From Arequipa to Colca Canyon

In Chivay starts the Colca Canyon, one of the deepest canyons of the world.

The long way to Colca Canyon

But first we leave Arequipa early in the morning. (Zum deutschen Blog.) I am with clients of our office in Peru, we make a round trip through the Southern part . We need more than an hour to leave the suburbs of the metropolis. It grows rapidly, small huts, which rise on the green slopes of the mountains, always exposed to the risk that rubble or heavy rains tear down the small houses.

on the road to Chivay, Peru
somewhere between Arequipa and Chivay

Soon we leave the inhabited area and drive through the mountains. Again and again, this area is predominantly of volcanic origin. The different layers of rock are often visible.

Soon the vegetation becomes increasingly sparse. Hard grass buckles are growing here. This is the sign that our altitude is above 3600 m. Elisa shows us how to roll our coca leaves, bought yesterday, with a small piece of stevia ash. Then, briefly chew, do not at all swallow, then store it in your mouth for about half an hour. This is to help against altitude sickness. I do not notice anything. It tastes like grass and then the side of my mouth is slowly getting deaf. Brrr. After 20 min I spit out the leaves. That´s enough!

Peru, vicunas, Andes
Vicunas in the Andes


rocks, mountains, Peru, Andes
an interesting rock formation, formed by wind and water erosion

The surrounding area gets flatter and we see here in the national park Reserva Nacional Salina – Aguada Blancas we are passing through, the first small Vicuña flock. That means, we are now above 4000 m of altitude. At a road crossing is a sign, 4011 m.

Here are some houses. We get off to take pictures of the strange rock formations and drink a three-herb tea. I realize that I am very short of breath. Aha, high heights seem to give me some difficulties.

swampy region in the Andes in Peru
a hugh plateau about 4000 m above sea level in the Andes in Peru

We continue our drive to Chivay. We are getting higher and higher. Again and again we go through large plains, sometimes they are swampy. We even see an Andean gull.

Peru, Andes, viscachas
Viscachas live between rocks in high altitude

Mostly impressed I am about the alpacas and lamas. They look really cute. Many young animals are now in the flocks. Again and again we pass an Estanzia. Here live the shepherds of the flocks. The vicuñas are not domesticated and live wild here. However, every three years, the people living here may catch them and shave off a maximum of 200 g of the brown back skin. Under no circumstances the soft white belly fur, the animals need this to live through the icy nights in winter.

Andes, Peru, alpakas
alpakas in the Andes

Then we pass the highest pass with 4910 m. Unfortunately we cannot see the surrounding volcanoes, they have wrapped themselves in clouds. Perhaps we have more luck on the return journey in two days.

road to Chivay, Peru
not too far from Chivay
Chivay, Peru in the distance
view over Chivay
In Chivay

We continue downhill until we reach Chivay, the gateway to Colca Canyon.

After a delicious buffet at noon in a restaurant at the main square of the village, we move into our newly renovated bungalow rooms at the Hotel Casa Andina.

market hall in chivay, Peru
market place in Chivay, Peru, gateway to Colca Canyon

In the now starting rain, some of us venture back to the main square to have a look at the market hall. The colorful scarfs and clothes, mostly made of alpaca wool, are a real eye-catcher. At the Aromas Café we enjoy a delicious cappuccino and look forward to fast wlan.

taxi, Peru, tuktuk, Chivay
typical taxi in Peru, here in Chivay
Colca Canyon

The next morning starts before sunrise, we want to go early in the Colca Canyon, to the Cruz del Condor. Here, many condors are nesting, who then climb up with the morning thermals to search for food, that means carrion. The adult male animals can weigh up to 12 kg and have 3.6 m wingspan.

Colca Canyon map
map of the whole Colca Canyon

First we visit the church of Yanque and some young people wearing their colorful costumes perform a dance in the square in front of the church.

typical dance in Colca Canyon
folk dance early in the morning in Yanque, Peru (Colca Canyon)

Soon we reach the Cruz del Condor. It is very foggy, the clouds are low and only occasionally we can see the Colca river 1200 m below us, even if the noise is hearable for the many people waiting with us. We wait 90 minutes, but only a young small bird can be seen in the distance.

Mirador Cruz del Condor, Colca Canyon, Peru
view from Cruz del Condor into Colca Canyon

A bit disappointed we board our bus and make our way back to Chivay. The bus just crosses a small stream as I discover two of the majestic birds that make their circles on the slope of a steeply rising mountain.

Now the joy is great. All try to get some pictures. We have to go further, because other buses want to go back as well and the unsurfaced road, which winds along the abyss without boundary, does not allow overtaking.

flying condor at Colca Canyon, Peru
condor at Colca Canyon

Then we stop at another viewpoint. Here, the terraced fields, some of which have already been laid out more than 1000 years ago, are particularly good to see.

And now we are especially lucky, because several condors use the warming air to get high up in the air right in front of our eyes. What a fantastic sight. To get up this early was really worth it!

Colca Canyon area, Peru
view over the lovely landscape of the Colca Canyon

Soon they have disappeared from sight and we continue to Maca, which was almost completely destroyed by an earthquake some years ago. Meanwhile it was rebuilt. Then, with a deep roar, a thunderstorm arises, so we head back to our hotel in Chivay.

Peru, Maca, Kirche
old woman on the steps to the church in Maca, Peru

What a beautiful morning! Now we can enjoy the free afternoon and let’s see if the one or the other condor is on the camera!

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Bergpass, Peru, Anden
altitude 4011 m and thin air
lizard, reptil, Peru, Colca Canyon
lizard at Colca Canyon

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