Arequipa & Beyond: Colca Canyon Trek
Colca Canyon is a must see for any traveller in this part of the world. It's the second deepest canyon in the world, at 3270 metres deep and an altitude of 6288 metres high. That's twice as deep as the Grand Canyon in the United States! There are two options to see the Colca Valley, a two day trek or a drive to the Mirador Cruz Del Condor lookout point.
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Those of us who opted for the trek were picked up from our hostel at 3:30am in Arequipa. It was about a four hour drive before we stopped in Chivay for breakfast. The price of the tour included two breakfasts, a lunch and a dinner. The first breakfast was very bare bones. We ate bread with jam and drank instant coffee or tea. I recommend packing some snacks!
After breakfast the bus took us to the Mirador Cruz Del Condor viewing point. It's not guaranteed that condors will be flying at the lookout on any given day, but we were lucky enough to see at least three soaring in the Canyon! The first part of the trek was a 6km downhill stretch, which led to a rest stop then another 2km to lunch. We were pretty hungry by the time lunch rolled around.
Lunch was served in the small village of San Juan De Chuccho. It was thankfully much better than breakfast. Included was a vegetable based soup with squash & carrots and a plate of rice with veggies and beef on the side. Since I'm a vegetarian I was fed rice with a small quiche and avocado. After a 40 minute rest we began a three hour (approximate) hike to our lodge for the evening.
The sun was starting to set when we arrived at the Oasis, our lodge for the night. The lodge was rustic – no toilet paper, outdoor huts, little electricity, and no hot water. My recommendation is bring your own roll of toilet paper as well as a flashlight. you'll need them! The lodge has a pool but I'm not going to lie, it was pretty cold! It still felt great after a long day in the sun.
Dinner that evening was minimal. We were served another vegetable based soup and buttered spaghetti noodles with tomatoes and tea. I went to bed at 8pm and got in a solid eight hours of sleep before waking up bright and early the next day.
There were two options to complete the trek on day two. Many hikers chose to hire mules to carry them up the mountain, which was an experience in itself, while some chose to tough it out and hike the last 5km on foot. I was pretty sore in the morning but I decided I could handle 5km.
The second day was completely uphill but unlike the day before it was mostly in the shade. It was probably the most challenging hike I've ever done, but once we got into a rhythm it was manageable. My legs burned the entire way but once we reached the top the feeling was amazing! After breakfast we had the best reward for our hard work – A visit to a natural mineral hot spring.
The water was really hot! The pools progress hotter and hotter, so it's a good idea to dip your toes in the cooler pools and work your way up from there. Afterwards we headed back to the hostel.
Basilica Cathedral of Arequipa
As much as I might crave adventure my body was telling me otherwise the day after Colca Canyon. My legs were toast, even walking down stairs was a challenge! Half of our group opted to go mountain biking down a volcano and others booked a cooking class at a local restaurant. My husband and I decided to have a quieter day and do a bit of sightseeing.
The cathedral in the main square is absolutely beautiful. For 15 sol you can take a short tour inside the main hall and museum before climbing up onto the roof for a stunning view of the city! The roof is curved to accommodate the arches in the main hall.
Our guide led us around the roof, and even up to the bell towers! We enjoyed walking around the cathedral and learning more about Arequipa’s history.
Before we knew it it was time to say goodbye to The White City. That evening we ate dinner on a rooftop patio, watched the sunset, and set off towards Cusco.
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