Colca Canyon and Condors, Peru

By Erin Hancock

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Peru is a nation full of different landscapes, different elevations and so much natural beauty. If you head by land from Lima to Machu Picchu then be sure to make a stopover in Colca Canyon (a common tour for those stopping over in Arequipa). If you love the scale of the Grand Canyon, this canyon is over twice as deep!


Be sure to prepare for the altitude. This means taking every opportunity to drink mate de muna (the herbal tea shown above), chewing on coca leaves, eating little, drinking lots of water and taking it easy overall.

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There are tons of opportunities to see the terraces carved into the mountainside. These Inca “steps” were built to create better farming application in the Andes. Different steps were at different elevations, therefore with a different temperature and different sun and rain exposure. This means different crops can grow on different terraces. Smart.

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The canyon is full of birds….as well as ‘entreprenuers’ giving tourists an up-close-and-personal experience with the birds like the above pic of Julia. In the photo above, right you’ll see holes in the canyon wall where some birds build their nests. Great location to stay away from predators.

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The more famous of the canyon birds is the condor. Unfortunately it’s a waiting game to see a condor pass. If you squint, you’ll see them in the distance in the above photos. You’ll recognize the song below that commemorates these national treasures.


And the 1970 version by Simon and Garfunkel is more popular in North America.



And the birds aren’t the only fun creatures to observe in the Colca Valley.

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Llamas, alpacas and vicunas are pretty adorable animals to see up close. And when petting a vicunas, you understand why their wool fetches so much more at market (mas suave).

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After a day of hiking, touring or simply coping with altitude sickness, one can kick back in the hot springs.

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There are many small villages in the valley that while simple, are friendly to tourists. In Chivay, we took in some local music and dance.

My friend Julia was lucky enough to get selected to participate. Great spirit Julia!


Alpaca meat is readily served at most restaurants, but we opted for quinoa soup.

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The town squares are a key part of all of the villages and towns. It’s where people gather, where school children dance together and where vendors pedal their wool products. But much like the rest of the world, no town (no matter how small or remote) would be complete without an Irish pub (above, right photo). That’s right – not an Irish person to be found – but the pub existed. And we certainly made friends and brought the Irish spirit to the pub.


All in all, a couple of great days in the canyon. Most hostels/hotels in Arequipa can arrange a tour or trek to the canyon. Keep the altitude in mind when planning to trek. You’ll feel 30 years older and move a lot slower, so pace yourself.


Beautiful Peru (more posts to come)


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