The Colca Canyon, considered one of the remarkable geographical places of Peru, is located in the most impressive eroded fissure in the Andes. It is twice as deep as the Grand Canyon of the United States.
The Colca Valley is formed by the Colca River, which originates at an altitude of 5,000 meters above sea level, at the Condor Observation Post, on the route from Arequipa to Puno. In its 450 km of travel, the Colca River changes its name twice, becoming Majes first and then Camaná, the name by which it empties into the Pacific Ocean.
The surrounding landscape is dominated by huge and dormant volcanoes such as Coropuna (6,425 meters) to the west and Ampato (6,310 meters) to the east. The road passes through picturesque towns such as Chivay (3,650 masl), famous for its hot sulphurous hot springs (La Calera) and Yanque, among others.
The towns of Colca are especially attractive for their numerous churches built in colonial times and for the colorful clothing of its inhabitants, especially during the festivals.
One of the most impressive aspects of the trip is the opportunity to admire the large number of cultivated pre-Columbian terraces (around 60,000 hectares) and irrigation canals that have been kept in perfect condition since those times. Some natural sites along the route, such as the Cruz del Cóndor, offer a spectacular panoramic view and have become observation points for the flight of the great Andean condors.
Tourists will enter the Colca Canyon for free for two months
The entrance to the Colca Valley, in the province of Caylloma, Arequipa region, will be free during the first two months after the exit of the focused quarantine that lasts until September 30, according to the regional manager of Foreign Trade and Tourism, Paola Revilla Zevallos.
Visitors will have access to the “Mirador del Cóndor” to appreciate the flight of the condors, majestic high Andean birds. They will also be able to appreciate the beautiful landscapes that are found throughout the valley. Also, enjoy the cultural and artistic expressions of the inhabitants.
This campaign seeks to reactivate the activities of the tourism sector in the main tourist destination in the Arequipa region, which was affected by the new coronavirus pandemic.
The promotion will benefit local and national tourists who can move within the Peruvian territory and those foreigners who remain in the country. It is expected that with the opening of international flights, the arrival of tourists may boost the economy in the Colca Valley.
The manager mentioned that travel agencies, restaurants, lodgings, craft stores and fairs have to implement biosecurity protocols to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, from the first day that the quarantine focused on the province is lifted.
“The capacity must be reduced to 50% in all places and the tour guides cannot handle a group of more than 8 people, so that they can spend a moment with the environment and as a family,” said the official.
In the coming days, the plan of safe tourist destinations “ Arequipa awaits you” will also be presented, which seeks to promote the Colca Valley, the Sillar Route and the Salinas and Aguada Blanca reserve, large open spaces that do not concentrate one lot of people.
If you are in Peru, this is your chance to get to know the Colca Canyon totally free!
How to get to the Colca Canyon?
To get to the Colca Canyon, the only access route is by road, with the city of Arequipa being the starting point, the journey is 151 km long, which leads to the Colca valley, with Chivay being the first town to be reached after 3 hour bus ride.
The trip to Colca can be done independently and in an organized way through a travel agency. But for travelers who dare to go on their own, the first thing is to be in the city of Arequipa, then go to the Terminal of Arequipa, where you must take the buses to Chivay and / or Cabanaconde, these two main locations being from the valley that depart from the Terrestrial Terminal of Arequipa from 01:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The journey takes approximately 3 hours.
The trip from Arequipa to Chivay, begins leaving the city of Arequipa behind, passing through “north cone” and Yura, then towards Pampa de Arrieros, from where the impressive Sabancaya, Misti, and Chachani volcanoes can be seen, and places along of the journey.
During the first hour of travel, it will lead us along a single-track asphalt road, which must be driven very carefully and that climbs from the height of Arequipa to 4,000 meters above sea level to enter the extensive plain of Pampa Cañahuas, located in the Salinas and Aguada Blanca National Reserve.
Pampa Cañahuas located behind the snowy Chachani, at more than 4000 meters above sea level. This area is the preferred habitat for the protection of the vicuña, of the camelid family, known internationally for the fineness of its wool. In this area it is possible to observe vicuñas in their natural state.
The route continues through a second plateau, slightly higher than the previous one, where there are rocky formations and vast landscapes plagued by alpaca ranches scattered in the middle of poor pastures and immense mountains.
Continuing the route, it is worth stopping at the Mirador de los Volcanes (Patapampa), at 4800 meters above sea level it is the highest point of the route, from where you can see the volcanic mountain range with its Misti and Chachani volcanoes and the Chila mountain range, which covers the Ampato, Sabancaya, Hualca Hualca and Mismi volcanoes that make up the chain of the western Andes of southern Peru, a fascinating place with impressive views.
From there everything is downhill. It descends from 4,850 m. up to 3,639 m. on a descent where you begin to discover the Colca valley, with its villages, arriving at Chivay first and Coporaque later, forming part of a unique landscape.
The journey from the city of Arequipa ends in Chivay, after 3 hours of travel, the place where most of the travelers stay, in Chivay there are most hotels and lodgings, a place where you can also enjoy the thermal baths that it is located on the outskirts of Chivay. Table of distance to get to the city of Arequipa, and to visit the Colca Canyon.