How To Hike Colca Canyon, Without A Guide

28 Nov

**UPDATE (March 2018) – We still get loads of hits on this particular post, which leads me to believe that guidebooks still aren’t giving great directions on how to do this (get it together guidebooks!).  There are a number of readers who have written posts of their own with updated pricing etc – you can find links to those in the comments, or the section below the comments (Trackbacks/Pingbacks).  We would highly encourage you to check those out as well to see what’s changed since this was originally posted.**

Really, the only reason we went to Arequipa was to hike the Colca Canyon.  Originally it was going to be our test hike to see how well Justin’s leg might hold up on the Inca Trail (he had a muscle tear, no fun), but even after we decided not to trek to Machu Picchu, we still wanted to take this hike.  Why?  Well, partly because it’s billed as the world’s second deepest canyon, and partly because we didn’t hike the Inca Trail, so I was bound and determined to hike SOMETHING for more than one day in Peru.

Colca Canyon is a big tourist destination, and as such, there are about a million different tours or trekking packages available from every single “travel agency” or hostel in Arequipa.

Lonely Planet suggests that you can do the trip yourself.  Unfortunately, the edition we have doesn’t give a whole lot of info about how exactly you do that, and I am not the kind of person who feels comfortable setting out on 3 day hiking trip without some fairly solid details, or at least a decent map.  After searching around quite a bit online (tons of people have done the trek alone and posted basic itineraries), and pestering the moderatly helpful agents at the tourist info booth in Arequipa, and then asking around a bit at Cabanaconde, we managed to figure it out.  However, it would have saved a whole lot of time and quite a bit of stress to have found some detailed instructions somewhere.  To that effect, I present –

How To Hike Colca Canyon Without A Guide.

This is long…if you don’t plan on hiking the Colca Canyon, you could just stop here and check out the slideshow:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

*Disclaimer – I am just a regular person, writing about MY experience.  I hope you find this helpful, but it certainly shouldn’t be your only source of info.  Please ask around before you head out to make sure things haven’t changed, and obviously, use your own common sense.*

1)      You need to get yourself to Cabanaconde, where the hike begins.  This is about a 6 hour bus ride away from Arequipa.  There are a number of bus companies that go there including Andalucia, Milagros, and Transjesa.  The booths seem to be clustered on an island in the center of the central bus station rather than around the edge like the long-distance companies.  You can buy tickets from a travel agent, but they will charge you an outrageous commission. We opted to take a combi to the main bus station (Terrestre) and just buy one way tickets the day before we left.   Most combis seems to go there, ask around as to where to catch one near where you are staying.

Cost: 16 soles one way.

2)      If you want to avoid spending a night in Chivay or Cabanaconde you can take an early morning bus to Cabanaconde – they seem to go around 1am, 3am, 5am, 6am and hike all the way down the same day.  We took the 6 am, which got us in around noon.  We had time for lunch, and then had no problems hiking down to our first destination that same day.  Taking the 1 or 3 am bus seems masochistic.  The reason people do it is to stop at the Condor viewing overlook when the birds are supposedly most active.  We aren’t really into birds, so we didn’t care about that, but I will say we saw one from the bus, and many while hiking so unless you are REALLY a birder, choose sleep and go with the 5 or 6 am bus.  It also seemed like if you got off the bus at the viewing spot, you’d be stuck there for at least another hour until the next bus came along.  If you’d rather hike in the morning, you can stay at either Chivay (about 3 or 4 hours into the bus ride from Arequipa there is a stop at this town, they apparently have a hot springs and places to stay) or at Cabanaconde.  If you go during high season it might be worth making reservations somewhere in advance, but it seemed utterly dead mid-November.

3)      At some point you will have to buy the tourist boleto.  People in the past have argued that this is a scam, but you really do need to buy one, just like you do in the Cuzco area.  We got ours in Chivay while the bus was reloading, but we could have bought one in Cabanaconde as well.  Officials with green or beige vests and clipboards have them for sale, and you have to buy one, there is no way around this.  They are square, and MAKE SURE they have a rectangular tear-off section attached for “control” at the end of the hike.  Ours got lost along the way and we nearly had to pay again.

Cost: 35 Soles per ticket.

4)      We tried with diligence to find a trail map.  We could not.  We found a few rough maps online that people had scanned, and those turned out to be the same at ones that were given to us by hostel touts upon exiting the bus at Cabanaconde.  There seems to not be anything better, and we did just fine with these, so I imagine unless you really get off track, you should be ok.  There are two different basic maps, with estimated times, but they are NOT to scale and NOT technical.  Here is one, and here is another.

5)      To get to the trail depends on which route you take.  We wanted to hike down to San Juan de Chuccho the first night, then onto Sangalle the second day, and then back up to Cabanaconde.  If you want, you can just head straight down to Sangelle one day, and back up the next.  If you are in good shape you could do it all in one day as it apparently only takes about 2 hours to get down that trail, and it took us 4 hours to hike back up.

This sign shows the way to Sangalle, but it marked the finale of our journey as we headed back into the main Plaza.

To Sangalle – follow the gigantic sign just off the main plaza by the Hostel Valle Del Fuego.  It points you in the correct direction, which leads down a street (no turns, just stay on that road) and eventually into a cornfield where you follow a rough path that ends up on a trail that really looks like a ditch, where you will turn left.  The ditch leads you directly to the proper trailhead and a control checkpoint where you will have to show your boletto.  You will likely doubt that you are on the right path, but we saw a number of hiker groups on that path on our way out, and you can always stop and ask a local if you’re headed the right direction.

The trailhead to get to San Juan de Chuccho

To San Juan de Chuccho– Facing the church in the main plaza, go down the road that runs along the left side of the church.  After about 3 blocks you need to turn left onto a street that is ‘more’ paved with stones than with dirt, and after a few more blocks you will end up on an actual paved road, which is the one the bus comes in on.  After about 10-15 minutes you should pass a large football stadium on your left, and shortly after you will be at the overlook Mirador de San Miguel where there is an actual trailhead sign.

Hiker footprints *generally* mean you are on the right path.

6)       Stay on the main path.  Do not take shortcuts.  Shortcuts increase erosion, and the place is slippery and rocky as is, so don’t encourage any more small landslides!  When you come to a fork, take the bigger path.  If you see a lot of hiker footprints, you are probably on the correct path.  There are not many forks, and when there was, there was always a very obvious ‘main’ path.

7)      It took us about 2.5 hours to get all the way down to the bottom where there is a little bridge you have to cross.  We had to show our boletos here as well.

Justin outside our Rivelino house accommodations.

8)      There was a woman waiting at the bridge who took us to the Rivelino’s House in San Juan de Chuccho where we spent our first night.  There is another place to stay in this village, Roy’s House.  If nobody is at the bridge waiting to take you somewhere, you can take either path leading to the village (there are two, apparently they go to the same place, the lower path is very steep for a short bit, but is quicker.  The upper path meanders a little, and thus takes a little longer).  There were directional arrows and signs painted on big rocks along the trail that would lead you to either Roy’s or the Rivelino’s house.

We thoroughly enjoyed staying at the Rivelino’s House.  They had a number of huts/rooms that were basic, but clean.  There were hot water showers, flushing toilets, and a little store with beer, water, tp, some candy, etc.  They also served a basic but filling dinner (I believe we had beef, some veggies and rice, if you are vegetarian you might just get pasta). The next day we had a lovely breakfast of banana crepes drizzled with caramel.

We were the only people there without a guide, and we seemed to get the exact same service/meals that everyone else did, with the exception of dinner.  We were the only people to get meat.  I can’t imagine that everyone else (maybe 15 people) were vegetarians, so I suspect it’s just what the guided groups either carried in or contracted to pay for since it’s easier to serve a batch of spaghetti than to cook 15 steaks.

Cost : room was 8 soles per person

           dinner was 8 soles per person

           breakfast was 5 soles per person.

Did you get to this bridge? Then you are going the right way!

9)      The next day we were up early and on the trail by around 8.  To get to Sangalle you have to go through two small villages – Cosnirhua and Malata.  You can alternatively head out to Tapay, which we didn’t do, and then loop back around.  The locals pointed us in the right direction, and we just followed the path around the side of the canyon, and eventually down to the bottom again where we had to cross another small bridge.  I was worried we would accidentally take the turn-off to Tapay but we didn’t, and in fact I’m not really sure where the turn off is so if you want to go that route, I suggest you just ask before you are out of San Juan de Chuccho.  It took us around 30 minutes to reach the bridge, and then it’s uphill for around 45 minutes to the town of Cosnirhua.

10)   Once at the edge of the town of Cosnirhua there are two paths you can take.  The one headed left will take you on the edge of town, the one leading the right will take you through the town, but they meet up again at the end of the village.

11)   It takes about 20 minutes to walk between Cosnirhua and Malata, and it was flat and easy.

Justin is excited that we can find beer in this little village.

12)   In Malata there is a hostel with a little store and a museum.  All the tourist groups stop here and are served the fermented corn beer (which seemed warm and terrible) and are given a little red smudge on their faces from the cactus.  As we had already played with the cactus smudges on the trail, I didn’t really feel like we were missing out.  The store has all the basics, pasta, soup packets, rice, soda, water and beer.  The beer apparently used to be only 5 soles, but it’s now 10, so you’d be better off just waiting until Sangalle.

13)   From Malata the trail continues very obviously down to Sangalle, it took a little less than an hour for us to get down there.

The pool at our hostel in Sangalle

14)   Sangalle is odd because it’s not really a town, just a series of little resorts.  There are at least 4, and I strongly suggest you look around before you accept a room.  We made the mistake of being lazy and just saying yes at the first place we came across in Sangalle, Oasis Parisio, which apparently used to be quite nice, but is now a total shithole a bit rundown.  Our hut was tolerable, but had dirt floors, and we heard afterwards that the two places beyond it are newer and have tile.  The whole ‘resort’ is in a bit of shambles, and I wish we had just sucked it up and found our way to the next place.  Unfortunately it rained most of the afternoon that we arrived so we only got to enjoy the pool for a little while.

Cost: 10 soles per person for a room, unless you get a matrimonial       (double bed) and then it’s 25.

10 soles per person for dinner – soup and pasta.

They also serve breakfast (7 soles) and lunch (10 soles) but we didn’t partake.  We just bought a few bananas the next morning to supplement the bread and granola bars we brought with us.

15)   To hike back up was very obvious…you just go straight up. It’s mostly switchbacks, and there were no real splits to confuse you.  Hiking times vary greatly…we did it in four hours.  Some English guys that were also staying at the Oasis made it in about 3hrs 15 min, and there were a few other guys who claimed to have done it in just over 2.  If you are in great shape and acclimated to the altitude I’d say between 2-3 hours is reasonable.  If you are in terrible shape, give yourself 5+ hours.  The average seems to be 3-4 hours.

A much needed rest about halfway up.

We started around 6:30am to try to avoid some sun, which was a good idea as there are no trees or shade other than the sides of the canyon before the sun is up. After about 2 hours we had reached this little overlook with a little hut and a place to sit.

If you just can’t (or don’t want to ) hike back up, you can hire a mule from every hostel in Sangalle.  We didn’t do this so I can’t speak to the actual cost, but Lonely Planet puts it at around 60 Soles.

16)   At the top there was a control guard who needed the tear off pieces from our boletos that we didn’t have.  We got lucky and he eventually let us pass without it, but we were a bit nervous that we were going to have to pay a fine or something.

I swear this is the trail. Ok, it might ALSO be a ditch, but it really is the trail.

17)    Once at the very top you follow the path into something that looks like a ditch (you will probably be thinking “no way is this the right way…”), then when you see the cornfields you go over the small wall to your right onto the path through the corn and follow that into the town and right onto the road that has the Hostel Valle Del Fuego and onto the main plaza.

18)   You can buy your bus tickets when you get back (might be a good idea in high season to do this before you hike down, just make sure to be back up in time!).  The bus times change frequently, but we caught one at 11:30 headed back to Arequipa.

Cost: 16 soles one way

Our total cost per person for the whole three days (including all water, some beer, food that we brought as well as meals in the canyon, lodging, transportation and entrance tickets): 140 soles per person

Did we save a ton over the tours? 

No, but most tours didn’t include the boleto though, so without that we did cut the cost by at least 1/3. Prices seemed to land around 150 Soles for some type of 3 day package, though what you get for that 150 varies.  Some tours offer no hiking at all, they merely cart you to a number of spots on the rim of the canyon to see the condors and to marvel at the depth of the valley, others take you to scenic overlooks, spend the night in Cabanoconde or Chivay and then have you trek down to Sangalle (the oasis) on the second day, and trek you out on the third.  Yet others offer a solid three days of hiking where you get to spend 2 nights in the valley, usually one in a village and the other in Sangalle.  If you’re looking at a tour, make sure you know exactly what the itinerary is as well as what’s included – will they provide all the meals?  Snacks?  All the water? One thing most companies don’t include in the cost of their trip is the tourist boletto that MUST be purchased in order to enter most villages in the area, including Cabanaconde.  As of November 2011, it was 35 Soles, but rumor has it that price is about to double.

Incidentally, Lonely Planet’s suggestion of the company Colca Trek, seems totally out of whack for the otherwise budget friendly guide.  Colca Trek quoted us 690 soles for a 3 day tour that included one night of camping at the oasis, and one night at the top of the canyon.  The stopped at a number of places along the way to look at the vicuña and some natural landscapes as well.   It may well be one of the better tours in the area, but the price just about blew us out of the water.

Would we have rather taken a tour considering how close the cost was?

No.  It was nice to be able to do things at our leisure, and not feel like we were being rushed, or having to wait on people. It also was really easy to do on our own.  If you don’t hike much in your day-to-day life, or just want to have the added comfort of going with someone experienced, then I’d recommend a tour.  Just make sure you shop around and are very sure what exactly is included before you put any money down.

What did we bring with us?

One outfit to hike in – we wore it each day for 3 days (with new socks and personals each day)

One outfit to sleep in

Sleep sacks (which we didn’t need)

Swimsuit for Sangalle

Lightweight towel

Two giant (2L, heavy but necessary) bottles of water (bought a third in the canyon)

A few bananas, 6 granola bars, 2 chocolate bars, and 4 rolls.  The rest of our meals we bought at the hostels or had en route in Cabanaconde

Headlamps – a must, most places in the canyon do not have electricity.

Flip flops

Warm fleece for night, it gets COLD.

Hats with brims

Sunscreen and bug spray.  There is no shade, you will get fried.  There are also these little flies that bite in Sangalle, highly irritating.

Basic first aid kit with advil, band-aids, sports tape, dehydration salts, anti-bac, immodium and water treatment tablets.

Rain jackets

All the money we needed for the whole time as there are no ATMs in the canyon.  Bring small bills.

With, or without, a guide, we’d definitely recommend this trek if you’re in Arequipa and have at least 2 days to spare.


66 Responses to “How To Hike Colca Canyon, Without A Guide”

  1. James and Alexandra June 6, 2012 at 10:23 am #

    Thanks for the write-up guys, it proved invaluable in planning our guide-less hike in Colca.

    • Ashley June 8, 2012 at 2:16 pm #

      Thanks for letting us know! I hoped someone would stumble across it and find it helpful 🙂

      • funrush February 16, 2013 at 12:32 pm #

        Hey! Thanks a lot for your blog! And specially this article 🙂
        It gave us the courage to go without a guide! if you want to check it out here’s our small report: 🙂

      • Ashley February 16, 2013 at 8:07 pm #

        Excellent, glad you found it helpful! I’ll definitely check out your link, always happy to live vicariously through other travelers 😉

  2. Raphael July 20, 2012 at 3:01 pm #

    Great detailed info! Thanks a lot. It is by far the best overview we found of doing it solo. Looking fwd to it.

    • Ashley July 22, 2012 at 9:11 am #

      I’m so glad you found it useful! Hope you enjoy the trip 🙂

  3. Mark February 24, 2013 at 7:13 am #

    Great information all in one place. I’m looking to do something similar and your blog is a huge help!! One question, what did you do with your main luggage/backpacks? Did you leave it in Arequipa?

    • Ashley February 24, 2013 at 11:02 am #

      We did leave the rest of our stuff at our hostel in Arequipa. So many people do trips to Colca Canyon from there that pretty much everywhere will store your luggage without a fee, especially if you are coming back to spend one more night before you head on. Have a great time!

  4. Matt Johnson April 29, 2013 at 8:35 am #

    Thanks this is a great plan. We are intending to do pretty much the same trek. Originally we were only going to go to Sangalle, but now will go to San Juan De Chuccho.

    One question – did you book to stay at Rivelino’s House? I haven’t been able to find anywhere to book or even contact them. Did you just show up and hope for the best?

    Thanks in advance.

    • Ashley April 29, 2013 at 12:20 pm #

      So, we just showed up at the edge of the village and there was someone there, waiting by the bridge, to take us to the place. If you get there and there’s no one there, just head towards the village, and there are directions/signs painted on big rocks to lead you to both Rivelinos and the other place in the village. Best of luck, I’m sure you’ll have a great time!

  5. sashacox April 30, 2013 at 10:50 am #

    Hey gang! We just did the Colca trek using much of your advice. If your readers want a full update of what this trip looks like as of April 2013 (including changes in transport and costs), they can find it here:

    • Ashley April 30, 2013 at 5:10 pm #

      Sweet, thanks for the link!

  6. Tripper October 23, 2013 at 5:01 pm #

    Headed down to Peru to do this trek soon, wondering what you guys did with your packs while you were in your canyon? We are in Peru for 2 weeks and down want to trek ALL our gear through the canyon.

    • Ashley November 17, 2013 at 10:04 pm #

      Sorry for the late response! We left our bags at the place we were staying, hopefully you managed to do the same.

  7. Paweł September 8, 2014 at 11:54 am #

    Great job with this guide. You convinced me to DIY.
    Have just one question is it safe to just walk around the Canyon hoping that you will find a place to stay upon arrival to one of those small villiges? Is there enough of places to stay not to be worried? I can’t find any way to book some accomodation there…Even in those places you mentioned and to be honest I would feel much safer if I knew that once I arrive there will be a room waiting for me. I’ll be doing the trip in October (not sure if this is high season or not). If anyone know how to book some rooms in advance will appricate your help.
    Many thanks,

    • Matt J September 9, 2014 at 8:35 am #

      Hi Pawel

      that was my concern too, but there isn’t any way to book accommodation at the places in the Canyon. Many of them barely even have electricity let alone internet access, websites etc. We didn’t have any trouble finding accommodation – we stayed at the place with the large rock in the swimming pool.

      Hut was pretty basic – concrete floor, thatched walls and single beds. That’s it. Outdoor cold showers only. Food was pretty basic too, and not really all that tasty, but enough to keep us going.

      BTW – when we went, we attempted to use the route above, and I didn’t find the instructions quite as easy as they seem. We also ran into the problem that the track down to San Juan had collaped in the earthquake the week before. We had to turn around several hours into the walk, and head back to Cabanaconde. That kinda ruined our trek. We only spent one night instead of 2, but managed to change our bus trip to go back.

      We used the tourist bus, which was more expensive, but also did some good stuff on the way back. Stopped at a great place for lunch, a market, the hot springs etc. Was really worth the extra $$$

      Have fun

      • steph October 9, 2014 at 3:29 pm #

        hi everyone,
        my boyfriend and I are planning on doing this hike in a couple days on our own. do you have any updates on trail condition or alternate routes after the earthquake?
        thanks, steph

  8. Matt J October 9, 2014 at 4:26 pm #

    I should have said that we travelled there last year. I only posted a month ago. The earthquake I mentioned was last year and I’m not aware if there have been any since. The tracks would have been repaired by now, but I think earthquakes are a common thing. Not all of them damage the tracks.

  9. looktheworldintheeye February 16, 2015 at 6:58 pm #

    Awesome, so helpful in planning our own DIY trip! If you get a chance check out our blog, we’re currently doing South America, heading to Arequipa tomorrow!

  10. Ram June 3, 2015 at 7:46 am #

    Thanks man. I leaving to Peru this summer. I will try to trek colca on my own. I will take your tips into account.

  11. Cynthia July 1, 2015 at 11:51 pm #

    I’m planning on heading to Colca this weekend. Am a woman traveling alone, and a bit worried about getting “lost” on the path. Is it fairly clear? I’d prefer to do it without a tour group (based on all the lovely blogs I’ve read), but also don’t want to get lost. Thoughts? Sounds like spending the night in Chivay is ideal compared to staying in Arequipa.
    Thanks for the feedback!

    • Michael July 3, 2015 at 11:09 am #

      Hey! Me and my girlfriend are also doing the trek without a guide this weekend starting tomorrow actuall. Would u be interested in doing it together?!

      Hey Ashley would it be possible to send Cynthia an email from us?!

      • Ashley July 3, 2015 at 3:41 pm #

        Michael – I will definitely send an e-mail – I’ll send it from my gmail to both of you!

    • Ashley July 3, 2015 at 3:40 pm #

      The path was fairly clear when we were there – I wouldn’t worry much about getting lost – we also saw plenty of other people so you could always ask someone else that you come across just to be sure you are headed in the right direction.

  12. carapaucostante July 31, 2015 at 3:44 am #

    Great job guys, now I just have to convince my mates to DIY 😉

  13. carapaucostante July 31, 2015 at 3:46 am #

    You did a great job guys, now I just have to convince my mates to DIY 😉

  14. Kasia August 24, 2015 at 9:37 am #

    Hi Guys!

    Thanks for the article. I’m definitely going to do it alone. Just a question: where did you leave your big backpacks? Somewhere in Cabanaconde? If yes, where exactly?

    Thanks for the feedback!

    • Ashley August 24, 2015 at 12:24 pm #

      Great! We left our main packs at the place we were staying in Arequipa since we knew we were going back for a night after the hike.

      • Kasia September 2, 2015 at 10:09 am #

        Oh ok, thanks! I guess I will need to do the same as it seems like you can’t go straight up north to Lima from Cabanaconde.

  15. wehoudenwelwatbij January 24, 2016 at 12:04 am #

    Thanks for this post! It was very helpful during our hike 2 weeks ago. We wrote a blog post / updated version of this as well if anyone’s interested – you can find it here:

    • Ashley January 25, 2016 at 12:20 pm #

      Thanks! We updated this post to point to the great follow-ups people have done, hopefully the variety of experiences everyone has had will help even more people find their way on this hike.

  16. DerBackpacker February 23, 2016 at 6:39 pm #

    Hey, thanks for your helpful post! I have done an article myself with updated prices for 2016. The article is in german thou. You can find it here:

  17. Rich March 21, 2016 at 1:32 pm #

    Your info is great. Thanks, I see why you get a lot of hits. To that end … thought I’d also share my trip to the Colca
    Trekking the Colca Canyon of Peru – photos and …

    The Drama in Malata- Colca Canyon Peru (where we lost our guide to drunkness and navigated the canyon on our own) hope you enjoy. cheers!

  18. Laurel March 24, 2016 at 2:29 am #

    I wanted to share my blog post here, since it seems like there isn’t that much info out about doing this hike without a guide. We went to Llahuar for our first night and then spent the second night in the Oasis.

    Your blog was lots of help planning our trip. Thank you!

    • marieblum June 17, 2016 at 10:32 pm #

      Hey Laurel and Ashley,
      Thank you for your blogs it’s so helpful.
      I am planning a trek in the Colca Canyon for July. Do you know how long does it take from Llahuar to the Oasis ? I was hoping to do it the same day as Cabanaconde-Llahuar and sleep at the oasis.

  19. guikema June 18, 2016 at 5:14 pm #

    Thanks for the details. FYI (for other readers), we were able to find a somewhat better map (not the quality we would use for a remote wilderness trek, but adequate for this) at “Arequipa Tour” on Calle Jerusalen #306-B. It cost us 10 soles. Gloria, the person working there when we visited, was super helpful and friendly. Knowing that we were going independently, she did not try to sell us a tour and was very generous in offering advice for bus, route option etc. (All this for the cost of the 10 sole map.). Finally, we bought our bus ticket on Reyna, by making a trip out to Terminal Terestre the day before our departure. (We are told that Reyna is the most comfortable of the bus options.). The tickets were 17 soles each. They have a middle of the night departure, but we decided on the 11 AM departure, which will get us in to Cabanaconde around 4:30 PM. Booking [dot] com has some promising places to stay there, as well as a place with hotsprings in Llahuar (which is where we will stay at the end of our morning hike down from Caganaconde.). Excited to be going into the Canyon!

    • Girl on an Adventure August 22, 2016 at 2:45 pm #

      Thank you everyone for your advice and feedback. I am planning on doing the trek within the next week. Does anyone have updates on the current condition of the trail? Also, I know this was brought up before, but I am a bit concerned about hiking trail alone. Are there safety concerns regarding a Doug the trek as a solo female hiker?


  20. Kamil Bolek October 8, 2016 at 7:56 pm #

    Hi, Guys! Great job you did! Really helpful!

    I’m planning to do this trek next month (Nov). Do you think it’s possible to make it within 2 days (1 night)? I’m like “regular fit” and I plan to go from Arequipa early in the morning, be in Cabanaconde at noon, hike to San Juan de Chuccho and stay there overnight (or in Coshñirwa?). And then early in the morning hike back to Cabanaconde via Sangalle. Is it doable or shoud I be like ‘extra-fit’ to do that? Any suggestions would be helpful!

    My biggest concern is that second day and hiking from San Juan de Chuccho to Sangalle to Cabanaconde all in one day… I’d really appreciate all tips, suggestions and comments on that!


    • Ashley October 9, 2016 at 12:35 pm #

      Thanks! We’re so glad people are still finding this info useful! It’s hard for us to say whether something is do-able since people’s perception of what reasonable fitness is can vary dramatically. I will say that it’s a pretty good distance (San Juan to Sangalle and then back to Cabanaconde) but not unreasonable – probably. It takes people 2-4 hours typically to get from Sangalle to Cabanaconde, and I think it took us a few hours from San Juan to Sangalle. If you plan on taking the bus out that same day, you’ll want to make sure you know the latest departure times, and maybe get your ticket in advance. If you hike regularly, I’d think you’ll probably be fine, especially if you are acclimated to the altitude already. Good luck and have fun!

      • Kamil Bolek October 9, 2016 at 1:53 pm #

        Thanks! “not unreasonable” will do for me! 🙂

        All the best!

  21. Phill Walter October 14, 2016 at 4:44 pm #

    Thank you very much, nice article. Would you tell me which shoes you wore and if you were happy with them? I am unsure which kind of shoes to buy for a 3 day Colca Canyon tour.. :/ thank you 🙂

    • Ashley October 30, 2016 at 7:36 pm #

      Thanks! I might not be the best person to ask about shoes as I get blisters in EVERYTHING. We both had Merrill hiking shoes though, and they were fine. The trail is dirt with a few rocks, but not particularly rugged and we think it could be just fine even in regular sneakers.

      • Phill October 31, 2016 at 1:51 am #

        Alright, thanks a lot, that’s exactly what I wanted to hear 😀
        I am really looking forward to that trip and you helped a lot 🙂
        Best regards

  22. Della October 29, 2016 at 6:46 pm #

    Bravo. Super helpful. I can rough it but this is fabulous info. Can we camp along the way?

    • Ashley October 30, 2016 at 7:37 pm #

      Thanks! I’m not sure about the legality of camping along the way, but from my recollection there aren’t many places that you could even pitch a tent. There weren’t really any trees for cover, and the trail is steep, so finding a flat area would be difficult I think.

  23. Maples March 2, 2017 at 9:17 pm #

    If anyone wants some more information from a local who wants you to support a healthy trekking culture (and his hostel). Lots of info and support for those looking to do it without a guide. Definitely worth your time!

  24. Christopher May 3, 2017 at 7:15 pm #

    If you are a sportive person and used to proper hiking I’d recommend this as a day hike. We did it May 2nd 2017, got there with the 3am Bus from Arequipa and it took a total of 7 hrs including breaks. We spent the night at Pachamama’s Hostel in Cabanaconde.

    To play it safe, next time I’d get the night before and start early, that than leaves plenty of time.

    • traveller98blog February 27, 2018 at 1:15 pm #

      Have found your article brilliant. Do you think someone who used to be fit but now as to walk with walking poles due to knee problems would cope with some of the walk? which parts are steep? All of it or just some of it? Or is some of it a reasonable gradient?
      Would plan to stay in Cabanaconde the first night and hope to ‘do’ some of the walk the next day. Realistic or not?

      • Ashley February 27, 2018 at 2:48 pm #

        It’s hard to say, but if you are walking comfortably with poles, then I would guess you will manage. Some parts are quite steep – we found the hike up form Cabanaconde the steepest. There are parts that are more gentle, depending on your route. And, there are folks who can arrange for a horse or donkey to ride up if necessarily. Have fun!

      • Lynn March 3, 2018 at 5:34 am #

        Thanks Ashley. That’s a great help.

  25. Kevin December 5, 2018 at 4:12 pm #

    My wife and I are traveling to Peru and wanting to hit up various treks including the Colca Canyon. My concern is that we will be traveling in January during the rainy season. Would this be a problem and has anyone completed the trek during a rainy season?

  26. Johan January 8, 2019 at 10:56 am #

    Thank you so much! We are from South Africa and we plan to walk this in May / June. I think we will use your write-up as our guide!


  1. Arequipa & Trekking Canyon Country | The Flowtrells - August 27, 2012

    […] the crowds, stay longer at the bottom of the canyon and save a decent amount of money. Thanks to the Parallel Life for their DIY post which served as a very helpful guide during our […]

  2. Hiking the Colca Canyon Without a Guide: Updated! | SmashAdventures - April 30, 2013

    […] so we turned to the interwebs for more detailed info on how to proceed independently. The best advice we found was from the couple over at the Parallel Life, and their post is a great place to start. However, […]

  3. 4 days in Colca Canyon | Two for the Road - October 5, 2013

    […] For the original overall breakdown and very useful information check out The Parallel Life. […]

  4. Two Week Peru Itinerary | Mary Catherine Bedard - September 10, 2014

    […] See blog: […]

  5. How not to hike Colca Canyon - September 9, 2015

    […] own (in contrast to the Inka trail, for example, for which you must hire a local guide). I checked The Parallel Life, Double-Barrelled Travel and Where Is Your Toothbrush to prepare for my trip. I planned to leave […]

  6. Trekking in Colca Canyon on your own | Nomad Explorers - October 5, 2015

    […] I didn’t go to San Juan de Chuccho. If you are interested to visit you can read about it at The Parallel Life or Where is your toothbrush for example. I would say day 3 is optional as it’s a demanding 10 […]

  7. Hiking the Colca Canyon without a guide – Updated Jan. 2016 | we houden wel wat bij - January 23, 2016

    […] based our route on two excellent blog posts, one by The Parallel Life from 2011, and one by Smash Adventures from 2013. Still, we felt that we could add some […]

  8. DIY Peru: Colca canyon trekking – Big Map, Big Plans - May 12, 2016

    […] The Parallel Life – great article that covers most of what you need to know. Things haven’t changed too much since this was written in 2011… […]

  9. (Maybe Not So) Hidden Gems of Peru – The City of Huaraz - January 21, 2017

    […] Travel agencies crawl Arequipa looking for tourists to take into the canyon, but it is possible to trek Colca Canyon without a guide. You can find a first-hand account of this journey at the blog, Parallel Life. […]

  10. Trekking Colca Canyon without a guide or a tour • Where Is Your Toothbrush? - April 18, 2017

    […] out there on trekking Colca Canyon DIY-style but thanks to helpful posts from the folks at The Parallel Life, SmashAdventures*, and Brendan’s Adventures, we knew where to start. Here’s a rundown […]

  11. Hiking Vacation in South America 99TravelTips - October 6, 2017

    […] Being the world’s deepest (twice as deep as the Grand Canyon) and one of the most picturesque canyons in the world, the Colca in Central Andes attracts thousands of hikers both with its easy slopes and challenging steep rocky walls. You can try one of a million different tours with a guide, or hike down the canyon by yourself. […]

  12. Hiken in de Colca Canyon zonder gids of tour - Groetjes uit Verweggistan - October 23, 2017

    […] dat je ook kunt hiken in de Colca Canyon zonder gids of tour? Ik zag dat voor het eerst op de blog The Parallel Life en heb er sindsdien veel onderzoek naar gedaan. Het is ons gelukt en ik laat je vandaag zien hoe we […]

  13. Hiking Colca Canyon Without A Guide – Into Foreign Lands - November 7, 2017

    […] about trekking Colca Canyon and staying in guesthouses, I recommended reading this blog post, or this one. You might also be able to rent tents and camping bags and such in Arequipa, but I’m not sure […]

  14. Trekking im Colca Canyon ohne Guide - - February 27, 2018

    […] gibt es so gut wie keine nützlichen Links. Hier findest du einen älteren englischen Beitrag zum Thema Colca […]

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