Colca Canyon and Cabanaconde, Peru travel guide – The YEH, MEH, NAHs
The cañón mas grande, Colca Canyon, Peru, is more than twice as deep as the Grand Canyon and much more difficult to reach. The bone-shaking, heart-skipping bus ride from Arequipa is worthwhile for anyone looking to put a little distance between themselves and Peru’s bucket list crowds and to explore a landscape bigger than the beholder could have imagined. And for those not inclined to deep canyon exploring, for many the condors are Colca Canyon’s biggest draw.
What to do and see in Colca Canyon and Cabanaconde, Peru
- Condor viewing at Mirador de Achachihua – It was far easier to spot Colca Canyon’s famous condors than we’d been led to believe, even at the end of the rainy season (March). Our favorite spot for viewing the condors was at Mirador de Achachihua, where we got buzzed by the oversized birds without the crowds and touts of Cruz de Condor
- Hiking Colca Canyon – You’re not likely to be in Cabanaconde for any other reason, and a hike into Colca Canyon is fantastically rewarding. Check out:
Where to eat and drink in Colca Canyon and Cabanaconde, Peru
- Sol y Sombra, Plaza de Armas, Cabanaconde, Peru – Small restaurant serving a menú del día (“daily menu” set lunch) for just 7 soles as of March 2012. The ideal meal after the hike out of Colca Canyon, with plenty of hearty starches and protein. Our soup was chairo, made with dried meat, potato, and vegetables, including squash, corn, carrot, and more — basically cozy nutrition in a bowl. The main was stir-fried potato, cheese, fava, peas, tomato, and onion in an aji (pepper) sauce over rice. Good, rib-stickin’ grub – YEH
- Hotel Kuntur Wassi restaurant – A pricy choice in a town of slim pickins, the food is tasty so long as you stick to the Peruvian dishes. Hotel guests get breakfast, including tea or coffee, crusty rolls, an egg to order, and a varying selection of sliced meat, cheese, or avocado. During other meals the kitchen is strongest with local ingredients and dishes, particularly an amazing trout stuffed with quinoa with a cheese and dill sauce and an alpaca steak with a shockingly coherent chocolate-aji sauce. Downsides were a grilled vegetable and cheese entree, far too skimpy a portion for 30 soles; pizza on a failed butter scone-flavored and -textured crust; and sandwiches, easily packed go for canyon hikes, that were mayo-gloppy, gristly messes (empanadas would be a better offering). Kuntur Wassi has the usual beers, plus wines available by the bottle and some local concoctions. See below for more on staying at Hotel Kuntur Wassi. The staff, Peruvian dishes, bar, and breakfast get an enthusiastic YEH, the other food a NAH
- Pachamama, Calle San Pedro #209, Cabanaconde, Peru – A truly-madly-deeply backpacker hostel with a pizza-focused menu and friendly bar. The pizza — ours topped with alpaca and vegetables — was helped by our deep hunger after the long bus ride from Arequipa. Dinner is Pachamama at its prime, with their wood-fired pizza oven hot and the bar packed with backpackers eager to share tips for the canyon hike. We didn’t have direct experience with the accommodations though we heard moldy, damp, loud. Especially for living up to its lack of pretension, the restaurant gets a mild – YEH
- Las Terrazas, Plaza de Armas, Cabanaconde, Peru – Utterly awful, grease-soaked, salt-logged food. Yes, in Peru they messed up fried potatoes. The only reason to go would be to sit on their balcony, though the view really had little going for it. – NAH
Where to stay in Colca Canyon and Cabanaconde, Peru
- Hotel Kuntur Wassi, Cabanaconde, Peru – There is no finer hotel in Cabanaconde than Kuntur Wassi, though there are also not a lot of hotels in Cabanaconde. We chose Kuntur Wassi for their generous 50% off low season discount. The staff was friendly and helpful, storing our bags when we went into the canyon. Our room was clean, comfortable, and quirky, with tree stumps and boulders as furniture. The top floor lounge was cozy with reliable wi-fi and great views — they even turned off the pan flute music when we asked for something more modern. See above for more on the hotel restaurant and bar – YEH
- Llahuar Lodge, Llahuar, Peru – Rustic and electricity-less, yes, but also surprisingly pleasant. Sleep on comfortable mattresses in private reed-walled cabins (20 soles each. Prices as of March 2012) soothed by the white noise roar of the not-very-distant river whitewater. Unlike the cabins, the reed walls of the bathroom/showers don’t provide complete privacy, which hopefully will get fixed. Dinner (10 soles each) was a quinoa vegetable soup and fried trout, caught fresh from the river, with rice and vegetables (we asked for and got aji picante, recommended). Though the otherwise wonderful owner Yola let everyone staying choose the time for breakfast (8 soles each), when she overslept everyone else skipped breakfast rather than lose an hour of hiking time (a poor choice considering the extreme canyon environment). We stuck around for pancakes, though we would have preferred something Peruvian and/or protein-packed (we coulda shoulda have asked). Yola made it up to us with big hugs and double cheek kisses. Most of the year, you can relax in Llahuar Lodge’s aguas caliente (hot springs). But for us, March rains meant no hot springs, so we had to “settle” for gorgeous canyon views from the balcony to help us relax. – YEH
Did you have a great experience or enjoy a meal in Colca Canyon, Peru that we missed? Share your travel recommendation in a comment below!