June 03, 2018

Peru: Condors and canyons in the Colca Valley

Jennifer Doherty soon finds that Peru's Colca Valley has one of the most spectacular landscapes on earth and combined with the world's deepest canyon at nearby Cotahuasi, the world's largest flying birds, the condors and numerous pre-Inca ruins it makes a wonderful adventure playground for visitors to the region.

The Colca Lodge & Hot Springs is without doubt the best place to base yourself for a few days to enjoy the region. From here you can go trekking in the canyon, visit the Uyo Uyo pre-Inca ruins only a short hike from the hotel and visit the Cruz del Condor (the Cross of the Condor) to see these amazing birds up close and personal.

Located at an altitude of 3250 metres above sea level, and two-and-a-half hour's drive from the city of Arequipa, the hotel is built on the banks of the Colca River and is surrounded by hundreds of pre-Inca agricultural terraces that have been declared a Peruvian national heritage.

The design of the hotel is inspired by the old pre-Inca structures built of earth, stone and straw creating a magical environment connecting the rooms to the gardens which in turn blend into the adjacent fields, without the division of walls and hedges giving guests full contact with the natural wonders of the area.

Colca Lodge, set in such beautiful natural surroundings has four thermal hot springs set on the river's edge which have different temperatures and contain water rich in minerals that are beneficial to health and offer great relaxation at the end of a day's hiking in the region.

For many the highlight of a visit to the Colca Valley is to view the condors flying on the thermals rising from the canyon floor, swooping down over the Cruz del Condor (Cross of the Condor) as if they are performing for the hundreds of people who come here daily to catch sight of these mighty birds.  The best time to see the birds is early morning or late afternoon in the dry season, as the condors are not fond of rainy days.  The morning our group visited the site I counted up to fourteen birds zooming in and out allowing wonderful photo opportunities.

There is so much history in the valley with pre-Inca ruins located all over the valley.  There are many villages to visit in the valley as well - Chivay, Yanque, Pinchollo and Cabanaconde to name a few. The 18th-century colonial church in Yanque is stunning and the Museo Yanque has a university run cultural museum with displays on traditional cultural life.

The two ethnic groups that originally occupied the valley are the Cabanas and the Collagua.  Today they still wear distinctively shaped hats and intricate embroidered traditional clothing according to their ancestors.

One of the delights of travelling in Peru is meeting face to face with the native wildlife.  There are so many opportunities to meet the very cute llamas, alpacas and vicunas which are native to South America.  Staying at Colca Lodge gives you the opportunity to enjoy a close-up experience at their very own Alpacas Farm.

Based on their wide experience with alpaca (as part of the Grupo Inca), Colca Lodge has created a particular group of alpacas and llamas.  The animals, of all colours and breeds come from the Pacomarca (Puno) experimental centre for genetic improvement where the world's most advanced studies in alpacas are carried out.  A group of "Suri" alpacas are on show at Colca Lodge, these are known as "Wasi" or magic alpacas distinguished by their beautiful long hair, the result of years of special care.

It's a spectacular drive from Arequipa past El Misti, the volcano that hovers over Arequipa city, then travelling through national reserve where you can spot many llama and alpacas living in the wild.  On past the reserve you travel through the bleak altiplano (on the day we travelled it was snowing) reaching the highest point of 4,800 meters from where the snowcapped Nevado Ampato can be seen.  From there you drop spectacularly down into the Colca Canyon as the road switchbacks down to the rural village of Chivay.

There could be no better place to explore the real Peru, meet the local farmers and villagers, enjoy some outdoor adventures and explore Peruvian culture and traditions than in the Colca Valley.  Combined with a stay at the Colca Lodge and Hot Springs with its excellent accommodation and facilities you can be sure of a truly wonderful adventure.

Colca Lodge & Hotsprings:  https://colca-lodge.com/en/

Words and images: Jennifer Doherty

Feature supplied by: www.wtfmedia.com.au

1. Colca Lodge
2. Inca Ruin
3. Alpacas Colca Lodge
4. Colca Lodge Hot Springs
5. Colca Valley
6. Colonial Church Chivay
7. Cruz del Condor

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