Colca Canyon

Twice as deep as the Grand Canyon and once thought to be the deepest canyon in the world (until the nearby Cotahuasi Canyon was found to be all of 163 m deeper), the Colca Canyon is an area of astounding beauty. Giant amphitheatres of pre-Inca terracing become narrow, precipitous gorges, and in the background looms the grey, smoking mass of Sabancaya, one of the most active volcanoes in the Americas, and its more docile neighbour, Ampato (6288 m). Unspoiled Andean villages lie on both sides of the canyon, inhabited by the Cabana and Collagua peoples. The Río Colca snakes its way through the length of this massive gorge, 3500 m above sea level at Chivay (the canyon's main town) falling to 2200 m at Cabanaconde, at the far end of the canyon. Now, the Colca Canyon is best known for its associations with some rather large birds. Visitors flock here for a close encounter with the giant Andean condor at the aptly named Cruz del Cóndor and, for many, this is the final destination in the canyon. Rather than hurrying back to Arequipa, continue to Cabanconde, as good a base for exploring as Chivay, with many new options opening up.

Getting there and around

Most buses from Arequipa take the new road via Yura and Cañahuas, following the railway, which is being developed as a route to Cuzco. This is longer, but quicker, than the old route through Cayma. In the rainy season it is better to travel by day as the road can get icy and slippery at night. Buses all leave from the main terminal in Arequipa , or reservations can be made through some of the tourist agencies on Santa Catalina and Jerusalén. Buses and
colectivos
run from Chivay to the villages in the canyon. And, naturally, there are numerous trekking possibilities to consider.

Entry ticket

A fee  is charged for a tourist ticket (usually valid for up to a week) granting entrance to the Cruz del Cóndor, trekking and tourist areas in the Colca and valley of the volcanoes, plus Nevado Mismi and the Aguada Blanca y Salinas reserve. This cost is not included in agency prices and most visitors buy the ticket at a checkpoint before entering Chivay. Keep the ticket with you while in the Colca area.

Best time to visit

January to April is the rainy season, but this makes the area green, with lots of flowers. This is not the best time to see condors. May to December is the dry, cold season when there is more chance of seeing the birds.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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