Hi travelers! We are Laura & Joren aka “Lor & Jor”(@lorjorexplore). In this article we would love to share with you our adventures in Peru and in particular our experiences at a unique place called Colca Canyon – home to the giant Andean condor!
We met in high school but didn’t start dating until after we both graduated and ran into each other at the restaurant where Joren was working. We reconnected and got to know each other better on Myspace! Originally, we are from Columbus, Ohio and have been married now for six years.
In 2015, we went on a two week backpacking trip to Germany and that sparked our travel addiction. In 2019, we purchased our first DSLR camera and a family trip around Iceland got us hooked on travel photography. We love spending our free time outdoors hiking, camping and kayaking. Our passion for photography and travel hasn’t stopped growing.
Two Week Adventure in Peru
Peru was the country we recently visited for two weeks. In that time, we tried to see as much of the country as we could. It was a fun and fast-paced trip that had a little bit of everything. See below for our itinerary:
Day 1: Fly to Lima
Day 2: Sightseeing in Lima
Day 3: Fly to and sightseeing in Arequipa
Day 4: Early three hour bus journey to Colca Canyon, explore Cruz del Condor, Cabanaconde
Day 5: Explore Colca Canyon, Chivay
Day 6: Bus ride to Puno
Day 7: Explore Lake Titicaca and Uros Islands
Day 8: Taxi to Juliaca and fly to Cusco
Day 9: Sightseeing in Cusco
Day 10: Train to Aguas Calientes
Day 11: Machu Picchu and train back to Urubamba
Day 12: Sacred Valley, Moray, Maras Salt Mines
Day 13: Fly to Lima from Cusco
Day 14: More of Lima (last day in Peru)
We did tons of research on Peru before finalizing our itinerary. We read about Colca Canyon in a Lonely Planet book and did research on the Internet. Once we learned that it’s almost the deepest canyon in the world and twice the size of the Grand Canyon, we knew we had to visit.
Even with it being far off the beaten path we decided to make it a priority but we made all of our arrangements beforehand due to its remoteness. The entire Colca Canyon region was gorgeous and we loved our time there.
Our Experiences at Colca Canyon
Our experience at Colca Canyon was amazing! It was necessary for us to take a bus into the canyon which we booked through a company called Pachamama. We had to get on that bus at 3am so that we could be at Cruz del Condor by 8am for condor viewing. It was a cold, long ride in a cramped passenger van with all of our bags. So that was the worst part.
But we tried to get some sleep on the way and make the most of our time despite the early wake up. After stopping at Cruz del Condor, the bus took us to the town of Cabanaconde where we were dropped off. This was sort of the jumping off point for a lot of tours into the canyon. We chose to go our own way from here and explore the area further by ourselves on foot.
Time was limited for us, so we didn’t do any extensive hiking in the canyon or anything like that. If we had more time we would have loved to do that! We definitely would have booked an experienced guide beforehand since trekking in the Colca Canyon alone can be very difficult and dangerous.
After exploring Cabanaconde for a few hours we got a ride back to Yanque, near the entrance of the canyon. We pre-arranged that with Pachamama’s hostel and we paid $60 USD. It was a local guy with a pick-up truck who was headed back that way. He was super friendly and even made several stops along the way at lookout points and offered to take photos.
We checked into Colca Lodge in Yanque. It’s a pricey resort but worth every penny. We chose to splurge a little and spend one night here. It was a wonderful experience! The property is absolutely gorgeous and they have their own natural hot springs, restaurant and a small llama/alpaca farm.
The next day we moved over to Chivay, the next town east and pick-up spot for our bus out of the canyon. We spent the day exploring. It’s a charming town where you can soak up the culture. We discovered old archeological sites on a hill just outside town, got views of a small volcanic eruption in the distance and met friendly dogs (they run around in every town of Peru).
A trip to Colca Canyon is a non-stop sightseeing tour. The views of the canyon and all the terraced hillsides where the locals farm are incredible. The place is unbelievably beautiful, even in the dry season when we went.
Our favorite parts of Colca Canyon were just walking around and taking in the sights. We had a chance to send up our drone a few times and the stuff we captured is probably the most epic we have gotten. We didn’t really luck out with the condors. They were flying really low and close to the edge of the canyon when we stopped, so we didn’t get any spectacular views.
Favorite Place – Farmland Surrounding Cabanaconde
In the area surrounding Cabanaconde we went hiking in the terraced farmland. We were careful to stay along the road or in areas that weren’t being farmed because we wanted to be respectful of private property.
We caught some stunning views of the terraces and down into the canyon. Putting up the drone made everything look so unique from up in the air! The contrast of the small terraces against the huge mountains in the background just takes your breath away in real life!
Best Things To Do in Colca Canyon
- Check out the market in Chivay – great local culture and food
- Drive to Cabanaconde with lookout points and sweeping vistas
- Visit Cruz del Condor and keep an eye out for the elusive condor
- Admire the epic views along the rim of the canyon at Mirador de San Miguel – very close to where we walked around the terraces.
- Dine at Colca Lodge or better yet stay there if you can and enjoy it all – incredible hospitality and the stay is like being in paradise!
Where to Stay in Colca Canyon
- Colca Lodge Spa & Hot Springs (Yanque)
- Colca Land Hostel: This is where we stayed in Chivay. It was very inexpensive and we got a nice private room to ourselves.
- Pachamama Hostel (Cabanaconde): We didn’t spend the night here but used them for all our transportation. They were super hospitable and easy to coordinate with. The hostel is neat and has a beautiful rooftop.
Need to Know Before you Go
Bring cash, most businesses and hostels only accept cash. There is a fee for entering Colca Canyon. When we went it was $25 USD. The temperature drops a lot at night, so bring extra layers. Brush up on your Spanish – you are hours away from a city and most people don’t speak English. Directional phrases, restaurant service, questions, etc. will be helpful.
The condors don’t fly every day or on a schedule. You might have to wait a long time or see none at all. It can get crowded – even though you are in the middle of nowhere. Condor viewing is popular with locals and tourists.
Plan, plan, plan. It’s fun to be spontaneous while traveling but Colca Canyon is extremely remote. In such rural areas of Peru things don’t run on a tight schedule. In Cabanaconde for instance, you are over an hours drive from Chivay – the only place you can catch a tour bus out of the region.
Transportation at Colca Canyon and the surrounding areas will not be reliable and lodging can be limited. Make all your arrangements prior so you know you have a place to stay and a way to get a ride out.
We would like to leave you with our favorite memory from our trip to Colca Canyon and surroundings. While staying at the Colca Lodge we got in the banos termales (hot springs) in the evening. We had them all to ourselves and the hotel staff walked over and brought us pisco sours (Peru’s national drink). We enjoyed them while watching the sunset over the mountains!