Hike Colca Canyon without a guide: Map and trail guide to Llahuar

The most compelling benefit of hiking Colca Canyon, Peru without a guide is that you can trek at your own pace. This means you can crick your neck watching circling Andean condors, stalk birds and beasts, and stop and smell the wildflowers as often and as long as you want. Best of all, you can chillax in a rare spot of shade until you level up on enough willpower to continue the hike, which can be exhausting.

View toward Llahuar from the ridge, Colca Canyon, Peru photo

View toward Llahuar from Colca Canyon’s ridge.

Hiking without a guide is not for everyone. If you are prone to making bad decisions or getting lost, you may want to hire a guide or join up with a group (meet fellow trekkers at Pachamama Hostel, even if you don’t stay there).

Trail map from Cabanaconde to Llahuar

View Colca Canyon hike from Cabanaconde to Llahuar, Peru in a larger map

Trail guide from Cabanaconde to Llahuar

The hike from Cabanaconde to Llahuar is roughly 8 miles and descends about 3,300 feet. It took us about 5 hours, though we rushed to outrace a thunderstorm from the lingering rainy season.

To the mirador

The trailhead to Llahuar is easy to find, and takes you past a couple of worthwhile, distracting sites.

Starting at Cabanaconde’s Plaza de Armas, walk on Calle San Pedro. You’ll see a sign for Mirador Achachiua though you’re not yet at the viewpoint. Walk left and across a clearing until you see Plaza de Toros, an open-air bull ring with red walls — swing by and check it out.

Red door at the bull ring, Cabanaconde, Colca Canyon, Peru photo

Red door at the bull ring.

Pass the bull ring, keeping it on your left. Follow the dirt path toward the canyon rim, passing a small hill topped with a cross made from sticks. Perched on the rim will be Mirador Achachiua, a wooden hut with views of the canyon and, if you’re lucky, condors.

Mirador de Achachihua, Cabanaconde, Peru photo

Pop a squat right there.

Downward ho!

Leave the Mirador and go along the trail that heads west along the canyon rim. You’ll pass a futbol field, keeping it on your left. The trail continues along the canyon rim, with amazing views.

Trail leaving Mrador Achachiua, Colca Canyon, Peru photo

Trail leaving Mrador Achachiua.

Continue to walk until you see a sign pointing toward Llahuar, the trail down starts near here.

Sign to Llahuar hiking trail, Colca Canyon, Peru photo

Maybe don’t follow that arrow, exactly.

While challenging for its steep slope and slippery gravel, the trail down was easy to follow with few side trails. Then, it’s just downdowndown for a couple of hours by many switchbacks.

River crossings

After about 1.5 hours, the trail reaches the Rio Cabanaconde, a small flow which you cross by shoddy wooden bridge.

Wooden bridge over the Rio Cabanaconde, Colca Canyon, Peru photo

Wooden bridge over the Rio Cabanaconde.

After a short upwards rise, the trail then goes flat for a while then continues down again. As you near the Rio Colca, don’t let side trails divert you, just head for the river.

After rainy season, parts of the trail here were washed out. Look for very subtle trail markers to tell you which part of the wash to avoid.

Very subtle trail markers, Colca Canyon, Peru photo

What, you can’t tell which way to go?

About 3.5 hours after leaving Cabanaconde, you’ll reach the Rio Colca. Just before the cement bridge that crosses the Colca River, a side trail goes to the geyser (the last part of this trail was rained out in March 2012, but we could see the steaming from a short distance).

Bridge across the Rio Colca, Colca Canyon, Peru photo

Bridge across the Rio Colca.

The end nears

Across the bridge, take the left trail. You can just see Llahuar in the distance. Follow the trail, which follows the river; don’t take side trails that go up to the right. You’ll have a short rise to climb.

At the top you’ll arrive at a (probably) desolate, rural village of a dozen or so huts, cabins, and relief tents.

Remote, small village near Llahuar, Colca Canyon, Peru photo

Rustic but with well-tended flowers.

Continue straight as the trail widens into a road and passes through through the village. Arrows painted on rocks point the way to Llahuar. There’s a bitchy dog that barks at you whenever you stop walking.

Arrows point the way to Llahuar, Colca Canyon, Peru photo

Arrows point the way to Llahuar.

Outside the village, the trail descends to Rio Huaruro, which breaks off north from Rio Colca. After 1.5 hours since crossing the Rio Colca, now cross the bridge and turn left to reach Llahuar Lodge, just a short walk up the rise. It’s one of two guesthouses, and there isn’t much else to Llahuar. Rest, relax, and replenish your energy.

In reverse

The hike up from Llahuar to Cabanaconde, though familiar, was much easier and enjoyable than the hike down — Todd and I are just better at climbing hills than balancing on slippery gravel. It’s a tremendous uphill schlep. Going up took us about 7 hours, but we took lots of breaks to enjoy the scenery.

We didn’t want to take the same trail back — roundtrip hikes are repetitive — but the trail from Llahuar to the Oasis (Sangalle) was washed out from the rains. No one in town seemed to know this, but it’s worth asking around in advance.

Hiking up from Llahuar, Colca Canyon, Peru

Hiking up from Llahuar.

What has been your favorite hike, anywhere in the world?