Full day tour / Colca Canyon
Rating 4.30 / 5 [49 ratings]
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Bucket list experience:
Arequipa Region, Peru
Two kilometres deep, surrounded by steaming volcanoes, and with condors soaring on the thermals, Colca Canyon is one of Peru’s great natural wonders. It’s twice the depth of the Grand Canyon, far wilder and has wonderful views at every turn.
Day-trippers come to peer over the rim and spot condors. Trekkers hike the rugged trails, stopping to soak in the hot springs or swim in the icy Colca River, which ribbons the canyon floor. And farmers still till the soil on the ancient valley terraces cut long before the Spanish arrived.
One of the most popular excursions is the journey up to Cruz del Condor. This incredible lookout at the heart of the canyon stands 1,200m above the river and is the best place to see giant condors in flight – so close you’ll hear the wind whistling through their giant wings. Single and multi-day treks will usually include a visit to Cruz del Condor before beginning the descent into the canyon on foot.
Some companies organise short two- to three-day mountain biking expeditions through parts of the canyon. A stop at Cruz del Condor is part of the deal.
Serious mountaineers can tackle a stunning five-day trek that descends into the canyon before climbing a 5,100m pass to the remote Valley of the Volcanoes.
Nearby El Misti, Arequipa’s volcano, provides an opportunity to go up instead of down. Reaching a height of 5,822m, it’s an exhausting climb, but not a technical one.
The canyon extends for around 70km and ranges between 1,000m and 2,000m deep. Most travellers arrive from Arequipa (160km away) and settle into one of the lodges at the head of the canyon. These provide a comfortable base for exploring the area’s myriad trails on organised hikes.
Travellers visit all year, but trekking is best from May to August, when skies are clear. The best time to spot condors is in the morning and late afternoon.
The Colca river often floods in the heavy part of the rainy season (December to March). During this time, some sights, such as the hot springs, may be inaccessible.
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