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Trekking Peru’s Colca Canyon independently, everything you need to know about Cabanaconde & Sangalle

Colca Canyon in southern Peru is the second deepest canyon in the world, twice the depth of The Grand Canyon, but still manageable to walk down and back up in a day, as long as you’re pretty fit. The scenery around Colca Canyon is truly stunning, layers upon layers of mountains are visible as far as the eye can see, snow capped peaks stand tall in the distance and huge condors glide seamlessly above.

overlapping mountains and blue sky around Colca Canyon Peru
The peaks and valleys surrounding Colca Canyon

Organised tours to Colca Canyon start and end in Arequipa, meaning a very early start and over eight hours in a car or truck. During my four months in South America I'd started to enjoy trekking independently, so my friend and I decided to do it ourselves. After spending a few days exploring Arequipa, we took a local bus from Terminal Terrestre station to a small town called Cabanaconde, the journey took around five and a half hours and cost 17 soles (roughly $6) each, with five buses departing daily.

Cabanaconde is one of the last villages of the Colca Valley, it’s a really traditional place with only 3000 people living there, all working mostly in agriculture. Because most tourists take pre-organised tours, this village remains mostly tourist-free, making it a nicer experience when you come to visit. We stayed in the village for two nights in the basic but cosy Hotel Majestic Colca, which we found when we arrived. There are plenty more options in and around the area from as little as $14 per night.

corn field with mountains in the distance in cabanaconde peru
Corn fields surround Cabanaconde village

After breakfast on the morning of the trek, we headed to the start point of the route we were taking, (signposted from Cabanaconde village). It was a grey, slightly misty day but as soon as we started walking the mist began to clear, revealing incredible rolling mountains all around. We took a route leading to an oasis at the bottom of the canyon called Sangalle and I managed to do the whole trek wearing flip-flops. As I was travelling for a long time (one year), I didn’t have many shoes or trainers to trek in and because the locals were wearing sandals and flip-flops I decided it would be ok to do the same, and actually, it was. Looking back, I probably wouldn’t do it in flip-flops again, they're perhaps not the most sensible footwear to trek in. Going down took around two hours, and the climb back up slightly longer, we of course stopped at the pool at the bottom of the canyon for a few hours to eating, drinking and swimming.

pool next to bamboo hut in sangalle colca canyon peru
Cool off in the pool at Sangalle once you reach the bottom 

On the day of our trek we passed a few other people but not too many, we saw farmers working on the mountains and occasionally one would pass with a donkey, offering a ride back up. Climbing back up the canyon was steep and hard but perhaps slightly easier then going down and the views throughout the whole walk were amazing. As we reached the top, tired and aching, it began to rain, the sky turned completely grey and we raced back to our hotel for pasta and a big bottle of Arequipeña beer. This trekking adventure is one I’d highly recommend doing solo.

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