After a whirlwind 2 days through Puno and Lake Titicaca, we were down to the final leg of our two-week trip across Peru. I had never heard of Colca Canyon before beginning to research places to visit in Peru, but after reading about the graceful condors that can only be found in the canyon, I knew we had to check it out.
From Puno, we took the 4M Express bus to Arequipa, passing through packs of alpacas (cuteness overload), a lake situated even higher than Titicaca, a series of volcanoes including El Misti, and a high point of 4,910 meters- just over 16,000 feet. The bus ride took about 7 hours and dropped us off directly at our hostel, Colonial Inn. Arequipa was by far the most European of the cities we had visited, with gorgeous Spanish architecture across town. We didn’t have much time to explore though- the next morning it was off to Colca Canyon!
We booked the 2 day, 1 night excursion with SAS Tours. In truth, booking with any company probably would have been fine, as we discovered that all the bookings get sent to a freelance guide that then arranges for transportation. In our case, the guide Cesar turned out to be a bit of a Nazi douche- reprimanding us if we didn’t stay exactly with him, and belittling us when we didn’t have enough pesos to pay our entrance fee to Colca Canyon (turns out they don’t take USD at the gate, contrary to what the SAS Tours site says. Oops, our bad). No matter- we were there for the scenery, not Cesar’s company.
The first day was spent exploring the valleys of the Canyon, followed by a bitterly cold evening in a hostel (arranged for by SAS) in the nearby town Chivay. We discovered an old man selling churros on the street for 2 soles and briefly contemplated buying a churro machine to start our own food cart back home. In the end we abandoned that idea and made content with stuffing ourselves silly with churros.
The second morning, we drove to the condor lookout point and caught a glimpse of the birds. Truth be told, they were pretty unimpressive from far away- the photo above is the result of zooming in post-process. The Inca terraces in the surrounding valley, however? Breath taking.
Back to Arequipa after that, where we enjoyed a leisurely last day drinking coffee and dining al fresco at Crepisimo. I can’t recommend this place enough- both the savory and sweet crepes, combined with gorgeous weather in the 70s proved to be a welcome respite from the biting cold of our earlier portions of the trip. For fine dining, also check out Zig Zag Restaurant- D and I spent our evening there. The steak is done to perfectly (aka rare, duh), and gargantuan portions only set us back $40 USD.
4M Express bus from Puno to Arequipa will set you back $30 USD. The bus is clean, and they stop and provide lunch (a surprisingly tasty sandwich) and bottled water. The airport (AQP) is about a 20 sol cab ride and is situated approximately 8 km from city center.
Colonial House Inn is a family owned hostel with friendly service. Our room had a huge dome ceiling and was very spacious- decent hot water too! One of the girls that lives there has a cute cat that roams around. Cost? $9.50/bed. Hostel is 5 minutes from the Plaza de Armas.
- Zig Zag Restaurant (Calle Zela 210 – 212)- Steak steak steak steak steak. All other things in life do not matter.
- Crepisimo (Calle Santa Catalina 208)- The fixed menu is a pretty good deal. Any of the pesto + chicken savory crepes were tasty.
As mentioned above, we passed through Arequipa mainly to get to Colca Canyon, but the city turned out to be equally (if not more) enjoyable due to the beautiful architecture and moderate temperature. Definitely check out the Plaza de Armas. For Colca Canyon, since we obviously can’t recommend SAS Tours, try checking out Carlitos Tours- we read a lot of great reviews about them, which makes me wonder why we didn’t book with them in the first place *scratches head*.
Just like that, our two weeks in Peru came to an end. The Inca Trail was definitely the highlight of our trip, but experiencing the various other parts of this rugged country were quite worthwhile. I have a feeling that I’ll be back in this country at some point in the future…so until then, Peru!
More on our travels in Peru can be found here:
- Travel Notes: Puno and Lake Titicaca
- The Inca Trail Hike: 4 days, 26 miles, and a helluva lot of steps
- What to Pack for the 4-Day Inca Trail Hike to Machu Picchu
- Travel Notes: Cusco, Peru
- Two Weeks in Peru: The Itinerary and Budget