colca canyon tour

If we talk about southern Peru, we have to talk about Machu Picchu, Cusco, Sacred Valley, Titicaca Lake, and the famous Colca Canyon in Arequipa. The second-deepest canyon worldwide, by its beautiful nature, its Andean condors overflying its airs, many natural hot springs located on its bottom, quaint towns over its slopes, and diverse routes that cross it, is a demanded stop for any south Peru visitors. But, are there Colca Canyon tours? Where to start? Is it worth visiting? Can I do it independently? Is it easy to get there? Don’t worry, we’ll absolve all your doubts in this article with the experts of Machu Travel Peru! Learn a little about what you can experience on this wonderful route.

All you need to know about the Colca Canyon tours

What is Colca Canyon?

colca canyon lookout

The Colca is a south Peruvian canyon considered the second deepest worldwide (around 11,000 feet deep) with an extension of 12,000 square kilometers. Quaint Andean landscapes, charming local towns, imposants condors, cozy hot springs at its bottom, and diverse trails that cross it, attract tourists every year.

Starting with the most important Colca Canyon facts, we will say that it is located 130 miles northwest of Arequipa, an important south Peruvian city. Specifically, in the Chivay district, over 2110 m.a.s.l. Therefore, the hikes or tours themselves could be considered quite challenging due to the altitude of certain mountains, hills, and Vulcans located there. Keep in mind that most hikes last two or three days. But added to the phenomenal views, you will have the possibility to see condors and dive into wonderful hot springs, among other amazing activities. Also, as you’ll have to pass, first, by “the white city”, to get to the canyon, it is recommendable to spend some nights and enjoy the many things to do in Arequipa (White City) Don’t believe that the Colca Canyon is the only activity to do in this beautiful city!

Tours vs Trek

Colca canyon experience

Through the internet, advertisements, and even banners in the same Arequipa city, you’ll see information about many activities to enjoy in the canyon. Most of them (if not the majority) are divided into two types: Colca Canyon treks and tours.

The Colca Canyon treks, as its name indicates, are treks developed along the canyon in two or three days (a trek of one day doesn’t exist. Given that due to the extension of the Colca, a one-day trek visiting the most interesting points, would not be enough to visit even the most important places in the canyon.

On the other hand, a tour of this canyon can be developed in one day because this visit is not a trek, but a transport tour. In other words, the Colca Canyon tours are typical trips in which transportation picks you up and moves you to the most important canyon zones. There, you’ll get off and visit the zone for short time periods, but you’ll not trek, because this activity takes more than one day.

Colca Canyon tours

colca canyon tour in bus

As we mentioned, these tours are developed with transport that moves you from attraction to attraction, without hiking, you generally never descend to the bottom of the canyon, as the tour passes through towns and attractions near the top of the canyon. As transportation is used on these tours, they are generally provided by travel agencies. This does not mean that you cannot do these tours independently, (Of course, if you rent a car or have private transportation)

If you quote prices from the internet, these may be higher than those offered in the city of Arequipa. If you have time, we recommend hiring a tour from the same city. If you are one of the people who like to have everything planned, and you do not have much time in Peru, you can book in advance via the internet.

1. Colca Canyon tour – Full Day

colca canyon guided tour

The travel agency transportation will pick you up at 03:00 am from your hotel in Arequipa. 4 hours take the trip from Arequipa to Cabanaconde (a town, starting point to do the Colca Canyon tour). Previously, the transport makes a stop in Chivay (a town located before Cabanaconde) to take breakfast (included) and visit the Cruz del Condor lookout to appreciate the majestic condor. Later, once in Cabanaconde, the transport follows a determinate route, visiting the most important points located close to the mountain tops of the canyon. After taking lunch in any of the quaint Colca towns (included) and reposing in some thermal baths of the place, the transportation will pick you up heading to Cabanaconde and after to Arequipa, ending the tour.

The tours last around 10 hours through 9.2 kilometers (5.7 miles) and include bilingual (Spanish – English) tour guides and transportation. The entrance fee for Colca Canyon cost 70 Soles ($19) and the tour from Arequipa usually costs around $40 to $50 per person (including breakfast and lunch)

2. Colca Canyon tour – 2 Days / 1 Night

colca canyon bus tour

This tour is developed with transportation and a bilingual travel guide through 17 kilometers (10.5 miles). The points to visit are similar to the Colca Canyon full-day tour with the difference that you will spend a night in Chivay town or in anyone located close to the canyon border, to continue the visit to Salinas – Aguada National Reserve the next day. This tour is perfect for those tourists who have 2 complete days to visit the canyon and don’t want to do much physical effort. Condor sighting, relaxation in thermal baths, and walks through natural gardens, among other experiences, can be enjoyed on this tour.

This tour can cost around $100 to $120 per person and include transportation, two lunch, one dinner, one breakfast, a bilingual tour guide, and one-night hotel room. (Not include entrances fees)

Colca Canyon treks

Colca canyon walking

In this section, we will concentrate on the two and three-day hiking trails. As its name indicates, they are hikes and no type of transport is involved. Both travel the same route with some differences, even the visitors can add some additional experiences like Colca Canyon rafting. Also, these can be developed independently or through a travel agency (With the assistance of a tour guide)

1. Colca Canyon trek – 2 Days / 1 Night

colca canyon trek

Cabanaconde – San Juan de Chuccho – Sangalle – Cabanaconde

This tour tries to touch the same points as the Colca tour of three days but in less time. For this reason, the person who chose this option has to be in good physical condition. If you realize this trek by yourself, consider the entrance fee of 70.00 S/ to Colca Canyon and around $80 of budget per person. If you hire a travel agency, you can consider a higher price than $80. There are many trek packages.

The two-day hike takes you along the canyon wall for 20 kilometers (12.4 miles). On the first day, you will depart from Cabanaconde at 06:00 am and have a long and pleasant walk, descending to the canyon bottom. The path is not very steep but has parts of loose gravel, so you have to walk carefully. Plus, you’ll constantly be walking in the scorching sun, which can be tiring. Once at the bottom of the canyon, you will cross the Colca River, where the landscape becomes more vigorous. You will have a scheduled stop in a small nearby town called San Juan de Chuccho for lunch.

Then you will continue the walk to Sangalle where you will have dinner and spend the night. In this town, you will surely take advantage of and enjoy the best Colca hot springs. These are ideal for relaxing after a long day of hiking. On the second day, the hike will start early in the morning with destiny to the top of the Canyon. The path is steep and requires physical effort. You will have some beautiful views available and condor sightings assured. A great possibility to know the Canyon and its beautiful valley before returning to Cabanaconde and finishing the tour.

2. Colca Canyon trek – 3 Days / 2 Nights

chivay in colca canyon

Chivay – San Juan de Chuccho – Sangalle – Cabanaconde

In the same way, the trek begins at 06:00 am and runs about 30 kilometers (18.6 miles). On the first day, you will arrive early in the town of Chivay where you will enjoy the first stop. You will experience the famous viewpoint “Cruz del Condor” where you can see some Colca Canyon condors. Then the hike will begin descending to the bottom of the canyon. They will spend the night in San Juan de Chuccho where they will also enjoy dinner. On the second day, you will continue the walk to some beautiful traditional villages where you will enjoy various activities like participating in traditional dances and planting some typical products among other activities.

Then they will descend towards Sangalle where they will stay and have dinner. On your third day, you will have an uphill walk to Cabanaconde where you will have breakfast and then take your transport back to Arequipa. The route is the same as the two-day trek, with the difference that you stay in San Juan de Chuccho and Sangalle. You will have much more time to explore the villages and your surroundings. The best option in short.

If you realize this trek by yourself, the cost (including the Colca Canyon entrance) is around $120. If you hire a travel agency, this amount can double, even triple.

By yourself or by a travel agency?

Colca canyon tour by yourself

Generally, the routes, paths, and trails that cross Colca Canyon are well-signed. This is the main reason why treks there can be developed independently. However, don’t forget that the second-deepest canyon worldwide is so large and extensive, and there is a probability that you will get lost and take a few hours to find the right path (as always happens with a minority of independent walkers). Therefore, this crucial decision of realizing your visit independently or through a travel agency will depend on how prepared and informed you are about the route, your physical condition, your mental state, and your finances.

1. Where do the tours begin?


Cabanaconde is the main destination for adventure seekers in the Colca Valley. You will notice how many different itineraries have stops within this town. Either they go to this point or they return from it. Here you will find some places to sleep, not very glamorous but clean. Besides, there are numerous places to eat and drink beer. But to get to Cabanaconde you will first have to go through the town of Chivay.

2. Hiking independently

arequipa, colca canon trek is other thing to do

If you choose to hike independently, there are many hostels to choose from, so you don’t need to bring a tent. These local homestays available are basic accommodations with shared bathrooms and showers, and they will cost you next to nothing. Don’t expect to find three-star hotels because there aren’t any (except the starting points like Cabanaconde or Chivay where hotels of 1 star and hostels are located) Also if you plan to do your trek during the high season in this Peruvian Andes part, you may need to reserve these accommodations in advance. Hostels tend to sell out very quickly in the high season.

3. Hiking with an agency

colca canyon tour guide

But if you want to go with an agency, there are many options to choose from in Arequipa. Take the time to compare prices and make sure you know what is included in your hike and what is not included. Remember that sometimes the cheapest tours will not always be better. If you buy a cheap tour, the workers may not be paid correctly and this does not benefit anyone. Choosing a Peru vacation package before leaving home can also be a good solution. Some of these tours also include hiking options, so take a look online at our different travel programs.

How to get to Colca canyon?

how to get to colca canyon

1. From Arequipa to Cabanaconde

You can take a public bus from the Arequipa central bus terminal to Cabanaconde, via Chivay. The cost is around $10 – $13 per person, the trip lasts from 4 to 6 hours (it depends on the traffic in Arequipa) The schedule of departure goes from 4 to 7 am.

Or, if you want to get to Cabanaconde faster, you can hire a Colectivo (cars and minivans that offer the service of transport). These depart from one side of the bus terminal. It has cost around $20 per person and the trip lasts 5 hours (whether there is traffic)

2. From Cabanaconde to Arequipa

The frequency of return transportation from Cabanaconde to Arequipa is few. At the time of writing this article, there are only 4 frequencies: “Reyna” transport company that departs at 06:30 am, 09:30 am departing Andalucia bus company, and 13:30 pm departing another bus of company “Reina”. That is why you will have to make sure to finish your walk on the last day before 1:00 p.m. in Cabanaconde. The cost of the service is around $6.

In case you’re in a hurry, you can take a minivan to Chivay, there are many frequencies from Cabanaconde and the cost is around $1.5 per person, the trip lasts 30 minutes. And from Chivay, you can take transport to Arequipa (the trip lasts 03 hours and the cost is around $4 per person)

Best time to visit Colca

best time to visit colca canyon

If you want to enjoy clear days, dry and cold breezes, and firm ground to walk, we recommend you visit the Colca Canyon in the dry season (from April to November). Disadvantage? Well, you will find many adventurers like you (a crowd of tourists) hiking the same routes.

On the other hand, If you want to hike the Colca canyon between December to March, you’ll find fewer visitors and more freedom, but more rain, cloudy skies, cold breezes, and the danger of falling off a cliff due to the mud on the ground.

Is Colca canyon worth visiting?

Colca canyon tourists

One of the advantages of visiting the Colca Canyon is that you can hike independently, without the need for a large group or a travel agency (as is the case of the Inca Trail). But this also means bringing your own backpack, as there are no porters for independent hikers (again, as is the case of the Inca Trail). The trails are clearly marked and there are villages to rest along the way.

Guides are available in the travel agency’s offices located in Cabanaconde and you can hire them to accompany you. For all these facts, being able to explore Peru is quite an achievement, even more so if you do it within the Colca Valley. You will be in front of nature, high mountains, a deep canyon, hot springs, imposing condors, and liberty in your journey. If you ask us if it is worth visiting the Colca Canyon, definitely yes.


As you will see, the options for touring the Valley and its Canyon are varied. Keep in mind that some tours do not usually include the walk, so be sure to see what your travel program includes. Together with the experts from Machu Travel Peru, we hope we have been helpful. If you want to know more about our travel packages, you can consult with our team of advisers. They will be happy to help you.

Peru has so much to offer, it can be hard to know where to start. With many years of experience in the tourism sector, Machu Travel Peru is happy to help with anything regarding your trip to Machu Picchu and any tours around it. Make your Machu Picchu experience an unforgettable one!