The route from Arequipa to Colca Canyon is marked by open plains surrounded by snow-capped volcanoes. Along the way, we make several stops: at the Pampas Cañahuas Reserve to watch the grazing herds of alpacas and vicuña, at the town of Viscachani to stretch our legs and enjoy a coca tea or coffee, at the Mirador of the Andes Lookout (4850masl) to take in some dazzling expansive views of the surrounding landscape. The lookout is located at the highest point of the crossing, meaning that you will probably be feeling a little fatigued from the altitude! (Check out an earlier post if you’re looking for tips to prevent and deal with altitude sickness….you’ll probably be glad you did.)
At Chivay, we’ll enjoy a buffet lunch where you can sample alpaca and other local dishes. Chivay is considered the canyon’s principal town and entry point, so this is where visitors must purchase their entry, which is presently S/35 Peruvian nuevos soles.
Continuing on to the town of Coporaque, you can get settled in our inn for the night before exploring the town with our local guide. Evenings can be quite cold in the canyon, but you can warm up in the La Calera Hot Springs if you desire. The entry cost is S/10 Peruvian nuevos soles. (The inn can provide towels, so you just need to bring sandals and your swimsuit.) The pools are surrounded by beautiful mountains. Dinner will be accompanied by a folkloric show highlighting the canyon’s two pre-Columbian cultures, the Collagua and the Cabana.
After an early breakfast on the second day, we head to the viewing platform of Condor’s Cross, the most famous site in the canyon, stopping along the way to enjoy views of the canyon and its river as well as thousand year old cliff-side agricultural terraces and pre-Columbian hanging tombs. As the sun’s rays begin to warm the canyon, the endangered Andean condors rise from their nesting colony deep below Condor’s Cross, circling ever higher in search of food. The sheer size of the world’s largest birds of flight is stunning to see at close range, especially in the setting of the canyon’s natural beauty. There are some small trails in the area that we can walk as well. During the return to Chivay for lunch, we’ll visit some of the tiny towns of the canyon.
Then, it will be time to depart from the canyon and begin our journey over the altiplano, the high Andean plains. Depending on the time of year, we may see Andean flamingos feeding on the shores of Lagunillas Lake. At the end of the journey, you will be dropped off at your hotel or hostel in Puno.
Although Puno itself is not a large city, the islands of Lake Titicaca will surely be calling to you. Most visitors choose to see at least the Floating Islands of Uros, and if time allows the islands of Amantani and Taquile. For more detailed information on things to do in Puno, here’s a selection of earlier posts on the topic: