What to do and what to visit in the Colca Valley?
If you are planning to visit the Colca Valley on your next trip, you cannot miss this article where we are going to tell you in detail what to do over there since, in addition to being able to admire the majestic flight of the Andean condor, in this area there is so much more to see.
From its impressive nature, to ruins and charming small towns full of culture that also have relaxing thermal complexes.
Here we will be mentioning some activities that can be done in the Colca Valley to make your trip truly unforgettable.
What should you know about the Colca Valley?
The Colca Valley is located in the department of Arequipa. There are native people that have been inhabiting this area since the year 5000 BC like the Collaguas and the Cabanas. Currently, they continue to inhabit these lands and today they live from tourism, crafts and agriculture.
This has always been a remote area, in fact the Incas just arrived in the valley formed by the Colca River in the 14th century and the Spanish in the 16th century.
Due to the arrival of the Spanish conquerors, and the influence that this brought with them, in this area we can find small towns in which constructions of a mestizo baroque style predominate, for example their churches.
The temperature in the Colca Valley is quite regular. So it is possible to visit this tourist attraction at any time of the year. Normally, it varies between 6 °C (42 °F) and 23 °C (73 °F). In general, the days are very sunny, and that is when the highest temperatures are felt. But when the sun goes down, as it is a mountain climate, the temperature drops and the nights are usually cold.
The area has mostly a dry climate, the rains tend to occur mainly between January and March and, even though this is not the ideal time to go trekking or hiking, it is there when the Colca Valley shows its most intense green and creates a postcard worth contemplating.
In the Colca Valley is its protagonist, the Colca Canyon.
This one is the second deepest canyon in the world, its depth ranges from 3,600 to 4,160 meters. This rock formation is more than 150 million years old and its size has varied over time. It has an extension of 100 kilometers and is embraced by various volcanoes, snow-capped peaks and high-altitude mountains.
Main attractions of the Colca Valley
Viewpoint of the Cross of the Condor:
If we are wondering what to do in the Colca Canyon, visiting the Viewpoint of the Cross of the Condor is the main activity that we cannot miss. It is the star site of the canyon, where hundreds of tourists arrive daily to observe the wonderful flight of the Andean condor.
The Andean condor is a scavenger bird that was revered by the Incas. It is the largest bird in the world, it can measure 3 meters wide with its wings spread and weigh up to 15 kilograms.
Andean condors are one of the most representative birds of Peru’s biodiversity, and the Colca Canyon is their natural habitat.
This strategic stop is located 40 kilometers away from the town of Chivay and 207 kilometers away from the city of Arequipa. The viewpoint offers spectacular views of the landscape, and from there you can also see the terraces of the valley and see the Ampato and Coropuna volcanoes.
To be able to observe the impressive flight of the condor firsthand, it is recommended to arrive at the viewpoint very early in the morning, since the condors are mostly seen between 8:00 a.m and 10:00 a.m.
To comfortably access the Viewpoint of the Cross of the Condor and enjoy the experience, we recommend doing it with a tourism agency, since it is the safest and most accessible way.
From Guru Explorers we have to offer you a Colca Canyon Tour ideal to enjoy a very complete trip of the Colca Valley and live 2 days and 1 night full of adventures and experiences to remember.
Hiking through the Colca Canyon:
Another thing you can do in the Colca Canyon is trekking or hiking. An activity ideally designed for the most adventurous and one of the most interesting ways to get to know the canyon.
Normally, the most frequented hiking routes involve descending to the bottom of the canyon and visiting some hidden villages in the valley. Many times you can experience experiential tourism, since the locals offer their houses as lodging or restaurants.
This activity can be done on your own but there is also the option of having an experienced guide on these tours. Either way, the experience of entering the Colca Canyon in this way will give you wonderful views.
About 4 hours away from the city of Arequipa, is Chivay, the largest and most important town in the Colca Valley. Being the most touristic town in the area, it is where we will find more hotels, restaurants and shops. If we are thinking of visiting the Colca Canyon, going through Chivay is almost obligatory.
In addition, in this town there are other interesting places that we can visit. For example the Plaza de Armas, from where you can see the Chila Mountain Range.
We can also visit the market, where we will find souvenirs, alpaca textiles and fresh fruits and vegetables, among other things.
Other places that can be seen are the planetarium, the viewpoint and the parish church Nuestra Señora de la Asunción, which presents a colonial construction and was built in the second half of the 18th century.
If you arrive to Chivay from Arequipa or from another city, it is the ideal place to spend a night and acclimatize yourself before visiting the Colca Canyon.
La Calera Thermal Springs Water Complex:
When we think about what activities are carried out in the Colca Valley, we undoubtedly think of the La Calera Thermal Springs Water Complex, an ideal place to relax, surrounded by incredible landscapes.
As the Colca Valley is a volcanic zone, there are some thermal springs water complexes in the area.
This complex is located just 4 kilometers away from Chivay. It is a place that offers a lot of quietness and well-being. It has 5 thermal water pools of different temperatures, rich in sulfur and iron, which is why they are medicinal and are sometimes very helpful in rheumatism or arthritis treatments.
For an additional cost, in one of the pools you can also enjoy a pleasant massage.
Due to the large number of people that visit this complex, it is recommended to visit it very early in the morning or in the late afternoon before dinner.
Yanque is another of the charming towns that you will find in this beautiful valley and get to know it, is without a doubt, another of the things that you have to do in the Colca Valley. There you can visit one of the most beautiful squares in the region, in fact, in 1980 its main square was declared a historical monument of Peru.
In this square you will find the Church of the Inmaculada Concepción, an old and beautiful mestizo baroque style construction, dating from the late 17th century.
The inhabitants of Yanque are very kind people and receive tourists in a very welcoming way. They live in traditionally built houses, and maintain a way of living that respects the customs of their ancestors.
Something very striking to see in Yanque is a group of children who almost every day, very early in the morning, meet in the main square and dressed in traditional costumes, dance the Wititi, a typical dance from Arequipa. It really is quite a sight to see.
Chacapi Thermal Springs Water Complex:
The Chacapi Thermal Springs Water Complex is very close to the center of Yanque and is another of the tourist attractions offered by the Colca Valley.
This 6 pool complex offers the perfect combination to leave stress behind; medicinal waters and a majestic view.
Being located on the edge of the river, the landscape that can be enjoyed is wonderful. And it is known that its waters, being rich in minerals such as sulfur, chlorine, calcium and magnesium, favor blood circulation, oxygenation and metabolism. And in addition to providing health benefits, they help improve the appearance of the skin.
Pinchollo is another of the places that can be visited in the Colca Valley. It is a small town, not as well known as the others already mentioned, but it also has its charms and visiting it could be a great idea.
Here the options are, visit the Plaza de Armas, visit the San Sebastián Church and of course, visit the Antahuilque Viewpoint, from where you can appreciate one of the best views of the Colca Valley.
For lovers of hiking, Pinchollo offers an attractive proposal; a hike to a still active geyser and to the Hualca Hualca volcano.
Another original option that this town has to offer consists of experiential tourism. In Pinchollo there are families that openly welcome tourists who are interested in having the experience of living with the locals, learning about their customs and sharing daily tasks related to livestock and agriculture.
Maca is another beautiful town to visit in the Colca Valley. It presents a beautiful landscape surrounded by mountains.
The name of this town comes from an Andean plant that grows at more than 3,000 meters high and whose roots have great nutritional value.
In Maca you can visit the Santa Ana Church, which has a beautiful facade. It was built in 1760 and is considered a National Historic Monument. Its interior presents a baroque style and inside there you can see wall paintings and details in gold and mirrors.
In the town square you can visit a small craft market with regional products.
Very close to the town of Maca, is the base of the Ampato volcano, which was considered an Andean deity. This volcano is historically and archaeologically important, since the “Juanita Mummy” was found on its top in 1995. The volcano has dirt and snow trails suitable for trekking and climbing.
Salinas and Aguada Blanca National Reserve:
When we leave Arequipa on a trip to the Colca Valley, we must inevitably pass through the Salinas and Aguada Blanca National Reserve.
This reserve is located 110 kilometers away from Arequipa and is another of the interesting tourist spots to visit in the Colca Valley.
This area has small forests and Andean meadows, and from here you get beautiful views of several volcanoes, snow-capped mountains, and lagoons.
The reserve also has bofedales; high altitude wetlands of important ecological value. Once you are there you can see a large number of migratory birds, such as flamingos and different species of ducks.
In the Salinas and Aguada Blanca National Reserve, in addition to enjoying the landscape, we can find a great variety of animal species such as the Andean fox, the huanaco or the vicuña.
If you have a special interest in this site, Guru Explorers offers you the Salinas Lagoon Tour specially dedicated to get to know this incredible place that is part of the Salinas and Aguada Blanca National Reserve, where you can enjoy nature to the fullest and take amazing photographs.
The Viewpoint of the Volcanoes or Viewpoint of the Andes:
Within the Colca Valley, another very attractive tourist spot to visit is the Viewpoint of the Volcanos. It is the highest point of the route from Arequipa to Chivay, being almost 5,000 meters above sea level.
From there you can have the best panoramic views of dream landscapes and in which, of course, the volcanoes and the Andes prevail. The volcanoes that you can see from this fantastic viewpoint are; Ampato, Sabancaya, Misti, Chachani, Hualca Hualca, Pichu Pichu, Ubinas and Mismi.
Something curious and characteristic that you can find in this viewpoint are the “apachetas”, small towers or mounds of stacked stones, which travelers build to thank and ask the gods of the mountains to protect them. A custom whose origin dates back to Inca times and that the tourists maintain today.
The Uyo-Uyo Ruins:
The Uyo-Uyo Ruins are another of the interesting places to visit in the Colca Valley.
This archaeological site is very close to the town of Yanque. Here you can see pre-Inca ruins, belonging to the Collagua culture. What we are mainly going to find is an abandoned village that still preserves remains of its houses built with polished stone walls and small streets, including remains of its irrigation system.
It is a place that we recommend visiting, since it is not particularly crowded, so you can explore it calmly and learn more about the history of this beautiful area of the Colca Valley.
The Kallimarca Ruins are another of the archaeological sites in the Colca Valley area that can be visited.
They are located on top of a hill, near the town of Cabanaconde. They can be accessed on foot, after just over 1 hour of hiking.
These ruins belonged to the Cabana culture and here we can find remains of houses, streets and a ceremonial square.
From the top of the hill where the Kallimarca Ruins are located, you can appreciate unbeatable views of the Inca agricultural terraces, the Andes, the volcanoes and a large part of the Colca Valley.
Taste typical dishes of the Colca Valley:
If you are planning a tour to the Colca Valley, trying its typical gastronomy is something that you cannot miss when you visit the area.
Colca food is an excellent fusion between regional Andean products and the large amount of ingredients that were introduced into the area with the arrival of the Spanish, and whose combination is extremely enriching.
There is a wide variety of typical preparations that are worth trying. Each town in the valley has its characteristic dish that distinguishes it and is prepared with fresh products from the area.
Among some of the typical preparations of the valley we can mention spicy seasoned broths and sweet or salty mazamorras.
Recommendations to visit the Colca Valley and the Colca Canyon
Due to the altitude, as we already mentioned, we recommend spending a night in the valley before visiting the Colca Canyon. It is ideal to acclimatize in one of the closest towns such as Chivay or Yanque to avoid altitude sickness.
In order to appreciate the flight of the condor in its maximum splendor, we recommend leaving very early in the morning so as not to miss a second of this spectacle.
We also recommend having cash, since you will only find one cash machine in Chivay and it may not have money. Also, not all hotels and restaurants in town accept credit cards.
Among the essential things to take on your trip to the Colca Canyon we must mention; comfortable shoes, sunscreen, cap or hat, sunglasses, water, warm jacket, and bathing suit and towel, in case you want to visit one of the thermal springs water complexes.
Definitely, a visit to the Colca Valley is something that cannot be missed on your trip to Peru. In this region, in addition to marveling at the impressive landscapes of the area, you will be able to learn more about the richness and cultural heritage of the country.
The majestic flight of the Andean condor, volcanoes, thermal springs water complexes, agricultural platforms from the Inca period, ruins, high mountains, a variety of flora and fauna, are among the many things that you can see on this tour.
In addition to taking you to know the Colca Valley, from Guru Explorers we have to offer you different Tours in Cusco, so that you can live a very complete stay in Peru and get to know the most important tourist spots. We invite you to contact one of our sales advisors and request more information!