Everything you need to know about Peru’s Colca Canyon

Everything you need to know about Peru’s Colca Canyon

Colca Canyon, a beautiful natural marvel in Peru, is renowned for its remarkable depth, breathtaking views, and rich cultural legacy. That’s why it’s a must-visit location for travelers seeking an exceptional and immersive experience in South America.

With the help of this blog, we hope to provide you with all the information you need to organize an unforgettable vacation to Colca Canyon. We’ll explore the wide range of activities, sights, and places to stay in and around the canyon, whether you’re a seasoned traveler or a first-time visitor.

Table of contents:

Geographical and Historical Background

Location and Size of the Colca Canyon

Colca Canyon, which is situated in the picturesque Arequipa area of southern Peru, will fascinate you with its breathtaking setting and enormous size. This natural marvel, which winds through the Andes Mountains for around 62 miles (100 kilometers), shows the breathtaking geological diversity of the region.

view on colca river and impressive mountain walls

It proudly stands as one of the deepest canyons in the world, with towering peaks rising beyond 19,685 feet (6,000 meters) and depths dropping more than 11,155 feet (3,400 meters).

The terraced fields that have supported the local inhabitants for many years are nurtured by the Colca River as it carefully makes its way through the canyon. This singular combination of amazing geological features and bright vegetation produces a breathtaking environment that is worth visiting.

Formation and Geological Features

Colca Canyon shows the majestic power and beauty of nature. This spectacular canyon evolved over millions of years of erosion by the Colca River. Sedimentary rock is composed of layers that reflect its complex geological history and the enormous forces that shaped it over thousands of years. Towering cliffs, rough terrain, deep valleys, terraced fields, and volcanic formations are some of Colca Canyon’s distinguishing characteristics.

Each step in this magical environment reveals a story engraved in stone and provides a window into the amazing geological processes that built Colca.


Culture and Traditions of the Colca Valley

A cultural treasure, the Colca Valley is home to many native tribes that passionately uphold their traditions. For many years, the Collagua and Cabana cultures have thrived here, showing their rich past via colorful attire, traditional music, and dance.

The valley comes to life all year long with exciting festivals and events. These occasions, like the Cruz del Condor festival and harvest celebrations, provide a glimpse into the culture and close relationship to nature of the locals.

local woman weaving

The native crafts and cuisine must be experienced by you in order to fully comprehend the culture. From the gorgeous jewelry and pottery to the delightful Peruvian food produced with regional ingredients, such as quinoa and alpaca meat, these experiences show the beauty and flavors of Andean culture.

Immersion in the Colca Valley’s culture and traditions is a life-changing experience that offers special opportunities to connect with indigenous tribes, take part in customary celebrations, and appreciate regional arts and cuisine.


Natural Beauty and Biodiversity

Prepare yourself to be amazed by the Colca Canyon’s magnificent scenery and its breathtaking views. Every perspective provides a fascinating picture due to the mountain’s sheer immensity and soaring Andean peaks. Along the walking routes down the canyon, you’ll see serene oases, tumbling waterfalls, and endless views.

The tranquil Colca River calms the area, while the expertly designed terraced fields demonstrate the indigenous inhabitants’ superior agricultural skills. Spend some time relaxing in the rehabilitative hot springs while taking in the breathtaking canyon scenery.

A wide variety of plants and animals can be seen while exploring Colca Canyon. The canyon is a place of extraordinary biodiversity, with a wide variety of plants and animals including tenacious cactus, delicate orchids, the famous Andean condor, which is one of the most unique birds in Peru, eagles, hummingbirds, and owls. Aquatic species abound in the rivers and streams while vicunas, alpacas, and Andean foxes freely graze on the landscape.


Trekking and Outdoor Activities

2D/1N Colca Canyon Tour

The 2D1N Colca Canyon tour is the most popular option to discover this beautiful destination.

impressive terraces that are surrounding colca canyon

Day 1: You will be picked up early from your accommodation and driven to the canyon while taking in the breathtaking sights of the Colca Valley. Observe wild vicunas and alpacas, and be in awe of Arequipa’s magnificent volcanoes.

Day 2: On this journey of traditional Andean villages and the spectacular Colca Canyon, you may discover the Andes’ rich culture and breathtaking natural beauty. Take a short walk in the canyon to spot the magnificent condor, then stop at viewpoints along the canyon edge for amazing views.

In our 16-day Peru tour, you’ll tour the Colca Canyon and travel to Puno after lunch on the second day so you can discover Lake Titicaca on the next day.


How Fit Do I Need to Be?

Hiking Colca Canyon requires considering your level of fitness and selecting an appropriate route. The classic 2D1N Colca Canyon journey involves steep ascents and descents on difficult terrain, which calls for a high level of fitness. You can get ready for this multi-day excursion by getting regular fitness and having trekking experience.

A reasonable degree of fitness is needed for the shorter and easier Mirador Cruz del Cóndor trip. Being in good physical condition will nevertheless help you appreciate the trip more.

It is advised to improve your fitness through physical activities and cardiovascular exercises before your hike. Additionally, acclimatization to the altitude is essential because the Colca Canyon is at a high elevation.

The secret is to pay attention to your body, trek at a relaxed pace, and stop when you need to.


Can I Do the Trek Alone?

You have two choices when preparing a trip to the Colca Canyon: handling everything yourself or using a travel agency.

When traveling alone, you have the freedom and flexibility to plan your own schedule, select your own routes, and explore at your own pace. It’s perfect for experienced hikers who enjoy independent exploration. It does, however, require careful preparation, including gear, permits, and local knowledge for necessities like food, water, and shelter.

hiker with sticks walking through snow-capped mountains

Using a travel agency offers convenience, direction, and assurance. Insights about the history, culture, and beauty of the canyon are provided by knowledgeable guides. They manage the logistics, which makes the experience hassle-free, including accommodation, permits, and transportation. Apart from that, you can meet other like-minded travelers on group excursions, which improves the social side of the vacation.

We recommend choosing a travel agency for your Colca Canyon visit as taking this excursion alone has already created difficulties for many tourists, with some of them even getting lost.

If you’re interested in exploring Colca Canyon, you can add this destination to any of our Peru tours or customize your own from scratch. Feel free to contact us for more information.


Key Viewpoints of the Colca Canyon

Colca Canyon is a real gold mine of breath-taking viewpoints, providing expansive landscapes that will amaze you. Here are a few places you really must visit to experience its breathtaking beauty.

Cruz del Condor

many travelers are enjoying from the viewpoint the colca canyon

The spectacular flight of the Andean condor may be seen in breathtaking detail from the Cruz del Cóndor viewpoint. Besides that, you can also enjoy the rocky canyon walls and the flowing Colca River from there.



Providing an alternative viewpoint of the canyon, Achachiua viewpoint offers a breathtaking perspective of the terraced fields that highlight the canyon walls.


San Miguel

The enormous Colca Canyon may be seen in magnificent detail from the San Miguel viewpoint. The breathtaking landscape, which is characterized by high cliffs, slender gorges, and gushing rivers, beautifully displays the breathtaking beauty of this extraordinary location.



The Antahuilque Viewpoint provides a fascinating view of the pre-Incan terraces that are still in use.


The Majestic Flight of the Andean Condor

Condors play a key part in the culture and beauty of Colca Canyon. With their enormous wingspans of 8.5 to 10.5 feet (2.6 to 3.2 meters) and elegant flight, these majestic birds serve as a symbol of the region’s rich past and natural wonders.

andean condor with spreaded wings in the air

In Andean culture, condors are considered holy beings that stand for power, wisdom, and a link to the afterlife. One can gain an understanding of the magical character of the Colca Canyon by seeing a condor fly over the canyon’s towering cliffs.

Condors also remove dead animals from the canyon and stop the spread of illness, helping to maintain its biological equilibrium. The best viewpoints to embrace the beauty of the Andean Condor are from Cruz del Condor and Tapay.


Planning Your Visit of the Colca Canyon

Best Time to Visit Colca Canyon

The weather at Colca Canyon is typical of the Andes and high altitude locations in Peru. The region experiences a wet summer and a dry winter, with periods of transition in between.

December to March is considered the wet season with most rain falls during this time. Cloudy skies are common, and rain is usually light and infrequent. The temperature varies between 50°F and 60°F (10°C and 15°C) at night and 60°F and 80°F (15°C and 27°C) during the day.

view on colca river and the surrounding terraces

If you want pleasant temperatures and clear skies, you should travel during the dry season, which lasts from May to November. The canyon experiences daytime highs of 50°F to 70°F (10°C to 21°C) and nighttime lows of 32°F (0°C) during this time of year.

Although the dry season offers more comfortable temperatures, keep in mind that it is also the busiest travel time, so plan for larger crowds and more expensive transport. The wet season is more difficult to travel through because of the possibility of road closures and muddy trails, but it’s also a more tranquil and cost-effective time to visit.

No matter when you visit, just make sure you pack appropriately to be prepared for anything Mother Nature has in store.


Packing List for Colca Canyon

traveler is packing backpack with phone, camera, binoculars, clothes and more

The geology and climate of the area must be taken into account while selecting your travel clothing for a trip to Colca Canyon. Consider carrying the following items, among others:

  • Hiking shoes
  • Multipurpose clothing (layers, waterproof jackets etc.)
  • Sun protection (sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat)
  • Hydration aids and a water bottle
  • Insect repellent
  • Binoculars and your camera
  • Personal meds

In general, when packing for a trip to Colca Canyon, comfort and pragmatism should come first. Now that you know when to visit and what to pack, let’s check out how to get there.


How to Get to Colca Canyon From…

Getting to Colca Canyon is a journey in and of itself. Here is an overview on how to get to Colca Canyon, whether you are traveling from Lima, Arequipa or Puno.


How to Get to Colca Canyon From Lima

By Plane: You can take a 1.5 hours long flight from Lima to Arequipa. Once there, you have to take a bus ride for 3 – 4 hours from Arequipa to Colca Canyon or make other transportation arrangements.

By Bus: You can take a bus from Lima to Arequipa if you’d like to travel a more picturesque and economical route. Beware that the trip takes around 14 hours, but there are upscale buses with advanced amenities and comfortable seating.

How to Get to Colca Canyon From Cusco

By Plane: There are regular flights from Cusco to Arequipa that take around 1 hour. After arriving in Arequipa, you can either take a bus or arrange a private transfer to Colca Canyon.

By Bus: Depending on the route and the quantity of stops, you can expect a 10-12 hour bus ride. Once in Arequipa, the same applies as mentioned above.


How to Get to Colca Canyon From Puno

By Plane: There are no direct flights from Puno to Colca Canyon, but you can instead fly 30-40 minutes to Arequipa, the largest city closest to Colca Canyon. From Arequipa you can then take a 3-4 hour bus ride to Colca Canyon.

By Bus: You can take a bus from Puno to Colca Canyon, which takes around 5-6 hours.

Regardless of the route you take, the trip to Colca Canyon will reward you with breathtaking scenery, unique cultural contacts and life-changing experiences.


Where to travel after visiting Colca Canyon?

The most common option is to continue traveling to Puno (Lake Titicaca) after having visited Colca Canyon, and later on to Cusco. This is mostly done by car or by bus with the distances in hours being the same as mentioned above.

The other option is to return to Arequipa, from where you can take a plane to Cusco or to Lima.


Where to Stay at the Colca Canyon?

Finding the right place to stay is crucial to making the most of your trip to Colca Canyon, and there are numerous choices to suit various tastes and price ranges. The three options below are our favorites:

Aranwa Colca

hotel surrounded by pools

Those seeking a high-end experience during their trip to Colca Canyon might consider staying at the Aranwa Colca hotel. The hotel offers a spa, hot springs, and breathtaking panoramas of the surroundings.


Colca Lodge Spa & Hot Springs

hot springs

For travelers seeking to fully appreciate Colca Canyon’s breathtaking scenery, The Colca Lodge Spa & Hot Springs offers a more cozy and genuine experience. After a day of touring, you may unwind in the hotel’s cozy accommodations, delicious regional food, and on-site hot springs.


Casa Andina Standard Colca

stone houses with wooden frame

The Casa Andina Standard Colca is a great accommodation in the Colca Canyon and a fantastic mid-range option. The hotel provides warm hotel rooms, a restaurant serving regional cuisine, and offers breathtaking mountain views.


Altitude Sickness at Colca Canyon and How to Avoid It

Be aware of altitude sickness at the Colca Canyon. As it’s located at elevations greater than 10,000 ft (3.000 m), some of you might encounter symptoms like headache, nausea, tiredness, and shortness of breath.

couple with sunglases and hats are standing next to each other and next to them is a white alpaca

You can assure proper acclimatization by giving your body enough time to adapt to the altitude and refraining from strenuous activities during the first few days. Apart from that, getting enough water and avoiding alcohol can help with symptoms.

If symptoms remain or get worse, immediately see a doctor. To ensure that you are fully prepared for your trip to Colca, we recommend our article on altitude sickness and how to avoid it.


Safety at Colca Canyon

Despite the fact that the area is typically regarded as safe, it’s crucial to take steps to guarantee a secure and pleasurable journey. The risk of accidents while trekking in Colca Canyon is one of the biggest issues concerning safety.

It’s crucial to use caution, listen to your tour guide and implement the necessary safety precautions because the terrain can be dangerous and rocky, and some hiking trails can be difficult. When making reservations for tours or activities, it’s critical to pick reliable businesses and confirm that they adhere to safety rules and regulations.

view on the buildings of the city chivay from the top

This can make sure that the encounter is both safe and fun. Read the article why choose Exploor Peru and learn more about why traveling with us is your best option in Peru.

Overall, even though there may be some possible safety issues in Colca Canyon, utilizing common sense and the right safety measures will help guarantee a fun and memorable experience. Generally speaking, Peru is safe and when considering basic safety advice you’ll have a wonderful time.


Experience the Magnificence of Colca Canyon

In conclusion, Colca Canyon is an amazing natural wonder that attracts both outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers. Its breathtaking landscapes, the unique flora and wildlife, the rich cultural legacy, and adrenaline outdoor activities will make your visit unforgettable.

To see the breathtaking splendor of Colca Canyon firsthand, we highly advise going there with a reputable tour operator instead of traveling on your own. This will provide you access to knowledgeable tour guides who can enrich your experience with helpful information and also ensure that you won’t get lost.

For more inspiration, we recommend our 16-day Peru tour, where you’ll discover the beautiful Colca Canyon, Arequipa and other must-visit sites.

  • 29 May, 2023 at 12:39 am

    fantastic insights and my only question is how can we do all of this?

    • 31 May, 2023 at 8:49 am

      Hey Peter, thanks for your comment! We just sent you an e-mail with more information so we can figure out what you can do with your time available in the Colca Canyon.

      Looking forward to hearing from you soon! 🙂

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