Colca Canyon Tours: How to Book & What to Expect
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You can hike the Colca Canyon in Peru either independently or on a guided tour. We went on a tour, and loved it! So in this blog, we reveal what we think are the BEST Colca Canyon tours and why, where you should book, how to prepare, and overall, what to expect on a Colca Canyon tour from Arequipa!
In Peru, among many other amazing attractions, you will find the Colca Canyon – which is not only deeper than the Grand Canyon but is the deepest canyon in the world! Only a couple of hours drive from the city of Arequipa (Peru’s second-largest city, after Lima) you can access this amazing sight.
The Colca Canyon can be visited a few different ways: on a day trip from Arequipa, independently via public transport, or on a multi-day guide hiking tour. There are pros and cons to each option which we will address in this blog to help you make the right choice for you!
5 Different Types of Colca Canyon Tours
There are 5 different types of options for visiting the Colca Canyon on a tour from Arequipa. Here are all of your choices:
1. Full-day Colca Canyon Tour from Arequipa
This is a classic one-day Colca Canyon tour that departs and returns to Arequipa. It is a long day at around 12-14 hours and includes a lot of time in the van.
This Colca Canyon tour is best suited for those with limited time, who don’t want to hike and are okay with long drives.
You will view the depths of the Colca Canyon from above, see Condors flying overhead, and relax in some hot springs!
Our Recommended Tour: This full-day Colca Canyon tour is affordable at only $40 USD and includes breakfast and lunch. Its early departure means you will see lots of Condors and have time for the hot springs. The guide also speaks fluent English!
Why book online in advance? It’s true, you will likely be able to negotiate a cheaper price if you book your Colca Canyon tour in Arequipa instead of online. However, there is no guarentee of what you will get and we often find these “tour agencies” in Peru will tell you anything to make a sale even if it is a lie. If you want to be sure about quality, booking online with a reviewed company and documented inclusions will ensure you get the experience you want!
2. Full-day Colca Canyon Tour with Transfer to Puno
Heading to Puno after Arequipa? Consider saving yourself some driving time and book a full-day Colca Canyon tour that ends with a transfer to Puno!
On this tour, you bring your luggage with you and after a full-day experiencing the Colca Canyon, you will be transferred directly to your hotel in Puno. This will save you driving time as the Colca Canyon is located in between Arequipa and Puno.
Our Recommended Tour: This Colca Canyon tour with a transfer to Puno includes all of the best stops you’d want on a Colca Canyon tour (Condors, hot springs, Colca Canyon) but also brings you straight to Puno at the end of the day!
3. 2-Day 1-Night Hiking Tour of the Colca Canyon
This tour is one I would ONLY recommend for very fit and eager hikers. Many tourists fall into this tour’s trap which is that they can see and do the same things as a 3-day tour on this 2-day tour, which is true, but it is a much less enjoyable experience if you’re not a good hiker.
This tour starts around 3 am in Arequipa and stops at the Condor Cross viewpoint before starting a full day of hiking. You will spend the night at a nice hotel with a pool in the depths of the Colca Canyon. However, based on what we saw when we were there, by the time you arrived you’ll barely have time to enjoy it before going to bed.
It is two big days of hiking – so just be prepared! If you like to hike but want a more relaxed pace, consider booking the 3-day tour instead which does the same route at a slower pace.
Our Recommended Tour: This 2-day Colca Canyon hiking tour includes all of your meals, a night in a beautiful hotel, entrance fees, and an English speaking guide. It has awesome reviews and a reasonable price considering all of the inclusions!
4. 2-Day 1-Night Colca Canyon Tour WITHOUT Hiking
This type of Colca Canyon tour is perfect for those who can allow 2 days for visiting the Colca Canyon and the surrounding area, but don’t want to hike. It hits the top tourist hot spots and spends the night on the edge of the canyon, but does not hike down into its depths and back up again.
It is more about sightseeing and relaxing. To me, it’s the perfect Colca Canyon tour for the non-hiker!
Expect to see Condors, relax in hot springs, explore the town of Chivay, as well as visit Salinas y Aguada Blanca National Reserve.
Our Recommended Tour: This 2-day Colca Canyon sightseeing tour visits all of the stops mentioned above, includes a one night stay in a hotel, and one breakfast. It comes highly reviewed with an enthusiastic guide!
5. 3-Day 2-Nights Colca Canyon Hiking Tour
If you have time to go on a 3-day tour and don’t mind a bit of hiking then this tour is for you!
This 3-day Colca Canyon tour starts very early to allow you to visit the Condor viewpoint at the most ideal time of day. It then heads to the start of the hike which on the first day, is all downhill before reaching your hotel for the night.
The next day, you’ll hike mostly flat along the valley of the Colca Canyon to reach your next hotel which has a pool and beers for purchase! You’ll spend the night here before starting a steep incline the following day to finish the hike.
This is the Colca Canyon we personally did, and if you want to know more about it, keep reading as we have included all of the details below!
Our Recommended Tour: This 3-day Colca Canyon tour is what we did! It includes all of your meals and very nice accommodation. While it is a hiking tour, the hike is completed over 3 days it is done at a nice slower pace with plenty of time to enjoy views, hot springs, and a pool with drinks!
Our Personal Recommendation for the BEST Type of Colca Canyon Tour
If you like hiking, opt for the 3-day Colca Canyon tour. It is the perfect mix of a challenging hike with time to sit back and relax enjoying the views! (Read about our personal experience on this tour below!)
If you’re not a hiker, then the 2-day sightseeing tour is our recommendation. It is more relaxed and spreads all the driving time out (as opposed to the one day Colca Canyon tours.)
Colca Canyon Tours vs. Visiting Independently
Being on a tight budget, we frequently try to avoid organized tours while traveling. Oftentimes, they are substantially more money than visiting an attraction by yourself without a guide.
It is possible to visit the Colca Canyon on your own, without a tour. But we don’t really recommend it.
Well, after doing tons of research in Arequipa and weighing up our options we think that organized Colca Canyon tours are the better option for a few reasons:
The price difference is minimal
Colca Canyon tours normally include meals, an English-speaking guide, and accommodation for overnight tours. These tours are really affordable (you can read more below about prices) and by the time you add up all the costs of hiking independently (accommodation, gear hire, food, transport, etc) there isn’t much of a difference.
We did the math – and even for us being budget-backpackers opted for the Colca Canyon tour!
You don’t need to carry food or gear
On multi-day Colca Canyon tours, food and accommodation are included! This means the only thing you need to carry on your back is your own personal items such as clothing and toiletries.
No need for planning
You don’t need a map or plan your route. You also don’t need to figure out how to get to the Colca Canyon from Arequipa. Just get picked up from your hotel and follow your guide – easy!
You won’t get lost
Every single person I spoke to who hiked the Colca Canyon without a guide got lost at least once. This can be frustrating, time-consuming, and not to mention scary in such a large canyon! With a guide Colca Canyon tour, you will not have this problem.
You’ll meet other travelers
We had such a fun group on our Colca Canyon tour. In fact, once we finished the tour and returned to Arequipa, we all arranged to go out for dinner and drinks to celebrate the completion of our hike together!
It is safer
Guided tours come with experienced guides who know their way around. They also carry first aid kits and can call for a horse in case of an emergency.
We LOVED our tour!
As I said before, we did the 3-day hiking tour of the Colca Canyon and had a blast! I simply have no choice but to recommend it because it was really a great experience.
Colca Canyon Tours FAQs
Almost all of the tours to the Colca Canyon leave from the city of Arequipa. You can find some tours that depart from Chivy or Puno, however, these are less common.
It is about a 3-hour drive from Arequipa to the Colca Canyon.
The price of a Colca Canyon tour ranges depending on the tour length, group size, and inclusions. A one-day tour with no inclusions can cost less than $30 USD, where a longer multi-day private tour can cost upwards of $350!
With that said, the average price for a Colca Canyon day tour is about $40 USD, where overnight tours including meals and accommodation are about $150.
It is almost 100% that you will see Condors on a Colca Canyon tours. These tours are planned around visiting a famous Condor viewpoint where the Condors visit at the same time every day.
Yes, it costs 70 soles to visit the Colca Canyon. This price is included in some Colca Canyon tours but not all of them so be sure to read the fine print.
The wet season is from November to April. During these months it rains a lot and may not be the best time to hike the Colca Canyon. With that said, you can visit the Colca Canyon all year round and it is beautiful!
What to Bring on a Colca Canyon Tour
What you should pack for your Colca Canyon tour depends on which tour you choose.
If you’re just going on a day tour bring the following things:
- Comfortable clothing and footwear
- Rainjacket and/or umbrella
- Swimwear, towel, and change of clothes for the hot springs
- Sunscreen and a hat
- Cash (for buying food, souvenirs, or tips)
- Entertainment for the long drive
For a multi-day hiking tour of the Colca Canyon I recommend bringing all of the above in addition to a couple of other things:
- Warm clothing for cooler nights
- Essential clothes and toiletries
- Water purification tablets
- SNACKS! Even if food is included in your tour you will want more. Bring lots of snacks, believe me!
- Small flashlight
- Rainproof clothing especially in the wet season
- Insect repellent
- A book, deck of cards, or something to do during downtime
- Alcohol – if you want to drink in the evenings you can purchase it at the hotels but it is expensive. Consider bringing your own bottle of Pisco to save some $$$.
- Swimsuit and towel. Although your tour might not visit hot springs, the hotels have showers and one has a gorgeous pool!
- Hiking poles. If you’re going on a hiking tour, the hike is very steep and the poles will come in VERY handy especially on the way down! You can rent or buy some poles in Arequipa before leaving for cheap.
3-Day 2-Night Colca Canyon Tour: Our Experience & What You Can Expect
We did the 3-day hiking tour of Colca Canyon and had a blast. Here’s exactly how our tour went so you can have an idea what to expect if you book the same tour!
Departure from Arequipa
We got picked up at 2:45 am and crammed into a minibus where we drove for about 3 hours before a quick breakfast stop and then a stop to watch the Condors fly.
For bird people, this would be the highlight of the whole Colca Canyon tour as these are the second largest birds in the world – they are just massive!
Although we weren’t particularly excited about this portion of the tour because we had seen the birds before in Argentina, it was cool to see so many in one particular spot and so close!
Then, after a short drive, it was time to start the hike. I was feeling confident and was ready to get going especially after napping on the bus all morning!
Day One – It’s all downhill from here
My confidence slowly disappeared as we started climbing down and down and down. It was a massive drop and every step was slippery. Personally, I would rather be huffing and puffing and out of breath climbing the biggest hill than going downhill. Downhill is very hard on my knees and ankles and with all of the rocks, it is so easy to fall.
That all being said, I was the slowest in our group. Daniel and I decided to take a short cut – that was my second big mistake. Although the short cut was shorter, it was steeper and I fell backward at one point and slid down the hill on my butt. I stood up, brushed myself off, yelled at Daniel that we weren’t taking any more short cuts, and kept going.
After about 3 hours of climbing down the steep Canyon, we got to a bridge and took a short break where the rest of the group was waiting for us.
After another hour hike along “Inca flat” ground (how the Peruvian’s describe slight up and downhills, or almost flat ground) and we were at our lodge for lunch and where we would spend the night. The lodge was nestled on the side of the Colca Canyon with a breathtaking view. We were lucky enough that we chose the three day Colca Canyon tour which meant we were done hiking for the day!
Tip: Choose the 3-day hike! The 2-day hike does the same route but in a much shorter time. There is less time to enjoy the views as well as the amazing pool on the last day. Trust me, a 3-day Colca Canyon tour is the ONLY way to go.
We had lunch and then the majority of our group went for a nap. Daniel and I had a beer with a Canadian guy from our group and chatted with him until dinner when the rest of the group got up again.
We had a great group of people which made the whole trip so much more enjoyable, we even had an older Peruvian lady, who despite the language barrier, tried to speak with us all as well. We all stayed up for a couple of hours more chatting and then hit the hay for an early night.
Day Two – A Walk in the Park
The next day was by far the easiest on our Colca Canyon tour. It was mostly “Inca flat” with just a bit more downhill near the end. About 3.5 hours of walking and we were at our resort, the deepest point in the Canyon at a place with a gorgeous pool.
We had all afternoon to relax and have a couple of drinks (Daniel and I bought a bottle of Pisco from a guy with a stand selling random goods along the way and actually got a decent deal at 30 soles.) It was a gorgeous day with the sun shining and made for the perfect afternoon. I could’ve stayed in that place for days – it was so beautiful and relaxing.
After two days of hiking, this time to relax was one of the highlights on my Colca Canyon tour!
Day Three – The Real Challenge
Unfortunately, the good times had to come to an early end as our Colca Canyon tour guide reminded us of the 4:30 am start in the morning. Most other groups were starting at 5 am but the older Peruvian lady in our group knew she was going to be slower, so instead of her starting alone our entire group decided to start with her early and hike with her the whole way up.
I’m not going to sugarcoat it, the hike that day was tough. It was 4.5 hours of only uphill, and steep uphill at that. Some people really struggled. There were horses available for hire to take you up the hill for about 70 soles and many people did this, but nobody from our tour group.
We walked steady and in line behind the older Peruvian lady. She set the pace and we all followed. Secretly, I think we were all glad we had her as an excuse to take our time because we all were breathing pretty hard the whole way up.
Finally, we made it to the top! The lady was so excited, she was literally praying and thanking god when she was done. It was really inspiring to see someone of her age (I would guess around 60) take on such a hike. Not to mention, she joined a tour with a bunch of young “gringos” and she didn’t speak a word of English. So it was really neat having her on our tour with us.
It was also really funny seeing the looks on all the 20 something’s faces when she hiked her way to the top of the Colca Canyon, while they all had to take horses. Good for her!
Overall, my experience on a Colca Canyon tour was amazing! It was challenging at times but overall really enjoyable! Would I recommend it? Absolutely!
We love Peru and as such, have written lots of different blogs about Peru! You can check them all out or read one of our favorites below:
- The BEST Tours in Lima – A guide to choosing the right tours in Peru’s capital city for you!
- Is Machu Picchu Worth it? – Is this “World Wonder” worth the hype?
- Ultimate Guide to Visiting Peru – Everything you need to know about Peru before you go!
September 25, 2020