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The river, the valley and the canyon: visiting Colca

The Colca Valley is the second most popular destination, for visitors going to Peru, after Machu Picchu. A tour of this region of Peru allows you to witness the rich biodiversity of the country and to discover the colourful people, so read on to find out about the main attractions of the Colca Valley!

Located in the north east of the Arequipa region, the Colca valley has been fashioned partly as a result of a huge fault opening up in the earth's crust but mostly by millions of years of erosion. The valley is home to the Colca river and reaches 3400m, or over 11,000ft in depth in places. In fact it's the deepest canyon in the world.

Let me introduce to you three villages that are sheltered in the Colca Valley, of which there are 14 in total, each overflowing with colour. The women here are magnificent. They wear the traditional clothing of the region with unique, colourful patterns. 

Sibayo, Chivay and Yanque

These three villages are tiny but possess a particular charm. Sibayo is, quite frankly, one of a kind. The houses are made of stone and their roofs made of straw. A few families have got together to develop a community-based tourism project in the village. They offer in particular the rather unexpected service of llama taxis! It's on the back of a llama that you can tour the village, little known by tourists.

Next, on to Chivay, the most well known of the three. It's popular, amongst other reasons, for its warm water swimming pools. Its market is also worth the detour, especially if you dare to try the delicious llama kebabs!

Finally, still on the route to Cabanaconde, the departure point for the hike to the bottom of the canyon the next village that merits a stop is Yanque. This is the smallest of the three. Women wait for you on the parade ground with eagles perched on their shoulders, ready to offer you snapshots holding the beast!

A panorama of the Colca Valley

The Condor Cross and the descent into the heart of the Colca

The Condor Cross is the best place to observe all the sights of the valley. Don't be too disappointed if you don't manage to see the condors. They are not always around at just the right moment. Yet apparently the condors always gather at sunrise! After having seen the canyon from the top, for hiking enthusiasts it's nice to venture into its depths. An excursion to the Colca Canyon can be made in a single day for the most active amongst you but I suggest that you spend a night at the bottom. This night, far away from everywhere, will recharge your batteries ready for the arduous climb that awaits you the following day!   

Emilie Couillard
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Updated 28 September 2015
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