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Colca Canyon & Van of Tourists

Our last excursion in Peru… the Colca Canyon.

We departed from Arequipa early with yet another conversion van full of travelers. With 6 hours of driving, we hoped our destination would prove to be worthy of the ride… valleys reportedly twice as deep as America’s Grand Canyon. However, Peru’s version lacks the incredible vertical walls, thus not the same awesome sight. Regardless, we aimed to see more rural towns, hot springs, and the famed Andean Condor.

Grazing Llamas The first day was dominated by driving with the occasional stop to snap photos of the sleepy terrain. Wild llamas, alpacas, and large rodents dotted the barren landscape. For lunch we stopped at a touristy overpriced buffet (asking $7) and I negotiated a far simpler meal, freshly cooked, for $1.50. More driving and we found ourselves in Chivay for the night, supposedly home to fantastic hot springs.  Wind ErosionSuspicious, Ash and I decided to “tour” the hot springs rather than pay full admission. Good choice… the so-called hot springs were nothing more than warm bathtubs full of thong wearing tourist with too much back hair. Then more tourist fun – an “authentic dinner theater” able to hold 100+ of your closest friends from around the world. Oh, and our hostel was disgusting.

Andean Eagle & Blond BombshellExcited to put the second ½ of the prior day behind us, we woke to a screaming baby, quickly packed, then headed for the main event: Cruz del Condor. This made the whole trip worthwhile. Another two hours in the van and we found ourselves near the deepest gorge of the Colca Canyon. The view itself was stunning, but then deep below, a fast moving streak. Then two, three, five….

Wild Falcon (on a rope) Andean Mountains - Colca Canyon Below






Andean Condor SoaringRising like a thermometer in the early morning desert, the eight condors steadily rose with the air draft created by the Andes Mountains. Effortlessly, they glided in the brisk air closer and closer to the camera wielding spectators. Curiously, these lanky birds dine purely on carcasses, preferably the brains and stomach. Thankfully, I did not perish on this day. We watched the magnificent birds soar for 40 minutes and just as quickly as they appeared, the condors moved further along the abyss below.

After a six hour drive chatting with a close talking Belgian diplomat, we arrived back in Arequipa for some much need rest. Our last stop in Peru certainly had its positives and negatives. But the natural beauty coupled with the majestic birds outweighed the tourist fueled itinerary.

- Greg


  1. Book tours in small groups. We saw tour buses full of, well, tourists. At least our tour of 12 folks had a personal touch to it. Again, negotiate and haggle and NEVER pay full price.

  2. There are great hot springs in the Colca Canyon, just avoid Chivay. The hot springs in Yanque (near Chivay) are incredible.

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