Skip to content

Colca Canyon

February 25, 2011

Andean Condor on Cliff in Colca Canyon (Gabby Salazar)


For us, Arequipa’s big draw was the Colca Canyon. The canyon one of the deepest canyons in the world at a depth of 10725 feet. We stayed in the Colca valley for two nights to see the canyon and the Andean Condors that are common there. In an uncharacteristic move, we decided to go on a group tour and while it had its advantages, we were sad to be pulled away from Chilean Flamingos and vicuñas more quickly that we would have liked.

The tour started with a drive to the canyon (about four hours) with multiple stops along the way to see flamingos and vicuñas. Vicuñas are one of two wild species of South American camelids. They were highly endangered in the 1970s, but have now recovered in numbers. We were able to observe them from the side of the road and watched as they grazed on the high plains. We also saw Chilean flamingos and a number of other high elevation birds (giant coots included) in the puddles along the road.

We arrived in the Colca Valley in the afternoon and were taken to a hotel nestled at the foot of a terraced hill. The evening was spent on a trek to some old ruins and a dip in the hot springs. The rain followed us to Arequipa and we hiked while drenched and felt the contrast of cold rain on our heads while bathing in the hot springs.

The next morning we were picked up at 7am to go to the Cruz del Condor – a spot famous for seeing the Andean condor. The Andean condor is the second largest bird in the world in terms of wingspan (second only to the wandering albatross). Three condors swooped above us with 15 minutes of our arrival. They are spectacular and my 300mm lens was almost too long. They were gone in a few minutes and we were left to enjoy an extraordinary view of the canyon and to sip our hot cocoa tea.

We spent the evening relaxing and birding and returned to the Cruz del Condor again the next morning. When we arrived the view was completely obscured by thick fog. You couldn’t see a thing and we both felt sorry for the tourists who only had one shot to see the condors. Fortunately our guide knew another condor spot and we found four adults circling at close range.

We returned to Arequipa for two nights and then took a bus on to Ica, a Peruvian city made famous by its wines and piscos.

Vicunas near Colca Canyon (Rick Stanley)

Cruz del Condor overlook, Colca Canyon (Gabby Salazar)

Colca Valley (Gabby Salazar)

Rufous-collared Sparrow (Rick Stanley)

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: