“I think you can do it,” the guide said referring to Jon. Then he looked at me and said, “But you, I really recommend you take a mule. “ It was the end of our first day, during dinner and we had to decide whether we wanted to walk for 3 hour directly uphill on the next day or take it easy and ride a mule on the way up. Should I take a mule? My only worry was not meeting the 3 hour time for the ascent. Instead of encouraging me to do my best for the second day, the guide just insisted that I couldn’t make it. I had to try and I can’t let anyone look down on my capabilities. It was a hard first day but with a bit of rest, 3 hours uphill shouldn’t be that bad. I made it to Cabanaconde in less than 3 hours. Thanks to a lot of quick stops and the encouragement of my boyfriend, Jon.
Here’s the full story of our 2 Days Colca Canyon Trek:
Day 1 of Colca Canyon Trek: San Miguel Pampas to Oasis Sangalle
So early! Jon and I were picked up from our hostel at 3:15am. After picking up other people for the trek, our shuttle left Arequipa around 3:30am. Then it took about 3 hours to get to our first stop, Chivay, where we had a simple breakfast of butter, jam and bread.
One of the most anticipated sights at Colca Canyon is the flight of the condors. The viewing point, called Condor Cross was our second stop, 2 hours away from Chivay. We had about 45mins on our own to have a look around the different viewpoints. Along with an overwhelming number of tourists, we saw a few condors fly across Colca Canyon. It was very hard to get a good photo, though.
We drove for about half an hour towards San Miguel Pampas, another viewpoint just before the town of Cabanaconde. Here, we started our descent into the canyon. There were 9 people in our group, including one tour guide. There were about 4 other groups with us during the start of the trek, some doing 2 days like us, others 3 days. On the way down, we had the chance to see Oasis Sangalle from above, it looks like such a long way from where we were. The trail was quite easy to follow. Our guide left us on our own after about half an hour of walking as a group. The first part of the trail was downhill with some flat bits then the next half was mostly steep stone steps.
The first checkpoint was a hanging bridge towards San Juan de Chuccho. From there we were surrounded with the beauty of Colca Canyon. Just before crossing the bridge, we had to register our names and show our tourist tickets. Then we made our way uphill towards the other side of Colca Canyon. After a short but steep ascent, we walked on mostly flat ground until we reached San Juan de Chuccho, where we had a really small typical lunch – soup and (like half of a) main course.
After lunch, the trek became like a walk in the park. Stop and smell the flowers, or in this case spot the fruit trees. Continuing our walk through the small town of San Juan de Chuccho, we learnt a bit about the plants in the Colca Canyon. We passed a lot of fruit farms on the way and appreciated the simplicity of life in the village. While I was starting to enjoy the slower pace of our trek, the guide started to lead the group uphill towards the small town of Cosñirhua, the last part was pretty steep so I took longer than most people in our group. After a quick stop at a small shop, the trek was all downhill along an unpaved road towards the sleepy town of Malata. When we reached the end of the rough road, the sight of the oasis came to view. The oasis looked close but it took us another hour downhill along a windy gravel path to go all the way down to the bridge close to it. It wasn’t over yet. A frustrating 10 minute uphill climb awaited just before we reached our hostel in the oasis. We arrived at our hostel at about 5:30pm, after a total of 7 hours of walking for the first day from San Miguel Pampas to the Oasis Sangalle.
Oasis Sangalle was a like a little town. There are a few hostels in the area and most of them have swimming pools. We didn’t spend much time in Oasis Sangalle as it was already late when we arrived and we had to leave early the next day. It would have been good to spend longer there to relax in the swimming pool and explore the nearby waterfalls.
Dinner was served at 7pm, after most of our group enjoyed a cold swim in the pool. Jon and I took the break time to relax in our room instead. After dinner, the guide discussed the itinerary for the next day. Starting at 5:15am, we trek uphill for 3 hours towards Cabanaconde. Challenge accepted!
Day 2 of Colca Canyon Trek: Oasis Sangalle to Cabanaconde
Our group met at 5:00am and started our ascent of Colca Canyon at 5:15am. Everyone in our group did the trek but some of us shared a mule to carry our backpacks. It was a lot easier without the bag. Jon and I kept up pretty well with the rest of the group for more than half of the climb up. It wasn’t as steep as we expected but it was still an uphill trek in high altitude. We had to climb from about 2200masl (Oasis Sangalle) to about 3200masl (Cabanaconde). It was exhausting. About two hours in, I began to take a few more breaks to catch my breath. Jon motivated me to keep going when I complained how difficult it was. We continued forward. The path was like a never ending stone staircase for the rest of the way. It was also starting to get hot, so the climb began to be more strenuous. The mules, which started at 6am, had finally caught up with us. Just keep moving. Slowly, we made it to the top of the Colca Canyon and reunited with the rest of our group, who arrived about 10 minutes ahead of us. Jon and I took 2 hours and 45 minutes to complete the ascent, 15 minutes earlier than expected. I was glad the hard part was over. I proved to the guide that I could do the second day trek. I proved to myself that I can do a difficult task if I do my best.
We had a last look at the Colca Canyon. We made it! It was a tougher hike than expected but it was definitely worth it!
After a quick breakfast stop at Cabanaconde, we hopped on the shuttle to continue the rest of our tour before heading back to Arequipa. Our first stop was the impressive pre-Inca terraces from Antahauilque viewpoint. They are similar to the rice terraces in Asia, but they are used for corn. Maca, a small town in the Colca Canyon was our next stop. There is a nice church in the middle of town, a few artisan shops and some locals with their alpacas waiting for a photo. I had one with a baby alpaca, it seemed like it’s used to getting its photo. I think I saw a smile.
La Calera hot springs was our 1 hour stop before lunch. Jon and I didn’t go for a dip, as the venue for the hot springs didn’t appeal much to both of us. We waited and sat on one of the boulders along the river to pass the time. The other people seemed to have enjoyed their bath, in case you are interested in doing it.
At about 1:00pm, we had lunch in Chivay. Then continued towards Arequipa, making two more stops along the way. The first stop after lunch was a viewpoint for the Andean mountains, Patapampa. Then we made another stop at Patahuasi where we saw llamas and alpacas in their natural habitat. I really adore the alpacas, they are such cute animals.
It was about 5:00pm when we arrived back in Arequipa. It was a long 2 days but it was a great tour and a great trek of the Colca Canyon. I definitely recommend doing it with a tour company as you don’t really save much when you do the trek on your own, and the trails are a bit difficult to find if you come from the viewpoint in San Miguel, which is the best starting point for this 2 Days Colca Canyon Trek.
Details for the 2 Days Colca Canyon Trek
We booked a tour at one of the agencies near the main square in Arequipa. The usual rate is 120 soles but we got ours for 115 soles per person for the 2 Days Colca Canyon Trek. The price we paid included transport to and from Arequipa, all meals during the trek (except for the last lunch), accommodation in Oasis Sangalle and a bilingual guide. The tourist ticket is not included in the tour, and costs 70 soles per person. Before you reach the Condor Cross, the shuttle will stop to buy the tourist tickets for you.
The included meals are a bit small, so bring some snacks for the trek. Bring at least 2L of water for the first day. All prices for food and drinks in Colca Canyon are about twice the price in Arequipa, so bring some extra cash. The lunch for the second day in Chivay is either a 15 soles set meal or a 28 soles buffet lunch. Members of our group went to a different restaurant and got a cheaper set meal for 8 soles (after attempting to leave when they quoted 15 soles).
Have you been to Colca Canyon or other canyons in the world? Did you do a trek? How was it?