A leap over the Grand Canyon: there’s a more fantastic canyon that’s sure to impress you. Guess what?
The Colca Canyon in Arequipa, towering in Peru which, is one of the world’s second-deepest canyons measuring around 3,400m deep- two times deeper than the Grand Canyon.
The epic part is that you can hike deep into these magnificent colossal fissures to experience the pinnacle of fascinating and physically challenging adventure.
Additionally, the diverse landscapes allow you to make endless discoveries in every twist and turn in your trial until you reach the Canyon’s heart, which is the oasis.
Finally, to top your experience, keep watch of the condors, one of the world’s enormous birds soaring above you!
So, if you’re an adventure enthusiast or a nature lover, read on to unleash the secrets of the Colca Canyon in Arequipa, Peru; no one is telling you to put your best foot ahead!
Where is the Colca Canyon Situated?
Located in the Southern Peru of the Colca River, the Colca Canyon occupies over 160 kilometers in North Western part of Arequipa with a depth between 33000 – 6600 feet. It takes pride in being called one of the deepest canyons in the world, stretches over 70 kilometers, and whose bottom is at 2000 miles with 3000 – 4000-meter edges above sea level.
Today, it’s one of the best tourist spots for a full-day tour to experience viewing the glorious Rockies and the Inca agricultural terraces. Interestingly the local farmers still follow the Inca trial of using the terraces for agricultural purposes.
So, if you’re keen to add this place to your vacation list, continue reading to gather as much information as you need before booking your tickets!
What’s so Special? Why is the Colca Canyon in Arequipa Famous?
From getting a first-hand experience of the country life of Peru, getting a close view of the famous Andean Condor, taking a dip in the secret thermal baths, viewing some breathtaking vistas, dwelling in the oasis, and hiking around the dusty roads makes the Canyon famous for those venturing out to get some real adventure!
Digging the Colca Canyon History Time Travelling Backwards
In the Beginning…
Researchers answered the question “How was the Colca Canyon formed” stating that Peru’s Colca Canyon was in shape over 150 million years ago. It resulted from the eroded volcanic rocks along the Colca River near the fault line on the earth’s crust.
And the Colca River hails from within the Andes downstream of the Condorama Crycero Alto.
Initially, the Canyon was the home to the Colcas, who gave the mountains this name which in the Spanish term was called Canon del Colca, meaning small holes on the mountain cliffs in the Canyon and the valley.
And Canyon was a narrow valley between the cliffs called a cañon in the Spanish term. It is said that their invasion led to the evolution of an organized civilization predating the Incas.
However, after the arrival of the Incas, the Andes developed further with highly advanced agricultural techniques acquired after coming into contact with the populations of the Colca Canyons. And they used the Canyon as storehouses to store corn, potatoes, and other food items.
Subsequently, in 600AD, two flourishing groups named the Collaguas and Cabanas grew in Colca. They brought the revolutionizing agricultural technique of terraces on the mountainsides, creating land for farming. As a result, it led to the development of denser settlements. Additionally, they built colcas, higher elevation stone reservoirs for grain, and tuber storage for cold and dry conditions.
Ultimately these developments helped populations to bypass famine and became pawns to collect political power. Simultaneously, in the upcoming three decades, the Wari civilization invaded South Andes introducing newer technologies and establishing multiple administration and ritual centers to centralize political powers.
Unfortunately, the political powers were scattered after the post-Wari war, leaving the agricultural economy intact. And the Collaguas and Cabanas took the upper hand, regaining political independence and maintaining trade and exchange relations.
Nevertheless, with the re-arrival of the Incas between 13- 14 AD, there was a revolution in the political landscape again when the Inca elites underwent intermarriages with local rulers, thereby accessing the agricultural and economic realms of the Colca region.
A few years later, roughly between 1540- 1570, the Spaniards arrived and forced the people of the land to move to settlements through a process called “Reductions.” Chapels and churches were built a few years later by the missionaries. The first chapel and church were built in 1565 and 1569, respectively.
Did you know? Another tribe that lived in the higher area of the Colca Valley called the Los Collaguas, buried their dead in the mountains and painted the place in red, that are still visible today.
The first discovery of the Canyon was made in 1931 by the very first scientific tour from the Geographical Society by George Johnson and Rober Shipee. However, with the beginning of the road construction, the place was damaged due to the seismic regions of the Canyon.
Later in the 1970s, Majes Hydroelectric Project undertook road construction to transfer water from the Colca River to water the crops in the Majes region. And it was from the 1981 expedition of Andrzej Pietowski that the place was considered to possess the deepest Canyon in the world.
In 1984 it was featured in the Guinness Book of Records, and in January 1993, it was publicized in the National Geographic. Today it has become a part of Peru’s famous history due to the Inca civilization and its innovative characteristics in agriculture.
Now it has become a famous tourist spot that invites millions of wayfarers to glimpse nature’s majesty at the Colca Canyon and imprint the streak of adventure in their souls during departure!
Did you know? Tuti is the gateway to access the Amazon River from the Colca Valley.
Astonishing Colca Canyon Facts You Must Know
With impressive towering cliffs and dramatic dazzling landscapes, you can see the high peaks of various flat valley floors, Andes mountains and towns, and the Inca empire ruins as you take a tour to the Canyon. The indigenous locals from the Inca generation are thriving to keep the ancestral culture and tradition alive by practicing the pre-inca agricultural technique: the step-terraces. So here are some incredible facts from history to the table just for you!
- The Canyon lies between two volcanoes – Coropuna, with a 6377 m elevation, and Ampato, with a 6288 m elevation.
- The Canyon is 100 km from the Tacna international airport and also has access to Lima with direct flights. Keep this in mind if you wish to take a canyon tour.
- History shows records of human existence in the Colca Canyon for more than 12000 years ago!
- There are still archaeological treasures available from the ancient cultures to date, especially the wealth left by the Incas.
- This is the third most popular spot that attracts millions of tourists from across the globe to take a day trek or a canyon hiking to enjoy the beauty and culture of the Canyon.
- Cruz del Condor (Condor’s Cross) is a famous spot, a must-visit spot in the valley to grab a wild view of the Colca Canyon condors gliding with glory and majesty in the air. This is a unique Peruvian experience that no other day trip can offer. Click here to grab some crucial information to spot the condor.
- The Canyon has three segments, namely, the upper, middle, and lower Canyon, where every wall composes of various rocks like sandstone, limestone, and shale.
- Each segment of the Canyon has its own temperature. Hence the Incas used terrace cultivation to harvest different kinds of vegetation across the segments to feed the whole empire!
- Interestingly, most of these terrace cultivations are over 600 years old, and very few have been altered along the hillsides.
- The walls also comprise layered volcanic rocks embellishing the mountains with a distinct red hue. And unlike the vertical walls of the Grand Canyon in Arizona, the Colca Canyon doesn’t possess upright stature.
- It is home to various plants like bromeliads, cacti, pine trees, etc.
- The Canyon’s foundational point lies exactly at Huambo, a region closer to Cabanaconde town.
- Lake Titicaca is a spectacular river in the Colca Canyon and the most acclaimed navigable lake worldwide. You can get a mind-blowing rafting experience by taking a Colca Canyon tour.
- The thermal hot springs are a wonder and tourist attraction in the place formed millions of years ago due to the volcanoes dominating the Andes Mountains. You can find these primarily in the towns of Chivay (the baths of La Calera), Callalli (the baths of the Inca), Caylloma (the baths of Coñeymayo), and Yanque (the baths of Chacapi).
- These hot springs have varying temperatures between 36ºC and 50ºC with medicinal properties to relieve rheumatic and muscular pains.
- The Colca Canyon is home to 25 native species of mammals that are not limited to the Colca cobra, condors, pumas, Andean foxes, mountain lions, spectacled bears, and rodents.
- The endangered wild relatives of the llamas called the Vicuñas are available only here. Textile manufacturers highly seek them for their exceptionally soft hide.
- Alpacas, to are known for their quality wool to make clothing items.
However, these have shorter hair and are smaller in size than llamas.
- The record-breaking wingspan size of the Andean condor, the giant South American bird that reaches up to 10 ft (3 m), is found here.
- Small villages are scattered throughout the region, each with distinct beauty and charm.
- Sustainably the inhabitants have preserved the place to be in harmony with nature. For instance, the animals are fenced with cactus plants to keep them from moving away.
- Trekking is a popular sport here as there are many routes you can choose to begin for different levels. But be sure you are not suffering from altitude sickness if you wish to take the Canyon trek.
- Biking is yet another adventure sport available for bikers of all levels. Just rent one from the local shops to zoom into the mountains.
- Hiking is a must-sport for any Canyon tour package. You can hike day or night to the rock bottom of the Canyon floor.
- Rafting or Kakaying is a thriller adventure along the Colca River. You must get a taste of it with the help of experienced rafters coming with you!
As you can now see, the Colca Canyon is a one-of-a-kind place that every tourist must step on to take a trip while visiting Peru. Whether you wish to bang on the depths of adventure through the activities the place offers or just relax in the hot springs to escape the shores of reality; you can bet to carry home back some timeless memories to relish forever!
So why don’t you allow yourself to get enchanted in this wild yet serene destination?
FAQs for Enthusiastic Tourists
1. How to reach the Colca Canyon?
The easiest way to get there is to fly to Juliaca Airport, just two hours from the Colca Canyon. Also, you can take a day tour driving your car up to the Canyon. However, they might be tedious as they are mostly narrow and winding. So, hiring a driver is best if you wish to visit Colca.
Finally, buses offer a three-hour journey to the Colca Canyon too. For more information, check out here!
2. Which is the right season to land at the Colca Canyon?
Colca Canyon welcomes your arrival all around the year. However, you can find the place in full bloom from March to June as the condors are lively during this period, and the tracks are well maintained. However, during the rainy or wet season, the paths are muddy, but if you are a fan of nature, you get some spectacular lush green views of the Colca Canyon. To know more, click here!
3. What to do in Colca Canyon? Must Stop Places
Adorned with serene beauty and the pinnacle of adventure, these are some places you must do on your visit to the Colca Canyon after Machu Pichu;
- Condor watch at the Cruz del Condor viewpoint.
- Visit the Condor’s Cross
- See the Uyo Uyo Archaeological Site
- Enjoy Oasis Sangalle
- Watch the San Juan Viewpoint
- View Planetarium & Observatory Colca
For more exciting places, check out here!
4. Is travel insurance necessary for the tour?
Yes, it is! And the reason is that the Colca Canyon is extremely remote, and having insurance helps in those just-in-case circumstances. Though unlikely, there’s still a chance of something as simple as tripping over and injuring yourself on trial. So, ensure to get one from a trusted provider and check the activities you will do are covered.
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