HIKING WITH THE CONDORS IN PERU'S COLCA CANYON
In Southeastern Peru there exists a little known canyon that is one of the most spectacular hiking destinations in the world. The Colca Canyon not only is the deepest canyon the world. …it is home to the Andean Condor.
The Colca Canyon at its deepest is 3000 ft above sea level and twice as deep as the Grand Canyon. It rises to its highest point at 20,630 ft at the summit of the Ambato Volcano where the famous "Inca Ice Maiden" was found. Sacrificed to the ancient Gods over 500 years ago, her discovery highlighted the beginning of tourism to this remote area of Peru. The area is now a hiking destination par excellence to those adventurers who seek to discover their own Incan adventure in this valley of ancient ruins, high mountains, vertical cliffs and live volcanoes
The adventure begins in the southern city of Arequipa, Peru. Called the White City (most of the buildings were once painted that color); it is now the jumping off point to visit the Colca Canyon. Landing in Arequipa, it is a four hour drive up and over the Peruvian Andes to the town of Chivay at 10, 899 ft. The Canyon has become so popular that there are several new hotels in the area. These hotels are not only catering to the hiking crowd but to those just interested in the Andean villages with their colorful inhabitants as well as those coming to see the Condors.
Further into the Canyon the winding dirt road takes you to a wonderful new Orient Express Hotel and a real "jewel" in the OE crown. The Casitas del Colca is a spectacular new hiking resort…complete with Peruvian Paso horses for riding, its own herd of alpacas, guinea pigs, cows and rabbits as well as three trout ponds for fishing. It also has its own farm where they grow organic produce to support the gourmet kitchen (where you also can take Peruvian cooking lessons). The staff is wonderful and when you are not enjoying other pursuits, you can assist by feeding the livestock or helping in the kitchen. There is also an excellent fly fishing guide to help you find the perfect rods in the river at the base of the canyon. The wellness spa is a unique addition to any resort in this area with its use of Andean grown herbs and grasses and shamanic treatments to cleanse the soul.
Each room at Casitas is a little private house…complete with sitting room, fireplace, and private terrace with a heated plunge pool. There is also a huge dressing area and bath. Surrounded by glass, the Jacuzzi tub and indoor shower are complemented by a walled outdoor garden and shower to bathe under the stars at night.
Daytime activities include walking and trekking, fly fishing, horseback riding and cycling, as well as bird watching…the real reason for coming to the Colca.
The Condors of Peru are considered to be the largest flying land birds in the world. Every morning at around 10AM, along a lonely cliffside at the edge of the canyon, there is a magnificent display of these giant birds rising from the canyon bottom to soar in the thermals and warm air currents above. It's a spectacular site to see these ancient birds…some with wing spans of over 12 feet in length…..flying just above your head. In some places in the world you may see one or two flying high above the mountains….but here in the Colca ….there is a minimum of 10 each morning. The sight has become so wonderful that people come from all over the world to hike and see the Condors.
The Colca Canyon of Peru is a spectacular place to visit and the Casitas del Colca a wonderful place to base an adventure. As a destination or as an additional part of a trip to Peru to visit the famed ruins of Machu Picchu…there is so much to enjoy in Colca….and hiking with the Condors flying overhead is the high point of any adventure.
Pamela Walker is a Virtuoso travel consultant and can be reached at email@example.com. You can follow her travels by visiting Pam's blog at http://pamwalkers.blogspot.com .