The Colca Canyon and its surrounding area is a place of great beauty. You will get to see the surrounding Andean topography at its best from here. A journey to the wilderness of Colca will take you through high mountain passes in the Andean region, some of which are as high as 4800 meters, at others you will view the Volcanoes of Arequ, and pass by little sleepy villages. Herds of Vicuñas are quite common on the road to Colca. This natural rocky region offers great opportunities for trekkers and hikers. The Colca Canyon is of the Colca River located in Southern Peru. If you are thinking if its deeper than the Grand Canyon then you have hits the bulls eye. It is in reality twice as deep as the Grand Canyon. The Andean valley adjoining the Colca is quite colorful and inhabited by the natives – Collaguas and Cabanas.
Colca Canyon is on the Colca River which starts in the high Andes at Condorama Crucero Alto. It is known as Majes,and Camana in different areas before it drains in the
Pacific Ocean. You can see that parts of the Canyon shows settlement of the natives who still cut out Inca and Pre Inca terraces for cultivation. The small hamlet of Chivay is on the upper reaches of the Canyon. The depth of the Canyon increases as it descends downward and just 15 miles from the lower points is the starting of the Nevado Ampato which is a snow clad extinct volcano. The fantastic scene, along with the trekking and hiking opportunities in the Canyon and the endemic wildlife gives its place its distinctive flavor. Also the nearby town of Arequipa in the mountain is worth visiting.
The Colca Canyon is inhabited since prehistoric times. Archeologists have also found out stone arrowheads and tools belonging to the stone age. During the pre Inca period the the natives here carved out terraces for farming. These terraces are still used by the Collagua and Cabana people for cultivation. The locals here consider the place sacred. Discovery of the mummy of Juanita from one of the caves of the Canyon also throws light on the socio cultural aspect of the people staying here.
Wildlife in Colca Canyon
Andean Condors are quite common in this region. Other than this you can see about 100 different species of birds here. The rare vicuña can be seen grazing the pastoral lands here. They ere saved from extinction and this region is one of their breeding grounds.
There are many small villages in and round Colca that is an important part of its tourism. The churches around Cabanaconde, Lari and Sibayo are a must see. The rural scene of thatched roofs, women in traditional dress, and the daily chores of the natives will enthrall you. Usually you can enter the Canyon from the town of Arequipa. This is one of the most scenic cities in Peru.The town is located at an altitude of 2325 metres. It was discovered by the Spaniards way back in 1540 when this area was a colony of Spain. It is surrounded by high snow clad mountains and volcanoes. Amazing plazas, colonial buildings and a huge cathedral give the town a completely picturesque setting. From here you can travel to Chivay and then to Colca Canyon after acclimatizing.
While you are making your way to the Canyon, a quick stop at at Cruz del Condor where Condors thrive is a must. Another possible stop in the journey can be taken in the La Calera hot springs and the Toro Muerto cemetery of the Wari Indians. Some travelers rafts in the Colca river to see the Canyon in all its majestic splendor.