Located a few hours’ drive outside of Arequipa, Colca Canyon is the deepest canyon in the world at 4,160 m (13,650 ft) and is an excellent location for hiking and learning about Andean culture. I booked a 3-day/2-night trip with Peru Schweiz (Jerusalen 400 A in Arequipa). There are 2-day options available, but if you’ve got the time the 3-day trip is definitely worth it. You hike a bit more slowly and get to enjoy more time in the canyon.
I was picked up at my hostel at 3am and taken to have a basic breakfast. Then we stopped at the Cruz del Condor (Condor’s Cross), where we saw several condors showing off their wings. We were driven another 15 minutes or so to begin our hike. Although with the three day trip we only hiked about 3-4 hours each day, it is steep. Going down is a test of your ankles and knees, while getting out is a true test of lung capacity and endurance! The views and Andean experience are worth the pain.
The food during the trip was surprisingly good and we got to sample some local delicacies, including tuna (cactus fruit) and a regional squash. On our second day we had the opportunity to witness the preparation of cuy, or guinea pig, from start to finish – from choosing the poor specimen, the slaughter and preparation, and cooking. I’ve spared the Internet from some of the more gruesome photos, but I must admit that the process is surprisingly humane and respectful. I was not, however, able to bring myself to eat the cuy after I had seen her alive.