Trekking in Colca Canyon: Cabanaconde to Sangalle

 

As one of the deepest canyons IN THE WORLD!!… Colca Canyon offers some of the best trekking in Peru. The most popular trip is a two-day, one-night trek to ‘The Oasis’, an aptly named spot of greenery deep in the canyon’s aridity. The trek starts in Cabanaconde, at 10,784 ft (3,287 m), finishing in Sangalle, at 7,300 ft (2,225 m). The trail is incredible, taking you through desert-like conditions, while staring up at snow peaks, finally finishing in a tropical oasis!!

The trek from Cabanaconde to Sangalle is easy to do on your own, & you can actually see the entire trail from Cabanaconde… So here’s what you need to know!

How To Get There:

BUS – Arequipa to Chivay (10-15 soles) – Chivay to Cabanaconde (5-12 soles).

TRAVEL TIME = 4 + 2 hours

 

The easiest point to reach Colca Canyon from is Arequipa. From there, take a bus to CHIVAY, leaving the Terminal Terrestre in Arequipa at 7:30/8:30 in the morning, & around midday too. The trip takes 3½ – 4 HOURS across the Andean altiplano, passing llamas & vicuñas as you drive through a national park around the back of Chachani & El Misti.

From Chivay, take a another bus from the terminal to CABANACONDE. These buses are pretty regular, leaving about every 30 minutes throughout the afternoon. The journey to Cabanaconde will take you along the Canyon’s ridge, passed Cruz del Condor, for 1½ – 2 HOURS.

If you have time, take a look around Chivay & have lunch there. It’s a cool little mountain town, full of culture, the tastiest sweet bread you’ll ever eat & an impressively giant cross cut into the cliff side above. Also, you should buy your ‘Tourist Ticket’ for entry to Colca Canyon in Chivay’s bus terminal from the tourist police, 70 soles, to avoid problems in Cabanaconde.

 

Girl & Llama - Chivay, Peru

A Young Girl in Chivay with a Her Llama

 

The Trek – Day 1:

Cabanaconde – Mirador de San Miguel – San Juan de Chuccho – Cosñirhua – Malata – Sangalle.

WALKING TIME = 5½  hours

 

After a night in Cabanaconde, we started our trek down into the canyon at early doors. From the plaza, we walked away from the canyon & onto the main road in & out of Cabanaconde, asking locals to point us in the right direction every now & then. After about a 20 minute walk down the road we passed the cemetery & reached Mirador de San Miguel on the right, next to the football field.

From the mirador, the trail descends into Colca Canyon, cutting down the steep valley side for 3 hours. The walk is spectacular, offering great views of the canyon’s super size, & condors soaring above. Once at the bottom, we crossed the surprisingly solid looking bridge, all the while staring back up at the ginormous canyon walls, with the river rushing below us. There is a check-point at the bridge, so make sure you have your ‘Tourist Ticket’ for entry to Colca Canyon (70 soles).

After all that walking down you better believe there’s some ascending! From the river, we walked 20 minutes up to San Juan de Chuccho & stopped in a beautiful little guesthouse for soup & llama steak — for 10 soles!… Bargain! From lunch, we had a 40 minute climb up one of the tributary valleys of the Rio Colca to Cosñirhua. Nothing much here, though you may fancy a Powerade from the little shop at the top of the climb!

After about 1,000 ft up, that was all the ascending done for Day 1,… with MUCH more to follow in the morning!! From Cosñirhua it was a flat, 15 minute stroll to Malata, & then 1 hour down the steep trail to Sangalle.

In Sangalle, the simple hostels all offer little bungalows with shared bathrooms & swimming pools filled daily with hot thermal water from the Rio Colca… although by the time we got there it was freezing!!

 

View of Colca Canyon - Trail from Cabanaconde

A view of Colca Canyon from the trail down

 

The Trek – Day 2:

Sangalle – Cabanaconde. WALKING TIME = 3½  hours

 

After a night of relaxation in the beautiful oasis, it was time for the climb! Over 1000 m, about 3,500 ft STRAIGHT UP!! There were some lazy tourists who took to the poor looking donkeys on hand to carry their fat asses back up to Cabanaconde. We just scowled at them & trudged on up. The walk is quite challenging, but only being 3 hours until the ‘circle stone’ at the top is a comforting fact. Then a half-hour walk through farm land puts you right back where you started with buses on hand in the afternoon to return to Chivay, & on to Arequipa by nightfall should you wish.

 

Sangalle - 'The Oasis' - Colca Canyon

Looking down at the out-of-place Oasis

 

*** Some people go straight down to Sangalle & straight up on the same steep trail from Cabanaconde. We HIGHLY RECOMMEND taking the route above ***

It’s a similar amount of time & difficulty, but you get better views of the canyon & a much better feel for local life.

 

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