For many travelers, visiting the Colca Canyon is one of their main goals while traveling to Peru. This natural wonder is considered one of the deepest canyons of the world since it comprises a depth that surpasses the 4,000 meters of elevation and an awe-inspiring natural wonder.
If you’re looking to travel to southern Peru, then you must include the Arequipa region to your trip itinerary. Besides the astonishing historical monuments within Arequipa’s old town, the city is surrounded by flourishing nature and imposing volcanoes that add a special touch to its scenery.
On the other hand, the Colca Canyon is surely one of the most impressive natural wonders of the region, especially because it’s home to the third-largest bird of the world, the Andean Condor. Likewise, it holds an extensive cultural heritage which you can experience in the beautiful town of Chivay.
As you may already know, there are different ways to get to the Colca Canyon. Here we have gathered some of the most popular and probably the best way to experience this outstanding destination in Arequipa.
Ranging from day trips and treks for the most adventurous, there are alternatives for everyone though we have to mention that the altitude is certainly a factor that you shouldn’t overlook. Luckily for you, we have also added a section with tips and recommendations for your experience!
What’s There to See?
The Colca Canyon offers the perfect setting to practice adventure sports and connect with nature in a whole other way. Besides, the route to this beautiful spot is complemented by towering mountains, small villages, pre-Inca agricultural terraces and an impressive Andean landscape.
Either you’re taking a day trip, a trek or a two-day tour to the Colca Canyon, you’ll surely be captivated by its surroundings. Here are three of the most sought after attractions of Colca Canyon:
Cruz del Condor Viewpoint
This natural viewpoint is located in the highest peak of the canyon, offering an outstanding view of the Colca Valley and, especially of the majestic Andean Condor, the third-largest bird in the world.
The Andean Condor is 3 meters long and barely flaps its wings to fly since it uses the hot air currents to glide, a smooth flight worth watching. Therefore, to experience this beautiful spectacle, you must visit the Cruz del Condor Viewpoint between 9:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m.
This small town is the starting point for all Colca Canyon visitors. It is located at 3,651 meters above sea level, situated on the banks of the Colca river. This beautiful town is recognized for its cultural expression where most of its inhabitants have maintained their ancient traditions nearly untouched.
From this location, you can glance at the outstanding scenery of the region, composed of the exuberant nature of the colca valley, crop lands, and ancient agricultural terraces.
Whether you’re just spending the day in the Colca Valley or staying for a couple days, a bath in these thermal springs can be as comforting as a mother’s hug. The nearest thermal springs are located 3 kilometers away from the town of chivay.
Here you can choose for indoor or outdoor pools with views to the authentic natural landscape of the region. The water temperature can reach up to 38°C and are believed to have curative properties.
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But.. What’s the Best Way to Get to Colca Canyon?
That would be entirely up to you, the type of experience you’d like to have and, above all, your available time. Whether you choose a day trip or a multiple-day hike, you’ll be able to experience a bit more of our cultural heritage and nature itself.
Keep in mind that if you want to do this on your own, it’ll be a bit challenging, especially if you don’t speak Spanish. As you already know, the Colca Canyon is located in the Arequipa region though not so close from the city.
It takes about 3 to 4 hours to get there from the so-called White City and if you want to do the trek on your own, you’ll have to depart very early from there so you can complete the 4-hour hike. However, we do not recommend this option since the trail can be quite difficult and you might need assistance from a professional guide.
Having said that, every Colca Canyon Trek starts and ends in Cabanaconde, you can either take the 2-day trek or a more comfortable 3-day alternative. It is worth noting that both pass by the same attractions and follow the same route, the only difference is that the trail won’t be as challenging since you’ll have more time to rest.
Regarding the Colca Canyon day trip, this is the easiest way to visit this natural masterpiece since it will allow you to save time and enjoy a bit more of the region. Most full day tours to the canyon start at 3 a.m. so you can have the chance of experiencing the Andean condor’s flight and explore the picturesque Chivay town.
In case you’re looking for a more intimate and less extraneous alternative to get to this natural wonder, then the Colca Canyon 2-day tour is for you. This option will allow you to experience some of the most visually striking landscapes on the route, while also getting to stay in Chivay before exploring the Colca Canyon.
And in case you didn’t know, you can combine this last itinerary with a shuttle to Puno, making it the perfect alternative for those looking to continue their trip to southern Peru.
As you can see, there’s a bit for every traveler! Either you’re short in time, are feeling a bit adventurous or would like to experience everything calmly and intimately – the Colca Canyon has everything for you.
Altitude Sickness: How to Prevent and Deal with It
As we mentioned above, the Colca Canyon’s altitude varies at some points reaching over 4,000 meters above sea level. Something that shouldn’t be ignored since altitude sickness is very common in this part of the country.
Therefore, some travelers may experience dizziness, tiredness, shortness of breath and headaches upon arrival to these high-altitude places, those are the most common symptoms of this condition. For that reason, we highly recommend taking some time in Arequipa so you can get used to the altitude before committing to this adventure.
- Keep yourself hydrated
The water will be your best ally to fight and prevent this condition, so make sure to drink enough liquid throughout your stay. Higher altitudes are associated with dehydration as a result of dryer air and more rapid breathing, causing a greater loss of bodily fluids.
- Avoid alcohol and smoking at all costs
Yes, we know this is hard and even worse if you’re on vacation but trust us, it’s best to wait at least 48 hours before drinking alcohol or smoking. These could worsen dehydration and shortness of breath if ingested on your first days in Arequipa.
- Drink Coca tea or chew Coca leaves
The Coca plant is a medicinal herb used since pre-Columbian times. It is known for helping to ease any altitude sickness symptoms and improving acclimatization. You can either drink tea or just chew on the leaves.
- Eat a light but high-calorie diet
Higher altitudes increase our need for fuel, which is why it is best to have a calorie-based diet. Make sure to eat healthy snacks including lots of whole grains in your meals.
- Take it easy
The key to everything in life! Don’t rush yourself, take the necessary time to get used to the altitude and don’t do any physically demanding activities during your first days. In the meantime, you can take a tour through Arequipa’s old town or take the Sillar Route.
If you’re wondering if there are any medicines that can help you with the altitude sickness symptoms, you could buy Diamox or Soroche Pills from any drugstore in Peru. However, we recommend consulting with a doctor first before taking any of these medications.
Peru is undoubtedly one of the perfect travel destinations in South America and we’d love to show you everything about it. In case you’re planning a trip to our country, check these travel packages and live an authentic experience with Viagens Machu Picchu.