Colca Canyon tour was perhaps one of the best experience I got from Peru. Colca Canyon is located about 3 hours from Arequipa. So if you are thinking about day trips, you shouldn’t miss this one. I got to see condor view, traditional dances, and incredible views on one of the deepest canyons on the planet. The views were breathtaking, I cannot recommend it enough. At the same time, if you are planning to visit Colca Canyon, you should think about if one day is enough or if you feel like hiking in the canyon and stay there for two days.
One day tour to Colca canyon
A little bit about the tour first. If you are planning to go from Arequipa, you will have to wake up very early and be prepared to spend most of the time on the bus. Either way, it is still a great tour. During the time, you will visit several stops in little Peruvian villages and see local culture and more. That is mainly if you decide to come for one day. However, if you are planning a trek in Colca Canyon it would take two days and you might need to be more prepared. Sitting on a bus and hiking in the mountains is just an entirely different workout.
First three stops
Because I’m constantly hungry, I quite appreciated that our first stop was in Chivay, where we got breakfast. It was early in the morning, I’m pretty sure most of us were freezing, so this was a great way of how to make us feel a lot better. Chivay is something like a capital town in Colca Valley. Our stop was mainly just for food and refreshment, also to see if we all will manage this climate.
Chivay has an altitude of 3600m, which makes it one of the critical places in Peru, mainly because this is the point where you might get sick. And since this was the lowest point in the valley that we visited, you must enter this land already used to this, otherwise, you might spend the next day in the emergency room.
The next stop was finally something for us to observe. In Huambo nearby has a little market and their traditional dance. So we stop there in 7 in the morning for about half an hour just to see them dance and have a look at what they had in the market. I have no illusion that this is what people normally do there at 7 in the morning, so I’m pretty sure that this is very much just a tourist attraction. Either way, the things that they are selling are still solid and quite high quality, so if you thinking about buying some souvenirs from Peru, don’t look too far. But it is still interesting to see how different this culture is from anything that you might meet closer to the coast.
The third stop was pretty much the same. We went to Maca, which is a small village in the middle of Colca canyon, with colonial churches and markets full of people. The special thing about it was the colonial church in the village that you can visit, which was really nice and perhaps the most interesting thing about this stop. The church Santa Ana de Maca is also considered one of the most beautiful ones in the valley.
The good thing about markets is that here it is fine to bargain about prices, which I highly recommend since they are trying to make it very expensive. This is also a place where people would offer you to take a selfie with baby alpacas if you would like.
Finally, after these little stops, we got to the best one. The condor view. This was also a reason, why we get off so early, according to our guide, condors are flying there mainly in the morning, so if we would get longer sleep, we might not see them. The funny thing about this is that the first time I heard about it, I thought it is super of the beaten path thing with not so many tourists. Well, I was wrong before and I will be wrong again.
Condor view is quite full of tourists. To the point that if there is a condor flying somewhere down in the canyon, you won’t see it, because people there are making long lines and sometimes it is really hard to get to the point where you can see the birds.
Here it is important to know that the view is quite long and there are usually a lot of condors, so you will probably get lucky at some point anyway. Just count that this attraction is more popular than you might expect.
Colca canyon views
I’m sure that anyone who likes mountains would enjoy this tour. The minibus we got often stoped on some views. That was a great opportunity for taking pictures or just enjoy the breathtaking nature around. Because Colca Canyon once belonged to the Inka kingdom, you can still see all their plantages. Some of them are hundreds of years old and people are still using them.
Except for those, you can also see amazing peaks in the Andes. We also went to the highest point in Colca Canyon, which had 4900m. If you look around there, you would see three different volcanoes that surround Arequipa. Which is Hualcahualca, Sabancaya, and Ampato. On the place, where the bus stops, you would also see National reserve Salidas and Aguada Blanca. There you can see camelids like alpacas and llamas. These are living there semi-wild. Meaning, that people would mark them and take their wool, but let them run free around these reserves.
But don’t just wait for the views, overall the drive in this area is amazing. On our way back, we met a herd of wild alpacas. Words of advice: they are used to beg people for food. And if you decide to go to the toilet somewhere in nature around them, they will check what are you doing there.
This is one of the optional stops on the tour. Your guide will probably ask the whole bus on who wants to visit Yanque. Which is a very small village. But, what is interesting there are the local hot springs. They always have around 38°C so even if it is cold outside, you can warm your self there for a little bit. The tours usually stop there for an hour, which is more than enough to enjoy it. It is also one of the places, where you don’t have too many tourists mainly because a lot of people would forget their bathing suits.
All you need to know about One day tour to Colca canyon
Booking in advance is not necessary
As I found out in Peru it is not necessary to book day trips like this in advance. I mean, it can be cheaper if you do, but if you don’t, you will still find a good tour. For example with the tour to Colca Canyon, I just knew I want to go there. Which is the thing I said in my hotel and the first thing they did, was offered me this tour for 70 soles with lunch. I had no reason not to trust them or not to take it. They even woke me up in the early hours to go for the bus. So if you are planning to do something like this, you can just ask your hotel, they will find something for you.
Altitude in Colca canyon is quite high
If you tend to suffer from altitude sickness, you will need to prepare your medicine for this trip. The first village, Chivay, is at an altitude of 3600 m above the sea level. And it is not one of the highest places, that you will visit. The average altitude of the Colca canyon tour is about 3800m. And you will go as high as at 4900m. So it is quite high. Some buses would offer you oxygen bottles and in villages, you can get some coca tea. But be prepared for this situation and perhaps take medicine with you.
Temperature isn’t too warm
It is both combinations of high altitude and the fact, that the main season in Peru is from June to September when it is winter. When we arrive for breakfast at the first village, it was only about 10 degrees outside if not less. So it was very chilly. Make sure, that you will be prepared for it.
One day tour starts very early in the morning
Here is something that probably won’t make you too happy. The Colca Canyon is about 3 hours from Arequipa, which is one of the bigger cities around, where you can start. If you want to make it to the condor view in time, you will have to start early, because apparently, that is when the condors are most active. So to see them around 9 am, you will need to wake up at 4 if not earlier.
Peruvian condors are very unique
So, you already know that these animals are most active between 8 am and 10 am. So relatively early in the morning. During these times, you can see dozens of those astonishing creatures. The condors are a wingspan up to 3 meters, which is pretty wide, considering, that they weight “only” 15 kilos. The condors are also endangered species so the Peruvian government is taking special measures to ensure that this kind will get only better.
Wititi dance is part of UNESCO heritage
I have never known that dance can be part of UNESCO heritage. But here we are. So in one of the villages in Colca canyon, you will probably see the traditional dance. The wititi dance is a ritual for starting adulthood. Normally the dance is performed during rain season during some of the local religious rituals. But for the sake of tourists seeing it, it is also something that is shown a little bit more often, when you come to see their markets or local church.
One day tour vs two days tour in Colca Canyon
This is one of the most common question and truly it is a good one. There is a lot of people who don’t know whether they should take one day or two days’ tour. I would say, that if you have time, it is better to take two days. The difference in price is that instead of 70 soles, you will probably pay over 100 soles. But you will also see more. Besides most of the tour operators are offering very nice accommodation in the local villages.
On the two day tour, you would also have time to do some trekking. And Colca canyon is one of the most popular places in Peru for that activity. You will probably need to be a little bit more prepared for that, but I’m sure that there are some amazing hiking trails.
Another difference is also the fact, that if you come to Colca canyon for two days, you won’t have to wake up so early. You will see the condors on the next day in the morning and nobody will try to wake you up in the middle of the night.
Generally, if you research a lot of companies offer different packages. Some would offer something a two-day tour. Which would be just two days of local culture experience but they don’t mention hiking at all. There probably is some, but it might be very minimal.
Some other places would offer only two-day treks, which would be mostly focused on the canyon and the nature around it. You would probably see some of these villages as well, but you wouldn’t spend time there. It would be mostly about hiking in the canyon. Which is a great option if you love mountains.
I also saw some places offering three or four days treks. I could imagine, that if you would want something like that, you would be a probably advanced hiker, who can last when walking in high altitude for a couple of days. If that is something that you would be interested in, you should probably contact the company and ask about the difficulty and what do you need to pack for such things.
What to pack for Colca canyon
Warm clothes – In very high altitudes or during the morning, it is very cold. So make sure you will have a sweater and some warm pants with you.
Sports clothes – If you come for just one day, it is probably not necessary, because you won’t be hiking anyway. But for two days and more, definitely make sure you will bring some comfortable sports clothes and shoes with you.
Sunglasses – Mosquitos aren’t a problem at this altitude, but there is a lot of suns. So make sure you will take sunglasses with you. It is just more comfortable.
Cash – You will go through a lot of markets here. And there isn’t any ATM, so make sure you have enough money for souvenirs or just a water bottle.
Is Tour to Colca Canyon just a tourist attraction? To some extent, yes. But is it still worth it? Definitely. If you are planning to do that, prepare your self for a long day in the minibus. But I’m sure that views from outside will make it all better for you.
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