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Arequipa & the Colca Canyon

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The Colca Canyon is located in the southern region of Arequipa in Peru and is known as one of the world’s deepest canyons at around 11,000 feet from at its deepest point, nearly twice as deep as the Grand Canyon. The valley also offers a wide range of ecological zones that are home to numerous exotic animal species including condors, vicuñas (a wild relative of the llama), giant hummingbirds, and flamingos. Human inhabitation dates back to about 6,000 years ago, during which time vast systems of agricultural terraces were formed. In the late 14th century, the Inca incorporated the valley into their empire. The population was concentrated into towns during the 16th century per request of the Spanish conquest. Most of the churches were built between 16th and 19th centuries.

Visitors to the Colca Canyon usually spend one or two nights at lodges located on the canyon floor near the towns of Chivay and Yanque. Chivay is a spectacular 90-mile drive from Arequipa with sensational views of Misti and Chachani volcanoes. Packages include Arequipa transfers, all meals and guided excursions.

Adequate preparation should be taken when traveling to the canyon.  Chivay is around 12,000 feet above sea level. It is wise to spend a night in Arequipa (7,600 feet) before continuing up to the canyon. Travelers coming from Lake Titicaca (12,500 feet) should be well-acclimitized.

Explorations of Colca Canyon will include the following:

  • The National Reserve of Salinas and Aguada Blanca, where vicuñas and guanacos can be spotted.
  • The observation points (miradors) of Cruz del Cóndor and Tapay are the sanctuaries of the condors. 
  • From the “Mirador de los Andes”, at 16,000 feet, visitors will be treated to spectacular views of the Ampato, Sabancaya and Hualca Hualca volcanoes.
  • You will visit quaint colonial villages, view Mollepunku's rupestrian paintings and observe beautiful terraces built by the pre-Incas for agriculture.
  • The town of Uyu Uyu is home to pre-Inca ruins.
  • The towns of Yanque and Maca are home to colonial churches and the hanging tombs.
  • Visit the town of Coporaque and enjoy the thermal baths in Chivay.  

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PLACES TO STAY

The Aranwa Pueblito Encantado del Colca is located on the banks of the Colca River about 10 minutes by car from the town of Chivay. Suites and Chalets kitchenette and separate living area, fireplace.  Facilities include the UNNO Spa with heated swimming pool, wet and dry sauna, massage rooms, Jacuzzi and Vichy shower.

The Colca Lodge Spa & Hot Springs is located on the banks of the River Colca, 2½ hours from Arequipa at an altitude of 3250 meters above sea level. It is surrounded by hundreds of pre-Inca agricultural terraces, which have been declared a Peruvian cultural heritage, and is blessed with relaxing hot spring waters rich in lithium. Facilities and amenities include three restaurants and two bars with a wide choice of meals and drinks; hot springs Eco-spa with steam room, Jacuzzis, and massage sessions with local therapists. 

Belmond Las Casitas del Colca

Las Casitas is on a 24 hectare secluded property in the Canyon, situated on the left bank of the Colca River, close to the colonial village of Yanque and just five miles from the village of Chivay.  The twenty individual casitas provide privacy and an opportunity to experience the beauty of the Andes. Each Casita features a luxurious bedroom, spacious lounge and large bathroom all complemented by underfloor heating, as well as featuring a private terrace and heated plunge pool.

Facilities include restaurant, bar, swimming pool, Spa, vegetable garden and farm. Situated adjacent to the free form swimming pool, the Spa Samay features a sauna, two single treatment rooms and a treatment suite complete with a soaking tub.  

AREQUIPA

The “White City” is centered around the Plaza de Armas (main square). The Monasterio de Santa Catalina is a cloistered convent and was built in 1580. The over 20,000-square-meter monastery is predominantly of the Mudéjar style, and is characterized by vividly painted walls. There are approximately 20 nuns currently living in the northern corner of the complex; the rest of the monastery is open to the public. The outskirts of Arequipa has sunny days almost all year that have been inspirational for painters, photographers, writers and poets.  This is some of the most beautiful countryside in Peru: Socabaya or Carmen Alto, the colonial-style Molino de Sabandia, the famous Yumina terraces, and the Mansion del Fundador.

The Museum Santuarios Andinos houses the “Juanita Mummy”, a beautiful maiden sacrificed to the Apu Ampato by Inca priests. 

The Toro Muerto Petroglyphs – the drive to Toro Muerto passes through the picturesque valleys of Uchumayo, Vitor, Siguas and Majes. Here, a 2-hour trek explores more than 5,000 volcanic rock engravings (petroglyphs).

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AREQUIPA HOTELS

Hotel Libertador Arequipa 

Built in 1940 and the only five-star hotel in the city. Ideal location right in the middle of the "Selva Alegre" park and only a few minutes from the city center and several other tourist destinations. The hotel features the services you would expect such as restaurant and bar, large outdoor pool, fitness center with Jacuzzi and sauna.

Casa Andina Hotels operates three properties in Arequipa: Premium, Select and Standard.

The Casa Andina Premium was a former Mint House, the most beautiful traditional house in the White City and a national historical monument. It is located only 3 blocks away from the Main Square, behind the Santa Catalina Convent. The hotel features two wide colonial style courtyards.

The Casa Andina Select Plaza is located opposite the main square (Plaza de Armas) in the historic center of the city.

The Casa Andina Standard is their 3-star property located a few blocks from the Plaza de Armas and a minute-walk from the Santa Catalina Monasterio.

The Tierra Viva Hotel Arequipa Plaza is located on Jerusalem Street, at the historical center of the Arequipa, convenient to the White City’s main tourist attractions. Hotel facilities include breakfast room, indoor patio, business center, terrace on the top floor.

ONWARD FROM THE CANYON...

From the Colca Canyon you have the option of a private overland transfer to Puno with excursions along the way or a 2-night luxury train journey to Cusco with a full-day Lake Titicaca boat tour.

To Puno and Lake Titicaca - the overland trip takes around six hours including a visit to the unspoiled little colonial town of Lampa, known as the “Pink City”.

To Cusco - the 2-night Andean Plains & Islands of Discovery aboard the Belmond Andean Explorer to Cusco, via Puno.

Services include daily breakfast, guided excursions, pre-dinner cocktails and dinner.

Excursions include a full-day boat trip on Lake Titicaca to Uros and Taquile Islands.  

More in our "Things to do in Peru" series

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Inquire now for more information on our Colca Canyon packages and trip extensions 

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