Andes Overland

The majestic Colca Canyon

When someone says Grand Canyon, everybody knows where that person is talking about.
Probably not everyone will know its precise location, but “in America” will do. When I say Colca Canyon my guess is that not even half of those people can tell me where it’s situated. Can you?

The Colca Canyon, the world’s second deepest canyon and for those who wonder, the Grand Canyon is not the deepest one. In fact the Colca Canyon is nearly twice as deep as the Grand Canyon but stays behind in popularity. Measuring 3400 meters deep, the Colca Canyon is the result of a seismic fault between two volcanoes. The depth is unfathomable. You stand on the edge of the Colca Canyon and see the Rio Colca river flowing beneath you, cut deep into beds of mainly volcanic rock.

In the South of Peru, about 160km of the white city of Arequipa is where you will find the impressive Colca Canyon. Chivay is the main village of the Colca Canyon, where tourist facilities blend with centuries old tradition. Here you will get your first glimpse of the of Colca’s manmade terraced fields stacked up like gigantic staircases on the steep canyon slopes.

The name Colca descended from the qolqas (colcas) which you can find throughout the valley. The mud and stone granaries are built into cliffs or caves and used by the Inca and pre-Inca’s to store food for hard times and ideal to “refrigerate” crops or seeds. The colcas were also used as tombs for important people.

For centuries, the Colca Canyon was hidden behind a pass of almost 5000 meters high. It therefore seems as if the time has stood still. Nowadays, the locals still live according to the traditional way of life. Beautiful aspects are the farming terraces which are centuries old, the traditional clothing of especially the women and the primitive way of farming.

The highlight is the Cruz del Condor. The condor nests in the steep cliff-faces around the Cruz del Condor, and lays one or two eggs a year, which are approximately 11cm long. Condors have been known to live to 50 years old. The condor can weigh up to 12kg and its wingspan is often in excess of three meters. Early in the mornings and late in the afternoon you will find condors hovering gracefully above the Canyon. The mountains, normally covered in snow, will form a spectacular backdrop for the condors.

Overall, the Colca Canyon is definitely worth a visit and cannot be forgotten during a trip to the beautiful country of Peru!

We hope to see you soon!