Machu Picchu Travel

Colca Canyon

Colca Canyon

Let yourself be captivated by the eternal beauty of the Colca Canyon, an impressive natural wonder located within the Arequipa district, known as one of the deepest canyons in the world. This remote location in southern Peru holds outstanding scenery, complemented by the distinctive flora and fauna of the Andes.

The Colca Canyon has been everyone’s favorite attraction while visiting Arequipa, the region offers the perfect setting for those looking for an intimate connection with nature whether it is by an adrenaline-packed adventure or just to unwind your mind for a time.

The place is also famous for being a natural viewing spot for the majestic bird of the Peruvian highlands, the Andean Condor. However, there’s so much more to do here, ranging from cultural experiences to trekking activities and even rafting.

For that reason, if you’re willing to travel off the beaten track and would like to experience another side of Peru rather than the most promoted attractions in the country, then this is the way to go!

The Colca Canyon offers dazzling nature, a lively culture, and relaxing hot springs. Here you can enjoy experiential tourism as well as adventure sports. Learn everything about it with this travel guide!

Colca Canyon: A Geological and Historical Gem

The famous Colca Canyon is located 160 kilometers away from the city of Arequipa. It has a depth of 4,160 meters and it’s considered the second deepest canyon in the world. The Colca Valley has an extension of 100 km, this outstanding work of nature is home to an extensive biodiversity that comprehends over 300 plant species and around 231 animals. 

Likewise, the Colca Canyon was inhabited by ancient civilizations that predated the Incas, many of which are traced back between 5000 - 6000 B.C. Evidence points out that these cultures were composed of hunters and gatherers but it was thousands of years later that they actually settled in this location.

Between the 200 B.C. and 600 A.D. They finally domesticated animals and plants. During this period, they created an agronomic system that consisted of terraces used for agricultural exploitation, and a series of “Colcas,” which were a stone reservoir positioned at a high altitude for the preservation of grains and other crops, basically, a natural icebox. 

Going further into the future, during colonization, the Spaniards conquered these lands and made natives work in mines. The indigenous communities were later divided into twenty villages that have remained until the current date.

Nowadays, it is one of Peru’s most visited regions since it receives over 300,000 tourists per year. Thereby, the Colca Canyon and its surroundings are one of the unmissable attractions in Arequipa, not only for being granted recognition as one of the deepest canyons on Earth but because of its extraordinary geographical features.

Due to the geothermal activity in this region, geysers, fumaroles, and natural hot springs were formed, adding a great touristic value to the Arequipa countryside. Nevertheless, UNESCO recognized the Colca Canyon as a Global Geopark in 2019 thanks to its geological importance and complex history.

Colca Canyon Weather

The region is affected by the characteristic weather of the Andean highlands, with a dry and cold winter and a significantly wetter summer. For that reason, we recommend you know about the weather conditions of the Colca Canyon before venturing out to this natural wonder. 

- Rainy Season: It starts in December with a drastic increase of pluvial precipitation between January and March. Temperatures range between 16°C and 7°C throughout this season. It is worth mentioning that during the rainiest months, some treks to the Colca Canyon may get canceled due to the weather conditions. 
-Dry Season: It takes place between May and November, these are considered the coldest months of the year, though, in some parts of the Colca Valley, it tends to be warmer, especially in the lowest part of the canyon exposed to direct sunlight. Rainfall is nearly nil during this period and temperatures range between 18°C and 4°C.

For further information about the weather in Peru, make sure to read our informative guide and pack according to the climate conditions of the Peruvian regions.

What About Altitude Sickness?

It is worth mentioning that due to the high elevation of this location, some travelers may experience Altitude Sickness. This is very common in altitudes that surpass 2,500 meters of altitude. However, here we have some recommendations to teach you how to prevent it: 

- Avoid drinking alcohol and smoking.
- Keep yourself hydrated.
- Take a few days to rest in Arequipa before committing to any physically demanding activities.
- Drink coca tea, it helps with acclimatization.
- Eat a light but high-calorie diet.

Some medicines that can help with any altitude sickness symptoms are Diamox or Soroche Pills, you can get them in almost any drugstore in Peru, nonetheless, we highly recommend consulting with a doctor before taking any of these medications.

Things to See in the Colca Canyon

1. Cruz del Condor Viewpoint
This natural viewpoint is located in the highest peak of the canyon, offering an outstanding view of the Colca Valley and, especially of the majestic Andean Condor, the third-largest bird in the world. The Andean Condor is 3 meters long and barely flaps its wings to fly since it uses the hot air currents to glide, a smooth flight worth watching. 

Therefore, to experience this beautiful spectacle, you must visit the Cruz del Condor Viewpoint between 9:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m.

2. Chivay
This small town is the starting point for all Colca Canyon visitors. It is located at 3,651 meters above sea level, situated on the banks of the Colca River. This beautiful town is recognized for its cultural expression where most of its inhabitants have maintained their ancient traditions nearly untouched. 

From this location, you can glance at the outstanding scenery of the region, composed of the exuberant nature of the Colca valley, croplands, and ancient agricultural terraces. 

3. Hot Springs
Whether you’re just spending the day in the Colca Valley or staying for a couple of days, a bath in these thermal springs can be as comforting as a mother’s hug. The nearest thermal springs are located 3 kilometers away from the town of Chivay.

Here you can choose indoor or outdoor pools with views of the authentic natural landscape of the region. The water temperature can reach up to 38°C and is believed to have curative properties.

How to Get to the Colca Canyon?

To visit the Colca Canyon, one must be in Arequipa. The so-called White City is easily accessible by train, bus, or plane. To help you plan your trip accordingly, here are some recommendations about transport options:

- By Bus: Bus rides are the Nº 1 transport option in Peru. Most travelers prefer moving around by land rather than by flying to certain cities. However, bus travel is the optimal choice for those who have a flexible itinerary and plenty of extra time. Learn how to explore Peru by bus in a real way here!

- By Flight: If you happen to be on a tight schedule then taking domestic flights could be the most suitable option for you. That way you will save time exploring the different destinations you’d like to visit.

Arequipa is also accessible by train ride, either you start in Cusco or Puno, you’ll have an exclusive experience through the Peruvian Andes.

Now that you know how to get to Arequipa, planning your trip to the Colca Canyon is as easy as finding the best tour for you. There are different excursions to visit this natural wonder, either you’re taking a full-day tour or a 4-day trek, make sure to book it in advance. 

We at Viagens Machu Picchu know how important it is to optimize time and offer flexibility while traveling, which is why we have two ways of visiting the imposing Colca Canyon, learn everything about them while you're here. 

Would you like to know more about Peru? Here you’ll find all the information you need for your trip. Our local expert team has prepared the most complete informative guides for you! Also, if you’re eager to know Peru at its fullest, check out our travel packages and live an authentic experience with Viagens Machu Picchu.