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Colca Canyon | © Jakub.it / Shutterstock
Colca Canyon | © Jakub.it / Shutterstock
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Step Aside Machu Picchu: Here's Why Colca Canyon is the Most Beautiful Natural Wonder in Peru

Picture of Brandon Dupre
Updated: 16 May 2018
Colca Canyon has emerged as one of Peru’s preeminent and most popular tourist destinations, and one of its most recognizable natural wonders. The giant canyon, the second-deepest in the world, amazes travelers with its sweeping views and dazzling colors, which are enhanced during the winter months when the area becomes more green and the river swells. While Machu Picchu gets all the attention, Colca has quickly gained traction as the place to be in Peru, and it might just be the most beautiful place in the country.

The beauty

Colca Canyon has everything you could want in a natural wonder. First of all, there are a number of famous views and images of the canyon, so your social media will have plenty of content. You will have to collect different pictures at a number of different spots, because the canyon is simply impossible to photograph in one shot.

The size

Colca Canyon is the second-deepest canyon in the world, a statistic that the mind simply can’t comprehend – and neither can the eye. If you think that the Grand Canyon is impressive, you’ll enjoy this canyon, which is nearly twice as deep as its American counterpart.

How to see Colca Canyon

There may be a lot of ways to get to Machu Picchu, but there is really only one way to see it; this is not the case with Colca. There are more than a couple of ways in which you can enjoy Arequipa’s famous canyon.

Hiking

First of all, you have the option to hike through it. It’s a steep and long hike, and far from easy. You’ll need to bring plenty of sunscreen and a hat, and be prepared for some early starts and lots of hard exercise.

Colca Canyon
Colca Canyon | © vitmark / Shutterstock

River running

While hiking is certainly a great way of seeing Colca, it is only scratching the surface. One alternative is to admire its grandeur from the river as you fly down it in a raft. In the water, you can see the canyon from its lowest point, up close and personal. During the rainy season (December to March) you’ll find a full river that will entertain even the most experienced river runner.

From a horse

Unlike Machu Picchu, where your legs are all you have to get around, in Colca, you can see it in all its beauty from the back of a horse. No matter what you pre-arrange with your tour company, you’ll be give the chance to rent a horse, which is especially helpful on the day on which you hike out of one of the deepest canyons in the world.

Woman with llama
Woman with llama | © Don Mammoser / Shutterstock

History

Just like Machu Picchu, Cocla Canyon has deep roots. Pre-Incan civilizations made the massive canyon their home and, later, the Incas. You’ll find traditional Andean towns that are perfect places to spend the night. The canyon is not without its Spanish influence, with churches sharing traditional Andean towns, like most other places in the Andes.

Today, you can still find Andean farmers cultivating the famous Incan steeped terraces that are found all through the Andean regions in Peru. The first roads connecting the canyon to Arequipa were not made until the 1940s, and were made only to serve silver and copper mining. More roads were only built as recently as the 1980s.

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