Beautiful traditional Colca village: Yanque, it’s about to takeoff!

We’d finished trekking in the Colca Canyon but still wanted to soak up the welcoming and colourful Colca vibe, where could we stay which was on the way from Cabanaconde to Arequipa? Yanque has it all.

After checking out accomodation reviews for Chivay and feeling slightly apprehensive, I stumbled across a village nearby called Yanque. It looked to have several top rated little homestays all with beautiful gardens and glowing reviews.
Only 7kms (or 15 minutes by collectivo) from Chivay, Yanque seemed like the ideal place to stop for the night, it turned out to be the most picturesque little town we saw on our Colca adventures.

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A statue in Maca depicts a scene from a traditional harvest festival

Yanque is about 1 hour and a half away from Cabanaconde by local bus on the way to Chivay. The buses leave the town square heading towards Arequipa at 7.30, 8.30, 9.30 and 11.30. and make loads of stops along the way including Pinchollo, Maca, Achoma and several miradors before they get to Yanque.

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A woman in traditional dress poses in Yanque Plaza del Armas with a bird tied to a rope.. This is really bad but I gave her a couple of soles for the photo. Shame on me for encouraging this

Yanque is well positioned, offers multiple options for accomodation and has a couple of fun little attractions to check out including ruins, horse trekking, an observatory and thermal baths. It’s a pretty little town surrounded by mountains, the village itself consists of high stone walled streets beyond which lay little houses with lovely gardens. Definitely worth a visit.

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Sunset over the back streets of Yunque

We arrived just in time for lunch so went for a wander to sniff something out. We stumbled across a little sign that looked like it belonged in an Alpine Village and when we went in the interior was styled in the same theme. We sat down and were waited on by an attentive and professional young waiter who couldn’t have been older than 10. He explained the menu del dia was crema de verdura sopa to start with several options for the second course, of which we chose the trucha frita. The vege soup was delicious, I could have walked away happy right there. But the trout, oh boy. It was a big, fat, orange fillet with minimal bones served with rice and a salad making it the best menu lunch we’ve had in Peru.
We then sampled the cocktail of the region, a Colca Sour. This bitter beverage is made with Pisco and an unusual local cactus fruit which is green and full of seeds and reminded me a lot of a sour Kiwifruit. The whole dining experience mirrored something more upmarket than the bill, which was a total of 30 soles.

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Willari, 107 Malága. Hours: 7am to 9pm Monday to Sunday. bayona_30@hotmail.com

Now to find somewhere to stay. We had a couple of options pinned on our Maps.me app but unfortunately neither of them panned out. There are a lot of homestays and hospedajes on the side of town nearer the river. We wandered into a couple but they were around 80 soles per night, which was more than we wanted to spend in such a small town. Then we found hospedaje Roly, 30 soles for a double room with seperate bathroom. Done!(click here for a review).

By now time was getting on and we only had the afternoon for activities! The thermal baths in Llahuar had been our favourite experience in the Colca Canyon and the hot pools here were only 3kms away so we went for a wander to find them. There are 3 options for thermales de baños and they are all within spitting distance of each other. From the main square you walk back towards Cabanaconde, down a dirt road which will take you to the bridge. You will see the thermal pools on your right down by the river. The 1st lot are accessible by a path that runs alongside the river then crosses down low. I’m not sure the name of this one but it looked to be pretty busy and people had beers. The second one is part of the same group of pools but there is a fence that’s really hard to see from this side of the river, this one is called Tambo and is accessed by a rickety bridge that crosses the river up high (and is pretty exciting). They have 2 indoor pools and 3 outdoor ones, all pretty warm and clean enough. The cost is 15 soles per person to get in but we offered the guy 20 for both of us and he slipped us through without giving us a ticket. The showers are really basic and the place is a bit dated, but the walk down there is nice! We enjoyed lazing in the 1st pool before the entry as we had it all to ourselves. The 3rd set (Chacapi) are the bigger public baths and are on the other side of the main bridge, they are busy as well and in a more closed in complex, we didn’t go in here because we wanted to be out in nature. It’s quite a commercial area with a fancy Spa / Resort nearby and a company offering zip lining. You can feel this area is on the verge of a boom but for now it’s pretty cool sitting in the hot pools looking out at the river while people zip line overhead!

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This is the view from the rickety bridge, you can see the other bridge off to the right with the 2 sets of baths to the left

After our swim we went to find dinner, we wanted to find something new but equally as good as lunch. Unfortunately the options we could find were a bit slim. We ended up at a touristic restaurant on the square called Koffee Kuture and it was pathetically, laughably, shamefully bad. It was overpriced, took a lifetime to come out, the soup was lukewarm water with a few veges decorating it, the main was alpaca when we’d ordered chicken, it had hair in it, desert was a soggy pancake with coco and water posing as chocolate sauce, just the worst of the worst for a grand total of 53 soles! Everybody in the restaurant was looking around awkwardly at each other feeling uncomfortable about how bad it was. Don’t go there!

With that nightmare behind us we went to check out a hotel called Tradicion Colca, they have a telescope and put on nightly astronomy shows. It was a clear night and the stars looked amazing so we went to check it out. Unfortunately it was 40 soles each, which is more expensive than the super cool planetarium in Brisbane so we opted not to do that. We thought about staying for a drink but the menu was very fancy and the restaurant was packed, owned by a French couple, it just felt a little pretentious so we went for a wander back to the main square in search of a real desert and to check out the church.

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Inglesia Inmaculada Concepción de Yanque is a lovely place to sit at night

Killawasi Hostel was pretty close to our place, and we saw they had a restaurant attached so we wandered in and ordered a coffee, tea and the quinoa flan. The coffee was great, the tea was from a bag (so as to be expected) and the flan was very tasty. It’s a bit posh and the prices are reflected in the menu, however it was great service, candle lit table and a nice, clean, fancy dining room. The bill there was 26 soles.

The next day we woke up early giving ourselves time to check out Chivay then get on the road back to Arequipa. It’s very easy to catch a collectivo from the main square in Yanque to Chivay, they leave as soon as they are full and only cost 2 soles.

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Children dance around the fountain in their best clothes from about 7am for donations

The main square of Yanque is very lively in the mornings, with tour buses stopping on their way to Cruz del Condor, passengers pouring out to peruse it’s colourful market.  The stalls have a wonderful variety and you can talk to the ladies about how they make them. It was a rare treat to find a market where you can see the Alpaca knits are all actually handmade. Beautiful scarves, jumpers and baby clothes all begging to be taken home to the family.

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I also found this wonderful woman who sews beautiful designs onto bags and purses using these cool old vintage sewing machines

Every morning from about 7am the market is full of people, we’d had no idea when we arrived the day before because we were literally the only tourists in sight! Time to leave the madness, it took about 30 minutes for the collectivo to fill up, then all of a sudden, half the town realised we were leaving and panicked, trying to squeeze in at the last minute.

When we arrived in Chivay it was about 8.15am so we booked ourselves onto the 10am bus back to Arequipa. It would take 4 hours and cost 15 soles which was perfect.
We headed into the town to check out the famous markets and grab some breakfast. The markets are situated off the corner of the main square, they take up about one block, and they are full of food stands selling typical local desayuno options. Hen soup and other broths, fish with rice, chunks of alpaca… We ended up just chomping down on a bread roll with local cheese and one with avocado, washed down with a warm cup of 7 cereales (a thick drink made from ground quinoa, maka, oats and some others) and a cup of warm quinoa and apple drink. 6 soles total, yummo!

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The busy mercado in Chivay

Chivay itself is a pretty cute little town, bigger than Cabanaconde and Yanque but still a small town. The square has a beautiful church and a lovely water fountain, there are also loads of colourful statues depicting characters in festival dress. They have English translations telling you what they are all about, some of them are rather strange.

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The square

We got back to Arequipa by 1pm and the journey was great, we saw loads of vicuñas (similar to alpaca but softer) leaping around and had a clear view of Misty the volcano. We were back in plenty of time to get ourselves sorted, ready for Semana Santa Celebrations!

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