Four hours to the north of Arequipa is The Colca, an Inter-Andean valley more than 3400 meters deep and surrounded by Andean plains and snow-capped peaks. That is to say, it is the deepest in the world.
The Colca surpasses the Colorado Canyon in the United States in more than twice its depth. The route to the Canyon goes through the national reserves of Salinas and Aguada Blanca, beautiful territories where camelids and other Andean species live.
The Colca Canyon has become one of the most important tourist places in Arequipa. A two-day tour will take you to Chival, an important city in the valley where the visitor can rest and enjoy the hot springs of La Calera or try a delicious trout (from the river).
Adventure sports lovers find the turbulent rapids of the river crossing the valley an irresistible challenge for canoeing or Kayaking. In the valley, the climate could range from cold to semi-tropical in the deepest parts. This area has made possible the development of more than 20 species of cacti and 170 species of birds. The most important bird is the Condor, considered the biggest flying creature of the planet. Its flight can be seen in the famous lookout of "La Cruz del Condor" (The Cross of the Condor), a few minutes from Chivay. Here you can also see the tips of the Ampato, Coropuna and the Mismi, whose melted ice gives birth to the Amazonas River. In the towns of the valley, there are churches and traditional parties. The Colca is characterized for its special arts craft: colorful embroideries, pieces made from tin, candle, and carved wood pieces.
Location: 164 km. northeast of Arequipa.
Altitude: 3500 MAMSL.
The visit to the Colca Canyon, combined with the Colca Valley, is the most popular Arequipa Peru Tours.
It is a destination that combines the wealth of natural settings, towns and people of ancient customs, hot springs sources and excellent scenarios for adventure sports such as rafting and kayaking, paragliding, mountain biking, mountaineering, trekking, horseback riding and for the observation of Andean birds, especially the Andean condor (Vultur gryphus).
The Colca canyon is one of the deepest in the world with 3,400 meters of depth, in its highest part there are natural viewpoints to appreciate the beauty of the landscape and to see the majestic flight of the condors.
The recommended minimum is a 2-day trip with overnight in the valley.
If you like adventure and you are looking for an outdoor experience, this trek is ideal trekking visiting remote villages, sleeping in shelters in the Oasis of Sangalle, dare to experience the habitat within canon. Walking along the routes of the Colca is an experience, will physically test and visit Andean landscapes. You can consider taking a trek of 2 days or 3 days.
The Colca tour of 1 day begins at 2:30 a.m., the travel agency takes you to the town of Chivay, where you will stop to have breakfast and be able to buy tourist tickets, then continue the journey to the Cruz del Cóndor with a time of 1 hour and 30 minutes, in the Cruz del Cóndor you can appreciate the formation of the canyon and the flight of the Condor. In the area we will be about an hour, then you will go to visit the natural viewpoints of Wayrapunko, Antahuilque, Choquetico place where you can appreciate the work of our pre-Inca ancestors, hanging tombs and litho-scale models, returning with the respective stops of the villages of Maca and Yanque and finish in Chivay to be able to go to the hot water pools being a time of about 1 hour, then return to the town of Chivay and have lunch and return to the city of Arequipa where you will arrive at approximately 04:30 p.m
The first day, departure from Arequipa at 8:30 a.m. to go along the Yura road and later to the Chachani volcano and then go through Pampa Cañahuas and stop for 10 to 15 minutes in which the passengers can appreciate the vicuñas that are in their natural environment. Later we will have a second stop to enjoy coca tea and do not affect the height as we will find at 3800 meters above sea level. Continue climbing up to 4800 m.s.n.m. (viewpoint of the volcanoes). Later, started descent to the town of Chivay after approximately 45 minutes. Then have lunch, in the afternoon go to the Calera (thermal water medicinal pool). Finishing with the program for the day, dinner overnight at the chosen hotel.
The second day, have breakfast (5:30 am) and then go to the Cruz del Cóndor directly where we can appreciate the Colca Canyon and the flight of the condor waiting for a prudent time and then go to visit the viewpoints of Wayrapunko, Andaguilque, Choquetico and the villages of Pinchollo, Maca, Achoma, Yanque and finish in Chivay. Have lunch and prepare to return to the city of Arequipa arriving at 5 p.m. approximately.
The Colca Canyon is located in the northeastern end of the Arequipa Region, province of Caylloma, 165 kilometers from Arequipa and 40 km from Chivay main town and capital of the province of Caylloma. The highest point of the Valley is the inactive Ampato volcano (6288 masl), and the lowest is the confluence of the Colca and Andamayo rivers (970 masl).
The Colca Valley has an area of 100 km long and occupies only one sector of the Colca river basin.
First, it is necessary to know that before traveling the Colca you must stay at least one day in Arequipa, resting, to acclimate and get used to the heights. Its climate corresponds to that of a high mountain area and the temperatures oscillate with extremes from day to night.
Colca can be visited at any time of the year, but it is best to do it between March and June, since it is there when the condors abound and the area is re-greened by the rainy season (which ends in March). That would be the ideal season since the sighting of the condor, the largest bird in the world, is one of the flagship activities of the Colca.
You should also know that during the day everything is usually sunny, but the weather drops a lot during the night, especially between June and August when temperatures can go down to zero degrees
There is a lot of reasons to visit the Colca Canyon. First, the Andean communities of the Colca recognize and value their culture. Every day, women wear their typical costumes with handmade embroidery in bright colors. Each community has a different pattern and style of embroidery that reflects their cultural identity. For the explorers, the colonial churches wait to be discovered. Valued by the inhabitants of the Colca, the churches show colonial style paintings and overwhelming religious images. Take advantage of every stop in the villages of the route, explore the area, converse with the locals, try their food and feel like one more inhabitant of the valley of the volcanoes.
Walkers from all over the world come to explore the Colca Canyon, one of the deepest in the world. In order to have a safe trip, the guide makes an offering of coca leaves to the volcanoes before starting the trip. This scene, of mysticism, mountains, volcanoes and families of vehicles in the distance, is simply captivating.
The Altiplano del Colca is the day-to-day setting of a family of vicuñas. The same ones that appear in the Peruvian shield. Beyond, you can see a mixture of auquénidos: llamas, alpacas and guanacos drinking water from the small lagoons. With the binoculars reached to a taruca or Andean deer, climbing a madwoman in search of food. Suddenly you see a small brown spot moving through the dry bushes. It is a vizcacha, which runs fast who knows where. The silence of the puna is cut by the sound of a bird flying in a tailspin. You look up to see the sovereign of the Colca: the condor.
One of the largest birds in the world, the condors, the owners of the Andean skies. During the tour you can enjoy this spectacle of nature that Arequipa and the Colca Canyon offer you.
About the difficulty of trekking through the Colca Canyon, I must inform you that it is a trekking where the difficulty "cheats". You have to walk a great ascent of more than 1000 meters of altitude that awaits you on the last day of the Oasis until you leave the canyon. Three or four hours of demanding ascension that begins at about 4 a.m. Although it is demanding it can be done. If you do not see yourself with strength, there is a mule rental service, although the truth is that they were a bit scary. The trekking groups are usually 10 people or so and a guide. Since it's only two days, just take a small backpack with some clothes to change.
For the full day tour, you should only bring a small backpack. Large luggage can be stored at your accommodation in Arequipa.