Arequipa Colca Canyon
The Colca Canyon
The Colca Canyon is an essential destination for anyone visiting Arequipa. With a depth of 9,842 feet (3,000 meters), the canyon is one of the biggest in South America – it is second only to Cotahuasi Canyon, which is 11,003 ft (3,354 m) at its deepest – a world record. Almost twice as deep as Colorado’s Grand Canyon, Colca is an awe-inspiring site that attracts thousands of visitors a year.
Many tours head to Chivay, a quaint town sitting on the edge of the Canyon. The new road is paved, shortening travel time significantly, while the older dirt road has the advantage of running past the 906,718-acre (366,936-hectare) National Reserve of Salinas & Aguada Blanca. This is an exceptionally successful project where the region’s unique flora and fauna have flourished. Amidst the epically beautiful landscape of lakes and mountains roam thousands of fine-fleeced vicuña, Andean foxes, and dozens of bird species.
Colca Canyon is also where the famed Cruz del Cóndor is situated; undoubtedly one of Arequipa’s most popular destinations. This privileged lookout point is one of the best in the country from which to watch giant South American condors soar overhead. The 12-foot wing span of the Condor makes it the biggest bird in the western hemisphere. Rainfall from January to April yield a lush and flower-filled valley, but the best time of the year to spot condors gliding on the updraft is between May and December.
The trip from Arequipa city to Colca Canyon is a long one, lasting about five hours by car or bus. Unfortunately, the road to and from the natural wonder is not yet paved, resulting in a very bumpy trip for the traveler who makes the trek out to Colca Canyon. However, the immense canyon is so breathtaking that the ride will have been worth it.
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