Thursday, December 4, 2008

Colca Valley Colca Canyon: The Condors Realm

Colca Valley Colca Canyon: The Condors Realm

Useful Information

Ways of getting to the Colca Valley´

The city of Arequipa is the starting point for the 165 km journey to the Colca Valley. The journey to the Colca may be carried out independently, may be organized by a tourist agency or may be a combination of both.
For the tourists who wish to travel independently, the buses to Chivay and Cabanaconde, the two main towns in the valley,depart from the bus terminal in Arequipa. There is a day bus and a night bus. The journey lasts approximately four hours with one stop at a police control.
In Chivay you can find all the services a visitor might require, while in Cabanaconde, Yanque and Achoma, these services are limited. There are very few tourist services in other towns or villages.
There are local buses which travel between the towns and villages in the valley, but their time schedule is irregular. It is more practical to hire a taxi for a few hours.
The travel agencies usually organize excursions which normally only include a visit to the southern area of the valley, between Chivay and Cabanaconde. Some also offer visits to less well known sites, as long as there is enough demand.
The third way is to combine both methods: first to take an organized tour and then staying a few more days in order to take your time and visit those hidden marvels which the Colca offers. This is an especially interesting option for those who love walking as they can take time to tour all the valley.

Portrait of Arequipa

Arequipa is located in the South of Peru at the foothills of the Andes, 1,020 kilometers from Lima. It is the second largest city of the country and a must for any tourist plans for visiting the Colca Valley.
If you are travelling up from the coast, due to the altitude in the Colca, it is advisable to stay in Arequipa for one or two days to get acclimatized and take advantage of the warm climate and the varied tourist attractions.
Arequipa has possibilities for tours within the city as well as to the surrounding area. Its varied culinary delights are well known throughout the country.
The "White City", as it is called due to the white volcanic rock with which many of its buildings are built, maintains ancient architectural treasures in the way of grand houses and impressive churches and monasteries. Historical tours include the visit to the Plaza de Armas (main square) with its cathedral, the church of the Compañía de Jesus and the Santa Catalina Monastery. On the outskirts the attractions include the Cayma district with a church built in 1730, and Yanahuara which also has a church and an outlook point from where you have a magnificient view of the city and volcanoes which surround it.
As far as excursions to the surrounding area are concerned, there are possibilities for visiting picturesque villages, Mejia lakes, the Salinas and Aguada Blanca National Reserve or the Colca Valley.
Arequipa can be reached by land, along the Panamericana Sur highway, by train from Puno, or by air from various cities in Peru.

Activities and routes

As mentioned before, the journey to the Colca Valley offers a great variety of attractions in the way of ecology, landascape and cultural and historical monuments.
It is possible to visit all of these to a lesser or greater extent, depending on the transport available and the tourist's interests. So if you are an experienced mountain climber who wishes to try the high mountain tops of the area it is possible to find a prepared guide at the Arequipa Mountain Guides Association, who will accompany you to see, for example, the origin of the Amazon River. If you enjoy trekking you may go on excursions to all corners of the valley where you will see not only amazing flora and fauna and landscape, but also wonderful archaeological remains and towns. The local guides enrich the experience with their interesting explanations.
We recommend that your stay in the Colca Valley should last at least three to six days. A stay this long will enable you to have quite a full impression of the cultural and natural wealth of the region. A shorter stay will only enable you to see a part of what the Colca offers.
The following suggested route enables you to see a bit of everything using your own or hired transport and we have called it the "Colca Classic Route". We also suggest some partial routes in the way of very practical excursions which you can use at your choice and depending on the type of holiday you want and the time you have available.
As the Colca is a valley enclosed by the high snow-capped Andes mountains at an average altitude of 3,500 metres above sea level, its climate is typical of a high mountainous region. Temperatures rise and fall greatly from day to night.
In the dry season (mid April to mid November) temperatures usually fall to below zero at night and reach 15 C - 20 C during the daytime.
During the rainy season (end of November to end of March), changes in temperature are less dramatic as the overcast sky impedes the penetration of the sun's rays and the heating of the atmosphere during the day and the frost and cold at night. Temperatures vary between 5 C and 10 C.
As far as clothing is concerned, comfortable footwear for walking, preferably sports shoes or boots; warm clothes; a sun hat and a water bottle or container, are recommended. For the rainy season, it is also best to bring appropriate protection from the rain. For the visit to the spring baths at Chivay and Yanque you should take swim wear and your own towel.
You must never forget to wear sun glasses and high sun factor protection cream when you visit the Colca Valley. A good, night moisturising cream is also recommended.
If you plan to walk along some of the suggested routes you should carry your own camping gear and first aid kit.
You should also have become accustomed to high altitude conditions for a few days first so that the physical exercise is not too demanding and your body does not suffer from lack of oxygen.
Finally, as the Colca Valley nears the Pacific Ocean it narrows and becomes a canyon. The Colca canyon reaches a depth of approximately 3,400 metres. This view cannot be seen on any other of the usual tours. Its access is down river and requires previous preparation as it is a difficult route. The maximum height which the standard tours show is at the Cruz del Condor viewpoint (about a 1,200 meter fall).

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