Colca Canyon, Peru

Colca Canyon, Peru

Colca Canyon is a canyon of the Colca River in southern Peru, located about 100 miles (160 kilometers) northwest of Arequipa. With a depth of 13,650 ft (4,160 m), it is more than twice as deep as the Grand Canyon in the United States!

The canyon still retains inhabitants who maintain their pre-Inca stepped terraces, for the cultivation of food. There are many archaeological sites include the caves of Mollepunko above Callalli where rock art (said to be 6,000 years old) depicts the domestication of the alpaca; the mummy of Paraqra, above Sibayo; the Fortaleza de Chimpa, a reconstructed mountaintop citadel that looks down on Madrigal; ruins of pre-Hispanic settlements throughout the valley; and many others.

The canyon is home to the Andean Condor (Vultur gryphus), a species that has been the focus of worldwide conservation efforts. The condors can be seen at close range as they fly past the canyon walls, and are a popular attraction. ‘Cruz del Condor’ is a popular tourist stop to view the condors. At this point, the canyon floor is 3,960 feet (1,200 m) below the rim of the canyon. Other notable bird species present in the Colca include the Giant Colibri, the largest member of the hummingbird family, as well as the Andean Goose, Chilean Flamingo, and Mountain Caracara. Animals include vizcacha, a rabbit-sized relative of the chinchilla, zorrino, deer, fox, and vicuña, the wild ancestor of the alpaca. There are also natural hot springs in the canyon.

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