
- If you’re staying in Arequipa, or even if you just need somewhere to store your bags while you go hike the canyon for a few days, Misti Hostel is a good choice. They’re friendly, flexible, right in the heart of town, and will even let you hang out on their rooftop balcony (for countless hours) while you wait for your next bus.
- Hike the canyon! The steep slope makes for both a strenuous descent and hike back up, so pack light if possible (leave your big bags in Arequipa). It took us about 5 hours going in and 5 1/2 coming out, so be sure to leave a large cushion so you don’t get caught hiking in the dark. Also, there are a lot of stray dogs in Cabanaconde who make a humble doggy living by following hikers into the canyon for food. We adopted two for the duration of our hike, R.C. (Rabies Carrier) and Scruffy Butt, and I must say they earned their keep! If you’re not sure which direction to go, the dogs will know, so it’s worth a few scraps of food to have a pet/pathfinder for a few days.
- There are 2 hostels (that I know of) at the bottom of Colca Canyon. We stayed at the Llahua Hostel, and I couldn’t recommend it enough. But you’ll have to toss the traditional idea of “hostel” and replace it with au-natural, down-to-Earth style living. The reception area and kitchen sit above the rest of the property, overlooking the river and natural hot springs. You sleep in a dorm-style bamboo shack closer to the river with clean beds and large warm blankets. Every meal is cooked fresh by the small, friendly staff, with food either grown on the land or brought in on donkeys. And did I say natural hot springs?! I’d recommend staying here at least a full day to recover from the hike and just relax and explore. And because I’m all about that budget travelling, know that I ended up spending only $35 for 2 nights and 4 meals here. Peruvian Paradise.