Colca Canyon is one of beauty by contrasts. One cliff face is a red, rocky plunge towards the river at the bottom, while the other is green and fertile, with pre-Incan waterways rolling around avocado trees, and agave cactuses sprawling up the ridges. Condors can be spotted overhead, their massive wingspans cast shadows during the day reminiscent to insects buzzing around lantern light at dark. This canyon is the third most visited attraction in Peru, yet somehow still feels untouched. “Deeper than the Grand Canyon”, our tour guide remarks. I rolled my eyes, “why pick on the American huh?” but I have to admit, Colca has some of the most beautiful sights you’ll see, filled with nature’s mismatches, and remarkable days of trekking from one humble village to the next.
The Canyon itself is..
Located in the South of Peru, near the lovely city of Arequipa. It is one of the deepest canyons in the world measuring in at 3,270 meters from top to bottom, and feels as if it harbors some mysteries about the Incans. I’m serious. It feels as if there is something special emanating from the canyon. Off in the distance, look out for little holes in the rock that look like windows— apparently these are catacombs that date back to pre-incan civilization. They are sealed off from the public, never to be disturbed.
Host to wildlife and agriculture, your trek into the canyon will be as demanding physically as it is informational. The descent is strenuous, the dusty path punishing, but the whole way down you shall be given little bite-size pieces of information about the varieties of species in the valley.
The Views, The Views, The Views
Leave your vertigo at home. Slowly inch closer to the edge. Turn around, pose, an endless sea of white crests stands behind you. With the wind in your hair, and the mighty Andes at your back, there is a strange sense of fulfillment in life. The view is certainly compelling, mesmerizing even, and you will want to bring a camera, an extra battery, and a tripod. Oh yeah and some wings—get ready to fly.
It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, It is a bird!
Eyes weary, and the day hardly started, your van will park at the first event: Cruz del Condor, a mirador overlooking frosted caps, allegedly where the endangered condor roams. Get ready, it’s around 7am, but this is no time for tea. Your van doors swing open, and the numbing breeze pulls you out like vacuum. There are so few things in this world that will awaken you immediately, like the shadow cast by the Andean condor.
Colca Canyon is the host to a lot of wildlife, llamas, vicunas, alpacas, but most notably the condor. The Andean condor is ridiculous. It’s wingspan measures over ten feet, and as you watch it glide over air currents, you may find yourself asking the same questions I did. “How the hell does something this big fly?” It’s a species of almost mythic dimensions.
Vizcacha, a close relative of the chinchilla, wildcats, and a rare species of giant hummingbird lives in the canyon.
Pool Party to wash away the dusty trails
At the end of the second day, right before the final trek out of the canyon, you settle in a delightful spot. Cozy little bungalows for two to three people, with a bar area, and a pool. Grab the local favorite Pisco Sour or Chilcano, libations made of their grape liquor, lime juice and other herbaceous medleys. The time spent at this location is also great for getting to know your fellow trekkers.
This place is an oasis, where you can sunbathe, lounge, read, peruse photos and recuperate until the morning climb.
Are there signs in the fields?
At first glance, the layered patterns of agriculture looks otherworldly. Half circles and waves mark the earth in emphatic fashions. The locals of the farm villages use these lines to harvest several kinds of potatoes, agave which is what makes tequila, and avocados. The canyon is very much alive, and still feels untouched.
Getting to and from
There are a couple of ways to do this, the first is by booking through one of the seemingly infinite agencies in Arequipa, just use prudence and ask a couple of places as the prices and quality of the bookings vary(35 USD to 140 USD). Another is online—fairly straightforward, you can Google search ‘Colca Canyon trek’ and see which one suits your fancy. And the third is to organize the trek on your own and drive with a group of backpackers. Going the third way enables you to have the most freedom with your time, but you don’t get the benefits of having meals and a guide included. The guide adds so much to the canyon, so I recommend the first method.
Colca canyon promises an unforgettable experience and is highly recommended for travelers who love natural beauty, and the great outdoors.
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