Overflowing Andean vegetation surrounds one of the deepest canyons in the world: the Colca Canyon, the perfect setting for both extreme sports and the most peaceful rest, all under the watchful eye of the king of these skies, the condor.
Viewpoints and hot springs; canoeing, mountaineering or trekking; Sighting of the condor and other typical animals of the mountains in their natural habitat such as the alpaca, the vizcacha or the puma, is what this valley with its privileged climate offers.
The Colca Canyon in Perú is one of those places in Peru that contains everything. And more.
The Colca Canyon is located in the extreme northeast of the Arequipa Region, Caylloma province, 165 kilometers from Arequipa and 40 km from Chivay, the main town and capital of the Caylloma province. The highest point in the Valley is the inactive Ampato volcano (6288 meters above sea level), and the lowest is the confluence of the Colca and Adamayo rivers (970 meters above sea level).
The Colca valley is 100 km long and occupies only one sector of the Colca river basin, between the districts of Callalli and Huambo. The route to Colca runs along the slopes of the Chachani and crosses plains full of ichu and yareta, samples of Andean vegetation. In these places also live alpacas and vizcachas, which are beautiful camelids typical of the area.
In the Colca Valley there were 8,000 hectares of land irrigation terraces that at the same time prevent soil erosion. Today, more than 1,400 years have passed since the construction of these terraces and they continue to function, allowing the planting of potatoes, 32 varieties of corn, 12 of broad beans and up to 54 of quinoa, among other products for the consumption of the inhabitants of the region.
The Climate of the Colca Valley is characteristic of the high Andean areas. From mid-April to mid-November, temperatures usually drop below zero at night and reach 15-20 ° C during the day. During the rainy season, from the end of November to the end of March, the changes in temperature are not so radical because the cloudy sky prevents the sun’s rays from penetrating during the day. Temperatures at this time of year vary between 5 ° and 10 ° C.
Elevation of Colca Canyon
The elevation of Colca Canyon Is 3 651 masl
Colca was known in the colony as the Collahuas village, thus being one of the most important areas of the viceroyalty of Peru. So much so that Francisco Pizarro entrusted his brother Gonzalo, to settle in Yanque to exercise control of the Valley. At that time, the valley was home to more than 60 thousand people dedicated to agricultural production, especially corn and potatoes, which guaranteed the feeding of a large population and therefore a strategic area.
Later with the arrival of Viceroy Toledo, the Reduction of Indians is applied and the vast population is reduced in towns, changing their old hamlets distributed in the valley by towns called “Reductions of Indians.”
In the Republican era, the area was shelved until two airmen, Robert Shippee and George Johnson, in the late 1920s, carried out an aerial photographic survey and found a well-known populated valley that they called the “Unknown Valley of the Incas.” The following year they made an expedition to the area and were surprised by the existence of a deep canyon that has twice the depth of the Colorado canyon.
In Peru, the use of the area is resumed in the 75s that, due to the construction of the Majes irrigation project, the Colca Valley becomes accessible for the construction of new roads and the infrastructure conditioned for the stay of the technicians and site personnel. These access and accommodation possibilities allow some scholars, researchers, artists and adventurers to start exploring the valley and discovering an inexhaustible wealth in all fields, historical, artistic, scientific, sports, etc. that give renown and international diffusion.
In this area there are 16 towns directly descended from the Collaguas (pre-Hispanic culture of the highlands) and Cabanas ethnic groups, with the towns of Chivay and Cabanaconde being the most visited by tourists. Crafts and textile work stand out in the area and it is perceived in the elaboration of beautiful pieces of crafts such as carpets and embroideries of beautiful and colorful designs, as well as pieces cut and embossed in tin. They also highlight the elaboration of carved wooden images.
The majestic flight of the Condor
In the villages, samples of colonial architecture and decoration have been found that synthesize above all the “mestizo” style that developed in the Colca from the 18th century, in each of the churches. Some churches were built with the arrival of the Spanish in the valley (approx. 1570) and consequently adopted the Renaissance style of the time. Others, on the other hand, are characterized by the baroque style that dates from 1640 to 1700. The most impressive churches are those of Lari, Yanque, Cabanaconde and Sibayo.
Many of the houses in the valley are still built in stone with roofs of ichu (a type of straw that grows at considerable altitude). The women in the communities still wear typical costumes: long skirts and vests with colorful embroidery and a hat with a ribbon.
The Colca Canyon in Perú is the habitat of animals such as the Andean condor among 100 other species of birds, four types of camelids: vicuña, guanaco, llama and alpaca. There are also more than 300 species of plants, of which 30 are cacti, not to mention the primitive green yareta. One of the most invaluable spectacles of the visit to the canyon is the sunrise next to the precipice where you can observe, when it dawns, the flight of approximately 20 condors.
The valley is ideal for recreational and artistic activities such as painting, photography, poetry, among others; as well as it is conducive to adventure sports such as trekking, boating, climbing, bicling, etc.
Price Tickets for Colca Canyon in Perú
- Foreigner: S / 70
- Latin American and South American: S / 40
- Peruvian: S / 20
- Peruvian Student: S / 5
How to get to the Colca Canyon in Arequipa?
To get to the Colca Canyon in Perú, the first thing is to get to Arequipa, the closest city, since the only access road is by land, from there the tours and buses depart to visit the Colca. In addition, the route is more than 150 km with a duration of 3 to 5 hours. Below you will see the options available to get to the Colca Canyon from Arequipa, read on to see the details of each one:
- Full day tour to the Colca Canyon
- 2-day full Colca Canyon tour
- Get to the Colca Canyon without a tour by public transport
- Go to the Colca Canyon by car
How to get from Arequipa to Colca Canyon in a full day tour?
This is the most recommended option, as getting to the Colca Canyon can be a bit complicated if you decide to do it on your own, especially by road and public transport.
The full-day tour from Arequipa to Colca Canyon is ideal to get there if you want to save and have a little more limited time, although it is also the most exhausting option, since it starts at 3am and ends at approximately 5pm.
How to get from Arequipa to Colca Canyon in a 2 full day tour?
Unlike the 1-day tour, this 2 days tour to Colca Canyon starts at 9am, so you can rest and have more time in each place.
How to get from Arequipa to Colca Canyon by public transport?
Getting from Arequipa to Colca Canyon without a tour is a bit more complicated, but not impossible. You must first get to the bus terminal in the city of Arequipa, from there trucks leave for the town of Chivay. The cost of the tickets to Colca in a single trip is between 10 to 15 soles and a journey of 3 hours.
In Chivay you can find where to stay, eat or relax in the town’s hot springs, but the most important thing is that from here you can start the route of the Colca Valley viewpoints, reach the cross of the condor and other nearby towns.
How to go to Colca by car?
Since public transportation to get to the Colca Canyon is to a certain extent limited, the best option to get to Colca without a tour is to do it by car. Finally, it is important to mention that the route is long, it is approximately 10 hours in total round trip:
- First, from Arequipa to Chivay: 3 hours
- Second, from Chivay it is 2 – 3 hours more to the “Cruz del Cóndor”, main viewpoint and end point of the Colca Valley route.
- Finally, the return from the Cruz del Cóndor to Arequipa: 5 hours
The main road is very clear, as it will take you directly from Chivay to the Mirador del Cóndor, however it has several detours to different towns, so go prepared and take the printed / downloaded map, because in certain parts of the road there is no sign for the mobile and if you trust the GPS 100% you could have some difficulties.