Canyons & Condors

Arequipa

The city of Arequipa is located in the Southern part of Peru and is the only city in the world surrounded by 3 different volcanoes! One of which is still active. I do wonder if any of the inhabitants have read the story of Pompeii but each to their own. There is plenty to do around Arequipa, the city itself is stunning and just north lies Colca Canyon! The second deepest Canyon in the world, nope the Grand Canyon isn’t number 1 the Chinese take that claim to fame.

Colca Canyon

Most people go on a multi-day trek to Colca Canyon, this can be done either with or without a tour. We swayed towards the 3-day option, but after weighing up our options on both time and money we opted for a one day tour! Pick up was nice and early at 4 am and we started on the 3-hour drive out to the canyon. After a rather disappointing breakfast stop of just bread and jam, we continued on to Mirador de Condor!

Colca Canyon, Arequipa, Peru
Looking out over Colca Canyon

The Andean Condor

The Andean mountains are home to the gigantic Andean Condor! The second largest flying and number 1 heaviest flying bird, every morning they fly past a section of the canyon. This has obviously led to huge numbers of tourists congregating here every day to watch. If you take a tour of any length to Colca Canyon it will undoubtedly start with watching the condors. When we first arrived it took us a few minutes to actually see them, but once we had found them they were truly majestic birds and absolutely massive, to the point I actually wondered how they managed to fly.

The Andean Condor in flight
Photos do not do this animal justice

After sitting and watching the condors for a short while, including one final flourish where 3 or 4 flew right over our heads and one adult male flew right past the front of us we hopped back on the minibus heading for the hot springs located just outside of Chivay. On route, we stopped at various viewpoints over the canyon, whilst you can quite easily see the obvious depth I can see why the Grand Canyon takes most of the plaudits. The Colca Canyon is surrounded by mountains, which doesn’t quite give the same sense of depth as the desert surrounding the Grand Canyon does. Still really impressive views. It was at this point I learned one of my favorite potato facts ever, everybody loves a good fact about potatoes right? If you were to each one different variety of Peruvian potato every day, you would need to stay in Peru for around 10 years to try each different one! I thought us Brits were special with our Maris piper and jersey royals.

Chivay Hot Springs

As part of the tour, there was a stop at some natural hot springs just outside of the town of Chivay! We had an hour to relax in the 3 different pools, one of which was so incredibly hot it was impossible to even get in. Annoyingly, the best temperature pool was filled with over-excited small children so we took the medium heat option and spent the next hour periodically climbing in and out to try and keep our bodies at a normal temperature. Some daring individuals went for a quick dip in the river running next to the springs to get the true hot/cold effect! We were more than content just with the warmth thank you very much.

Not included in the price of the tour was a stop at an all you can eat buffet restaurant, this was an extra 30 soles (£6) so again showing our true cheapskate-ness we brought a packed lunch with us! Most people ate until they couldn’t physically continue. I was more than content with my tuna sandwich, fruit, crisps and biscuits!

On route back to Arequipa we stopped at a couple more viewpoints, one looking out over an erupting volcano and the other over a field filled with hundreds of alpacas, llamas and vicunas.

Arequipa City

Misti Volcano, Arequipa City
Viewpoint over the Misti volcano

The city itself is really impressive just to wander around and check out the different buildings. The main plaza is one of the most impressive I have seen anywhere in South America and there are plenty of other colonial buildings and churches well worth your time. There is also a viewpoint called Yanahuara just 20-30 minutes from the main square that gives a really impressive view over the whole city and the Misti Volcano (the active one).

Probably my favorite city so far in South America, but this was surely about to be trumped as we were heading up to Cusco! Cusco also meant we were soon heading to Machu Picchu, possibly the thing I was most excited for in all of South America! Bring it on!

Tags

andean condor, another on the list, arequipa, backpacking, colca canyon

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