Hiking The Colca Canyon: The Deepest Canyon in the World Arequipa, Peru

A visit to this region of Peru is worthwhile, and is one of the great places to see. Before visiting the Colca Canyon, we thought there couldn't be another climatic region to Peru, or another type of geography, we were wrong. On the way to Chivay, we were amazed at the variety of temperatures. At 4,800 meters, one expects a temperature comparable to the Antarctic; however, because of their close proximity to the equator, these mountains are left with glaciated fields that cap their peaks and streams from snow melt that feed the green tundra in the valleys.


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Relatives to the Llama, these tame alpacas animals graze at high altitudes. 

The ride up from Arequipa toward the Colca Canyon is quite rewarding.  In the span of 4 hours, one can see enormous mountain tops, native animals, a pass over 14,600 ft,  two glaciers, three volcanoes (one active), and the entrance to The Colca Canyon.

(Above)  Tombs are built into the hill by Pre-Inca civilizations that devoted their spiritual beliefs to the Volcanoes that surrounded them.  The tombs were built into the ground so that the Huari people could be as close as possible to their God.  

(Below)  Tombs that were marked with red paint were people of importance.

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A pet to the mountain people in this village

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Preceding your ride into the Canyon, a discovery of a map of the canyon and tombs are an archeologists delight.

The Canyon is impressive but not for its sheer cliffs.  The Colca Canyon is a canyon of mountains making it truly the deepest canyon in the world.   

The first hike down from the Condor viewing spot will drop 4,000 feet or 1350 meters.  During the day we found this a trying hike because of the desert like temperatures and lack of water.  Bring a lot of extra water in order to be standing at the end of the day.  

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Happy hikers close to the small village of Tipay on the 2nd day.  The villages are incredible, especially for the way they transported materials into the canyon...all by foot and donkey.  

 We found the trail to be full of views and bite size rocks, enough to turn an ankle and blister the toes.

The Canyon begins just outside of Chivay.  The hills in back show how the Pre-Incan civilizations used the terrain to grow crops for their food.  It was also demonstrated that they could make the water from the canyon run up hill to irrigate their crops.  Quite an astonishing accomplishment.

The serene Church that sits as a primary marker for the village of Tipay.  Built in the 1400's.  A great hike on the second day, only adding a few hours to your round trip.

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The view first starting the hike into the canyon.  What makes it impressive are the massive mountains that surround the canyon.  From the far side, the mountains tower above
5,000 meters, from the near side 3,500 meters making descents and ascents quite vertical and challenging.
 

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After Tipay on the second day, pass through a sub-canyon into the Colca Canyon. 
There is a great waterfall which offers spectacular views of the north wall.

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The night sky in the canyon is quite bright.  Above shows the southern cross, which
helped guide travelers in the earlier days.

Feature written and photographed by Phillips, May 2001. All information regarding the Colca Canyon and the history was provided by certified guides from Santa Canta Lina tours. The Rosetta stone of the Colca Canyon has not been scientifically proven, and there are many theories regarding it . Later on in May of 2001, there was a catastrophic earthquake that ripped neighboring towns of Arequipa apart. The earthquake was an 8.1, and the epicenter was 200 kilometers west of Arequipa. The Colca Canyon is an extremely active seismic area and small faults and geological shifts happen here weekly. 

 

GUIDE NOTES AND DIRECTIONS:

The Colca Canyon is a great visit during your trip to Peru. During this time it is possible to see and do many things from mountain biking to rafting, sitting in hot springs, viewing the Condors and seeing history from Pre- Inca times. To organize your trip to the Colca Canyon you can use the highly reputable company: Santa Catalina Tours in Arequipa. Arequipa is a quick flight from Lima or Cusco, but a very long bus ride. They have guides that know the Canyon and would be happy to show you a good adventure. To get in touch with them: Call internationally: (084) 284-292, fax: 216-994 or drop an email to: [email protected] If you arrive to Arequipa, they are just a short walk from the Plaza de Armas, located at: Calle Santa Catalina 219-223.

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