Peru’s Colca Canyon: The Make or Break Survival Guide

Peru’s Colca Canyon: The Make or Break Survival Guide

A crack in Peru’s southern Andes, Colca Canyon emerges as one of the country’s emphatic geological features. Travelers of all kind—wayfarers to those who own the sunglasses—make their way down the dusty trail to see colorful panoramas, and sprawling wildlife. It’s the third most visited sight in Peru, so chances are, you will want to see what it’s all about.

Deciding how many days you want to spend, how fast you want to trek, how much you want to pay—ultimately these are questions of preference, and I can’t give you the answers. But this guide shall give you toolset to find these answers.

Let’s pack your ideal bag

peru’s colca canyon: the make or break survival guide | let’s pack your ideal bag

Start with a light backpack, fill it with clothes (flannels, tank tops, extra socks are all good ideas) corresponding with how many nights you’re staying and add the items that follow in the next sections. Make sure that you have room in your backpack to add water bottles, and a thin coat, as the temperature fluctuates during the day.

Cameras: Bring an extra battery, and a tripod for night shots of the stars. Also, at this point, it becomes imperative that you charge whatever device you have for the next day with an external battery. Yes, with an external battery, because you won’t find an outlet.

Into the Belly of the Canyon

peru’s colca canyon: the make or break survival guide | into the belly of the canyon

During the first 0.5 kilometers into the canyon, it becomes apparent if you’ve chosen the right shoes, brought enough water—prepared for the decline. With slippery dust, and punishing rocks, the descent can be almost as demanding as the way back up.

Make sure you purchase/bring versatile shoes, as something too casual such as Vans will leave your feet bruised, while boots won’t be agile enough for the dust. A couple of large water bottles are also necessary, sunscreen, coca leaves for vertigo, and snacks (dried fruit, granola bars), as the trek downward will take at least 3 hours. You’ll want to stop for at least a couple of breaks!

In the summertime, swim trunks are awesome for jumping in after the descent, and don’t forget mosquito repellent.

Nightfall in the canyon

peru’s colca canyon: the make or break survival guide | nightfall in the canyon

As the sun settles into a pocket where the mountains meet, and a chorus of reds yellows and blues shift over the skies, the first night in the canyon is upon you. It is cold—a bitter, but lovely cold. Man-made light is scarce, but moonlight is omnipresent, beneath your every step.

For this part of the trek, you should pack warm yet thin clothing, because although it is cold, lugging a heavy coat around all day isn’t worth it. Fleece, thermals and wool layering are vital. At your camp, they will provide you with blankets and even a bed, so don’t worry about a sleeping bag.

You’ll hear the shuffling of cards, popping of beer tops, and many different languages, commonalities as well as differences become great avenues to connect over, because to be frank, there is not much to do at night except relax and meet your fellow trekkers.

Ipad’s, bluetooth speakers and books are also great for filling the large voids of time.

Prepping for the morning climb

peru’s colca canyon: the make or break survival guide | prepping for the morning climb

The final ascent is a strenuous, yet rewarding climb. Beat the sun, and make it as far as you can before that bad boy heats things up. Each look over your shoulder will be more motivating than the last, when the canyon unfolds behind you in rolling greens and blues as the sun brushes the crests of mountains. Push yourself, it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to beat the 65-minute record. Most finish between 3 to 4 hours.

You will need a headlamp for the first part of the climb. The pitch black pathways can be dangerous, so approach with caution. Good layering is also important, because you will need to shed as you climb. It’s similar on the way down, pace yourself, and rest often.

Riding a mule to the top!

riding a mule to the top!

If you don’t feel like taking the excruciating trip to the top, there is another way! Sleep in for another hour and ride a mule to the top. While this option is less physically grueling, it is fun and perfect for those who are worried about the climb. The mules are well-trained and move at a faster pace than humans. So chances are likely that you’ll be waving as you pass your fellow trekkers.

Choose your adventure!

The two day tour is for serious trekkers, three is for normal people, and four is for slackers. Just kidding, everyone has their own pace and how much of the canyon they want to take explore. The loop is around 18km so divide it by days, would you rather be moving 9km, 6km or 4.5km per day. I have listed some of the top travel guides for your convenience.

Have fun, pace yourself, and get ready for some calorie burning, awe inducing hikes.

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

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Currently I’m sitting at my cozy breakfast nook in Seattle, Washington. Before me is a self-prepared Americano and a heap of Cinnamon Raisin Pain Perdu, Lost Bread, or as it’s colloquially known...Read more

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