The Colca Canyon is one of the largest in the world, about 3,400 meters deep and 100 kilometers long. This valley is located in the middle of the Andean mountain range and is close to many volcanoes. In the Canyon you can enjoy the flight of the condor, the hot springs, many trekking and hiking trails of various levels of difficulty, and you can walk and get to know precise colonial towns.
In this post I tell you what to see and how to visit the Colca Canyon, several tips and some more details so you can see what is the best way to visit it.
The Colca River is born in the Andes and flows into other rivers before ending in the Pacific. The valley it forms has a pre-Inca and colonial history, and it is inhabited by the original Collagua (Aymara) and Cabana (Quechua) peoples.
The Incas did not arrive until the 14th century, and in the 16th the Spanish did. It has always been a remote area, in fact, there were no good roads between Arequipa and Chivay until the middle of the 20th century! It is a volcanic area and, seismic. And because of this, it leaves amazing landscapes throughout the valley.
In the Colca Canyon, people live mainly from their handicrafts, and in recent years there has been an important activation of tourists.
WHAT TO SEE IN THE COLCA CANYON, PERU
Although you can do it for free by renting a car, it is a fairly large area and there are one and two-day tours in which you visit many places in the Canyon.
Salinas and Agua Blanca Reserve
It is on the way to the Colca Canyon, from Arequipa. In this reserve there are vicuñas, llamas and alpacas in complete freedom. There are a lot and they are perfectly visible! You can stop and enjoy this wonder.
Viewpoint of the Andes or Viewpoint of the Patapampa Volcanoes
The viewpoint of the Andes is incredible. There are many volcanoes, including Pichu Pichu.
In addition to the viewpoint, here is an esplanade full of small, round stones that are stacked one on top of the other. Apparently, it has a religious character since the Incas. Join and build your figurine!
It is the highest place in the canyon, with 5000 meters above sea level! You should wear warm clothes because it is cold and you may start to feel altitude sickness.
The town of Chivay
The town of Chivay is the most important in the area. It was founded by the Spanish who used it as a base. If you are going to visit the Colca Canyon, especially on your own, remember that Chivay is the only place where you will find ATMs and other services such as the police, travel agencies or a bus station in good conditions. Chivay is about 3,600 meters above sea level. Here there are also some lodgings if you want to spend the night. The most notable thing is to visit the church of Nuestra Señora de la Concepción, the Plaza de Armas, its hot springs (ideal for disconnecting) and some other places such as a small movie theater, a planetarium and some play areas for children. So if you're traveling with kids and they're tired of going around so much, it's a great idea to spend the afternoon in the town.
Visit the thermal baths of La Calera
Being a volcanic area, there are several hot springs there. The most popular are those of La Calera. They are 3 kilometers outside of Chivay. These hot springs have several pisces with different temperatures. The entrance costs 15 soles (about 4 euros). If you go without anything, there you can rent towels and swimsuits (although it is recommended that you carry it in your backpack) you can also buy water and something to eat to spend the afternoon.
The archaeological site of Uyo Uyo
These pre-Inca ruins are very close to Yanque, you can walk if you want.
To get there, you have to trek all uphill, through terrain that can be irregular. Even so, it is not a hard journey and the reward is worth it. You will be able to see a spectacular panoramic view of the Colca Canyon, from a different perspective.
At the site, you can clearly distinguish the old houses and the narrow streets of the village, destroyed by the Incas. In the area there is a small waterfall (you will have to walk 20 more minutes).
Although it is not a very well-kept site, few tourists go and you can walk at your leisure, plus it has a very special air, with the area full of cacti and native plants.
In the nearby town Yanque, there is hardly anything to visit. Many tours usually make their stop to eat and to do one of their traditional dances.
The town of Maca
This town has less than 2000 inhabitants, it is all surrounded by mountains. There you can visit the church of Santa Ana, with an interior of gold and mirrors. Admission is free but you must "donate" the will to enter, although they practically demand it. There is also a flea market, made mainly for tourists, quite expensive.
The viewpoint of the Cruz del Condor
It is the highlight of the tour of the Colca Canyon. Here you can enjoy the terraces of the valley, and it is very easy to see the flight of the condor. The Andean condor is a scavenger bird that, with open wings, measures between 230 and 330 centimeters and can weigh up to 15 kilos. This makes it the largest flying animal in the world. Condors live for about 60 years and a great conservation work is being done with them in this nature reserve. Keep in mind that condors are animals, so they do not have an exact day or time to fly and nothing and no one guarantees that you will be able to see them. This is not an attraction, but a viewpoint to contemplate nature.
EXCURSIONS TO THE COLCA CANYON, PERU
You can do all this tour with a rental car. And although it was not our option, if you are interested you can see car rental offers at this link: Car rental offers in Peru.
There are several options to visit the Colca Canyon to a greater or lesser extent. We did the two-day tour, but if you are interested in doing a shorter tour, there are several that can be done from Arequipa.
PLAN YOUR TRIP STEP BY STEP
I hope you enjoy your trip to Peru a lot and that this article has been useful to you. You can continue reading many more related articles on the blog.
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A hug and see you soon!