A Traveller's Tale Through The Colca Canyon Volcano
Forget the Grand Canyon, the Colca Canyon just outside of Arequipa, Peru is twice as deep as America’s great valley, and what’s more, its 100km long valley is lined with still-active volcanoes.
The road from Arequipa
‘The White City’ as it’s known to Peruvians is often described as the gateway to the canyon, but it’s also a beautiful town to visit in its own right. Spend the day exploring the cobble-stone streets, museums and the beautiful Santa Catalina Monastery before retiring to your colonial mansion in preparation for the long journey into the canyon. The drive from Arequipa into the canyon takes roughly 4 hours, passing scenic plateaus of grazing vicunas and llamas.
Cruz Del Condor
At 3,962 meters above sea level Cruz Del Condor is the deepest part of the canyon, and the best place to spot the rare Andean Condors drifting in the warm updrafts of wind. Standing on the precipice scanning the vast craggy cliff faces it’s hard not to stare open mouthed when one of these silent predators swoops into view. All streamline black and white feathers with red eyes and a dangerous looking hooked beak these magnificent creatures have huge wing spans, stretching up to 10.5 meters. Getting up at the ungodly hour of 3am is necessary to catch them hunting.
Don your walking boots
If you choose to take in the Canyon via a guided trek make sure you book the three day version if time allows, being slightly longer means it’s an easier route with less time spent walking and more to enjoy the stunning vistas, you’ll also get to spend the end of the final day relaxing in the La Calera hot springs just outside the town of Chivay.
From the other side of the canyon the town of Cabanacode acts as a gateway to the popular climb up Ampato, the 6,300 meter high volcano where the infamous Juanita mummy, a young girl sacrificed to the volcano by the Incas was discovered.
Life on the slopes
The Canyon is dotted with around 20 small towns each with its own stone church and central plaza. The largest is Chivay which also provides bus routes to Cruz Del Condo and some good live music in the evenings. Each pearl of a town dotted along the canyon route is surrounded by terraced fields which support a range of agriculture and family life, the people here of the valley make use of every inch of farmable land there is.
If you choose to bus rather than trek, or your energy levels allow you can book all manner of adrenalin fuelled adventure sports in the canyon. Mountain biking and white water rafting down the level 5 Rio Colca are a fantastically unique way to experience this location.
If you’re holidaying in Peru you might think that the Colca Canyon is simply one trek too many, but delve a little deeper (3,191 meters to be precise) and you’ll discover towns, wildlife and adventure that’s begging to be sampled.
Image courtesy of 10 Ninjas Steve from Flickr
About Writer | Emilee writes for sites like Audley Travel in her spare time and enjoys reminicising and blogging about her Peru holiday last year. Currently in her spare time she is developing her Spanish and German.