Colca Canyon is a breathtaking valley in southern Peru that is located around 160 km from Arequipa. With a depth of over 3,200 metres it is one of the deepest canyons in the world – around twice as deep as the Grand Canyon. Colca provides stunning hikes through barren steppe, terraced farmland, and hot pools sat amid flowing rivers. The star attraction is the population of Andean condors which can be seen soaring between the steep valley sides. Although it is also home to a variety of eagles, hummingbirds, and lizards. The spectacular, volcano strewn road to Colca Canyon passes through Salinas y Aguada Blanca National Reserve. A beautiful area where herds of wandering vicunas can be spotted.
Average rating: 5.0 (very good)
Average spend per person: $51 ($2 – $100)
Number of reports: 4
Best time to visit: April – November
Typical activities: animal watching, bird watching, hiking
Wildlife in the Colca Canyon
According to reports submitted to WildSide, the species visitors most want to see here are as follows:
Andean condor – 100% of visitors (4/4) reported sightings
The best place to see Andean condors is the (free to access) Cruz del Condor. This viewpoint is located between the villages of Maca and Cabanaconde. The viewpoint provides spectacular views of condors circling on thermal updrafts. While they can be seen year round, the best time to see them is the dry season (April – November). The birds are typically seen in the morning from around 08.00-10.00 and in the late afternoon from 15:30-16:30.
The viewpoint can be crowded in the morning due to large numbers of tourists arriving from Arequipa. Tours to Cruz del Condor can be arranged from Arequipa. However, the trip takes around 5 hours so requires an early start to arrive in time for the condors. Many tours also include guided hikes through the canyon. Alternatively, it is possible to stay the night in the village of Cabanaconde and take a shorter public bus to the viewpoint (20 mins). WildSide recommends Hostel Pachamama in Cabanaconde as a great starting point for organising trips to see the condors. It is also a great base for organising self-guided hikes through this spectacular canyon.
Vicuna – 25% of visitors (1/4) reported sightings
The road to Colca Canyon passes through the spectacular volcano strewn Salinas y Aguada Blanca National Reserve. The Reserve is a protected area for vicuna. Herds of these creatures can be spotted from the road on the trip to Colca Canyon. If you’re on a tour bus from Arequipa you may be able to stop for photos. However, if you are on the public bus you may well drive straight through the park. If you want more time vicuna spotting or exploring this beautiful reserve, dedicated tours can be arranged in Arequipa.