I feel a bit sorry for mules. They have to walk up and down the steep slopes of Colca Canyon (and lots of other places) and they also tend to get burdened with the thankless task of drug smuggling. A lot of people opt to ride a mule instead of tackling the 3 hour ascent out of Colca Canyon, but we decided to give the poor animals a rest and struggled our way to the top.
We recently did the 2 day Colca Canyon trek, here’s a quick look at what to expect if you’re thinking of doing the same.
A long walk down
The first day of the 2 day Colca Canyon trek takes you down into the jaws of the beast. It’s a long way down and the terrain doesn’t make for relaxing walking — there are uneven rocks, steep steps and lots of loose gravel.
Across the canyon
After reaching the bottom of the gravely track, we made it to a bridge where lots of tour groups were having a much needed rest. From there the walk is a lot more varied; there are steep bits, flat bits and some more downhill sections. The scenery is great — the rocky canyon walls surround a lush valley full of all sorts of medicinal plants. The guide stopped every few minutes to explain about a plant, which got a bit annoying after a while. We eventually stopped for lunch in a small village and continued to push on towards the oasis.
An oasis looming
The oasis that you’ll most likely spend the night in looks deceptively close, but the walk down (and then up, and then down and then up) takes a long time, as well as a small piece of your soul. By the time we arrived it was almost dark and we couldn’t really appreciate this unique piece of nature. There’s a waterfall that would be worth walking to and the hostel pool looked inviting, but we jumped straight into bed and slept until dinner time. It was a long, sometimes frustrating day, but look at those views!
Escaping Colca Canyon
What made the first day a bit tough to handle was the promise of an even harder second day, starting at 5 am no less! Our guide informed Gia that she probably wouldn’t make it up the 1000 metre plus ascent in the required 3 hours and that she’d better hire a mule. She decided to walk, mainly to prove the guide wrong. The hike out of Colca Canyon wasn’t actually that hard — it was basically 2 hours and 45 minutes of solid uphill hiking at high altitude, but we did it. If you’re averagely fit and you have acclimatised to the high altitude, you should have no trouble. I’m pretty sure the guides get commission on each mule, so don’t necessarily trust them when they say you can’t do it.
The 2 Day Colca Canyon Trek: Take a tour or do it yourself?
That’s the age old question. There’s also a third option — a day tour without any hiking. We opted for a guided 2 day trek, basically because it wasn’t much more expensive than doing it ourselves and it seemed a lot easier. The guide was unnecessary and actually kind of annoying but we had a good group. Doing it yourself involves taking public transport to and from Cabanaconde, and I couldn’t find much information on the return journey. Another reason we chose the tour was the promise of some interesting stops on the way to and from Arequipa. Before the hike we stopped off at “Cruz del Condor”, which wasn’t great because it was full of people and the condors we saw were so far away. On the way back to Arequipa we made a few stops; first at a small village, then a viewpoint to see some old agricultural terraces. We then stopped at a volcano viewpoint and a farm to see some alpacas. We paid 115 soles each and we probably could have done it independently for 90-100 soles. The stops on the way back to Arequipa made the tour more than worth it in my opinion.
The 2 day Colca Canyon trek was tough but also a lot of fun — the views were incredible and it’s such a unique place, don’t miss it next time you travel to Peru.
Would you like to do the 2 day Colca Canyon trek? What is your favourite overnight trek? Let me know!
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