Colca Canyon is extremly deep. Walls of the Grand Canyon in Arizona are half as tall. We were staying in a nearby city – Arequipa and we decided to visit the Canyon during a one-day trip. As a part of a itinerary, we were going to see the Colca Canyon from the viewing platform with a chance of spotting some magnificent Andean Condors. These birds can measure more than 2 meters! You can also do some trekking in the area. There is a variety of multi-day trails that can take you all the way to the bottom of the canyon. Unfortunately, we did not have enough time to do this, so a one-day trip by bus was the way to go.
The region’s capital
Arequipa welcomed us with the warm weather and the gentle sun. The city was very charming. It was built from the local, white, volcanic rock which gave it an unique look. At the main square – Plaza de Armas you can see the volcanic peaks towering behind the cathedral. Some of them are as tall as 6000 masl. Local agencies offer adventurous trips to the summits. As we were walking around the main square, we found some stairs that took us to the second floor, where we could marvel at the neighbourhood from the balcony. Not far from there, you can find a market which is buzzling with local crafts, food and flavours. We really liked a poatato snack from a stall just outside of the main entrance. They reminded us of a famous polish dish called “pierogi”. We just loved it!
Trip to the Canyon
At 3:00 am sharp, the bus picked us up from our hostel and we headed to the Colca Valley. We both had a nap, but had some trouble breathing deeply in the meanwhile. It turned out we were passing through the altitude of 4950 masl. We finally arrived to the breakfast spot where we had a very basic meal: a loaf of bread with jam and a coca tea. The herbal drink woke us right up and we were ready to explore the area.
The Andean Condors
The route from Arequipa to the famous lookout – Mirador del Condor took around 4 hours. We started from the second viewpoint, a bit further down the road which was not so crowded and much more tranquil. We could see the Colca Canyon in its full glory. It was amazing but were still under the spell the Grand Canyon had put on us. The trip to Arizona was a dream that came true and the Colca Canyon was “only” a worthwhile stop. We got back to the popular Mirador del Condor where we had 30 minutes for Condor spotting. It is most likely to see them in the morning between 7:00 and 9:00 am. We were lucky enought to spot 2 of these magnificent birds. Even from a bit away, they were huge! They take adventage of the warm air flows to rise far above the valley. From the top they are looking for their next meal.
Symbolism of condors
For the people of Peru, Condor is a very important bird. In the Inca times it was a symbol of the realm of gods and one, out of the three in total, most respected animals. The other two were puma, which symbolised the realm of man and the snake representing the underworld.
Later on, we stopped by some other viewing platforms. From there, we could see the picturesque landscape with some rural terraces built all over the Colca Valley. Some of them were created even before the Inca Empire expanded up to this area. The view reminded us a bit of the rice terraces that we saw during our trip to Bali.
The next stop on our trip was a small town with a neat, white church in the middle. There were plenty of stalls with souvenirs and even lamas and alpacas dressed up for the pictures. We could try some local cactus fruit that was turned into ice cream and drinks. It looked like kiwi but was very, VERY sour. After that, we headed for the hot springs. The water temperature was between 20 and 40 Celcius. The pools were quite small though, we had much better hot spring experience during our Salkantay Trek, near Cusco.
Luch was 30 soles per person. We prepared some food ourselves for the whole day beforehand, so instead of wasting time at the restaurant, we went to explore the neighbourhood. We made it to the main square where we found ice cream for 1 sol (0,3$) and since it was really hot, the snack cheered us up!
The journey back
Then, we headed back to Arequipa. On the way, we stopped to marvel at the volcanoes. One of them was active and emitted a huge cloud of dust. The final stop was a spacious, green meadow, where we met some friendly lamas and alpacas.
The trip cost us 40 soles each. Some of the people on the bus paid more than us, like 60 soles, so it is worth to haggle a bit. Breakfast, English speaking guide and transport were included. The entry to the Colca Valley is a mandatory, extra fee of 70 soles for everybody who is from outside of Latin America.