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Home - Colca Peru

The Colca Canyon

Described by visitors as "spectacular," the Colca Canyon, Peru region is definitely on our list of recommended destinations here at Inside-Peru.

Although once one of the lesser-known tourist destinations in Peru, the Colca Canyon area is rapidly gaining in interest with over 150,000 people visiting it in 2011.

What is Colca Peru? The Colca Canyon?

Carved by the Colca River, the Colca Canyon is the third most-visited travel destination of Peru.

To begin your exploration of the vast and extraordinary natural phenomenona of the Colca Canyon area, you'll need a pass costing about $13.00 USD obtained from Autocolca, the regional tourism agency.

Anyone would be hard-pressed to see all there is to see on their own. So, from rafting and hiking, to birdwatching and archaeology, various Colca Treks and Tours offer the best way to see the Colca Canyon.

For those who want to take several days to appreciate the grandeur of the Colca, hostels and hotels are available.

A Brief Overview of the Colca

The Rio Colca is a river in an area located in the extreme north-east of the Arequipa region, a few hours north of the city of Arequipa, Peru.

As recorded by GPS and stated in National Geographic, The Colca Canyon is twice as deep as the Grand Canyon in the United States.

What is special about the Colca Canyon in Peru?

The Colca Canyon in Peru has a number of attractions.

First of all, it is the most remarkable canyon in the world. At its deepest point, the canyon falls from its rim to its floor for an incredible drop of 13,648 feet (4,160 meters).

 Colca Canyon, Peru Mirador del Condor
Colca Canyon Peru
by Jose Porras

From the "mirador" (lookout) at the Cruz del Condor (Condor Crossing) you can see condors, the world's largest bird, in full flight. The canyon at this point is 3,960 ft (1,200 meters) deep.

Colca Peru Canyon Condor
Peru, a Magnificent Andean Condor Above the Colca Canyon
Nigel Pavitt
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The condors catch the uprising warm drafts along the sides of the canyon, and usually can be easily seen by the visitor in early morning and late afternoon. Watching the condors at the Colca Canyon is becoming a new major tourist attraction in Peru.

During the your visit, you can see interesting natural landscapes as well as, llamas, alpacas, guanacos, vicuna and vizcachas.

Features of Colca Peru: Formation and Geography

This valley developed along a fault line in the earth's crust. Erosion during the course of thousands of years by the longest river in the Peruvian coast then deepened and defined the canyon.

The Colca River itself is more than 200 kilometers (124) miles long, about 65 kilometers of its length are within the Canyon. The only way to see the full length of the canyon is by raft or kayak. The combination of rapids and remoteness are part of what many consider one of the best river trips in the Western Hemisphere.

The highest ridges are up the permafrost region of the high Andes mountains.

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Peru, Llamas in the Bleak Altiplano of the High Andes Near Colca Canyon
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The valley floor thousands of feet below is much more temperate.

 Colca Canyon, Peru
Colca Canyon Peru
by Veronique Debord

There are 14 villages spread along the course of the river valley. These towns are full of life and color.

Culture and Customs

Don't limit yourself to the unique wonders of the Colca Canyon itself. Check out the indigenous population.

Colca Canyon Yanque woman Peru
Peru, a Collaya Women at the Main Square of Yanque, a Village in the Colca Canyon
Nigel Pavitt
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Descended from the ancient Collahua and Cabana peoples, the current inhabitants retain many of the old traditions - unique clothing, dances, legends, and customs.

Built on the sites of the older pueblos, the current villages were established during the Colonial Period. The architecture reflects this period.

Canyon Colca Peru Yanque Church
Peru, C18th Church in the Main Square of Yanque, a Small Rural Village in the Colca Canyon
Nigel Pavitt
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Near the head of the Colca Peru river canyon, pre-Inca terraces are still in use for agriculture.

Additional Activities

In addition to the animals mentioned above, there are more than 100 species of birds and 300 species of plants in the Colca Canyon, some 32 of which are of the cactus family.

 Colca Canyon, Peru
Colca Peru Canyon plant life

The many facets of the Colca Peru area make this region ideal for hiking, trekking, canoeing, climbing, and cycling as well as bird watching and photography.

Recommended Hotel:

Las Casitas del Colca Canyon Hotel TripAdvisor Las Casitas del Colca Hotel- TripAdvisor
Ranked #1 of 4 hotels in Yanque5.0 of 5 stars - 117 Reviews -  Travelers' Choice® 2012 Winner
"...this is truly an amazing hotel located in the most beautiful landscape I have ever seen. I loved the service, the entire staff and the food was delicious. Their attention to detail is what you would expect from Orient Express..." ~ more reviews...

More Hotels and Tours

See Inside-Peru Specials - Colca Canyon Hostels and Hotels!

For Tours, check out recommended Colca Treks.

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