In short, my answer would be, YES take a tour to the Colca Canyon! It is an amazing place to visit and nature here is beautiful. When I was in Arequipa, the city closest to this track, I was not sure whether I should take a tour or walk in the canyon by myself. In this post, I will tell you everything you need to know before you visit this stunning scenery.
About the Colca Canyon
The canyon is located about 4-5 hours driving from Arequipa in Peru. This city by itself is worth visiting. There are a lot of cute coffee shops and picturesque small streets. The main square is stunning and by night it is beautifully lit
great for making foto’s if you have read my Low light photography guide.
The canyon is about 3500 meters deep, that’s deeper than the Grand Canyon located in North America! Inside the Colca Canyon, you can find villages where people still use the traditional way of living and farming. Standing on top of the canyon you can see the terraces the local farmers use to grow their crops on. In my opinion, the most beautiful village in Colca Canyon is “Oasis” but more about this later in this post.
Booking a tour to Colca Canyon
If you will start your canyon trip from Arequipa you will have an easy time finding a tour operator. In the city, there are A LOT of companies that advertise for their tours either 2 or 3 days. A good thing to know 2 and 3-day tours do exactly the same route just in a different time frame. The difference is that you spend one more night inside the Colca Canyon if you book the 3-day tour.
I decided to take the 2 days tour and I don’t regret my decision. The 3-day tour is in my opinion just a way to make more money for the tour companies and doesn’t add anything to the experience. If you have an average condition than the 2-day tour is perfect.
The tours cost around 100 sol per person, which is about $30 USD. You can negotiate on the price and I heard people get the price as low as 90 sol. The following is included in the Colca Canyon tour package:
- An “English” Guide
- Pickup from your hostel
- One night of sleep inside the canyon (Two if you book the three-day tour)
- Two times breakfast
- One lunch
- One dinner
The things that are NOT included in the price are:
- The entrance fee for the park – 70 sol ($20 USD)
- The second-day lunch – 30 sol ($8 USD)
- The hot springs on the second day – 15 sol ($4 USD)
- Optional tip for the guide
- Snacks for on the way
For the second day lunch they will bring you to a buffet that cost you 30 sol ($8 USD). If you want to safe money keep your eyes open on your ride to the restaurant. You could split from the group and have lunch somewhere in an alternative restaurant or buy snacks at a local supermarket, it costed me 8 sol ($2 USD). However it’s not social because most people on the tour will do the buffet anyway.
The Colca Canyon tour schedule
The early bird gets the worm, that’s particularly the case with the tours going to Colca Canyon. On the first day, you will be picked up at your hostel at around 3:30 AM. But don’t worry the bus ride is 4 hours so you will have time to rest, kind of…
For the first day, it will be mostly downhill and it’s about 6-8 hours of walking, be warned!
Morning – Lunch
When you wake up around 5 AM, you will pass the highest point of the bus ride at 5000 meters above sea level! Shortly after that, you will arrive for a short breakfast stop.
After breakfast, your group will have some time to see the “Condor viewpoint”. It’s a great place to take pictures of condors and having a first glimpse of the canyon. The stop here is about 40 minutes after which your ride will continue to the starting point. Around 6 AM you will arrive and start walking into the canyon.
Lunch – Sleep
Lunch on the first day will be at the bottom of the Colca Canyon after passing a bridge over the river. If you book the 3-day tour this will also be the place where you will spend the first night of sleep inside the canyon.
On the 2 day tour, after lunch, you will continue to walk another 4 hours to the second village called “Oasis”. It looks like a little paradise inside the canyon. There are big palm trees growing everywhere and there is plenty of beautiful flora and fauna in this town.
Another early morning where you will wake up at 4 in the morning this time. Hiking starts at around 5 and it will be a tough hike today. The goal of the second day is to get back to the top of the canyon. The hike is about 2 – 4 hours depending on your walking pace.
As soon as everyone reaches the top you will have breakfast in the town where you started on the first day. After breakfast, it will be mostly driving back stopping at some sights along the way. One of the stops will be the hot springs where you can spend an optional hour relaxing for 15 sol ($4 USD).
Colca Canyon without Tour
While doing some research on doing the track by myself I noticed that it will not save you any money. The cost of booking a hotel in Oasis is 65 sol and then you still need to pay for all your food and transportation.
So although you don’t save money doing the track alone, if I would have to do it a second time, I would do it by myself. The tour was nice but not necessary at all. The paths inside the canyon are clear and you will not get lost there.
However, depending on the season it can get pretty cold in the canyon. Therefore it’s important to bring a good tent and a good winter sleeping bag.