After relaxing in Lima and enjoying all of its modern conveniences it was time for another hike so we headed to Colca Canyon in Arequipa province. People come to Colca Canyon for two reasons: to hike the second deepest canyon in the world and to see condors. Hayley isn’t a fan of birds and Sergei already saw condors earlier on the trip, so we focused on the hiking. From our online research, especially Trekking Colca without a guide we decided to do this trip without a guide. The trail seemed very straightforward and there were hostels that provided meals in every town. Our decision to do the hike solo was validated on the last day when on the way up we ran into a gentleman who was complaining about having to wait for his loud hiking group and was clearly jealous of us hiking alone. Turns out he was from Seattle, small world! There are quite a few blogs online where people got lost or otherwise had trouble, but we found this hike to be uncomplicated and serene.
Getting to Cabanaconde
We were staying in Arequipa and from our research our options were:
- Hire tourist transport to pick us up at 3:30 am and get us to Cabanaconde to hike the same way
- Take a combi to Chivay at 4:30 am and then another from Chivay to Cabanaconde
- Take a direct public bus from Arequipa to Cabanaconde, with the first bus leaving at 9 am, with multiple options throughout the day
We decided we weren’t in a hurry and didn’t want to wake up in the middle of the night so we went with option 3 and took the 11 am bus with Reyna. Since we took a late morning bus, we couldn’t hike the same day we got to Cabanaconde. This wasn’t a problem; we hung out at Pachamama Hostel and relaxed before the 4 days of hiking.
Day 1 Cabanaconde to Llahuar
We started by heading west out of town and quickly got to the rim of the canyon. The views were beautiful, but also a bit intimidating considering we could see how far down we needed to go. About a mile from town you start heading downhill all the way to the river. The route is all steep switchbacks with loose rocks so we were thankful for our hiking shoes and poles. We got to the river in about 3 hours and had about an hour of gradual uphill to Llahuar.
Llahuar Lodge (bookable online) is the biggest place to stay in Llahuar. The main building has a dining room with one side open towards the river and in the back there are smaller sheds that serve as guest rooms. One of the main attractions of Llahuar are the pools heated by volcanic activity. Sitting in a 102 F (39 C) pool felt very nice after the hike.
- 7.35 miles
- 1,237 ft ascended
- 3,914 ft descended
Day 2 Llahuar to Fure
At breakfast we opted to pay another S. 2 to get an extra pancake because we had some climbing to do to get to Fure. This turned out to be our favorite hiking day. We spent the entire day on donkey trails with no roads or cars and saw only two other tourists. Along the way we continued to get great views of the canyon stretching out and the river below. We got to Fure around 11:30 and decided to hike out to the Huaruro Waterfall before having lunch at our hostel Fure Wassi. We saw the waterfall, but didn’t get to the end of the trail because in front of us was a 3 man & 8 donkey construction crew and getting past them there and back would’ve made us late for lunch, and lunch is always a priority.
Fure Wassi (facebook page) is one of two lodging options in Fure.
This village gets less tourist traffic than the other places in the valley, so the accommodations are very basic. In fact, Fure is barely a village. There are two options for hostels, and we chose the most modern, which consisted of a shed with unfinished floors, a shared bathroom without any toilet paper, soap or towels. There was a wood fired stove kitchen and the proprietor, Señora Julia, cooked for the entire village. But after a day of hiking we were happy to have a roof over our heads and some warm meals. Sadly, there wasn’t a lot of variety in the vegetarian food – Hayley ate rice, potatoes and an omelet for 75% of her meals on this trip including all the meals at Fure Wassi (lunch, dinner and breakfast).
- 7.11 miles
- 3,189 ft ascended
- 1,703 ft descended
Day 3 Fure to San Juan de Chuccho
Distance wise this was our longest day, but luckily relatively flat compared to the other days on this hike. The first part of the trail was similar to the donkey trail from Llahuar to Fure and then we made it to the road that connects most of the towns on the north side of the Colca Canyon. Walking along the dirt road was less exciting and we were happy to be done and get down to San Juan de Chuccho.
San Juan de Chuccho is one of the popular stops on the Colca Canyon loop and has four lodging options. We first went to Gloria’s but they didn’t have any private rooms left. This turned out for the best because around the corner we got a private room at Colibri Lodge (bookable online) that turned out to be the nicest hostel we’ve stayed in during our entire month and half long stay in Peru. The owner Rivelino finished construction on a set of new rooms back in September after spending 3 years carrying all the supplies down by donkey. We have no idea how hard it was to get a bathroom that would look good in Seattle down into a canyon, but we didn’t complain. We had the best shower in all of South America at his place.
- 9.12 miles
- 1,411ft ascend
- 2,507 ft descend
Day 4 San Juan de Chuccho to Cabanaconde
After a hearty breakfast of pancakes, bread, avocado, cheese and a pineapple shake (we were really getting our money’s worth with the nice room) it was time to head back to Cabanaconde. There’s no other way to describe this than a slog. It was one mile to the river, then 3 miles and 3,000 feet of elevation out of the canyon and then another 2 miles back to town. On the way up we saw around 50 people in 3 different tour groups coming down, including our Seattle friend who wished he did it solo like us.
We were happy to get back to Cabanaconde and celebrated with a large pizza from Pachamama.
- 6.31 miles
- 3,241 ft ascent
- 453 ft descent
Getting from Cabanaconde to Puno by Bus
It would have been easy to do the reverse of what we did and take the bus back to Arequipa, but we wanted to go to Puno next and decided to find a more direct route.
- Bus with 4M from Cabanaconde bookable through Pachamama – $60
- Reyna bus to Chivay ($1.50), Tours del Sur from Chivay to Puno ($30 online, potentially less in person)
- Nativa Express ($?)
Looking at a map of Colca Canyon it’s obvious that there are many different ways to go with trips as short as 1 night and as long as 3 or 4 nights. After reading Trekking Colca without a guide and Pablo Tour we decided on our route which was the Best Colca Trek 4 Days / 3 Nights route with Oasis de Sangalle swapped for San Juan de Chuccho.
Maps & Resources
We got a great map of Colca Canyon from Pachamama. Even if you’re not staying there, stop in and they can sell you one. However, we ended up not using the map and just followed the trail in Wikiloc. The individual wiki loc links above also break up the trail into daily pieces.
We hiked in early November and here’s what we needed to pack.
- Lightweight clothes for desert hiking
- Toilet paper
- Towel – the hostel in Fure didn’t have a towel
- Hiking Poles
- Warm jacket/fleece – it gets very cold at night
- Rain jacket – it sprinkled for a few minutes on one of the days, but the forecast made it seem we would have bad rain most afternoons.