Destination Dos: Arequipa and Colca Canyon

More and more sunshine! Arequipa is one of the most important cities to Peru’s native history. It was a trading point between the highlands and the coastal areas, and a central location between Cusco, Lake Titicaca, and Lima. For us, it’s one of those beautiful, sunny, gastronomically friendly tourist stops for any visit to Peru. Most Arequipena believe that this city is far greater than Lima, even though it is only the second largest city in Peru. The food is different (heavier), the people are different (more conservative, and friendlier), and the climate is different (sunshine + cold nights). We’re happy here in Arequipa, and here’s why!

We spent 6 days the province of Arequipa.

The Cathedral at Arequipa's Plaza de Armas - With Misti Mountain in the back.

The Cathedral at Arequipa’s Plaza de Armas – With Misti Mountain in the back.

River and Misti Volcano.

River and Misti Volcano.

DAY 1: We arrived about 2.5 hours late to the hotel on the Thursday morning of our arrival. It was a disappointing arrival because we missed the free breakfast at our fancy hotel, and they had to cancel our cooking class because not enough people signed up. Additionally, it took them 2 hours to get our room ready…so we couldn’t even shower or change! Instead, we wandered around the city a little bit, bought some food and water, and waited in their sunny garden for our rooms to be ready. Could have been a lot worse! Since our day had revolved around the cooking class, we found ourselves exhausted from the bus ride with nothing to do. We planned and packed for our Colca Canyon trip, which was leaving at 3:30am the following morning, read a little, caught up on emails, and called it a super early night around 8:30pm.

DAY 2: Up at 2:30am! Holy cow that’s early! We grabbed our stuff, and waited in the lobby for our Colca Canyon tour bus/van to arrive. It took us about 6 hours to get to the start of our trek, including stops for viewing the condor flights, eating breakfast, and taking pictures.



Condor Viewpoint

Condor Viewpoint – we had no idea what was coming!

We tried to sleep on the bus, but the driver was taking sharp, blind turns at high speeds, and Zac wasn’t handling the altitude very well. We didn’t get much sleep on the bus, so it’s a good thing we were in bed by 8:30 the night before!

Little did we know, this would be our major trekking day. Colca Canyon is (potentially) the deepest canyon in the world (depends on how you measure it), and the surrounding mountains were created by volcanoes thousands of years ago. It is said to be twice as deep as the Grand Canyon, but it does not appear this way because it looks more like a valley, while the Grand Canyon has sheer cliffs making it seem deeper. We actually thought there would only be about 3 hours of hiking down, but when we opted for the “long trek” it ended up being 6 hours up and down.

So, we took the yellow route highlighted in the map below. We started at Cabanaconde and hiked down to the left. We crossed the river (Rio Colca) after about 3 hours, and had lunch near the spring, which was dried out. We then continued up past Paclla and Malata, headed down the canyon to cross the river again, and arrived at the Oasis. It looked amazing, but by the time we got there, the sun was waning, so the water was freezing cold!

We made it down! 21 KM of hiking!

We made it ! 21 KM of hiking to the Oasis!

The "Oasis"

The “Oasis”

We arrived here around 4:30 (about 30 minutes early), rinsed off the dirt, ate dinner at 7:30 and then went straight to bed!

Colca Trek Map

Colca Trek Map

DAY 3: Okay. Another early morning – up at 4:30. The next day we hiked up the yellow zigzag to end in Cabanaconde. Here’s the zig-zag trail from the other side of the canyon, which I took the previous day when I realized that would be our day 2 hike.

That zig-zag trail is the one we took to get out of the canyon!

This zig-zag trail is how we got out of the canyon!

This is a “3-hour” trail, hiking up 1200 meters in altitude, and about 3 miles in distance walked. It’s supposedly a 3-hour trek, but we did it in 2 hours (1:59) and we were VERY proud of ourselves! Many people decided to party the previous night and took mules up the next day, which they enjoyed, but Zac and I were in it for the challenge, so we fueled up on nuts and Clif bars the night before (thanks Bekah & Bridget!) and called it an early night. It’s a good thing we did, because we were SORE for this hike, and I had 6 blisters from the previous day. Of course, my two injuries (left foot and right hip) decided to flare up about 30 minutes into this hike, so it was rough going for me, but we made it in great time and we were so happy when we reached the peak!

Halfway Up.

Halfway Up.

Hiking like CHAMPIONS. Tyler had 3 beers and a Pisco Sour the night before and still hit the peak before the rest of us. Champion.

Hiking like CHAMPIONS. Tyler had 3 beers and a Pisco Sour the night before and still hit the peak before the rest of us. Champion.

The first 4 from our group. We did it together!

The first 4 from our group. We did it together!

We were TIRED! We relaxed here for about 30-45 minutes while we waited for the others, including our guide and those on mules.

Another dog following Zac around.

Another dog following Zac around.

Then we walked another 25 minutes to breakfast. We were very slow at breakfast time, and getting up was so painful! But it was all worth it. We snagged a few more pictures, then headed back to the bus for several more hours of driving and picture-taking.

Plaza de Armas in Cabanaconde after breakfast.

Plaza de Armas in Cabanaconde after breakfast.

We stopped at two places to get pictures of scenery, llamas, alpacas, and wild vicunas, then spent an hour at the hot springs. Many of us weren’t interested in the hot springs, and Zac and I were happy to soak our feet in the ice-cold river water instead.


Scenery – I was too tired and delusional to know what we were seeing at this point!

Llamas and Alpacas (domesticated)

Llamas and Alpacas (domesticated)

Soaking our feet in the river. Ahhhhh.

Soaking our feet in the river. Ahhhhh.

Colca Canyon was a GREAT experience! We didn’t have the proper hiking gear – we did have to hike the first 20 minutes in the pitch-black without headlamps, we were in running shoes and carrying my backpack/laptop case instead of a normal daypack – but it was still worth it. Next big hike requires a trip to REI though. It was really great to get a good sweat on and really use our muscles since we’ve been very inactive in Lima compared to our normal lifestyles. We arrived back in Lima around 4:30-5:00pm, which gave us plenty of time to move from our fancy hotel to a hostel, shower, scarf down some food, and go to bed. Another early night for us.

DAY 4: Sunday! Zac’s birthday! Man, we were super sore. We ate the so-so hostel breakfast, then spent the morning at Starbucks answering emails and catching up on a little work. Plus, Zac was more than ready for a decent cup of coffee after a week of instant powder! Sundays are quiet days in Lima, and Arequipa is the same. We ended up at Starbucks cause it was the only coffee shop open at 8:30am. Next we headed over to a famous Picanteria, which is a traditional Arequipa restaurant – La Nueva Palomina.

The famous - La Nueva Palomino

The famous – La Nueva Palomino

I wanted to take Zac to La Capitana, which is apparently the best Picanteria. For some reason, even though I clearly said “La Capitana,” the taxi driver took us to Nueva Palomino instead. It’s another picanteria, a little more famous because it’s has been renovated to be huge and gorgeous. I’m actually glad for his mistake because Zac really enjoyed his meal!

We were told that Picanterias dish out gigantic servings, so we ordered a “small” salad and a plate of beef, pork, potatoes, and vegetables to share. We were full after the salad! We were both happy to get vegetables, and are proud to report ZERO ill effects from the huge plate of veggies. Yes!

Peruvian Cancha

Cancha – my favorite little salty snack. As my friend Miranda says, it’s like inside out popcorn! (We serve bread in the states while people wait for their meals, Peruvians serve Cancha and Chifles (fried banana chips).

Salad at Nueva Palomino

“Small” gigantic salad – only $2.86! Loaded with much-needed veggies.

Nueva Palomino - Chuleta Mixto

Chuleta Mixto – beef, pork, vegetables, and potatoes.

After lunch, we walked home along the river, then tried (in vain) to find a sports bar so Zac could watch the first 49ers game of the season. Guess what? All 15 of the sports-like bars in Arequipa are closed on Sundays. Boo. We headed to the park instead, enjoying a popular Arequipena dessert – Queso Helado.

Helado Queso at the Park

Queso Helado at the Park

It’s not actually frozen cheese, but more like very sweet homemade vanilla ice cream. It’s called Queso Helado because it looks like frozen cheese. It was good! On our way home, we grabbed 2 beers to enjoy on the roof before dinner. Happy Birthday Zac!!!

Nueva Palomino

Birthday Boy!

Park in Arequipa

Super crowded park – only open on the weekends. It had blow-up slides and tons of games for kids.

DAY 5: After breakfast, we went on a wild goose hunt to track down our laundry. I must have made 6 trips to this place to get our laundry taken care of because they were never there! At 3:00 we did a Free City Tour of Arequipa, and it was great! It was 2.5 hours, but we learned a lot of history about the city, and got to see the last sights we’d missed. It ended with a little sample of a Pisco Sour and local fruit.  And check out Ekeke – famous guy who fed a starving family and is now a symbol of good luck!

Ekeke - Brings good luck.

Ekeke – Brings good luck.

DAY 6: Our last day in Arequipa. I was determined to have another Rocoto Relleno (spicy red pepper stuffed with beef and cheese) before leaving, and we both wanted to try Chupes Camarones (a traditional mountain soup made with river shrimp). We packed our things, checked out, worked until lunchtime, then headed over to La Capitana. It only took us about 20 minutes to walk there, and we arrived 5 minutes before it opened, but they were already halfway full of people! We ordered both the Rocoto Relleno and the gigantic bowl of Chupes Camarones.

La Capitana Picanteria

La Capitana Picanteria

Rocoto Relleno con Pastel de Papas - La Capitana

Rocoto Relleno con Pastel de Papas – La Capitana

Chupes de Camarones - La Capitana

Chupes de Camarones – La Capitana

I’m happy to report that the RR was everything I hoped it would be, but saddened to say that the soup was disappointing. It wasn’t bad, but we didn’t love it. Either way, I’m glad we made it to La Capitana!

And now, we hang around the hostel until it is time to catch our 8:00pm overnight bus to Cusco. We are hydrating in order to handle the altitude, and taking it easy until we leave. See ya in Cusco!

Categories: Arequipa, Hiking, Peru | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Destination Dos: Arequipa and Colca Canyon

  1. Mom

    Sounds like you are having a great time! Love you, stay safe :)

  2. Laura

    Looks interesting and should i add to places to go?

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