One of the deepest canyon in the world? Sure, that sounds fun! Luckily, there’s enough information online that I could just book a bus and set off by myself for a quick 3-day hike.

Entrance to Tapay village

Arequipa is a great jumping-off point to get to the Colca Canyon. The city is a white-stoned dreamland. It was once the richest city in Peru and it certainly looks like that. The cathedral museum houses many glistening jewels and the Convento de Santa Teresa, a city within a city, is wonderfully confusing to walk around. I said hello to Juanita, the famous ice mummy found at the top of Ampata, and formed aspirations to be a mountaineering archaeologist. There’s also plenty of great activities (cooking classes, chocolate making, craft beer drinking) and a restaurant serving many different kinds of potatoes.

I took a bus through beautiful volcano’ed landscape dotted with llamas before arriving in Cabanaconde. I stayed there overnight, fortifying myself for the morning on cactus fruit pisco sours. I took the trail out of town early in the morning that went down into the canyon with wonderful views. 1000m descent saw me to San Juan village and a rest in the shade. I then carried on uphill to Tapay village, a little hamlet in the shadow of a snow-capped mountain. A man I met turned out to be the mayor and the owner of the only place to stay- very fortunate. I joined a French couple for dinner of alpaca and said hello to the hutches of guinea pigs.

Looking back at the Oasis on the way up

The next day was a shorter walk to The Oasis at the bottom of the canyon. The Oasis was full of fruit trees and swimming pools. However, dinner of onion and cold spaghetti didn’t compare to the previous night’s alpaca. My room was visited at night by an unwelcome mouse who managed to nibble his way to my stashed peanuts.

After a night chasing this mouse, starting off early to ascend around 1200m wasn’t very appealing. But just over 3 and a half hours and many stunning views later, I was at the top enjoying a cool drink before hopping on the bus back to Arequipa.

TIPS FOR HIKING THE CANYON

  • As with any hike, know your own abilities. If you’re used to hiking and finding your own way, this is very nice and easy to navigate. If you are not so experienced, consider getting a guide.
  • Download the relevant maps on maps.me and mark the places/landmarks you will need so you can use this offline.
  • Bring lots of refillable water bottles
  • Take all your rubbish out of the canyon with you
  • If it’s high season, there may not be room at the Oasis. if it’s not high season, a lot of places to stay may be closed. It’s always a gamble!

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