arequipa to colca canyon

Peru is great for its many public transportation options that are both easy and affordable to use. But sometimes there are trickier routes that are either hard to find, or the schedule is inaccurate on the internet. That was the case when I was trying to find the bus route when going from Arequipa to Colca Canyon.

The Colca Canyon is a long drive away from Arequipa, but it’s an amazing city, so that’s why I and many others decided to base myself there.

I looked all over the internet, but some information seemed old from the COVID years. There were a lot of bus routes pre-covid, then not so many during, and afterward, it wasn’t updated.

We did not care what the information said online and went to the bus station to find out for ourselves. I think this is the best option because timetables can change.

In this article, I will go over the exact details of how we got from Arequipa to Colca Canyon and the other options available.

What is the Colca Canyon?

Colca is the second deepest canyon in the entire world, right behind the Yarlung Tsangpo Grand Canyon in China. The Colca Canyon ranges from 3,600 meters to upwards of 4,625 meters in elevation.

The Colca Canyon is also home to the largest flying bird in South America, the Condor. Many travelers flock here yearly to witness the beauty of this place as well as see the Condor fly.

The 3-day hike we went on is similar to Quilotoa Loop in Ecuador but is also completely different. The cost of travel in Peru makes this trek so appealing.

Where is it Located?

When planning a trip to hike in the Colca Canyon, you’ll want to head to the town of Cabanaconde. This small town can also spend the night in for an early morning hike in the canyon.

Chivay is often considered the beginning of the Colca Canyon and might be a place you stop at beforehand.

colca canyon trek

How to Get From Arequipa to Colca Canyon

As I mentioned, you’ll want to go to Cabanaconde. The main portion of this guide will be about how to get here independently, but I’ll also go over a few tour options.

There are many options to get to Cabanaconde to start your adventure in the Colca Canyon. Most of them are affordable, but I struggled to find accurate information.

Below, I will first go over how I arrived at Cabanaconde/Colca Canyon, and then after, I’ll go over the other options there are.

Arequipa to Colca Canyon Bus

When we went to Colca Canyon, we decided to take the bus. This is, in my opinion, the easiest option, but if you plan on hiking the same day, then you’ll have to leave extremely early in the morning.

Rome2Rio is a good place to start when looking at how to get from Point A to Point B. I was able to find a few potential bus companies that did this route, and they were:

  • Reyna: As their website shows, it doesn’t seem too active. This is a popular company that I read about the most.
  • Andalucia: We took this bus company and had no issues with them.
  • Express Señor de Los Milagros: I read about this company online but don’t know much about them besides they could be another potential option.

I suggest going to the bus terminal in Arequipa the day before you go. This helps ensure you know what time the bus leaves, and you can secure a ticket.

When arriving at the bus terminal, make sure you go to the big building on the left and not the right. This is where all the buses going North/East are located.

If you decide to buy your ticket the morning of, there shouldn’t be an issue, but if we went off the times we saw online, we would’ve missed the bus by 30 minutes.

We left the morning of our Colca Canyon Trek at 3:30 a.m., and it cost us 25 soles each. There was another time at 4:00 a.m., but they said that wasn’t available.

There is a later bus, but with the journey taking six hours, I only suggest taking this time slot if you plan on staying the night in Cabanaconde.

colca canyon trek, arequipa to colca canyon

Colectivos to Colca Canyon

Taking the colectivos in Peru is one of my favorite modes of transportation. When doing hikes like Laguna Ahuac and Laguna Churup in Huaraz, these colectivos were perfect.

This, though, would be a longer colectivo than those in Huaraz. Taking the colectivos from Arequipa to Colca Canyon would be slightly more expensive (not much) than taking the bus.

The biggest perk of taking the colectivos over the bus is that it will be slightly faster and you cannot have to leave so early in the morning.

That said, there’s a chance you could wait an hour or so for the colectivo to fill up before it leaves. This is random, and sometimes you just have to get lucky.

If you decide to take this route, you’ll first want to head to Av. Andrés Avelino Cáceres 310 is next to the main bus terminal to find a colectivo to Chivay.

Here are a few of the colectivos you could take:

  • Colectivo Terminal 3: This is a large terminal, and it won’t be hard to find the colectivo that goes to Cabanaconde.
  • Transportes Centella: Go to the location mentioned above to find this colectivo. Leaves at 5 a.m. and onwards.
  • Transportes Caminos del Inca: This company is located on the street directly behind the bus terminal. It’s another popular option to take that leaves as early as 3 a.m.

This ride to Chivay will last around three hours and cost 20 soles. Once you arrive in Chivay, you’ll want to get on a different colectivo that heads to Cabanaconde.

Normally, people will ask if that’s where you’re going once you get out of the colectivo, but if not, simply ask someone to point you in the right direction.

This colectivo should cost around ten soles and take about two hours.

Colca Canyon Tour

Going on the Colca Canyon Tour is the most popular option for obvious reasons. It’s easy and affordable for most, but it might not be for you if you don’t like hiking in groups like us.

The day tour is helpful for those on short time as the transportation is taken care of, and you also get to stop and see a few other sights.

You can either book online or walk around town to one of the many tour companies to find the best deal.

Shuttles to Colca Canyon

I only recently heard of this option, but it might be something your hotel or hostel offers. There are shuttle services to Colca Canyon that might be faster, offer breakfast, and for a decent price.

The itinerary is as follows:

  1. Hotel/hostel pickup at 3:30 a.m.
  2. Arrive in Chivay at 6:30 a.m.
  3. Eat breakfast
  4. Head to Cabanaconde, with one stop at the Cruz del Condor
  5. Arrive at Cabanaconde at 9:30 a.m

Tips for the Colca Canyon Trek

1. Bring Sunscreen

Almost the entire Colca Canyon trek is in direct sunlight. The UV can get very high at this altitude and in this region of the world.

We saw ratings upwards of 13 UV at mid-day, so Sun Screen is a must!

2. Start Early

Starting early is especially important when planning on only doing a day hike. We started the hike after breakfast around 10:30 and arrived in Llahuar around 3:30 or 4:00.

Taking the early bus or colectivo might suck, but you’ll thank me later.

3. Bring Cash

Everything, including the accommodations, is cash only. You might not think you’ll want a snack, beer, or Gatorade when arriving, but trust me; you will!

You want to relax when you fully arrive and bringing enough money just in case is a smart idea.

4. Pack Snacks and Drinks

The days are extremely long or difficult, but taking a break and enjoying snacks is always nice. Packing enough water is essential as well.

Having around 2L of water per day is more than enough.

Where to Stay During the Colca Canyon Trek

These are the places I stayed at during my Colca Canyon Trek.

  • Llahuar: We stayed at Llahuar Lodge on night one. This is where the thermal baths are located.
  • Sangalle (Oasis): I didn’t stay here, but we heard much about the Sangalle Cielo Lodge.
  • San Juan de Chuccho: We stayed at the Colibri Lodge, one of the nicest places I’ve stayed there—fantastic rooms for the price.
  • Arequipa: When arriving back in Arequipa, we decided to stay at the Selina. It’s not always the most friendly vibes, but it was still nice.

Other Adventures in Peru

Laguna 69 Hike: How to Visit Independently

Laguna Paron in Peru: Guide to Hiking Solo

Cristo Blanco Viewpoint in Cusco

Laguna Humantay Trek: How to Visit from Cusco

Laguna Wilcacocha: Huaraz Acclimatization Hike