We left Cuzco and made our way to Arequipa which was a wonderful change of pace from the tourist-filled streets of Cuzco. We stuffed ourselves with empanadas and ice cream, visited the local market and hung out around the city center which was surrounded by views of the neighboring Andes mountains.We were also prepping for another multi-day trek – this time to canyon country. Cañon del Colca is home to the second deepest canyon in the world and is more than twice as deep as the Grand Canyon. We had amazing experience camping at the Grand Canyon earlier this year so we knew we had to give Colca Canyon a whirl!
After lots of research and talking to other travelers, we decided to forego the overpriced group tour to trek the canyon independently for three days/two nights. Instead of taking the 4 a.m. bus the tour groups take, we opted for more rest and hopped on the 10 a.m. bus to Cabanaconde on the upper rim of the canyon. We were on our way down the canyon trail in the late afternoon which was perfect timing as the sun was also on its way down, providing a great relief from the heat.We spent our first night at the bottom of the canyon at a homestay in a small village, San Juan de Chuccho, for 8 Peruvian soles ($3.20). We arrived just in time for dinner as the sun began to set. That evening we enjoyed spectacular views of the stars and Milky Way from the canyon floor. Accommodations were basic with no frills but they had warm beds, hot showers and delicious banana pancakes for breakfast.The next day, we hiked through a few small villages before reaching Sangalle, our second stop. Sangalle is also known as “the oasis” and is the main stop (and sometimes the only overnight stop) for the tour groups, but it’s not to be missed.After shopping around for the best “resort,” we shelled out another 8 soles for a bungalow with a beautiful pool nestled within the natural rocks right in the heart of the canyon. The next morning we awoke bright and early to hike back out of the canyon before the sun rose. A little more than two hours later, we made it to the canyon rim and were back in Cabanaconde.By skipping the guided tour, we were able to go at our own pace, avoid the crowds, stay longer at the bottom of the canyon and save a decent amount of money. Thanks to the Parallel Life for their DIY post which served as a very helpful guide during our trek!
We celebrated our safe return with a pisco sour and pizza on a balcony overlooking the main square. Sadly, it was the most disgusting pizza we’ve ever eaten and by far the worst meal on our trip – go figure. On the flip slide, that was our first pisco sour (after being in Peru for nearly three weeks) and our first liquor drink since the beginning of our trip! I guess its time to lay off the hiking and time to start experimenting with the local refreshments!