When visiting the 'White City' you are not only thinking of touring its countryside and the Ruta del Sillar, of strolling through its viewpoints and marveling at the imposing Misti; or in giving your palate a treat by trying its delicious and varied gastronomy. You also want that connection with nature, practice outdoor sports and get to know the native peoples of the area. And you can find everything in one place.
The province of Caylloma, located in the extreme northeast of the southern department, is one of the eight divisions that make up the Arequipa region. What makes this area so important is the natural treasure that houses its lands. It is not a national park, an extreme source of biodiversity or an imposing snow-capped peak. None of that: here lies the imposing and enigmatic Colca Canyon which, with its 4160 meters, is considered the fourth deepest in the entire world.
Located within the Colca Valley, the Canyon is one of the biggest tourist destinations not only in Arequipa, but also in Peru. Its easy access -a bus or private car from the city to the district of Chivay, does not take more than 3 hours and a half-. Varied activities take place here that make it so required by tourists interested in adventure sports, ancestral culture and nature lovers.
Because in the Colca Canyon you can connect with your more adventurous side and practice trekking, rafting or mountain biking, activities that are gaining more and more followers in these places. Once you have connected with nature, try to see the amazing scenes full of vegetation, until you reach one of the summit points of Colca, where from a viewpoint tourists are waiting for the apparitions of the majestic condors.
Yes, we are talking about those imposing Andean birds, considered the largest in the world, since they can weigh up to 15 kilograms and measure 3 meters wide -with their wings extended-. The Andean condor is a native species of Peru and the Colca is its home, a place where it is appreciated by travelers.
If what you want is to relax, you need a dip in the thermal waters of La Calera, so that you renew your energy and you can continue with your trip like new. But if what you are looking for is to merge with the ancient history and the original peoples of Colca, you must do community tourism in the area.
The towns of Sibayo, Yanque, Callalli and Coporaque, with their ancestral customs, their friendly residents and a lifestyle inherited from their ancestors, are magical places where time seems to have stopped: you can stay in their homes, participate in their cultural activities or collaborate with their daily tasks and thus live the experience of rural tourism to the fullest.
This beautiful tourist attraction is not only recognized nationally or by the tourists who visit it. In 2019, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) declared the Colca Canyon and Andagua Volcanoes as a world geopark, being the first and only one in Peru (and the third in South America). to receive this distinction.
Visit the Colca Canyon in 1 day
Although it is possible to visit the Colca Valley in one day, it is not ideal, since the road from Arequipa is long (approximately 4 hours one way).
I recommend it only if you have a tight schedule, it would be a shame to be in Arequipa and not go to Colca!
The tour includes pick up from your hotel, breakfast, a stop in Chivay to eat and a walk to the Cruz del Condor.
Visit the Colca Canyon in 2 days
If your itinerary allows it, it is much better to do the Colca Canyon in two days, sleeping one night on site (either in Yanque, Chivay or Cabanaconde).
The tourist ticket for the entire Colca Valley costs 70 soles for adults and 20 soles for children and is valid for 1 week.
Officially, it is mandatory and gives access to the Colca Canyon, Aguada Blanca and the Volcano Valley, as well as the tourist viewpoints (the Cruz del Cóndor), the Cabanaconde trekking trail and several other places.
The ticket does not include access to the thermal baths of La Calera.
Note: unlike the tourist ticket for the Sacred Valley, you may not be asked for it in Colca, it's a matter of luck!
In a tourist van
There are several possible routes.
The departure is from your hotel, around 3 in the morning.
It first stops in Chivay around 6am for breakfast and then at the Cruz del Cóndor viewpoint at 8am before continuing to Cabanaconde around 10am.
By local bus
To catch the local bus, go to the Arequipa terminal (10min by taxi from the Plaza de Armas). I recommend that you sit on the right side of the bus, to enjoy the view of the canyon!
To Chivay: 4h trip for 15 soles.
To Cabanaconde: 6 hours of travel for 17 soles. Departures 1 am, 4 am and 1 pm.
From the Chivay bus terminal, you can take a colectivo (departures every hour) to Cabanaconde (1h-2h).
Keep in mind that the last bus leaves Chivay at 2:00 p.m.
It is possible to visit the Colca Canyon throughout the year, because the temperature is always more or less the same (cold at night at 5°C and up to 20°C during the day).
The ideal time for trekking is from April to November when the weather is dry.
From January to March, you can expect some precipitation.
A cap or hat, sunscreen, good walking shoes, light but also warm clothing because at night, the temperature drops and it can be windy.
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