When planning our trip to Peru, the Colca Canyon was, admittedly, not a big priority. With the likes of Machu Picchu, Lake Titicaca and Rainbow Mountain dominating Instagram, we viewed the Colca Canyon as more of an added bonus rather than a must-see. However, once we got to the Peruvian highlands, we realised just how much we would have missed out on if we’d flown from Arequipa to Cusco – thus cutting out the road trip portion of our trip.
While the Colca Canyon is stunning in its own right (being the second deepest canyon in the world!), another big appeal for us was the opportunity to see Condors. Being the largest flying birds in the world, they are definitely worth going out of the way to see – although there is a certain amount of luck involved! So read on to find out exactly where to go, where to stay, and what to do to best increase your chances of seeing them.
Where to Stay:
As Condor spotting requires a very early start (we left our hotel at 5:30am), staying in the area is a definite must. One of the most common places to stay is Chivay, which is a small town in the Colca Valley, and a nice place to visit in its own right. Despite being small, it has an active market square and lots of small restaurants, so is a good base for exploring the Colca Valley and Canyon. Just outside the town, there are hot springs and ziplining (more to come on both!), so is a good place to stay a night or two. We stayed just outside Chivay, at the Mama Yacchi Hotel, which is structured like a ranch, and is surrounded by the countryside. Although be warned, there’s no wifi or TV! A lot of people also do tours from Arequipa, so if you’re staying in the city, definitely check out different tour providers.
Where to Go:
After our 5:30am start, we headed out on the coach to Mirador Cruz Del Condor, which is the best viewing point for seeing the Condors. While it is partly based on luck whether they are there on the day, it is best to get there before 8am to maximise your chances. Luckily, when we arrived, there were about 10 Condors flying around, so we definitely got lucky! While the Condors can be seen all year round, it is worth bearing in mind that the likelihood of spotting them is higher during the dry season (April-November) than the rainy season. So if seeing Condors are high on your priorities, it’s worth considering when to go! And even if you don’t see them, Colca Canyon itself is absolutely stunning, so it’s not a day wasted.
What to Do:
As the Condors are most likely to be at the lookout point before 9am, you might be asking what else can be done with the day. While the whole area is stunning, with tonnes of great lookout points and photo opportunities, we also visited the nearby village of Maca. Despite being a small village, it has a beautiful little church, and a lovely market, so is worth spending some time there, before heading back to Arequipa, moving on towards Puno, or just as a way of spending some more time in the region.