Colca Canyon and Arequipa
About Colca Canyon and Arequipa
No adventure in southern Peru is complete without including a few days in Arequipa and the Colca River valley. Spellbinding scenery, delicious regional cuisine, fascinating museums, delightful country inns, open-air hot springs, inspiring day-hikes, and a vivid local culture reward the visitor. Our programs are custom-tailored to optimize your experience with excellent private guides and drivers.
Arequipa, Peru's second largest city after Lima, enjoys a privileged location at 7,800 feet (2,380 m) elevation against the backdrop of the perfect cone of 19,000-foot (5,822 m) El Misti Volcano. Founded by the Spanish in 1540 on the site of an existing pre-Inca settlement, this attractive city is graced with many handsome colonial buildings constructed from light-colored volcanic stone called sillar (pronounced "seal-yar")
Arequipa's most remarkable visitor site is the Convent of Santa Catalina. Throughout colonial times, the Convent accepted a daughter from every generation of every prominent southern Peruvian family. Over time, this important institution grew to occupy several city blocks in a walled maze of cloisters and gardens. The Catholic Church declined in importance in the 19th century republican era, such that the nuns of today's convent occupy only a small area within the extensive original property. The remaining complex has been open to the public only since 1970. It is a beautiful, ethereal world of intimate courtyards, fountains, narrow alleys, and austere but ample living quarters: a fascinating and timeless glimpse into colonial life at the boundary between affluence and piety.
Another popular highlight is the Museo de Santuarios Andinos, better known as the Inca Mummy Museum. The exhibit of artifacts recovered from ritual burial sites at the tops of Andean volcanoes includes some otherworldly Inca royal woven garments, in addition to the mummies themselves.
Traveling northwest from Arequipa on excellent, mainly paved highways, we climb to a high plateau and traverse Pampa Cañahuas, an extension of the Aguadas Blancas Reserve, a protected area for vicuñas (the graceful relative of llamas and alpacas). We cross 15,830-foot Patapampa Pass amid spectacular snow-peaks, before descending into the eastern end of the valley to Chivay (11,480 ft), the most important town in the Colca Valley. From its source in the Andean glaciers, the river descends rapidly to the Pacific Ocean, cutting through the soft volcanic rock an immense canyon--said to be twice as deep as the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River. On both sides of the valley, high above the river in its canyon far below, you explore intriguing villages inhabited by the original Cabana and Collagua groups. The valley contains numerous pre-Inca agricultural terrace complexes, many of which are still in use today. There are geoglyphs, cliff tombs and other archeological remains. We stop at the Cruz del Condor, a viewpoint where condors nesting in the cliffs spiral up on the morning’s thermal air currents. Our visitors enjoy many hiking options, ranging from moderate to challenging.
Natural hot springs and a variety of delightful country inns make the Colca Canyon a memorable complement to a visit to Cuzco and Lake Titicaca. More adventuresome visitors can reach the headwaters of the Amazon River, a glacial tributary on the northern slope of El Mismi Volcano.
Our tours include private English-speaking guide and transport, daily breakfast and lunch, park fees and entrance to indicated sites. They exclude dinners, tips, airport departure taxes, and charges for personal items such as laundry, long distance telephone, etc.
THE COLCA CANYON & AREQUIPA
All 5 itineraries are listed here. Rates are listed in the "Rates & Dates" detailed section.
ACC-4 THE FULL PROGRAM
Day 1-Arequipa: We meet you on your arrival at Arequipa airport and transfer you to your hotel. If you arrive in the morning, you will have time in the afternoon to visit the fascinating Santa Catalina Convent, and to visit the Momia Juanita, the Inca mummy recently recovered from top of Ampato Volcano. Both sites offer guided tours. Passengers from Cuzco arrive in late afternoon according to current air schedules. Lunch and dinner are on your own.
Day 2-Colca Canyon Trek: Private guide and driver for the trip to Colca, with a stop at Pampas Cañahuas to view troops of vicuñas. We spend two nights in a comfortable country inn. We include box lunch today, en route to Chivay. In the afternoon we recommend the moderate 2-hour hike from Canocota along the river, ending at the La Calera open-air hot spring. Dinner is on your own.
Day 3-The Canyon: We visit the Cruz del Condor, a lookout near the deepest part of the Colca Canyon, where condors spiral up on the morning thermal air currents. In the left bank villages and countryside we explore an extraordinary concentration of geoglyphs, terracing complexes, colonial churches, and a vibrant folk culture with distinctive costumes and housing styles. We visit the village of Cabanaconde (75 km from Chivay) before returning to the upper (eastern) end of the valley. Overnight in our hotel. Lunch is included today; dinner is on your own.
Day 4-Colca/Arequipa: We visit the village of Coporaque on the right bank of the river before returning in the afternoon to Arequipa in time for your evening flight to Lima. Lunch is included; dinner on your own.
ACC-3 EXPLORING THE COLCA CANYON
Day 1-Arequipa/Chivay: We meet you at the airport and depart directly toward Chivay with your private guide and driver (note: passengers arriving from Cuzco must spend the first night in Arequipa). We view vicuñas at Pampa Cañahuas, enjoy a picnic lunch en route, and arrive in the mid-afternoon, with time enough to settle in and enjoy a local hot spring. Dinner is on your own. Note: we can also begin this tour from Puno, a 5-hour drive to Chivay. In both cases, an optional moderate hike from Canocota to La Calera hot spring is very enjoyable for walkers.
Day 2-Colca Canyon Trek: We visit the Cruz del Condor, and the left bank villages as far as Cabanaconde before returning to the upper end of the valley. Overnight in our hotel. Lunch is included today; dinner is on your own.
Day Three-Colca/Arequipa: We visit the village of Coporaque on the right bank of the river before returning in the afternoon to Arequipa in time for your evening flight to Lima.
ACC-3A INTRODUCTION TO AREQUIPA AND COLCA
Day 1-Arequipa/Santa Catalina Convent: We meet you on your arrival at Arequipa airport and transfer you to your hotel. If you arrive in the morning, you will have time in the afternoon to visit the fascinating Santa Catalina Convent, and to visit the Momia Juanita, the Inca mummy recently recovered from top of Ampato Volcano. Both sites offer guided tours. Passengers from Cuzco arrive in late afternoon according to current air schedules. Lunch and dinner are on your own.
Day 2-Colca Canyon: Private guide and driver for the trip to Colca. We spend one night in a comfortable country inn. We include box lunch today, en route to Chivay. In the afternoon we visit Coporaque, and enjoy a local hot spring. Dinner is on your own.
Day 3-Colca Canyon: We visit the Cruz del Condor, and some villages on the left bank. We return in the afternoon to Arequipa in time for your evening flight to Lima. Lunch is included today; dinner is on your own.
ACC-2 INTRODUCTION TO COLCA
Day 1-Arequipa/Chivay: We meet you at the airport and depart directly toward Chivay with your private guide and driver. We include box lunch today, en route to Chivay. In the afternoon we visit Coporaque and an open-air local hot spring. Dinner is on your own. Note: we can also begin this tour from Puno, a 5-hour drive to Chivay.
Day 2-Colca Canyon Trek/Arequipa: We visit Cruz del Condor, and enjoy the magnificent scenery on the left bank of the river. We return in the afternoon to Arequipa for your evening flight to Lima.
AH-1 ADD-ON TO AMAZON HEADWATERS
This is a full-day add on to any program. The northern drainage of Nevado El Mismi has been identified as the geographical source of the Amazon River. At 18,000 feet elevation, the trip requires some acclimation days so it is best added at the end of your regular Colca Canyon trek. From April through November, we take 4x4 jeeps from the upper Colca Valley around the eastern side of El Mismi, and hike to a tarn that gathers the glacial melt before draining north. Four thousand five hundred miles later, it flows into the Atlantic Ocean. Spellbinding Andean scenery.
- hotel nights are in single, twinshare or triple basis
- daily breakfast and lunch
- park and site fees
- English-speaking guide
- private vehicle for touring.
- airport departure fees
- entrance to la Calera thermal baths ($4)
Departures: any day, year-round, custom basis, based on availability, 4-day, 3, 2, and 1-day programs
2017 Rates, per person, based on double occupancy.
(Please click on Itineraries to see full descriptions of each of these programs)
4 Days / 3 Nights, our most popular program (ACC-4):
# of passengers123 in triple4-67+
3 Days / 2 Nights, Exploring Colca Canyon (ACC-3), :
# of Passengers133 in triple4-67-9
Driver-only Chivay to Puno$425$213$148$124$92
Driver + guide Chivay to Puno$571$286$220$168$133
Group bus Chivay/Puno$68N/AN/AN/AN/A
3 Days / 2 Nights, Introduction to Arequipa and Colca Canyon (ACC-3A)
# of Passengers123 in triple4-67-9
2 Days / 1 Night, Introduction to Colca (ACC-2)
# of Passengers123 in triple4-67-9
Add for Puno pickup$445$223$158$128$92
Puno pickup w/guide$581$288$226$164$132
Group bus to Puno$68N/AN/AN/AN/A
1 Day, Colca Add-on to Amazon Headwaters (AH-1)
# of Passengers123 in triple4
AH-1 (1 Day)$643$324$219$194
FOR DETAILED ITINERARIES ON EACH OF THESE PROGRAMS, PLEASE SEE THE ITINERARIES SECTION.
- 1 to 4 days, hotel-based programs
- Choose from tourist to superior hotels
- Watch condors soar at Cruz del Condor, and vicuña troops on the high plain
- Visit traditional villages
- Enjoy optional hikes along the river and to remote ruins
- Rejuvenate in open-air hot springs
- Visit Arequipa