Condors and Canyons

A few days ago we finished our 2 day trek in Colca Canyon, close to Arequipa in Peru, and it has to be one of the highlights of our trip so far!

Colca Canyon is the second deepest canyon in the world and also the home of some famous residents – condors! There are a few ways to visit the canyon:

  1. One or two day sightseeing tour, including a visit to the condor viewpoint and other areas around the canyon
  2. Two day trek – condor viewpoint then a downhill hike to the bottom of the canyon for an overnight stay, then a hike back up the following day
  3. Three day trek – the same as the two day trek but the hike is split over three days, with two nights at the bottom of the canyon

We were originally going to just do the one day sightseeing tour, but changed our minds when everyone we met raved about how great then two day trek is. Now that we’ve done it, we can honestly say that a trek is the best way to really see the canyon – the scenery is incredible!

Booking the trek was really easy, we found out a few prices from different tourist information centres in Arequipa and actually found one that was cheaper than the price our hostel quoted! We paid 160 soles each (about £40) which included transport, a guide, accommodation, meals (except lunch on the second day) and entry to the canyon.

Pre-warning – the trek involves two early mornings and the hiking is tough, but totally worth it for the views!

After a (painful) 3:30am start on the first day, we arrived at our first stop, breakfast in Chivay. I’ll be honest, the breakfast was really simple, just a couple of bread rolls and jam, and a few people were still hungry afterwards. Not a good sign before a day of hiking! Top tip – make sure you take plenty of cereal bars and snacks to see you through.

We then headed on to the Cruz del Condor viewpoint for around 8am – the prime time for seeing the condors. We only had to wait around 10 minutes before we saw 2 condors and they were beauties!

They had a swoop around the viewpoint and then chilled out for a bit so we hung around to see if we’d see any more.

After another 10 minutes loads more condors appeared out of nowhere and they were flying all over – past the viewpoint, into the canyon, even over our heads! They were huge but really graceful, it was so amazing.

Then the fun bit started – a 7km hike to the bottom of the canyon. Our guide Vladimir was really great, he didn’t pressure us to keep a certain speed and he was happy for us to stop to take photos when we wanted. It was a pretty steep downhill path and our knees were cursing us after a while, but we just really enjoyed seeing views of the canyon that you couldn’t see from the top.

We had a good lunch once we reached the bottom before tackling the 9km of fairly flat (with some up and down) path to our overnight oasis lodge. “Vamos a la playa!” was Vladimir’s catchphrase – we were pretty sure there was no beach waiting for us at the end, although we had been promised an oasis paradise. We might have been a bit sceptical…

And we were proved wrong!! The Palmeras Paraiso Lodge was like a piece of heaven welcoming us after our long day. It even had a pool!!

Yes the rooms were basic (note – no lighting or electricity so bring a torch) but it was fine for one night and on the plus side, happy hour at the bar ran for the whole night! Chilcanos and Pisco Sours all round.

Urgh, waking up at 4am wasn’t nice. We set off from the lodge just after 4:30am for our uphill hike back to the top of the canyon – a 1200m ascent. Crazy high.

But once the sun started to rise we got some more beaut views of Colca Canyon.

Finally, after just over 2 and a half hours and what seemed like a million switchbacks, we reached the top! Quads were burning but it was the best feeling to have done it. We even managed to beat some donkeys to the top. Winning.

Breakfast at the top was so good – after that hike, those scrambled eggs were like the best eggs ever! We then headed off to stop by beautiful viewpoints, towns and a hot springs (yaaaas!) before an amazing buffet lunch. We demolished those carbs.

Our Top Tips for Visiting Colca Canyon

  1. If you have a fairly good level of fitness and you have the time, seriously consider doing the two day trek. It’s totally worth it! You could do the three day trek but all it does is break up day 1 into two days – you still have the monster uphill hike on the third day.
  2. Take lots of snacks such as cereal bars, nuts, and Inka Corn (salty fried chips of corn) as well as lots of water! We took 2 litres each and then bought more water for the evening and second day down in the canyon. You can also buy extra snacks in the canyon if you want but beware the inflated prices (around 5 soles for a 1 litre bottle of water which would normally cost 1 or 2 soles)!
  3. Take money with you. The second day lunch, visit to the hot springs, and drinks and snacks aren’t included in the tour price. We really recommend you paying the extra 15 soles for the hot springs – our muscles are thanking us for it now!
  4. Take a torch… with working batteries! Yes, I was the plonker who had a head torch with dead batteries. Our accommodation didn’t have any lighting and you start the morning trek VERY early when it’s still dark, so a torch is definitely useful!
  5. Layers are you friends. It gets really hot during the day but cold at night so be prepared. You also need to carry all your things during the trek so pack lightly.

Have you ever been to Colca Canyon? What amazing treks have you done? We’d love to hear your comments so please leave a comment below! Follow us on Instagram  @pitkinswithpassports for more of our travel photos.

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