Peru: Hiking in the Colca Canyon - Cabanaconde to Llahuar for the not-so-fit

By Cubie - February 21, 2019

Colca Canyon is a canyon of the Colca River, about 160 km northwest of Arequipa. It is the world's second deepest canyon and home to the Andean condor. Cruz del Condor is a popular stop to view the condors. If you chose to do a trek, there are a few different trails options, depending on the time you have and difficulty. For those not so keen on hiking, there are options of stops and viewing from lookout areas.

The usual starting point of hike is this little town named Cabanaconde and about 4.5 hours away from Arequipa. Depending on how pack you want your day to be, it would either be long days or some rest day before or after. I opted to stay my first night at the canyon, followed by a night in Cabanaconde as buffer in case of missing bus connection.

Bus and Colca Canyon tourist ticket

This also means that I trekked the day I arrived in Cabanaconde and made the second day my rest day. To get to Cabanaconde early enough to trek, I took a bus at 3am (yes, 3 o'clock in the morning) from Arequipa. There is local bus running at 3am (I think it's Milagros bus) but considering of the timing, I booked a tourist bus (USD 18.50 / ~S/62 / ~AUD 26 / ~RM 76) which is about 3x more expensive than a local bus fare.

Tourist bus ticket, however, included pick up from hostel, breakfast in Chivay and stop at Cruz del Condor before arriving at Cabanaconde. This tourist bus also departs at 3am to meet the timing for condors viewing. Condors are seen from 7:00 to 9:30/10:00am or in the late afternoon around 3:00-4:00pm. I saw a condor at Cruz del Condor! I only saw one but better than none right?

The bus driver collected money, S/70 (~USD 21 / ~AUD 30 / ~RM 86) to buy the Colca Canyon tourist ticket. Yes, the ticket is quite pricey and covers access to Cruz del Condor and Colca Canyon. I did not bump into anyone checking ticket on my trek.

View from bus enroute Cabanaconde
If you have read my blog for awhile, I have written many times that I have crap stamina, um, I still do (yes, fully aware can be trained and the benefits of exercising but um, let's not go there). Unfortunately though despite limitation in terms of stamina, I still want to do some random hikes and this is one of the times. Obviously some coordination issues between my brain and capabilities. I have a bit more confidence in my knees than lungs, so I decided on Cabanaconde to Llahuar trail. 2 big reasons were - downhill trek to Llahuar and bus back to Cabanaconde.

I should also make it clear that I went on the Cabanaconde to Llahuar trail alone, fully aware of the risks and dangers that one shouldn't hike solo. Imagine slip and tumble down the canyon or exhaustion, etc. The most compelling reason why I chose to hike alone was I could go at my own pace, stop whenever I want either for photos taking or just because my little legs needed many rests, and not feel bad for slowing down anyone. There are other options like hire a guide or team up with other hiking groups from the hostel you are staying.

I started hiking 9:47am after checked in at Hostel Pachamama and left my luggage there. I took 6 hours to get to Llahuar and only met a 3 different groups of hikers, two going the same direction as me and one opposite direction. Of course both groups overtook me.  However there were many more people at Llahuar Lodge which I stayed the night so I'm sure everybody else departed earlier.

From Cabanaconde to Llahuar

Starting at Cabanaconde's Plaza de Armas, walk on Calle San Pedro till you see Plaza de Toros, a bull ring. Pass the bull ring and follow the dirt part and will reach the Mirador de Achachihua.

This shows that you have arrived at Mirador de Achachihua. There are 2 paths from the viewpoint, take the one to the left of the mirador and walk along the edge of the mountain. The trail isn't very narrow and felt safe. The trail will start going downhill in zigzags gradually.

From here onwards there are no other trails so not to worry of making a wrong turn, but be careful of loose gravels. I was glad I brought along a pair of hiking sticks. The trail will bring you to a wooden bridge.

There is no water under the bridge at the time of my visit and despite the rustic look of the bridge, it withheld the weight of many hikers, including mine. I was rather apprehensive at the look of the bridge though

After crossing this bridge, you will walk on a level path for some time. There isn't much shade at this stretch. Despite already applied sun block, I noticed my lower arm had turned into a shade of red at this point, no thanks to myself started hiking close to 10am.

After the level stretch, we are back to downhill. This goes all the way down to the Colca River. The path here are rocky gravel type, so do be careful. There will be a dirt road at the end of this bit.

It may be tempting to try to take a short cut instead of the usual path but if it is quite steep and if it is blocked by a stone or rock, better be safe and not take a risk.

Imagine simba perching on that stone
At this point I saw the 2 parties of hikers who bypassed me earlier at the opposite side. I think there's at least about an hour's walk in between us.

At the bottom, i.e. the dirt road, there are 2 bridges. An old bridge and a new one (the concrete bridge). Cross the new bridge and follow the route till you see an adobe house. This takes about an hour.

View of Rio Colca from the bridge is good.

At the path that you need to turn left, you will see these 2 signs. There is also a bus stop. This is the bus stop where you will wait for the bus to return to Cabanaconde.

Follow this sign and take a left from where you came from.

The path looks like this. I took this photo after I turned in to the path, so you can see the bus stop at the end.

Follow the trail and at the end of it, you will see another river - Rio Huaruro. There's a bridge at the bottom middle of the photo, and Llahuar Lodge at the left.

Walk to the bridge. Cross it. Turn left after the bridge. Go slightly uphill after turning left. Llahuar Lodge is at the end.

This is the last bridge before arriving at Llahuar

Overnight at Llahuar Lodge

I made it!
I was assigned one of the cabins down there. Between the main building where meals are served to the cabin is a flight of steps and a small stretch of gravel paths. It is quite dark at night so best to have a torchlight.

Cabin has a river view, and Llahuar Lodge features a garden and water thermal pools.

Dinner was a vegetarian meal at S/10 (~USD 3 / ~AUD 4.50 / RM 12.50) and pancake breakfast was included in the room rate.

Llahuar to Cabanaconde by bus

Walk back to the bus stop at the junction where the adobe house it. Here's the photo again.

The bus is at around 11:30am to 12pm, S/10 (~USD 3 / ~AUD 4.50 / ~RM 13). The bus came at about 11:40am the day I took it. It is best to reconfirm with the lodge, they would know, as well as the locals. There were 3 other locals took the same bus as me.

There is another bus stop at the concrete bridge but this one is nearer to Llahuar. Remember to allocate time to walk from lodge to bus stop so you don't miss the bus.

If you are lucky, you will be in time to catch the 2:00pm bus (Reyna) back to Arequipa.

Useful links and other things

  • I stayed at this Pachamama Hostel but the website itself has information on trekking in Colca Canyon. I was given a map after checked in to the hostel before I started my trek. 
  • Local bus schedule 
  • Bring enough money to Cabanaconde and Llahuar. Both are small towns and I don't see an ATM. 

Side note: "Llahuar" is named after Llatica (a nearby town) and waterfall Huaruro. 

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