The Colca Canyon is twice as deep as the Grand Canyon, The rio Colca descends from 3,500m above sea level at Chivay to 2,200m at Cabanaconde. The roads o either side of the canyon are at around 4,000 m. It the background looms the grey, smoking mass of Sabancaya, one of the most active volcanoes in the Americas, and its more docile neighbour, Ampato (6288 m). Unspoiled Andean villages lie on both sides of the canyon, inhabited by the Cabana and Collagua peoples, and some of the extensive precolumbian terraced fields are still in use.
High on anyone's list for visiting the canyon is an early-morning trip to the Cruz del Condor. to see these majestic birds at close quarters. From January to April is the rainy season, but this makes the area green, with lots of flowers. This is not the best time to see condors. May to December is the dry, cold season when there is more chance of seeing the birds.
There are many hiking possibilities in the area. Make sure to take enough water as it gets very hot and there is not a lot of water available. Moreover, sun protection is a must. Some treks are impossible if it rains heavily in the wet season, but this is very rare.
From Cabanaconde you will hike to "Oasis" of palm tress, swimming area and camping. Cross the river by the footbridge and climb up, a 1 day hike. The second day trek for the road, which takes 3 hrs to arrive Cabanaconde (70km) and come back to Arequipa.
At 5,822 m, El Misti volcano offers a relatively straightforward opportunity to scale a high peak.
Crew: A Travel Tour Group representative in Arequipa, Colca Canyon and professional guide
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Transportation: Tourist transport, local bus, van
A poor dirt road runs north from Arequipa, over the altiplano, to Chivay (3,600m), the first village on the edge of the Canyon. About an hour out of Arequipa is the Aguada Blanca National Vicuña Reserve, If you're lucky, you can see herds of these rare animals near the road. This route affords fine views of the Volcanoes Misti, Chachani, Ampato and Sabancaya.
Chivay is the linking point between the two sides of the canyon, as it has the only bridge over the river. The road continues northeast to Tuti, where there is a small handicrafts shop, and Sibayo, with a pension and grocery store. A long circuit back to Arequipa heads south from Sibayo, passing through Puente Callali, Chullo and Sumbay. This is a little-travelled road, but the views of fine landscapes with Vicuña, Llamas, Alpacas and Andean duck are superb.
Crossing the river at Chivay going west to follow the canyon on the far side, you pass the villages of Coporaque, Ichupampa (where a footbridge crosses the river bridge to Maca) and Tapay (connected to Cabanaconde by a footbridge)
Chivay (3,600m) is the getaway to the Canyon. The hot springs of the La Calera are 4-5km away, regular colectivos or a one hour walk from town, highly recommended after a hard day's trekking.
From Chivay, the main road goes west along the Colca Canyon. The first village encountered is Yanque (8km, excellent views), with an interesting churhc and a bridge to the Villages on the other side of the canyon. A large thermal swimming pool is 20 minutes walk from Plaza, besede the renovated Inca bridge on the Yanque - Ichupamapa road
The road continues to Achoma and Maca, which barely survived and earthquake in November 1991. New housing has been built. The Mirador, or Cruz del Condor, is at the deepest point of the canyon. The view is wonderful and condors can be seen rising on the morning thermals.