Few sights in the world have views as magnificent as those found at the vast Colca Canyon. Formed by a fault line between two prominent volcanoes, the Canyon has a depth of more than a kilometre from the cliff’s edge to the meandering River Colca below, making it one of the deepest in the world. The more remote Cotahuasi Canyon, which is also in Peru, claims the world title for depth; Colca is just 170 metres shy of Cotahuasi, meaning both canyons are over twice as deep as the Grand Canyon in the US.
Condor’s Cross is an especially dramatic look out point over the canyon, roughly one and a half hours’ drive from most of the hotels in the area. It is a popular spot to visit during the mornings for a chance to see magnificent circling condors. With wing spans of up to three metres, these impressive birds glide along on the thermals and can swoop surprisingly close to spectators. Whilst temperatures can be very cool in the evenings, cacti dots the slopes and the area can almost be described as tropical, with palm trees and even orchids as the slopes descend.
The lush surrounding Colca Valley is a particularly scenic spot, home to some of the finest examples of Inca terracing in South America. The indigenous communities of the Callaguas and Cabanas still farm the hillsides to this day, so you can spot traditionally dressed locals as well as llamas as you pass by. The market town of Chivay is likely to feature at some point during exploration of this area. The most notable attraction here is at La Calera, roughly five kilometres from the town, where there are a series natural hot spring pools, heated by bubbling brooks in the mountainside.