The Colca Canyon in Arequipa The Colca Canyon in Arequipa

The Colca Canyon in Arequipa, Peru: Fun ways to Explore and Kickstart your Wanderlust!

A leap over the Grand Canyon: there’s a more fantastic canyon that’s sure to impress you. Guess what? Well, I’m talking about the Colca Canyon in Arequipa, towering in Peru. It’s one of the world’s second-deepest canyons measuring around 3,400m deep- two times deeper than the Grand Canyon.

I’m so excited to tell you about this destination for various reasons. 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, continue reading. As I’m going to unleash the secrets of the Colca Canyon in Arequipa.

Located in Southern Peru of the Colca River, the Colca Canyon occupies over 160 kilometers in the 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. 

You must be wondering about what’s so special about this spot. So, I would say, you won’t get so many interesting activities to do at a single spot. 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 make the Canyon famous for those venturing out to get some real adventure!

The Colca Canyon in Arequipa
By Wim Van den Brande/Pexels

Let Me Take You Backwards into Its History

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. A 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.

The Colca Canyon in Arequipa
By Byelikova/Depositphotos

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. 

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. 

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. 

The Colca Canyon in Arequipa
By vitmarkov/Depositphotos

Later in the 1970s, the 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.

So, Now I’ll Tell You the Astonishing Colca Canyon Facts You Must Know

The Colca Canyon in Arequipa
By mickeym/Depositphotos

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!

Astonishing Colca Canyon Facts You Must Know

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.

The Colca Canyon in Arequipa
By mickeym/Depositphotos

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 Colca Canyon in Arequipa
  • 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 Colca Canyon in Arequipa
By DonyaNedomam/Depositphotos.

The Flora

  1. The Canyon has three segments, namely, the upper, middle, and lower Canyon, where every wall is composed of various rocks like sandstone, limestone, and shale.
  2. 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. Unlike the vertical walls of the Grand Canyon in Arizona, the Colca Canyon doesn’t possess an upright stature. It is home to various plants like bromeliads, cacti, pine trees, etc.

The Colca Canyon in Arequipa
By shinylion/Depositphotos

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.

I strongly recommend experiencing the thermal hot springs. Believe me, these 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.

Wow! So much to enjoy there. Isn’t this amazing

The Colca Canyon in Arequipa
By nmessana/Depositphotos

The Fauna

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, 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.
    The Colca Canyon in Arequipa
    By sunsinger/Depositphotos

    The Community

    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. 

      • 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!
      • 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.
      Explore the Colca Canyon in Arequipa, peru

      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; I can bet you 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?

      Last Updated on May 21, 2024 by Pragya


      1. I was captivated by the article’s exploration of the Colca Canyon in Arequipa, Peru. Discovering that it’s twice as deep as the Grand Canyon and offers a physically challenging adventure with diverse landscapes was truly fascinating. The prospect of reaching the oasis at the canyon’s heart and witnessing the majestic condors soaring above adds an enticing layer to the experience. Whether you’re an adventure enthusiast or a nature lover, delving into the secrets of the Colca Canyon is a must-read – step into the breathtaking world of Peru’s natural wonders!

      2. The Colca Canyon in Arequipa, Peru, is an extraordinary destination with its stunning depth of around 3,400 meters, making it twice as deep as the Grand Canyon. This colossal fissure offers adventurous hiking opportunities, allowing you to explore diverse landscapes and reach the heart of the canyon, where an oasis awaits.

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