The famous Colca Canyon is located 160 kilometers away from the city of Arequipa. It has a depth of 3,200 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 preceded the Incas, which many of them date back to the 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 agricultural 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.
Nowaday, this 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 has recognized the Colca Canyon as a Global Geopark in 2019 thanks to its geological importance and complex history.
What to See?
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.
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, crop lands, and ancient agricultural terraces.
3. Hot Springs
Whether you’re just spending the day in the Colca Valley or staying for a couple 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 for indoor or outdoor pools with views to the authentic natural landscape of the region. The water temperature can reach up to 38°C and are believed to have curative properties.
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. Likewise, we recommend you to know about the weather conditions of the Colca Canyon before venturing out to this natural wonder.
- Rainy Season: It starts in December with a drastically increase of pluvial precipitation between the months of 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 cancelled 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 part of the Colca Valley it tends to be warmer, specially 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 accordingly to the climate conditions of the Peruvian regions.
How to Deal with 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 supasses the 2,500 meter 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 acclimatation.
- Eat a light but high-calorie diet.
There are some medicines that help to ease the Altitude Sickness symptoms, you can find them as Diamox or Soroche Pills in any drugstore in Peru. However, we advise you to consult with your doctor before taking any of these.
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 →
- 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 to explore 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. Find out more here →
Now that you know how to get to Arequipa, planning your trek 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. Please contact your travel agent for further details.
Viagens Machu Picchu provides everything you need to have an authentic experience through Peru. If you wish to know more about all the different things to do in Arequipa and to travel off the beaten path, then check out our Peru travel packages and start organizing your trip!