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Colca Canyon

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Southern Sierra : Colca Canyon
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Colca Canyon [1] is in Peru's Southern Sierra region, near Arequipa.

Understand

The Colca Valley is an area of astounding scenic beauty, with giant Andean terraces and a deep canyon that reach a depth of 4160 metres. Along the way visitors can enjoy unique natural sceneries, as well as animal life; such as herds of Vicuñas (a wild relative of Llamas and Alpacas) and various types of birds, of which stand out the giant hummingbird, eagles, gooses and the mighty Andean Condor, which can usually be spotted at the "Cruz del Condor". There are many adventure tours organized in the area.
A journey to the Colca Valley takes at least 4 hours throughout high Andean plateau, reaching at one point a high pass of 4800 metres (so take care with altitude and cold), which offers fine views of the volcanoes. You'll have to pay an entrance fee when arriving to Chivay, a nice and very friendly town at the beginning of the canyon, with good hotels and hostels. Look around for the towns with a lot of local colour, and very cheap handicrafts and garments. If travelling during the southern summer, the views are stunning thanks to the abundance of greenery; there is a significant risk of rain though.

History

Landscape

Flora and fauna

Climate

Get in

Fees/Permits

There is a fee 35 soles (USD 12) that is charged to any tourist entering the canyon area. They claim that it is used to improve roads.

Get around

See

Malata Museo is a small yet interesting insight into village life in the Canyon. 1 sol or so. Worth the 15 minute presentation by the keen Vanessa, in English, Spanish or Quechua.

Do

Colca Canyon Tour

The Colca Valley is an area of astounding scenic beauty, with giant Andean terraces and a deep canyon that reach a depth of 3140 metres. A journey to the Colca valley will take you throughout high Andean plateau, reaching at one point a high pass of 4800 metres, which offers fine views of the Volcanoes. Along the way visitors can enjoy unique natural sceneries, as well as animal life; such as herds of Vicuñas (a wild relative of Llamas and Alpacas) and various types of birds, of which stand out the giant hummingbird, eagles, gooses and the mighty Andean Condor. If you like adventure tours, the Canyon also offers wonderful treks down to its button, descending throughout huge mountains, exploring oasis-like valleys, thermal springs, and camping outdoors.

The tours run from Arequipa cost about 140 soles for 2 nights, not including the entrance fee (35 soles) and have a restricted route. We did three nights on our own, staying in various hospedajes in the canyon and in Cabanaconde (the gateway town for the canyon). The complete cost was 175 soles, but we ate well and drank beer. This is much more fun for the adventure traveller than going on a tour, (as they are mostly lame). Suggested itinerary: get bus to Cabanaconde from Arequipa (5 hours, 16 soles). Stay the night in Cabanaconde. Next morning take the 6.30am truck to Cruz Del Condor (4 soles), watch Condors. Get the 9.30am bus back to Cabanaconde (1-2 soles). Next, walk down the canyon to San Galle and eat lunch and swim in one of the 5 pools there. At 4pm or so walk up to either Malata or Cosñirhua and stay and eat at the Museo or Marizio´s respectivly. Next morning walk to Llahuar and stay there and sit in the hot springs. Next morning get out at 6am and walk to Cabanconde to take the 11.15am bus back to Arequipa (or walk to Solo and take the 6am truck and then the 9am bus from Cabanaconde to Arequipa). All too easy, no guide required. The only bit you might get lost on is finding the right path to Llahuar from the thatch rest area (its straight down), and the last day route to Cabanaconde after the bridge (its a small path near a big rock - ask!). Enjoy. :)

Buy

Eat

Food is more expensive than in town. You will have to budget around 8 soles per meal in the canyon and around 3.5 soles at the rim such as in Cabanaconde or Chivay.

Drink

good drinks by the lomo dam sation

Sleep

In the Colca Canyon here is an abundance of cheap hospedajes in Chivay and Cabanaconde as well as at the bottom of the canyon, such as in San Galle, Malata, Cosñirhua or in San Juan de Cuccho. Price range around 8 soles per night and person.

  • One of the more luxurious accommodation options is Las Casitas del Colca, an all inclusive luxury hotel opened by the Orient-Express group in April 2008. Deep in the heart of the Colca Canyon, the hotel boasts twenty individual casitas featuring private heated plunge pools and private terraces with fantastic views of the canyon. Facilities include a luxurious spa, fine dining restaurant, cocktail bar, swimming pool, a vegetable garden which supplies the restaurant kitchen and a small farm home to horses, cows, llamas and baby Alpacas. The hotel can also arrange a variety of activities for guests on or off site, including horse riding, cookery courses, trout fishing, treks, star gazing, local volunteer work and trips to see the famous Andean Condors, all of which are included in the stay price.
  • The Colca Lodge is a great place to stay in the Colca Canyon area. The lodge sits near the bottom of the canyon near the Uyo Uyo ruins. You can walk to the ruins from the hotel. They also have their own thermal baths with a small bar nearby so you can sit in the hot springs and order a drink while watching the river flow by. The lodge itself is nicely done with thatched roofs and beautiful grounds. The location is very peaceful and the food is magnificent.
Colca Lodge
  • Excelant new budget hostal in Cabanaconde is PachaMama hostal. Run by a peruvian with great english, that has 6 years experience as a tour guide in the canyon. Rooms are basic and cheap (8-10 soles), but the restaurant at night is a lively place with a great fire-oven pizza and a rich alcohol bar. The website includes some possible itineraries in the canyon, more tips available when you will ask [2].
  • A great place to stay is in the canyon at a place called LLAHUAR lodge. They have hot springs and a great view. The best trip is a 4 day hike from Cabanaconde to Llanhuar Lodge then to the remote an sweet village of Fure to visit the waterfall then back via the Sangalle area (Oasis).
  • Tradicion Colca Lodge, Calle Argentina, 108 - Urb. Fecia - J.L.BN. y R. - Arequipa, 005154424926. Charming hotel specialized in adventures and horseback rides in the valley villages and in the Canyon as well. The three star hotel has sauna, jacuzzi and massages. A complete spa center. The food is made by a French chef. $75.
  • Community-based tourism in Colca Canyon [3] provides an alternative to development that's sustainable, giving rural and poor communities an additional source of income. You can immerse yourself in the day-to-day lives of local people while helping them to preserve their cultural heritage.

Camping

Backcountry

Stay safe

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