Colca Canyon in Peru – one of the deepest in the world

This is for what Arequipa in Peru is also know. We absolutely loved that little journey in the backcountries of Peru. Living right next to an active volcano (yes you can see the fume), many hours away from the next big city, in the middle of the second largest canyon in the world. This is amazing.

Volcano viewpoint - Colca Canyon
Volcano viewpoint

We did a 2d/1n tour with Giardino, which was fine, but if you have the time, just spend there a week or so and explore it for yourself – DIY style. If you take a local bus it’s just 17 Soles each way and you’ll find a lot of hostels, hotels, hospedajes etc. in Chivay, Coporaque, Yanque or Cabanaconde or even down in the canyon itself, if you want to trek (Oasis, Sangalle, Llahual).

With the tour we started at 7 am. We could leave our backpacks in our bed & breakfast, which was really comfy. On the way we made some nice stops to drink Coca tea and spot wild Vicuñas, Guanacos and Alpacas.

We stopped at the volcano viewpoint, which is at 4.900m above sea-level and got some nice views into the coca valley and the canyon.

We heard a lot of interesting stories and learned a lot about the Inkan culture. For example, that they used holes in the volcanic stone as refrigerators and even for burring the dead – they left a bit open, so that the sun could get in – because of the soul. We learned a lot about herbs, plants, animals, culture,… I guess it’s a bit of luck, which tour operator or guide you get. We stopped in Chivay and visited the local market to taste some fruits.

Local market Chivay
Local market Chivay

After that we had lunch in Coporaque at Mamma Yachi’s (which was really good).

Mamma Yachi Coporaque
Mamma Yachi Coporaque

We then went for a short walk in direction to Yanque, where we had amazing views and got a bit of that breathless feeling and what it means to trek on 3.500m on the first day. After that we headed for the hot springs nearby, which was a pleasure 😉 then had dinner and fell asleep right away.

Coporache to Yanque
Coporache to Yanque
Walk to Yanque
Walk to Yanque

In the morning we visited Chivay church, watched some local dancing (the school children do that to earn some money), took some obligatory alpaca baby pics and then headed to the famous Cruz del Condor where we watched the giant birds fly and went for another short trek along the canyons edge.

On the way back, we stopped in Maca and at some view points, we got some lunch in Chivay and then went straight back to Arequipa with some Alpaca stops again. 😉

We recommend to stay at least a few days in that area. We really loved it.

 

Colca Canyon trek
Colca Canyon trek

We stayed 5 nights in Arequipa and 1 night at Coporaque in total, but could have done much more in the Canyon itself.

From Lima to Arequipa

We decided to go up slowly in the high altitudes of the Andes and took the Peru Hop bus from Lima to Paracas, to Huacachina to Arequipa and then further up to Cuzco. Wich was a very good decision.

So what did we discover on our way?

Hacienda San José

This was a surprisingly nice stopover. We learned a lot about the slave tunnels and the time, when the slaves came from Africa to Peru. Nowadays the Hacienda is a five star hotel, which is a bit creepy, but anyway,…

Paracas & Islas Ballestas

If you’re into animals and wildlife, this is the spot for you to go. From Paracas you hop on a little boat to discover the “Poor Men’s Galapagos”. We’ve been to the real Galapagos just a week before and weren’t expecting to much. But this trip was really amazing. We saw sea lions, sea wolfs, Humboldt penguins, and a looooot of different birds (stunning).

Paracas itself is not that nice, but it has some cute restaurants to spend some time. If you like kite surfing – then you should consider to stay here much longer.

Paracas Marine Reserve

A really nice place to spend some time, you can take a bus, a tour, a bike, a quad,…. And then discover the Peruvian desert, including some really nice view points and even a red sand beach.

Huacachina

We’re absolutely in love with that place.

Tell the Austrian’s that they can ski or snowboard, even when it’s on sand, and we’re excited at all 😉

We heard that the normal way to go down is head-front, but we found the Sand Snow School, which is managed by swiss guys, we get to know at our first walk up for the sunset on the dunes (you have to do that really – it challenged all the sunsets we had before). So what we did, for sure, was going for the real sand boarding and sand skiing – including a lot of walking but also a nice buggy tour. We did about 5 dunes which was awesome. It’s a bit like deep-snow, but different when it comes to stopping.

Huacachina is also a really good place for party – in our case: Aprés Ski – what else. ;)) Our hostel „Wild Olive“ was the perfect choice to relax after all that action.

Pisco Tour

This is a nice opportunity to learn something about the national drink and get some tastings. We even got some ice-cream there. 😉

Nazca

If you’re on the way to Arequipa, make sure you stop at the view-tower for the famous Nazca lines. Incredible what the Incas did. If you have a bit more money – you can also take a flight.

 

Arequipa

This is our most favorite city so far in Peru. We loved to explore all the Alpaca factories, stores and zoos. We had some delicious local food in the picanterias and even a swiss-peruvian cheese fondue to celebrate Dominik’s birthday. The cathedral is really worth to see – there is a museum with a guide, you can go up the tower and inside. We also loved the monastery Santa Catalina – we didn’t expect such a city in the city. Imagine there where 80 apartments for the nuns back in those days. There is also a really good free guided walking tour through the city and you get pastries and queso helado on every corner. The mercado is also a must see. The Yanahual park is a tip as well and all the nice bridges in the city.

Arequipa cathedral at night
Arequipa cathedral at night
Arequipa cathedral
Arequipa cathedral

 

Arequipa - the white city
Arequipa – the white city

About a four hours drive from Arequipa you’ll discover the gorgeous Colca Canyon. We really recommend that tour. Our summary of the Peruvian canyon is right here.

 

Give Lima a chance!

Most of the people we met or spoke to before we headed to Peru, told us not to stay to long in Lima. It’s crowded, dirty, lot’s of traffic, unsafe,… lalala… sooo: but we had to stay longer, because of Michaela’s wisdom tooth. And glad we did so 😉 – it was a bit scary at first – because we’re not used to get stucked in traffic for hours and hours, but if you know when and where to go, the city is absolutely worth to give a chance, stay a couple of days there to explore it’s maybe hidden beauty. We stayed a week at first and then another 3 nights – so not to short right? ;))

Curios for some tips? Here we go…

Miraflores – the place everybody knows.

It’s the part of Lima where all the tourists stay, where all the expensive hotels are, where you’ll find lots of parks, sport-options, singing parrots, shopping opportunities, safe streets and, and,…

What we really recommend there?

El Malecón with it’s Parque del Amor.

Go for a walk along the coastline, the so called “El Malecón” with all it’s nice parks (about 10km prepared green to walk, rent bicycles, try parasailing, relax, be sporty, play tennis, look for some artsy sculptures, lighthouses…) and enjoy the view with all the surfers and sun-seekers down at the beaches. Our highlight was the romantic and colorful Parque del Amor. It’s design remembered us of Antoni Gaudí but it’s originally from Víctor Delfín.

Parque del Amor in Lima - Miraflores
Parque del Amor in Lima – Miraflores

End up at Larcomar.

And splurge a bit. You’ll find nice sunsets at the coast, cocktails, food, shops and all that touristy stuff.

Go and eat somewhere.

Try some local dishes. The best thing you can do. Not always go for that touristy restaurant – they’re really not as good as the local ones. And guess what: we never had stomach problems after the local one’s, but after the touristy one’s we experienced some troubles.

Eat Ceviche.

We’ve been to Punto Azul, which is recommended everywhere. But there are a lot of other options.

Be artsy fartsy at Barranco.

Wonderful place for art lovers. There are some really nice museums, craft shops, cute boutiques, creative artists, local markets, trendy coffee shops and nice streets to stroll around. There is also a nice park, street-music everywhere and even sea view above the coast. The MATE (Mario Testino Museum) we went to, was really stunning, with all those beautiful photographs and paintings. We stayed there longer than expected.

Visit the Historical Center.

  • Church & Convent Santa Domingo

This was surprisingly interesting and worth to see.

  • Plaza Major

Just nice strolling around there.

  • Cathedral

You cannot miss this one from the outside. We didn’t pay the entrance fee for inside, because we saw the other church, but maybe that’s also nice.

  • Go to a Pasteleria

There is a hidden gem right in the center which is really good. We had empanadas, juices, coffee and Alfajores at Peru Caca0 – which is a specialty in Peru – made out of milk and sugar, cooked to caramel, filled in some fluffy pastry.

  • Pedestrians Street

Walk along the pedestrians’ street. A lot of people, a lot of stores, keep an eye on your belongings, but was nice to see it.

  • Drink a Pisco Sour at Hotel Boliviar

or somewhere else in the city 😉

  • San Francisco monastry

we missed it – but it should be nice – with bones everywhere to see.

  • San Cristobal Hill

Walk to the bridge and see the San Cristobal Hill – you can even drive up for the view when there is nice weather.

  • If you have time in the evening, there is a water show in the middle of Miraflores and the historical center.
  • What we really missed out, is going to the national theater. This would have been amazing. Next time, we definitely will.

Where to stay?

We stayed 3 night’s at a local family’s place in Villa el Salvador which was really, really nice and inspiring. We got loads of local dishes to try and enjoyed our time learning a bit more Spanish. The neighborhood was really interesting to see, lots of families live there and it’s pretty busy especially on the streets. You have all the mototaxis, collectivos and buses, but also a lot of trucks and cars. Don’t even think about renting a car there. The crazy part is, that you need about 2.5 hours! during rush hour from the airport to get there and about 1 hour to Miraflores. On those streets you have a lot of yummy food stalls and some restaurants. If you go there, you see way more of the everyday life than in the touristy parts.

We also had 6 night’s in popular Miraflores in a super cute guesthouse which was also pretty cool. There it’s a lot more quiet, modern and green. You’ll find all those parks and malls there and a lot of food options. Like another world, we’d say. Miraflores is a very good option regarding the location. Close to everything. Even the historic center, where we didn’t stay, but for sure went to visit, was reachable in about 20mins by a super cheap Uber. If you like parrots, Miraflores it also is for you.

Barranco is also a really, really nice place. It is an even more colorful, artsy fartsy place. 😉 We spend there a day, visited the market, some view points, the cathedral, and of course all the cool shops, coffee roasteries and art museums. We really enjoyed it.

We even went to the dentists (unfortunately because Ela had to pull out her wisdom tooth aua) for 3 times and did some grocery shopping in Surco (another part of Lima). At our second stay in Lima, we had to go more to the North to Los Olivos, to get some contact lenses out of the post office/ministry of health (which was a nightmare, but we did it). So we had parts of the real Lima, compared to the more touristy, business like and also the historic Lima.

So… to sum it all up (finally haha) we’d recommend you to stay in Miraflores.

We can really recommend this guesthouse (click to reserve it right here), which has a very good location. And if you want to see more of the real city, maybe you also have the chance to find a local family/homestay in another part – or go check it out for a day or so. If you want to be a bit further out of the touristy area, pick Barranco. You’ll love it.


Booking.com

How to get around?

Taxi

We didn’t use them in Lima because the Uber was cheaper. But if you do so, check if you got an official one. And try to have coins ready. In Arequipa for example we always used them – it was always 7 Soles and we always got to the right place and had some nice conversations.

Uber

A really good option in Lima. There were plenty of them one around and it always worked fine. You can check the number and the driver and can pay with credit card.

Buses

From Miraflores it’s easy to catch a bus. Most of them departs from Kennedy Park. Cheap but it takes a bit longer than Uber. For travelling on a budget it’s a super option.

Collectivos

They work like in Mexico. You just give them a sign and they’ll stop. You have to read on the vans, where they go. It’s the cheapest option but takes longer, because passengers hop on and off everywhere on the road. But it’s funny – we do it often – just to see how the locals get around.

Moto Taxi

In some parts of Lima you even have Tuk Tuk’s like in Asia. It’s funny because they look different, but it works the same way. We checked them in the Sacred Valley.

Metro/Train

There is one line from Villa el Salvador to the center.