The Colca Canyon

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Colca Valley: The Colca Canyon is an awe-inspiring site and the best place in South America to witness giant condors, but the entire area, which Mario Vargas Llosa called the “Valley of Wonders,” is extraordinarily scenic. From snowcapped volcanoes to patchwork valleys of green, narrow gorges, and beautiful desert landscapes, Colca has it all. On the way to Colca Canyon, you pass the Salinas and Aguada Blanca Nature Reserve, where you can glimpse vicuñas, llamas, and alpacas from the road.

Claimed to be the deepest canyon in the world at more than 1km from cliff-edge to river bottom, the COLCA CANYON may be an impressive sight but is actually estimated to be 170m less deep than its more remote rival, the Cotahuasi Canyon. Both of these canyons are among several in the world that claim to be the biggest or deepest on the planet, depending on exactly how you measure them. In places the canyon’s sides are so steep that it is impossible to see the valley bottom, while the higher edges of Colca are punctuated with some of the finest examples of pre-Inca terracing in Peru, attributed in the main to the Huari cultural era. Craggy mountains, huge herds of llamas and traditionally dressed Andean peasants complete the picture.

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Brief History:

The canyon was formed by a massive geological fault between the two enormous volcanoes of Coropuna (6425m) and Ampato (6318m): the Río Colca forms part of a gigantic watershed that empties into the Pacific near Camana. Despite being one of Peru’s most popular tourist attractions, the area’s sharp terraces are still home to more-or-less traditional Indian villages. To the north of Colca, meanwhile, sits the majestic Mismi Nevado, a snow-capped peak that belongs to the Chila mountain range, and which, according to National Geographic, is the official source of the Amazon River; long the subject of argument and speculation, the precise location of the source was finally pinpointed in 2000 by a five-nation National Geographic Society expedition using cutting-edge GPS navigational equipment. The team, headed by 46-year-old maths teacher Andrew Pietowski, identified a spot on Nevado Mismi – a 5597m-high mountain in southern Peru.

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Did you know:

  • The Colca Canyon is deeper than the Grand Canyon!
  • The area surrounding the Canyon is famed for its traditional and colourful towns which you will pass through along the way.
  • In the Canyon you can find over 100 kinds of birds, over 300 types of plants and more than 30 types of cactus.
  • The highest point of the Canyon is Ampato at 6388 meters above sea level. These snow-capped peaks form an impressive backdrop to the canyon.
  • The Andean Condor Bird can weigh up to 12 kg with a wingspan of over 3 metres! The CRUZ DE CONDOR viewpoint is famed as the best place in South America to see the Andean Condor in flight.

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