Colca River: The Challenge Canyon. (9 Days / 8 Nights)



Level Extreme. Class 4 and 5 rafting. Experience is needed and good physical condition is essential. Demanding hiking (1 day).
Duration 09 days
Location Province La Unión - Arequipa.
Description Rough and challenge. Deep and narrow canyon environment, hard and intense rapids. Small sleeping spots. Tents not allowed.
Departures Private departures.
Season Between June and October.
Meeting point Arequipa (South Peru).

Itinerary description


Our trip begins in the city of Arequipa, located in the southwestern region of Peru and to one hour flight trip from Lima. In the afternoon, we will tour around the old city –recently proclaimed a World Cultural Heritage Site by UNESCO. Among the outstanding sites are the famous Convent of Santa Catalina, as well as the Museum where we can observe the mummified corpse of the young Inka woman (known in present times as "Juanita") which was found some years ago atop the snowcapped peak of Ampato, in the vicinity of the Colca Canyon.


Morning departure from the city of Arequipa, heading northwest in the direction of the Colca Valley , which lies at an elevation of 3500 meters (approximately 14, 485 feet) above sea level. We shall pass through the National Reserve of Salinas and Aguada Blanca, subsequently ascending to the highland plateaus of Pampas Cañahuas and Tocra were we will be able to observe herds of Vicuña, Llama and Alpacas, as well as the formations of rock outcroppings –or "forests"- of Pueruña and Sumbay and the latter bearing cave paintings. Sometime around this point we will savor our box lunch and soon continue on our way to the impressive vicinity of the high snowcapped peaks of Ampato (elevation 6,320 meters – 20,730 feet above sea level) and Sabancaya (5,976 meters – 19, 720 feet above sea level) looming above us. After passing yet another remarkable geological formation known as the "Castillo (castle) of Callalli we eventually reach the town of Chivay, renowned for its medicinal mineral hot springs –the beneficial qualities of which we shall delightfully partake of. Overnight lodging in local hotel in the town of Chivay.

(Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner)


In the morning we will cruise along the south rim of the Colca Canyon, corresponding to the left bank of the river below which is a mid large concentrations of terraces constructed on the steep cliffsides by the ancient inhabitants of the valley. We shall visit some of the several 17th century villages extant in the area -famed for their remarkable colonial baroque churches- and likewise take in the well known Cruz del Condor, a celebrated natural scenic overlook located 1200 meters (almost 4,000 feet) above the river. This spectacular site commands a privileged viewpoint from where we will observe the magnificent and impressive deepness of the canyon as well as watch very closely the flight and imposing presence of the numerous condors that abound in that particular sector. In the afternoon, we will arrive at the town of Huambo (elevation 3300 meters – 10,850 feet, above sea level). Here we shall lodge overnight in a local hostel.

(Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner)


We will wake up to the whistling of Juan, the wrangler in charge of the burros that will carry our baggage to the river put in. We will hike for 3 hours through farmland and fields of crops, meeting the local folk curious and jovial at the sight of our presence exchanging mutual greetings and salutations, eventually reaching the bridge of Huambo, where we will stop for lunch. Afterward, we will set off one more time for 3 more hours, following a narrow winding path leading to the Hacienda Canco. In this location we will camp already on the banks of the Colca river- with tired limbs, soon to be comforted and content by the caress of the thermal waters.

(Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner)


In the early hours of the morning while the guides are readying the equipment we will set off upstream along a stretch of approximately 1 kilometer (a bit over a half mile) to visit the waterfall named in honor of Pope John Paul II. Upon returning to camp and following a briefing of technical and safety orientation we will put into the river. In the course of this first day we will paddle down a stretch of 4 kilometers (under 3 miles) of Class II and III rapids till reaching the confluence of the Colca with the Mamacocha river. From this point henceforth begins the actual Canyon of the Colca River, since the volume of the river flow becomes virtually doubled. After lunch we paddle for another 20 minutes, reaching the campsite of "La Pared" (the Wall), bearing in mind that the following will be an important day.

(Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner)


After enjoying breakfast on the banks of the inner gorge of one of the deepest river canyons in the world, we will put into the river and enter upon the section known as the canyon of "La Merced", containing four Class IV+ rapids which –depending on the volume and level of water present- will either be run or portaged around. We carry on, paddling down an entertaining and enjoyable Class III stretch, until reaching the "Canoandes" rapid. At this point we will beach our boats and devote ourselves to lunch. We will also take some time off to walk along and scout the rapid in order to discuss it and plan out our run in ideal manner. In the aftermath we will paddle for another 30 minutes and reach our next camp in the Quebrada (gully, valley) "Jazmín". From this base we shall set forth on a walk of approximately 40 minutes through the surrounding area during which we will have the opportunity to better observe the diverse rock formations (or rather, deformations) present on the walls of the canyon.

(Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner)


This is indeed and undoubtedly a most special day. Morning comes and we will set off on a west by southwest bound course, noticing how the canyon walls gradually come closer together and impart upon the surroundings an appearance of "lunarscape" (though one could refer to it in punning manner as a "lunatic escape") or "moonscape", if you will. After a half hour of paddling down various Class II and III rapids we will arrive at the "Ducha del Cóndor (the "Shower of the Condor"), a waterfall dropping hundreds of meters into open and seemingly endless- space. It so happens that  with the help and connivance of the wind, the water is atomized into a fine spray in the course of its fall, thus becoming a perfect "birdbath" (or "bird shower") for the gigantic winged creatures. After watching some Condors taking a shower, we will move on by paddling down Class III and IV rapids until reaching the entrance way to the "Cañón de Chocolate" (the "Chocolate Canyon"), thus named due to the coloring and hues of the canyon walls in this particular segment. We will have lunch here and afterwards run through the stretch in mention to eventually reach the beach site known as "Mosquito". This is not only our campsite for the night but also the trailhead of one of the most incredible hikes within the Colca Canyon.

(Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner)


This a strong and demanding day. We will paddle for about 15 minutes as a way to warm up and unlimber ourselves, while reaching a section of Class IV and V rapids. Later in the afternoon, awaiting us, lies the imposing portage through the Canyon of Reparaz (a section of Class VI rapids that we will not run), after that again we will board our rafts and paddle for a further few minutes until beaching at Playa Esperanza. Here we will enjoy a well-earned rest and delight our palates, as in every other evening of the journey, with the exquisite and delicious dinner that our guides have prepared.

(Breakfast / Lunch / Dinner)


We will take down and take off from- camp. After a half hour of boating we will reach Cañon Verde ("Green Canyon"), also known as Cañon de los Polacos ("Polish Canyon", in reference to the pioneering expedition of 1979). A section of this canyon will be portaged by clients and guides in well coordinated teamwork. After that we shall again take to the pier and boat down a few kilometers of Class II and III water and come to the confluence of the Colca with the Andamayo river. This point is our final take-out and termination of our rafting trip. Here lies parked and whiling away the time our transport vehicle, laden with cold beers in order to properly celebrate the Running of the Colca River Canyon, and to take us to Mauro's house who will bw waiting for us with a scrumptious and lip smacking lunch of fresh water shrimp and crawfish. After this final act of self indulgence, we will drive for three hours to the city of Arequipa.