Peru Family Vacation: Colca Canyon
From the town of Arequipa, it takes several hours to drive into the heart of the Colca Canyon. Along the way, you’ll pass through the Altiplano, a high, dry arid landscape. It also includes a 16,100’ mountain pass, no small matter for folks that reside at sea level.
Before we left, I talked extensively with Ben’s pediatrician in regards to the high altitudes that we planned on reaching over the course of the trip. She told us that children often have a better time acclimatizing to high altitudes and it is often the adults that struggle to make the adjustments. She’d taken her own children to Peru ten years earlier and that was exactly her experience. It was ours as well.
Chris and I both were on altitude medication (Diamox) but Ben, at 20 months, was too young. Regardless, it wasn’t necessary for him as he showed no adverse symptoms to the heights. I only found the altitude to be a problem when hiking as I quickly became short of breath.
It goes without saying that you should consult your doctor (and your children’s doctor) before heading out on a similar adventure but this was our particular experience. It also helped that we spent two days in Arequipa, a city at 7638 feet above sea level.
Getting to Colca Canyon
Because we had a toddler, we elected to hire a private car to take us into the canyon. Buses and group car rentals are an option but we decided that our particular circumstances warranted the flexibility of a private auto. We worked with Marc Harrison of CAT Travel to arrange activities and transportation. He was excellent and his contact information can be found below.
Days 1-2: Arequipa (click here)
Day 3: Drive east from Arequipa into Colca Canyon. We stopped frequently for meals, bathroom breaks, and photo ops, so this was a most-of-the-day activity for us. The drive includes stark landscapes, llama herds, and occasionally viewings of the wild vicuna. Spend the night at Colca Canyon Lodge. The hotel is set in a beautiful river valley and the casitas are modern and spacious. The best part of the experience is the natural hot spring, which is piped into three pools down by the river. The adjacent grill can provide freshly grilled treats and a cold beer. There are plenty of open areas for the kids to play and a resident herd of llamas. Short hiking trails also leave from the hotel grounds.
Day 4: Get up early and drive to the Cruz del Condor lookout (45minutes from the hotel); it is here that the mighty condors catch updrafts rising from the floor of the canyon, a mile below.
Cruz del Condor lookout – Expect a crowd. Small hikes depart from the main lookout area. Bring lots of water and good footwear.
Colca Canyon Hot Springs – included in the Colca Canyon Lodge price.
Colca Canyon Lodge & Hot Springs. www.colca-lodge.com. A small hotel set in a quiet residential area. Crib and an excellent breakfast provided. 15 minute walk to the Plaza de Armas. Restaurants nearby.
Marc Harrison at CAT Travel. www.cat-travel.com. firstname.lastname@example.org
Up Next: Part 3. Puno and the Floating Isles of Uros on Lake Titicaca
Part 1. Arequipa
Part 2. Colca Canyon
Part 4. Cusco
Part 5. Machu Picchu
Part 6. The Sacred Valley