The Colca Canyon is one of the most scenic regions in Peru, a land of imposing snowcapped volcanoes, narrow gorges, artistically terraced agricultural slopes that predate the Incas, arid desert landscapes and vegetation, and remote traditional villages.
Some of Peru’s most recognizable wildlife, including llamas, alpacas, vicuñas are easy to find here. Also the canyon is home to the Andean condor (Vultur gryphus); here you will have the best chance to get of them amazing pictures!
The 120km-long “Cañón del Colca” is set among high volcanoes (6613m-high Coropuna and 6310m-high Ampato are the tallest) and ranges from 1000 mts. to more than 4160 mts. depth. For years there was raging controversy over whether or not this was the world’s deepest canyon with 4,160mts, but recently it ranked as the third one after Kali Gandaki in Nepal with 4,375 mts.
Amazingly, the Colca canyon is more than twice as deep as the Grand Canyon in the USA.
Despite its depth, the Colca canyon is geologically young. The Colca river has cut into beds of mainly volcanic rocks, which were deposited less than 100 million years ago along the line of a major fault in the earth’s crust.
The climate is cool and dry on the plateau and slopes high above the Colca river.
The Colca Canyon is also synonym for extensive biodiversity, with an incredible flora and fauna. This special characteristic of the canyon occurs because Peru is located in the subtropical area of South America and it has a rugged geography, in addition, ocean currents and the air mass movements, create an incomparable ecological, climatic and geological variety.
This is a the reason of the importance of conserving the ecosystems that keep alive the variety of animals and plants that this canyon has, a true natural wonder.
The Colca canyon is home to the Andean Condor (Vultur gryphus), a species that has seen worldwide effort to preserve it. The condors can be seen at close range as they fly past the canyon walls, and are the region’s most popular attraction. ‘Cruz del Condor’ is a popular tourist stop to view the condors, an overlook where condors soar gracefully on thermals of warm air rising from the canyon.
The condors are best seen in the early morning and late afternoon when they are hunting. At this point the canyon floor is 3,960 feet (1,200 m). Also Viscachas (burrowing rodents closely related to chinchillas) are also common around the canyon rim, darting furtively among the rocks.
Cacti dot many slopes and, if they’re in flower, you may be lucky enough to see tiny nectar-eating birds braving the spines to feed. In the depths of the canyon it can be almost tropical, with palm trees, ferns and even orchids in some isolated areas.
The La Calera natural hot springs are located at Chivay, the biggest town in the Colca Canyon. But you can also enjoy others hots springs with less visitors in other towns such as Yanque and Coporaque.
Festivals throughout the year, including the Wititi festival in Chivay, (December 8–11) are a high light. The Wititi has been declared the dance most representative of the Arequipa region, and named as a “cultural heritage” of Peru.
The Colca canyon is also well known for two forms of crafts: goods knitted from 100% baby alpaca fiber (hats, gloves, etc.), and a unique form of embroidery that adorns skirts (polleras), hats, vests, and other items of daily wear and use.
The local people (especially the women) are known for their highly decorative traditional clothing. The women’s dresses and jackets are intricately embroidered, and their hats are distinctive.
In the Chivay area at the east end of the canyon, the white hats are usually woven from straw and are embellished with lace, sequins and medallions. At the west end of the canyon, the hats are of cotton and are painstakingly embroidered.
The women don’t particularly enjoy being photographed, so always ask permission. And those who pose for photographs expect a tip.
Colca canyon Activities:
Fauna and Flora observations, Hiking, short walks, mountain biking, trekking, rafting, horseback riding, fishing, and sightseeing.
It is a destination for all type of travelers, from those who are looking for some relaxing days with luxury service (hotels 4* and 5 *), adventure lovers (because of the many activities that here can be done); classic travelers and family tours (organized tours with visit to all highlights, and family experiences with locals) to low budget travelers.
Sources: Wikipedia, Lonely Travel, Promperu.