Why travel to Colca Canyon
The Colca Canyon, located 100 miles (160 km) from Arequipa, is Peru’s most impressive natural wonder. From high Andean plateaus, the valley plunges to depths of 13,650 ft (4,160m); for the sake of comparison, this is twice as deep as the Grand Canyon, though the inclines are more gradual. The Andean Condor is the Colca Canyon’s most famous resident and travelers flock to Cruz del Condor, a canyon lookout point, for a chance to spot this graceful creature as it takes flight.
The Colca Canyon has been continually inhabited by human societies since at least the 6th century A.D. As an adaptation to the hilly topography, ancient pre-Colombian communities built agricultural terraces on the steep slopes of the fertile valley and some of these are still used by local communities in the present-day. In Andean villages such as Yanque and Maca, you’ll see residents working the wide fields of terraces that span the Colca Canyon.
Hiking, trekking, rafting, horseback riding, or just relaxing in the canyon’s several hot springs are among the top reasons to travel to Colca Canyon. An overnight stay is the best way to enjoy the total tranquility of the valley and to witness the brilliant spectacle of thousands of stars lighting up the nighttime sky. Colca Canyon treks varying in duration from 1 to 3 days are another option. Adventure and stunning views are in store for you on a Peru vacation to the Colca Canyon.
What to do in Colca Canyon
Travelers in search of natural beauty and adventure will find much to see and do on a Colca Canyon tour. The road from Arequipa to the Colca Valley climbs impressively, reaching 16,100 feet at the Patapampa lookout point and offering great views of the surrounding volcanoes. The air here is very thin and nights can be cold. If arriving from sea level, it’s a good idea to spend a few days in Arequipa, located at a lower altitude, in order to acclimate before heading out on a Colca tour or Colca Canyon trek.
One major highlight of any Colca Canyon trip is the mirador (lookout point) Cruz del Condor, where you’ll stop to admire the magnificent Andean condor as it soars across vast stretches of the valley. Cruz del Condor overlooks a canyon that dips to 3,960 feet (1,200 meters). Plan to get there either early in the morning or late in the afternoon, when condors are mostly likely to take flight.
During the Spanish colonial era, small towns were constructed throughout the canyon as part of a settlement effort. Many of the towns did not survive, but some colonial-style houses and churches have remained behind, forgotten but still beautiful remnants of a bygone era. The scenic towns of Chivay and Cabanaconde are definitely worth a stop.
Travelers interested in a little action should consider the Colca Canyon trek. Transport leaves from Arequipa and continues through the towns of Chivay and Cabanaconde. On foot, trekkers descend down steep switchbacks and millennia-old paths to the valley floor. The tough part is the trek back up the canyon walls, 1,200 meters of vertical climb with only the stunning sights of the Colca Canyon as reprieve from this challenging exercise.
When to visit Colca Canyon
The best time to visit the Colca Canyon is usually during the dry season, which spans from May to November. The condors put on their best show from June to September. The Colca Valley is lush and green just after the heavy rains from January to March, but most of the rest of the year it is arid and dusty. Though sunny during the day, it can also get quite cold (below freezing) at night so make sure to pack some warm clothing.
However, if you intend to do some river rafting, the best time to go is during the rainy season, when the river is at its highest (January through April).
We found Peru to be a fascinating and interesting country, with diverse landscapes, from the coast to high Andes, we found all of the guides extremely knowledgeable and genuinely interested in promoting their country.
Heather & Neil Goodley (United Kingdom) traveled to Arequipa in September 2010
Arequipa was another bright spot in the trip. During this time we also went to Colca Canyon. I loved seeing the condors in flight. Our guide, Edwin, did a great job of stopping along the way to point out the interesting things.
Thanks for everything,
Rebecca (Missouri, USA)
Seeing the Cruz del Condor was fantastic, I didn't expect to see them so clearly. Everything went without a hitch and a lot of that is due to your good organization, thank you very much for a memorable trip!
Rosalind Becker & Lynne Blake (California, USA)
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Top Pick Colca Canyon Hotel
Colca Lodge 4*
Fundo Puye S/N, Yanque, Caylloma
Affiliated with the renowned Hotel Libertador Chain and located on the banks of the Colca River, Colca Lodge is a cozy eco-friendly hotel that takes its architectural inspiration from the Incas. The hotel is built into the landscape and harmoniously blends in with the spectacular Colca Canyon environment. Each room offers an outdoor terrace with stunning views of the countryside. A spacious common room with a fireplace and a charming bar provide ideal places to relax. In addition to its tranquil atmosphere, the lodge boasts natural hot springs, great personalized service, and one of the best spas in the country. Enjoy astonishing views while soaking in the swimming pool directly overlooking the valley. If you are looking forward to pampering yourself, stay in one of the luxurious suites equipped with a private Jacuzzi.
Restaurant Room Service Spa Laundry Service Baby Sitter
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La Casa De Mamayacchi 3*
Coporaque Village, Colca Canyon
Set deep amidst the vast rolling green scenery of the Colca Canyon, La Casa de Mamayacchi is located in the tiny village of Coporaque. The charming town is the oldest settlement in the area and a unique destination in itself, where people still retain old traditions and customs. Constructed completely with native materials, this quaint lodge offers an authentic Colca Canyon experience complete with a traditional restaurant that serves excellent, locally-inspired cuisine. Guestrooms at the lodge are simple but inviting and comfortable. A cozy fireplace lounge provides remarkable views of the countryside.
Restaurant Room ServiceLaundry Service
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