Colca Canyon is the canyon of the Colca River in southern Peru. It is located about 100 miles (160 kilometers) northwest of Arequipa. The name Colca refers to small holes in the cliffs in the valley and canyon. These holes were used in Inca and pre-Inca times to store food, such as potatoes and other Andean crops. They were also used as tombs for important people.
Colca Canyon is one of the deepest canyons in the world. At 10,725 feet (3,269 meters), it is more than twice as deep as the Grand Canyon in the United States. However, the canyon's walls are not as vertical as the ones of the Grand Canyon. The Cotahuasi Canyon nearby to the northwest is a deeper canyon at 11,488 feet (3,501 meters). Since they are such major features of the landscape, the Colca and Cotahuasi Canyons are both easily recognizable in even low-resolution satellite photos of the region. The Colca Valley is a colorful Andean valley with towns founded in Spanish Colonial times and formerly inhabited by the Collaguas and the Cabanas. The local people still maintain ancestral traditions and continue to cultivate the pre-Inca stepped terraces.
Parts of the canyon are habitable, and Inca and pre-Inca terraces are still cultivated along the less precipitous canyon walls. The small town of Chivay is on the upper Colca River, where many terraces are present in the canyon and continue for many kilometers downstream. As the canyon deepens downriver, there is a series of small villages spread out over 35 miles (56 km) between Chivay and the village of Cabanaconde.
The Colca Canyon is home of the majestic condor. Tourists can see the big condors at fairly close range as they fly through the canyon. The canyon is the natural habitat of the great Andean condor (Vultur gryphus), a species that has seen worldwide efforts to preserve it.
"Cruz del Condor," the pass where condors soar gracefully, is a popular tourist stop to view the condors, The condors hunt in the early morning and late afternoon, so it is best to be there during those times.
Journeys trips that include Colca Canyon:
Colca Canyon Adventure trip extension
Information based on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colca_Canyon