The Colca Canyon is the perfect place to enjoy unparalleled views and the majestic flight of the Andean Condor. It’s amazing how this huge bird, with its 3.5 meters wingspan, can glide through the air in such a silent and graceful way.
And what about the canyon that flanks the Colca River. There are some spectacular views from the highest area, where you can see the cultivation terraces and the beautiful Colca River 1,100 meters below …
1. Where is the Colca Canyon?
It is located in the southern highlands of Peru, north of the city of Arequipa and west of Lake Titicaca.
2. How to get to the Colca Canyon?
There are several options to get here:
- Direct flight to the city of Arequipa. It’s the fastest way to get there. You have direct flights from the cities of Lima and Cuzco. Once in Arequipa, contract with a local agency the trip to the Colca Canyon.
- Road trip. You can travel by bus, we recommend for your comfort the company Cruz del Sur. Of course, be patient, because Arequipa is quite far from Lima (1,000 km – 16 hours), Cuzco (492 km – 9 hours) and Puno (300 km – 6 hours), which are the tourist places from which to travel. Once in Arequipa, hire the trip to the Colca Canyon with one of the agencies located in the Main square.
As you see, we recommend you always pass through Arequipa. It is a beautiful city in which to visit many places and where you can hire the tour that you like in the Colca Canyon. If you do not have time, you can stay in Chivay, very close to the Colca Canyon, and speak with an agency to pick you up there to start the tour.
3. Where to stay to tour the Colca Canyon?
Very near the Colca Canyon, in the Chivay area, you have accommodations of all kinds: Luxury lodges, charming hotels, backpacker hostels, …
You also have the option to stay in Arequipa and move around in the day to contemplate this beautiful canyon. In that case, keep in mind that you should get up sooner still, since there are 160 km (about 3 hours) until you reach the viewpoint of the Colca River.
4. Where can I book a tour in the Colca Canyon?
The best option is to hire directly with a local agency when you arrive in Arequipa. On the sides of the Main squares there is a lot of agencies to choose.
In the case that you stay near the Colca Canyon, without going through Arequipa, contact an agency to pick you up in the morning to go to the Colca Canyon. There are several agencies with a website: MysteryPeru, Colca Info, Peru Travel Express, …
5. Trekking through the Colca Canyon
This trekking is one of the most famous and beautiful in southern Peru. The beautiful peaks of the Andes, the impressive difference in level between the viewpoints and the Colca river (1,100 m.) And the huge Andean condors flying over. .. It’s an experience you have to live!
We went from Arequipa and we made the option of 2 days, which included the visit to the viewpoints and a nice trekking in the area. However, if you prefer something quieter, you can choose the option of 1 day with the visit to the viewpoints.
– Day 1: Viewpoints and descent to the Colca River
We left the hotel very soon, as at 3:30 a.m. We ride the bus and start the tour in direction to the Colca Canyon, located about 160 km away from the city of Arequipa.
During the tour we went through several villages, until to Chivay. There we stopped and we had a good breakfast: coca tea, Andean cheese and bread with butter and jam.
We arrived at the first of the viewpoints in the area. We got off the bus and we could see the first views of the Colca Canyon, the condors and … our first street market.
After enjoying the views for a while, we returned to the bus and continued advancing a few more kilometers until we reached the main viewpoint, from where we could better see the beautiful Andean condors.
We did not have to wait long. Right in front of us we begin to see condors in flight. What a great show!
It is amazing how a animal of this size, can reach 3.5 meters in span, 1.3 meters in height and 15 kg in weight, is able to reach more than 7,000 meters of height using the air currents.
These birds are very long-lived, they can live about 85-90 years. Also, as another curious fact, they only have one partner throughout their life.
The ancient Incas had a great respect for this animal. Moreover, within the representation of the world according to his vision, the condor was the animal that represented the Jananpachaque (“the land above”). That’s where the gods of the heavens lived, like the god Inti (Sun), Keel (Moon) and Coyllur (Star).
While we were a good time, it was short. We never tired of contemplating the majestic flight of these beautiful birds.
We ride the bus and head to the trekking start zone. Here we separate ourselves from the rest of the tourists and we start the adventure!
This initial part was simple. We just went descending calmly towards the base of the canyon, where the Colca River is located. And, as we descended, we enjoyed some beautiful views.
The road was well marked and the guide knew the area perfectly, so we could enjoy the views quietly. In addition, along the way, the guide was telling us about life in the mountains of Peru: customs, Andean legends, … being much more interesting trekking.
So until we reached the height of the Colca River, from where we went to a small town where we were going to spend the night. It is during this tour when we cross several villages, one of them with a beautiful church.
Once in our accommodation, we had a well-deserved break from the walk done. The rooms had no luxury but more than enough to relax in the middle of nature.
After a while, we gathered on the terrace for dinner. A soup of vegetables and quinoa, a dish typical of this area of Peru, was more than enough to recover strength and get to sleep. At the next day a good morning awaited us.
– Day 2: Ascent to Chivay and return to Arequipa
We got up soon, had hardly dawned. We took a good breakfast to endure the walk and left at a slow pace. Still we had a steep slope until we reached the upper area of the canyon.
The road meandered down the hill, so, at slow pace, it could go up without more difficulty but more effort than the previous day. While we were not fast, the soroche (altitude sickness) would not bother us.
So up to the upper part of the canyon, where we could enjoy some nice views of the cultivation terraces.
We took the last pictures and we went to the bus. It was a trekking with some effort but it was worth it.
6. Nearby places of interest
- Arequipa: Known as the white city, it is the 2nd largest city in Peru. Located at a certain height (2,330 masl), surrounded by several volcanoes (Misti, Chachani and Pichu Pichu) and rich in heritage (Convent of Santa Catalina and the Monastery of San Francisco), it is one of the destinations that you should not miss in Peru.
- Puno: On the shores of the famous Lake Titicaca, is one of the destinations par excellence in Peru. Here you can enjoy the views of the lake, visit the islands of the Uros, visit the Chullpas de Sillustani, the islands of Amantaní and Taquile … It is not too close (280 km), but it is worth the visit.
This trekking, along with those available at cordillera blanca, is one of the prettiest in the south of Peru. It does not have the history of the Inca Trail, but the views, the condors flying over and the unevenness overcome make this place something special.
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Kiss and hugs.