If I’m being honest, I arrived to Arequipa without having done any investigation on what to do. I just figured I would figure it out. And so I did.
Immediately I noticed everyone talking about Colca Canyon, though with an emphasis on the condors that can be seen there. I love nature, but am more into the flora than the fauna. I wasn’t initially sure I wanted to go just for birds. Ultimately though, I decided to go for it since I wanted to test out my body in higher altitudes before climbing the Misti Volcano.
I went to the company that was recommended by my hostel, Waiky Adventours, to ask about these trips. The Colca Canyon had two options: Full Day, or 2 day Trekking. Because I was planning another trek a few days later, I opted for the full day. It was a little unclear of everything that was to be included, but being an adaptable person, I went with it.
What is included in the 70 sole tour:
What is NOT included in the tour:
Colca Canyon entrance fee – 70 soles
Thermal baths (optional) – 15 soles
Colca Pisco – 6 soles
Buffet Lunch – 35 soles (drinks are additional)
The next day I woke up to my alarm at 2:30 am, and the bus picked me up at 3am. We drove 3 hours to a place called Chivay for a quick 30 minute breakfast of bread, marmalade, scrambled eggs, juice and tea.
Then back on the bus, and off again an hour later for a 10 minute pit stop to admire the view. Back on the bus, back off again at the main event: Colca Canyon.
Unfortunately the trip only allowed one hour at this stop, which definitely should be much longer. This is really what I wanted to see, and one hour was just not long enough. But the scenery and views at this canyon were absolutely stunning. It’s three times deeper than the Grand Canyon, but not as long. I was constantly in awe at every turn. I would have loved to spend several more hours here.
But alas, being part of a tour comes with a schedule, and we were to be ready and waiting for the bus at the top of the road by 9:40 am. After the canyon, we made several more stops on the way back to Arequipa.
The next stop was to admire views again. The stop after that was to try a Colca Sour, like a pisco sour. We had 15-20 minutes at this stop. Most people tried the Colca sour (6 soles), which was actually quite delicious.
Back on the bus, back off again. This time at the thermal baths for one hour. Entering the thermal baths was optional (15 soles), and only about 5 people from our entire bus went down. The rest of the group just sat in the shade under a tent waiting out the hour. There was also the option to do a 4×4 ride, or a zipline, but nobody in our group was interested. I opted to hike up to the top of the hill that loomed over the baths. It was quite hot in the sun, but I preferred to spend my time hiking than sitting around. This stop was the most pointless in my opinion.
The next stop was for lunch. The buffet, 35 soles, offered quite a lot of options of local cuisine. Several people opted to sit outside the restaurant and not eat, some brought their own food, and a couple others walked to a different restaurant around the town.
Back on, back off. Next stop: looking at stacked piles of rocks over a large area, with the surrounding volcanoes off into the distance. The piles of rocks are meant as offerings. It was quite beautiful, but the energy of the group was diminishing.
We made yet another stop about 30 minutes later to admire the alpaca wondering along the side of the road. It really was breathtaking to see these alpaca in their habitat, wandering along eating the grass and passing through the shallow ponds.
We made yet another stop, the last stop we were told, which I think made everyone quite happy as we were all exhausted after such a full day. This stop was solely for bathrooms, as we had two hours left before reaching Arequipa once more.
As we neared the Arequipa airport, the traffic began. The already exhausted group of full day’ers (as well as the group who did the Colca trekking the day before), were getting quite antsy. Most people’s phones were dead, and we were all tired of sitting on the bus so long.
Finally the traffic broke, and we made it back into town. We were all dropped off at the bus depot, about 4 blocks from Plaza de Armas.
Am I glad I went? Yes.
Were there too many stops? Absolutely yes!
Would I recommend this trip to others? Maybe, as long as they are prepared for what comes along with it.
I met a girl in my hostel who went to the Canyon without a tour group, and I think she did it the right way. If I were to do it again, I would have done the same. She, along with some new friends, took a bus to the town of Cabanaconde. From there, they were able to simply walk over to the Canyon and spend as much time as they wanted, on their own schedule. They slept one night in Cabanaconde, and then headed back to Arequipa.
The extra stops were pretty, but I could have done without them. Personally, I was only really interested in the Canyon, and would have loved to spend more time there on my own terms.