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Colca Canyon is a must stop for anyone traveling through Arequipa and all through Peru for that matter. With countless tour operators – you can also do the canyon yourself if you’d like and have more time – Colca is more than accessible and the highlight of anyone’s trip to Arequipa. Here are the top things to do and see in the world’s third deepest canyon and one of Peru’s most famous natural wonders.
Stop by the Cruz del Condor viewpoint at 3320 meters (10,892 ft), which offers dizzying views of the canyon’s depths, and do some bird watching. The prized sight is a glimpse of the famous Andean Condor, the largest bird in the Americas. The best time to see them is the morning when they begin their breakfast hunt.
The Colca River, depending on the season, can be fun and intense. You’ll splash down class iii, iv and v rapids on your way through the canyon. This is one of the best rivers to raft on in all of Peru, and while you’re doing it, you’re seeing the canyon from the very bottom, a view point not many people can say they’ve seen. This is one of the best ways to really see all the canyon has to offer – which is a lot.
For the adrenalin junkies amongst us, this is for you – especially if you’ve done this before. You’ll be charging down the third deepest canyon in the world, so it is best recommended for those with some experience (although there are trails for beginners). The best thing about this is that you won’t be walking down the steep canyon – trust me, your knees will thank you.
Hike and hike and then hike some more – and after that, hike again. It is a massive canyon and the only way to truly get into it and explore it all is to hike your way through. The canyon is steep and big so you’ll be getting a workout in and, luckily, there are cool places to stop along the way and enjoy the views.
Can you imagine a better way to spend the end of a long and painful day of hiking than soaking in some thermal baths? Well you’ll be able to do that after your first day if you choose one of the overnight tours. It is one of the more popular spots so expect some crowds – every tour group comes here.
Sangalle – or the desert oasis – is a welcomed sight after traversing your way through the canyon. You’ll find some good and fairly priced food here and cocktails, too – because what’s a desert oasis without cocktails, right? This is also a great place to stop and spend the night if you’re doing the canyon solo.
Many of the little villages in the canyon are still traditional in their ways and customs. They are a great place to stop and take a break, grab a bite to eat or even stay with a local family. The canyon is steeped in plenty of history and its inhabitants even predate the Incas.
Not for the budget traveler as this will set you back a bit, but it is the easiest on your body for getting around the canyon. If you have had lower body injuries but still want to enjoy the beauty of the canyon this is by far your best bet. You’ll have the best seat in the park and other hikers will look on you enviously as they drip with sweat from their hike.