From Cotahuasi, the plan was to take a bus to the town of Andagua where we would then spend the next three days hiking from the Valley of the Volcanoes to Colca Canyon. However, when we went to the bus station we found out that very few cars took the road between Cotahausi and Andagua because it was through the mountains and our best option was to take a bus to the town of Aplao and then hitchhike to Andagua. We decided to do this even though it meant taking another nighttime bus and not getting a good nights rest.
When we boarded the bus we thought that Aplao was a scheduled stop but it turns out that it wasn’t. Because of this, Guillaume and I missed our stop in Aplao and ended up returning back to Arequipa and arrived at the bus terminal at 1am. Upon arrival, we knew we wanted to take a bus to Cabanaconde in Colca Canyon. It turned out that there was a 3:30am bus which was the best option because the bus journey was 6-7 hours and that way we didn’t waste an entire day in the bus.
After arriving in Cabanaconde, tired and hungry after two horrible night’s sleep, we went to a cafe on the main plaza for breakfast and made a plan. We decided to hike down to Sangalle on day one which was an oasis in the canyon and was also only 3 hours away. From there, we would hike to the town of Fure on the other side of the canyon to see the Huaruro Waterfall and then back down to Llahuar to spend the second night and on day three we would hike out of the canyon back to Cabanaconde.
Travel Tip: Guillaume and I hiked with our big packs because we still had all of our camping stuff and food from our original plan. However, you can definitely hike with just a day pack. It will cost more but there are restaurants and cabins in all of the small towns located in Colca Canyon.
The hike down to Sangalle was steep but wasn’t too bad since it wasn’t long. Upon arriving in Sangalle we fixed lunch, pitched the tent, and then enjoyed a relaxing afternoon by the pool reading and taking naps. The next morning we started hiking early because we knew the heat could be an issue. While the hike was steep to start there were parts in the shade which made it bearable. We made it to Mirador Apacheta around 10/10:30am and stopped for a quick break to enjoy the view. From there, we followed the sign to Fure.
However, it turns out that this was an old sign and while there was a trail to start, we got to a section after 30-45 minutes that had fallen and it was impossible to pass. We didn’t want to return all the way back to the mirador so we decided to go down on a rocky part that looked like at old river bed. This was a HUGE mistake because the rocks moved a lot and there were tons of cacti and other prickly plants growing between the rocks. To go downhill it was around an hour and was probably the worst downhill of my trip. My legs felt like they were burning due to being pricked by the cacti and other plants and at one point I fell head first down the mountain (with my pack on) due to an unstable rock. Luckily, I was fine and eventually we made it down.
After this, we stopped to eat some lunch and I decided to skip the waterfall and go directly to Llahuar so I had time to enjoy the hot springs. I also knew that if I went to the waterfall I wouldn’t be getting to Llahuar before nightfall and I really didn’t feel hike hiking in the dark. Guillaume decided he would continue to the falls and we would meet up at camp later.
Upon arriving to Llahuar, I met the nicest girl from France and we spent the afternoon enjoying the hot springs and chatting. At 8pm Guillaume arrived and we fixed dinner. The next morning we both slept in due to the trials of the past few days. I left camp at 10am to start the 5 hour hike out of the canyon and Guillaume decided to stay for a couple hours more to enjoy the hot springs since he didn’t have time the night before.
The hike out was definitely challenging because it was around 2000m of elevation gain and it was all in the sun. (Most people start at 5am to avoid the heat of the day.) While the hike was challenging and I was exhausted when I arrived in Cabanaconde, I am really glad I did it.
Colca Canyon was absolutely amazing and really impressive. While Cotahausi Canyon is deeper, I thought Colca Canyon was prettier. The width of the canyon is much greater and it was much easier to hike in the bottom on the canyon which was impossible in Cotahausi. Colca Canyon also has amazing terraces built by the locals to grow crops and a lookout to see condors up close. While there were a fair number of people in Colca Canyon I thought that it was still worth the visit and the camping spots only had around 10-15 other people and the hiking trails were pretty much just us. Summary, Colca Canyon vale la pena (is worth it.)