ALL ABOUT THE COLCA CANYON

COLCA CANYON 33

The Colca Canyon is an amazing geological formation created by erosion from the Colca River over thousands of years in which the abrasive affect of the water that flows through the mountains carved the rock and gradually turned into one of the deepest natural canyons on the planet.

COLCA CANYON 07

The Colca Canyon is located in the north-eastern side of Arequipa, about 4 hours north of the city of Arequipa. This canyon reaches depths of 4160 meters and is more than 120 kilometers long.

DEPTH OF THE CANYON

In 2005 an expedition led by the Polish researcher Andrew Pietowski performed several measurements using modern high-precision devices, including a “Global Positioning System” (GPS), obtaining accurate data on the height of this natural wonder. And it was on the 24th of August, 2005, in the city of Arequipa, during a press conference, that they revealed that in region of Canco of the district of Huambo the profundity of the Colca Canyon reached 4160m on the north side and 3600 m on the south side. This makes the Colca Canyon the deepest Canyon in the world and approximately twice as deep as the Grand Canyon.

Sin título-6
Canco – From the Book “The Conquest Of Rio Colca, The World’s Deepest Canyon” by Jerzy “Yurek” Majcherczyk

CANCO: THE DEEPEST PART OF THE CANYON

Canco is a small valley that is located between the crosses of the Colca and Huambo rivers. Due it is high location (1820 m.) the weather is nice and there are a variety of subtropical fruits and crops that grow there. The green areas of canco are mostly pastures as well as plantations of bananas, corn and tiny orange trees. It is common to see plowed fields, where potatoes and grains are planted. You can see several condors flying around this area.

The conquest of rio colca -
Canco – From the Book “The Conquest Of Rio Colca, The World’s Deepest Canyon” by Jerzy “Yurek” Majcherczyk

On the right side, it is flanked by the Chila Mountain Range (Bomboya, Serpregrina, Mismi, Queshihua) and on the other by Mounts Hualca Hualca, Sabancaya, and Ampato. At the distance you can observe Mount Ubinas and the beautiful Mount Coropuna.

GEOGRAPHY OF THE CANYON

Known popularly as “The Kingdom of the Condor” and designated as the “Valley of Marvels” by the Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa, this natural tourist attraction was recognized as one of the seven wonders of Peru, through a nationwide internet vote organized by the Peruvian newspaper “El Comercio” in 2008 and is currently applying to be chosen as one of the seven natural wonders of the world. The stunning scenery, history, biodiversity and culture that surrounds the valley of the Colca Canyon makes it a major tourist resort.

COLCA CANYON 04

The Colca River originates in the Andes, in the high Condorama Cruise and descends to the town of Chivay located at 3600m where the famous canyon starts. Passing through the old river town of Maca, the flow of the river increases dramatically and spills into the depth of the valley. It is here that the Colca Canyon actually starts, reaching a greater depth at the Cruz del Condor viewpoint. It then flows down about 40 km and converges with the river Andamayo, marking the end of the canyon and the beginning of the Majes valley before flowing into the Pacific Ocean it becomes the river Camana. Thus the river is given three different names as it passes through these different territories, Colca, in the hills; Majes in the middle, and Camana in the coastal desert.

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This canyon is part of the Volcanic chain of the western Andes, where there are spectacular views of the combination of mountains and volcanoes, such as Hualca Hualca, Ampato and Sabancaya that is still active.

solimana y coropuna
SOLIMANA AND COROPUNA

The valley that goes by the same name as the canyon begins in the surroundings of Chivay, the main town of the area, continuing in a north-westerly direction for more than 60km to the area known as La Cruz del Condor in the town of Cabanaconde.

VOLCANOS AND MOUNTAINS.

Peru is especially characterized by the presence of the Andes, making the Colca Canyon part of the Andes Volcanic Western Mountainrange which are made up of mount with over 6000 meters of height, and impressive volcanoes such as Hualca Hualca, Ampato and Sabancaya.  This impressive canyon is located on the right side of the Chila Mountain Range formed by glaciers Bomboya, Serpregina, Mismi, Queshihua, and on the other side by volcanoes that are part of the Ampato Mountainrange.

Sabancaya is a stratovolcano and is the youngest active volcano in the Andes, it is 5980 m high and consists of three volcanoes: the Sabancaya the Ampato volcano (6.288m) and Hualca Hualca (6025m).

AmpatoSabancaya
AMPATO AND SABANCAYA

Ampato, is known to be the final resting place of the Juanita Mummy, an inca mummy with surprisingly conserved. Ampato means “frog” in quechua, referring to the form of the volcano seen from surrounding areas. This volcano belongs to the Volcanic mountain chain also known as Ampato Mountain Chain. The ancient inhabitants worshiped this mountain with offerings because they consider it as an apu, or divinity. One of the offerings was the Lady of Ampato or Juanita Mummy, a girl of 12 – 14 years old who was chosen and immersed in a religious ritual in which she was killed and given to the APU as an offering with the belief that this would improve their agriculture and farm animal production.

Volcan Ampato
AMPATO

At a distance you are able to observe two mountains accompanying the deepest canyon in America, Coropuna 6305m above sea level, the highest in Arequipa and a Solimana 6323m.

VOLCANOS AND NEVADOS OF THE COLCA CANYON

NAME

HIGHT

(METERS)

TYPE

Ananta

5 240

Volcano or nevado.
Huarancante

5 400

Volcano or nevado.
Ampato

6 288

Volcano or nevado.
Sabancaya

5 976

Volcano.
Hualcahualca

6 025

Volcano or nevado.
Lipacoy

5 150

Volcano or nevado.
Quehuisha

5 100

Volcano or nevado.
Culluncuya

5 400

Volcano or nevado.
Sepregina

5 432

Volcano or nevado.
Mismi

5 000

Volcano or nevado.

GLACIERS OF THE COLCA CANYON

NAME

HIGHT

(METERS)

TYPE

Pumachiri

5 050

Glacier
Huillacayo

5 200

Glacier
Choquecoras

5 200

Glacier
Ajo colluna

5 255

Glacier
Colquere

5 100

Glacier
Chayco

5 198

Glacier
Ccaccahuasa

5 300

Glacier
Cutiti

5 200

Glacier
Tatunpila

5 300

Glacier
Teclla

5 360

Glacier
Cacsata

5 400

Glacier
Surihuire

5 556

Glacier
Minaspata

5 500

Glacier
Parhuayane

5 250

Glacier
Sahualke

5 300

Glacier
Tuyumina

5 380

Glacier
Llimayoc

5 250

Glacier
Sillane

5 200

Glacier
Bomboya

5 200

Glacier
Huillaccocha

5 332

Glacier

HOT SPRINGS IN THE COLCA CANYON

An additional main feature of the Colca Valley is the presence of hot springs, found from the villages of Caylloma to Canco. Outbursts of hot springs with recognized medicinal properties of importance in the Colca Canyon are located in some of the villages of this canyon.

hot springs la calera
HOT SPRINGS LA CALERA

La Calera, that is located in Chivay, has several hot spring pools with high contents of sulfur and iron, which flow from the interior of the hills at a temperature of 80 º C, and are combined with cold water in a pool reaching 35 º C, a temperature suitable for a relaxing bath and helpful for the treatment of ailments such as rheumatism and arthritis. It’s located  approximately 5 minutes from the city.

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On the other hand, the thermal baths of Llahuar are located in the town that bears the same name which can be reached by a 3 hour walk from the district of Cabanaconde. People can enjoy and relax in hot springs that have temperatures of 35 to 48 degrees.

HOT SPRINGS OF THE COLCA CANYON

DISTRICT NAME
Chivay La Calera
Callalli “Baños Termales del Inca” (Inca Hot Springs)
Caylloma Pusa Pusa
Coporaque Salliwua
San Antonio de Chuca Chuca – Colca Huallata
Sibayo Sibayo
Yanque Chacapi

ROCK FORMATIONS
Rock formations are also common in the surrounding area of the Colca canyon; these rocks are isolated and stick out of the landscape and are caused by volcanic explosions or erosion from both wind and water.

ROCK FORMATIONS 03

It is also common to see stone walls, columns and caves which have various forms. In some of the caves there are traces of past cultures, human remains, metal objects, pottery, fossils and  petroglyphs.

ROCK FORMATIONS 02

The famous “Window of the Colca is a geological formation located at 4 300 m, that through erosion by wind and rain, has taken the form of a window and is considered as a natural viewpoint, where you can clearly see the road of entry into the valley, the confluence of the rivers Colca and Pulpera, and also in very early hours of the day, you can see mist covering the Colca valley.

ventana

The Callalli enchanted castles is a famous viewpoint, located at 3850 meters above sea level, it’s a group of geological formations of volcanic lava created by the erosion of wind and rain which have the form of a large feudal castles. They are located near the village of Callalli and each region has its own name as Saya Saya, Pucara and Q’elq’ata; these rocks look like  many forms of animals such as frogs, snakes, guinea pigs, llamas and camels. It is advisable to visit this natural wonder in the afternoon as the coloring on the rocks creates a beautiful landscape.

callalli

callalli 2

callalli

ROCK FORMATIONS OF THE COLCA CANYON

DISTRICT NAME
Callalli Enchanted Castles
Huanca El Lagarto Dormido – Valle de las Torres encantadas
Lluta Valle de los Enigmas
Madrigal Sombreruni – Runa Runa
Pinchollo Huacaccasa
Sibayo Catahui
San Antonio de Chuca Mauka Arequipa (Imata)
Tapay Incas
Tisco Torres de Choqolaqa
Tuti Oquedales o Colcas de Pumunuta
Yanque Ventana del Colca

WATERFALLS

This future natural wonder of the world also has several waterfalls located in different parts of the canyon. One such place worthy of mention is Huaruro, located near the town of Cabanaconde, with a waterfall of over 60 meters. You can get to this beautiful place by walking an hour and a half from the community of Fure.

HUARURO WATERFALLS

HUARURO WATERFALLS 03

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catarata-huaruro

Besides Huaruro, the Colca Canyon has a special place called Agualihua, located 3 hours walking distance from Cabanaconde in which there are numerous small waterfalls or water wells, it is said that condors take their baths here.

GEYSERS

The product of volcanic activity in the surrounding areas of the Colca Canyon, geysers and fumaroles occur, this is a strange phenomenon and only exists in some parts of the world because it requires a special hydrogeology. There are about 1000 geysers around the globe and most of them are located in the Yellowstone National Park of the United States.

Geyser 02

One of the most important geysers of the canyon is known as “Infiernillo,” or “Devil’s Shower,” located at the foot of Mount Hualca Hualca at 4250 m and at a distance of 8km. from the Pinchollo village. Here we can see small volcanoes that eject steam of hot water, with craters of all sizes, the largest with a diameter of up to 60cm and smaller geysers where you can cook eggs in less than 10 minutes.

Geyser

There are also other geysers located in the Colca Canyon such as Shihui at 4.850 meters, where you can see a crater of water vapor that has the form of a volcano and Fuye at 4,600 m.  All the geysers emit steam and water that boils at 80 º C.

INHABITANTS OF THE COLCA CANYON

It is said that in this region two ethnic groups have managed to live since ancient times: The Collaguas and Cabanas. They managed to dominate the nature of the region and its complex geography by developing terraced fields through an admirable farming system that are still in use and amaze everyone lucky enough to see them.

INHABITANTS 05

Currently in this area, there are 16 villages who are descendants of the Collaguas and Cabanas, who have inherited a rich cultural tradition. These districts are: Sibayo, Callalli, Tuti, Canocota (Annex of Chivay), Chivay, Coporaque, Yanque, Ichupampa, Achoma, Lari, Maca, Madrigal, Cabanaconde, Pinchollo (Annex of Cabanaconde), Tapay and Huambo.

INHABITANTS 02

8.000 hectares of pre-Inca irrigated terraced fields built more than 1.400 years ago and thanks to the fertility of the land in this region remain to this day allowing for the sowing and harvesting of many varied products such as potatoes, 32 varieties of corn, 12 varieties of beans and 54 of quinua.

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In the villages of the Colca Valley you can see some of the most beautiful and ancient churches in the country, adorned with murals and valuable paintings from the colonial era. Some churches were built on the arrival of the Spanish and have Renaissance style influence of the era. Others however are characterized by the Baroque style between the years 1640 and 1700. The most astonishing churches of the the Colca Valley are in Lari, Yanque, Cabanaconde and Sibayo. Many of the houses in the valley are still built of stone with thatched roofs of “ichu” which is a type of straw that grows in the hills of the canyon. Women in communities usually wear traditional dress: long skirts and jackets with colorful embroidery and hats with ribbons.

CULTURE 05

church

FLORA AND FAUNA

The Colca Canyon is synonymous with biodiversity, with a flora composed of about 300 species used for medicinal reasons, as fuel, in dyeing, and nutritious grasses for domesticated and wild animals. Wildlife is just as varied as the flora, including 32 species of mammals, 5 of carnivores like the puma, more than 130 species of birds, reptiles and rodents, but some of these species are in danger of becoming extinct according to the ministry of agriculture, and conservation projects and activities are urgently needed.

FLORA

FLORA 02

A species considered as representative of the Andes is the majestic Condor(Vultur gryphus), known as the king of birds, it is here in this deep canyon where this scavenger bird is flourishes given the ideal conditions it finds.

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The Andean condor lives in South America at the highest Andean mountains, distributed along the Andes from Venezuela and Colombia to Tierra del Fuego. It can fly over 7000 m high and plan for hours without moving their wings. It is characterized by being a sedentary and monogamous bird. Its habitat is mainly composed of open grasslands and alpine areas up to 5,000 m in elevation. It prefers relatively open, non-forested areas which allow it to spot carrion from the air. Known as the largest flying bird on the planet, the Andean condor is a bird of great importance for the Andean countries, symbolizing greatness, strength and freedom. The Colca Canyon is one of the worldwide recognized sites as the condor habitat where you can observe the flight of this magnificent bird.

AndeanCondor-head

The Colca Canyon is the natural habitat for different species of flora and fauna, from the majestic Andean condor, the puma, giant hummingbird, white-tailed deer, foxes, vizcacha, wild cats and birds of all shapes and sizes, therefore the importance of conserving the ecosystems that keep alive the variety of animals and plants that this canyon has, is a primary goal in keeping this place a true natural wonder.

Vizcacha 01
Viscachas

vicuna 02
Vicuña

Giant hummingbird 02
Giant Hummingbird

ALPACAS
CAMELIDS 02
Alpacas

WEATHER

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The presence of the Andes mountain range, ocean currents, air mass movements and other factors influence the presence of a variety of climates, although in general there is cold weather, sunny days and cold nights.

The weather in the Colca Valley is typical of the high Andean zones, dry and mild, with temperatures generally cold, especially in winter time from June to September where they drop below zero at night and during the day it is sunny with temperatures of between 15-20 ° C.

The rainy season is concentrated during the summer. Between 60 and 75% of the precipitation is concentrated in the months of January to March while the dry periods are between June and July. During the rainy season, from late November until March, there are no sudden changes in temperature which ranges between 5 ° and 10 ° C.

TOURIST ATTRACTION

The Colca area is exceptionally good for adventure sports such as trekking, rafting, climbing, mountain biking, camping, and hiking, among others. To go down to the river and canyon, there are some trails favourable for walking that are connected to some of the small villages that exist along the canyon like Tapay, Cosñirhua, Malata.

TREKKING
Trekking in the Colca Canyon

The conquest of rio colca -
The Conquest of Rio Colca, The World’s Deepest Canyon” By Jerzy “Yurek” Majcherczyk

A trip or tour to the Colca Canyon is extremely interesting, with a minimum recommended time to visit of 2 or 3 days. Visiting is recommended not only because of the beautiful landscape but also because it presents evidence of the dominance of ancient Peruvians agriculture, beautiful snow-capped mountains, inactive volcanoes, impressive terraces of pre-Inca origin and an imposing canyon of dangerous beauty worthy of the title of World’s Natural Wonder.

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