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Explore Colca Canyon

About the Colca Canyon

Claimed to be the fourth deepest canyon in the world at more than 1 km from cliff edge to river bottom, the COLCA CANYON may be an impressive sight but is actually estimated to be 170m less deep than its more remote rival, the Cotahuasi Canyon, also located in Peru.

In places, the canyon’s sides are so steep that it is impossible to see the valley bottom, while the higher edges of Colca are punctuated with some of the finest examples of pre-Inca terracing in Peru, attributed in the main to the Huari cultural era. Craggy mountains, huge herds of llamas, and traditionally dressed Andean peasants complete the picture.

The canyon was formed by a massive geological fault between the two enormous volcanoes of Coropuna (6425m) and Ampato (6318m). Also, the Río Colca eroded it during centuries. In addition, the area’s sharp terraces are still home to more-or-less traditional Indian villages. To the north of Colca, meanwhile, sits the majestic Mismi (5597 m.a.s.l), a snow-capped peak that belongs to the Chila mountain range, and which, according to National Geographic investigation, is the official source of the Amazon River.

As if this were not enough, the tourist facilities here are impressive; 3, 4, and even 5-star hotels are located within the canyon, very close to hot springs and charming towns. Without mentioning the activities that you can realize there like bird watching, especially the Condor, hiking on the canyon slopes, experiential tourism, among others.

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  • Andean churches of the different towns and villages located inside Colca are the best examples of mestizo baroque, with imposing facades and architecture.
  • Beautiful handicrafts stand out for the embroidery with which local women embellish their traditional costumes and hats.
  • Cozy hot springs whose groundwater is heated by volcanoes located near the canyon and comes to the surface in natural pools.
  • Andean condors are the largest flying birds in the world and you can see them gliding through the skies of the canyon. They are already accustomed to human presence.
  • Hiking is the best form to know all the zones of the Colca Canyon because you can descend from the Colca slopes to its bottom, passing by beautiful villages and towns.

Best Colca Canyon tours for 2024 & 2025

Secrets of Colca Canyon, Lake Titicaca and Machu Picchu
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11 Days / 10 Nights

Lima, Arequipa, Colca Canyon, Puno, Lake Titicaca, Cusco, Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu

Secrets of Colca Canyon, Lake Titicaca and Machu Picchu


Francisco Pizarro´s brother, Gonzalo, was given this region in the 1530s as his own private encomienda (colonial Spanish landholding) to exploit for economic tribute. In the seventeenth century, however, the Viceroy Toledo split the area into corregimientos that concentrated the previously quite dispersed local populations into villages, This I had the effect of a decline in the use of the valley s agricultural terracing, as the locals switched to farming the land nearer their new homes.
The corregimientos created the fourteen main settlements that still exist in the valley today, including Chivay, Yanque, Maca, Cabanaconde, Corporaque, Lari and Madrigal. Most of the towns still toast unusually grand, Baroque-fronted churches, underlining the importance of this regions silver mines during the seventeenth arid eighteenth centuries. During the Republican era, Colcas importance dwindled substantially and interest in me zone was only rekindled in 1931 when aerial photography revealed the astonishing natural and man-made landscape of this valley to the outside world - particularly the exceptionally elaborate terracing on the northern sides of bordering mountains.


Colca Canyon is located around 100 miles

The Colca Canyon is located around 100 miles north of the city of Arequipa. The name Colca is used for the canyon, the valley and the river. The Colca province boarders Cusco, Puno in the southern Andes of Peru.

Colca Canyon

The Colca Canyon is considered one of the deepest canyons in the world at around 10200 feet from mountaintop to the river below. The Cotahausi Canyon which is located nearby is a little deeper. During the last few million years or so the river has carved the canyon deeper and the area features many geysers and hot springs.

Colcas and terraces

The landscape of the Colca Valley is properly the most dramatic landscape in Peru. The amazing terrain and high altitude stand to protect all in the area. The endless terraces are without a double some of the striking features in the Andes and serve as evidence of the development of agriculture and the brilliance of the ancient people.
If you are feeling energetic take one of the many walks down into the valley and see the terraces that many hundred years ago feed the empire. See the dazzling night sky filled with stars and remember the immense size of the universe that we live in. Visit the Colca Canyon to be struck by its natural beauty.




The road from Yanque continues on through a very dark tunnel until just beyond MACA, a small community which sits on the lower skirts of the volcano Sabancaya and the Nevado Hualca Hualca, some 23km west of Chivay. Immediately after this tunnel, a number of hanging pre-Inca tombs - las chullpas colgantes - can be seen high up in seemingly impossible cliff-edge locations, facing perhaps the best example of agricultural terracing in Peru across the valley.

Mirador Cruz del Condor

Mirador Cruz del Condor

The Mirador Cruz del Cóndor is the most popular point for viewing the canyon - it's around 1200m deep here - and you can almost guarantee seeing several condors circling up from the depths against the breathtaking scenery. The condors are best spotted from 7 to 9am; the earlier you get there the more likely you are to have fewer other spectators around. These days it's a popular spot, and most mornings there will actually be more tourists here than in the Plaza de Armas in Arequipa. For safety's sake, stand well back from me edge.
The gateway to the Mirador, the settlement of Pinchollo has a small museum and a tourist information office with photos and a model representing the canyon.



Cabanaconde The small but growing town of CABANACONDE (3300m), 10km on from Pinchoilo, is a good base from which to descend into the canyon. An impressive high wall and painted gateway mark the town's eighteenth-century cemetery. The town is also home to several semi-destroyed stone buildings and doorways from the late colonial (or Viceregal) era. If you can make it for the Fiesta de la Virgen del Carmen (usually between 14-18 July), you´ll see the bullring in action and the town in the throes of a major religious festival and party.



A small town located 160km northwest of Arequipa, CORIRE is a small town of around two thousand people. Of very little interest to tourists in its own right, it is a primarily agricultural settlement based on rice and wheat production. Corires claim to fame is really its proximity to the Toro Muerto petroglyphs.

Toro Muerto petroglyphs

Toro Muerto petroglyphs

Reached by bus or car from Arequipa, the Toro Muerto petroglyphs consist of carved boulders strewn over a kilometre or two of hot desert. More than a thousand rocks of all sizes and shapes have been crudely, yet strikingly, engraved with a wide variety of distinct representations. No archeological remains have been directly associated with these images but it is thought that they date from between 1000 and 1500 years ago; they are largely attributed to the Wari culture, though with probable additions during subsequent Chuquibamba and Inca periods of domination in the region. The engravings include images of humans, snakes, llamadas, deer, parrots, sun discs and simple geometric motifs. Somete of the figures appear to be dancing, others with large round helmets look like spacemen - obvious material for the author Erich Von Daniken´s extraterrestrial musings (he based his book Chariots of the Gods on several archeological sites in Peru). Some of the more abstract geometric designs are very similar to those of the Huari culture, which may well have sent an expeditionary force in this direction, across the Andes from the Ayacucho basin, around 800 AD.
The route to the petroglyphs is signaled by a small site museum, but it is a good thirty-minute walk from the road, and at least 500m above it. What you´re looking for is a vast row of white rocks, believed to have been scattered across the sandy desert slopes by a prehistoric volcanic eruption - the natural setting is almost as magnificent as the hundreds of petroglyphs.

Valley of the Volcanoes

Valley of the Volcanoes

Following some 65km of the Río Antigua’s course, the VALLEY OF THE VOLCANOES (Valle de los Volcanoes) skirts along the presently dormant volcano Mount Coropuna, the highest volcano in Peru (6425m) and the highest peak in southern Peru. At first sight just a pleasant Andean valley, this is in fact one of the strangest geological formations you're ever likely to see. A stunning lunar landscape, the valley is studded with extinct craters varying in size and height from 200 to 300m. About 200,000 years ago, these small volcanoes erupted when the lava fields were degassed (a natural release of volcanic gas through soil, volcanic lakes and volcanoes) - at the time of one of Coropuna's major eruptions.
The best overall view of the valley can be had from Anaro Mountain (4800m), looking southeast towards the Chipchane and Puca Maura cones. The highest of the volcanoes, known as Los Gemelos (The Twins), ate about 10km from Andagua. To the south, the Andomarca volcano has a pre-lnca ruined settlement around its base.



Chivay Is the Cañón del Colca's unashamedly disheveled nexus, a traditional town that has embraced tourism without losing its high-country identity. It is equipped with enchanting views of snowcapped peaks and terraced hillsides, and serves as a logical base from which to explore the canyon.
The market area and main square are good places to catch a glimpse of the decorative clothing worn by local women.



Of the canyon's dozen or so villages, Yanque, 7km west of Chivay, has the prettiest and liveliest main square, and sports Its finest church: the Iglesia de la Immaculada Concepción. Its ornate baroque-mestizo facade has an almost churrigueresque look. Also on the plaza is the excellent Museo Yanque (admission S5; 9am-5pm Mon-Sat), which contains displays about the culture of the Colca Canyon, Inca textiles, cranial deformation and ecclesial architecture.
From here, a 30-minute walk down to the river brings you to the hot springs.

Coporaque to Madrigal

Coporaque to Madrigal

Across the river from Yanque, the non-commercialized Coporaque has the valley's oldest church and not much else - unless you count the splendiferous - views of canyon slopes covered in terraced fields.
Between the two villages, there is a sign marking the ruins of Oyu Oyu. Th remnants of this pre-lnca settlement are reached by a half-hour hike uphill. Afterwards you can continue to a waterfall, the source of which is the runoff from Nevado Mismi.

Yanque to Pinchollo

Yanque to Pinchollo

Further along the main road on the south side of the canyon, the spreading landscape is remarkable for its Inca and pre-lnca terracing, which goes on for many kilometers and is some of the most extensive in Peru.
The next big village along the main road is Pinchollo, about 30km from Chivay. From here, a trail climbs toward Hualca Hualca (a snowcapped volcano of 6025m) to an active geothermal area set amid wild and interesting scenery.

Cañon del Cotahuasi

Cañon del Cotahuasi

While the Cañón del Colca has stolen the limelight for many years, it is actually this remote canyon, 200km northwest of Arequipa as the condor flies, that is the deepest known canyon in the world. It is around twice the depth of the Grand Canyon, with stretches dropping below 3500m. While the depths of the ravine are only accessible to experienced river runners, the rest of the fertile valley is also rich ¡n striking scenery and trekking opportunities the canyon also shelters several traditional rural settlements that currently see only a handful of adventur-ous travelers.

Laguna de Salinas

Laguna de Salinas

This lake (4300m above sea level), east of Arequipa below Pichu Pichu and El Misti, is a salt lake that becomes a white salt fiat during the dry months of May to December. Its size and the amount of water in it vary from year to year depending on the weather. During the rainy season it is a good place to see all three flamingo species as well as myriad other Andean water birds.




Trekking is very popular past time with tourist in the Colca Canyon, you can either trek with a group or it is not difficult to trek independently. There are many different treks to choose from on the many different walking tracks available.
The most popular hike is from Cabanaconde to Sangalle oasis and back which is either a one day hike or you can also do it as an overnight. There is also an option to do this trail on horse back.
Most of the trails in the area are very steep so be careful of your back and your knees and take the time to acclimatize be setting out on any of these treks.

Spot unusual wildlife

Spot unusual wildlife

When visiting the Colca Valley the area is home to a grand array of plants and animals. If you plan a trip to the Colca you will want to see the famous Andean condor, which now has plenty of numbers. Some of the other bird life you may see in the area is the Giant Hummingbird. In the upper parts of the valley where it is dry you will mammals such as the vicuna and many other varieties of camelids.

Gaze at ancient terraces

Gaze at ancient terraces

The landscape of the Colca Valley is not only beautiful but also functional, for many hundreds of years the valley has been used for growing food for the population. Today you will still see many varieties of potato, quinoa, wheat and maize grown here. Strangely, in the harsh conditions many other varieties of flora grow and flourish.

Seek thrills

Seek thrills

In the Colca Canyon, there is no shortage of adventure activities to choose from. If you are an adventure junkie choose from whitewater rafting, mountain biking and many other activities.


Weather colca canyon

Depending on where you are will depend on the temperature, in the daytime temperatures in some parts of the valley can be warm especially when walking on of the many trails. When you are high up in the valley expect it to get cold and windy. Make sure you bring warm clothing for the mornings and the evenings and a good hat for the day time.

Trekking in and around the Colca Canyon


There are dozeTrekking in and around the Colca Canyonns of trekking routes in the Colca Canyon, but if you’re planning on descending to the canyon floor, even if just for the day, it’s best to be fit and prepared for the altitude – it’s tough going and becomes quite dangerous in sections. Make sure to check whether oxygen is provided by your tour operator – even a bus trip to Chivay can bring on mountain sickness if you’ve only recently arrived from sea level. If you start trekking from Cabanaconde, or visit this town beforehand, it is worth visiting the tourist information centre and also checking out the cost of guides, arrieros (muleteers) and mules.

Mirador Achachina Walk

A fifteen-minute stroll from the plaza in Cabanaconde takes you past the bullring to the Mirador Achachina, a good spot for spotting condors and viewing the western end of the valley from above.

Basic Colca Trek

The start of the classic route from Cabanaconde to the bottom of the Colca Canyon can be reached just ten minutes’ walk along a fairly clear track beyond the newly constructed Casa de Pablo hostel, itself a five-minute walk from the plaza. The descent from here follows an incredibly steep path, quite dangerous in parts, down to the Oasis, a rustic lodge and campsite right in the bottom of the canyon; it takes one and a half to two hours to descend and four or five to get back up. Many people stay the night.

The Tapay Trail

This well-used trekking route connects Cabanaconde with the small settlement of Tapay via the Oasis. It is a two- to four-day return hike through fine scenery, immense canyons, tiny hamlets like Cosñirhua (2350m) and Malata as well as various Inca and pre-Inca ruins. Save for the aforementioned campsite – which you’ll pass on the first morning – there are no facilities at all in the area.

Cabanaconde to Lake Mucurca

There is a popular eight-hour hike from Cabanaconde that culminates at Lake Mucurca (4000m). At its end point the astonishingly beautiful Ampato volcano is reflected in the lake’s crystalline waters.

The Ampato Trail

From Lake Mucurca the adventurous, fully acclimatized and well prepared can trek all the way around snowcapped Ampato (four to six days). The Ampato Trail has one very high pass – around 4850m at the crossing of two trails on Cerro Quenahuane, above the Quebrada Condori – and most of the walking is at over 4200m. Local guides are a good idea and you will need food and camping equipment. Be prepared for snow and ice; the weather can change very fast. On the last downhill leg of the trek you can choose to follow trails back to Achoma, Maca or Cabanaconde.


A relatively easy two-hour walk from the village of Corporaque (15min by car or bus from Chivay, on the opposite side of the Colca Canyon to Maca and the Mirador Cruz del Condor), takes in the Colcas de Chichinia, a semi-intact set of pre-Inca Huari tombs; today they lie today exposed at the foot of the cliffs on Cerro Yurac Ccacca (also known as Cerro San Antonio). A path leads out a couple of blocks just below the plaza in Corporaque, crossing the stream as you leave the settlement behind and climbing steadily towards a prominent, pink rocky outcrop. Because it’s little visited, the entry path to the site isn’t marked and more or less leaves you to find your own route; given this, it’s important to take care not to damage the stone walls and agricultural plots you have to find your way through.

The tombs are just below the 4000m contour line where several overhangs have been partially filled in with stone as permanent thrones for pre-Inca mummies, placed here ceremoniously to spend eternity watching over the valley and gazing east towards several sacred mountain peaks. These days, after the ravages of time and grave-robbers, all that is left of the mummies are skulls and skeletons, some with hair and a few with remnants of the rope and cloth they were originally wrapped in.

To the southwest, a partly tumbled down, but still impressive Huari village can be clearly seen stretching from the tombs down to a major tambo-style (Quechua for house or resting-place) building on the bottom corner, which commands views around the valley. To get back to Corporaque, you can either drop down to the road and trace this back up to the settlement, or go along the small aqueduct that follows the contour of the hill from the tambo back to where you started.

Travel Tips

Colca Canyon Entrance Fee

All visitors to Colca Canyon must pay a 70 soles entrance fee. You can buy the ticket at any checkpoint. Hold on to the ticket, as park officials will ask to see it at various checkpoints along the typical tourist route.

Distances from Arequipa, Plaza de Armas

  • to Chivay – 162 km ( about 3 hrs by car)
  • to Yanque – 168 km ( about 3 hrs by car)
  • to Coporaque – 169 km (about 3 hrs by car)
  • to Mirador Cruz del Condor – is 201km (4 hrs by car)
  • to Cabanaconde (via Chivay) – 224 km (about 5 hrs by car)


From Arequipa:

  • Minivans depart at 3:00 am and reach Mirador Cruz del Condor in time to see condors in flights. Drop-off is at Cabanaconde around 10:00 am.
  • Public buses leave from Terminal Terrestre in Arequipa every few hours until 2pm. Advisable to buy tickets in advance.

Onward to Puno/Lake Titicaca

  • The company “4M – Express” provides safe and reliable service between the Chivay and Puno. Buses depart at 13:15 hrs and arrive at Terminal Terrestre in Puno at 19:30 hrs. There are 3 stops along the way at various viewpoints.


Many towns of the Colca Canyon are higher in elevation that Arequipa (2,335 m or 7,661 ft) and about the same as Cusco (3,400 m or 11,150 ft). Take the same precautions as you would in Cusco – stay hydrated, avoid heavy meals or alcohol on your first days at altitude, and drink the local remedy coca leaf tea. Take a few days to acclimate before attempting any strenuous activity.


Chivay has on ATM on the Plaza de Armas. Even so, you might want to stock up on cash in Arequipa before you travel to the Colca Canyon. The smaller towns of the Colca Canyon do not yet have ATMs.