Stand on the rim of the Colca Canyon and look down. Or look up. Or just look around because you’re literally surrounded by three hundred and sixty degrees of remarkable vistas. Whether you’re peering down thousands of feet to the canyon floor, squinting up at the condors soaring overhead, or taking in the terraces from across the way, chances are you’ll have trouble looking away for long.
The Colca Canyon carves down 11,155 feet and carries on 62 miles through Peru’s canyon country, the southern portion of the country that contains the colonial city of Arequipa and sky-high lake of Titicaca. The Colca Canyon, one of the deepest canyons in the world, sits in the heart of this region, about 4 hours from Arequipa and 6 from Puno.
The region’s main attraction is serenity surrounded by spectacular scenery. Small villages dot the landscape and Quecha-speaking locals lead llamas along the roadside while adorned in brightly-colored, intricate traditional skirts and hats. Towns like Chivay, Cabanaconde, and Yanque give guests a taste of authentic Andean life while natural hot springs offer a soothing retreat.
Traveling from Arequipa, you’ll pass through the Reserva Nacional Salina y Aguada Blanca, a protected highland region and refuge for Andean animals like the vicuna, a wild version of the domesticated alpaca. The most famous highland animal is of course the condor. As one of the largest flying birds in the world, condors favor strong air currents to support their body weight. Avian airshows at Cruz del Condor, a famous lookout point, is a highlight of a trip through the Colca Canyon.
Although the Colca Canyon can be visited in a day, to fully appreciate its pastoral peacefulness, a night nearby is highly recommended. Las Casitas del Colca and Colca Lodge are two local retreats. Both specialize in rustic luxury with elegant accommodations blended with the natural environment. Both also forgo in-room televisions, instead specializing in outdoor-themed spas and plenty of panoramic windows that open to rolling landscapes which meet snow-capped volcanoes on the horizon.
Keen to see Colca Canyon for yourself? Check out our Machu Picchu & Peru tours here or speak to one of our Destination Experts about crafting the bespoke vacation of your dreams.
Thanks to Pedro Szekely for the title image of this blog.