Colca Canyon Trip Report

The following Colca Canyon trip report is a guest post by Jo Self.

I have never been afraid of heights. Falling off of them, yes; just looking over a rail at say, the Empire State Building, where there’s absolutely no chance of falling, no.

And so, standing on the edge of the world at Colca Canyon, I was surprised to notice a twinge of fear. Mind you, I’m from the States, where they warn us our coffee is hot, so I’m used to being protected from things for my own good. But when you stare down from the edge of a nearly two mile deep canyon, one has to think, “Maybe a little fence wouldn’t be such a bad idea.”


Yawar Fiesta statue in Cotabambas, Peru (photo by Sankaypillo, Wikimedia Commons)

Andean Condors and the Yawar Fiesta

Truly breathtaking vistas spill out in every direction from the canyon’s rim. While marveling at the view, I listened to my guide explaining the lore and history of the area.

As the Colca Canyon is known for sightings of the amazingly large Andean condor, my favorite bit of lore revolves around a particular festival once popular in this area. The traditional Yawar Fiesta, or Festival of Blood, was a gruesome celebration that typically took place on July 28, Peruvian Independence Day (the festival still takes place today in the town of Cotabambas).

The tradition involved capturing a condor, and inserting its feet into an incision made on a bull’s shoulders and back, before sewing in the condor. As the bull tried to free itself, the condor, also looking for an escape, would peck at the bull’s throat until it bled to death, at which point the locals unbind the condor and watch it fly away. This whole act, while more than a bit grotesque, was considered symbolic of the Peruvians (the condor) defeating the Spaniards (the bull).

Colca Canyon Tours

Charming villages and picturesque landscapes fill the eyes, and while most tours often take you back to Arequipa – after staying in Chivay or Yanque overnight – a new coach service, 4M, now offers direct buses to Puno and Lake Titicaca.

This is fantastic if you plan to do this tour, as you no longer need to lose a day – and repeat some of your steps – by returning to Arequipa. I chose to try this new service and was pleasantly surprised. A six-hour journey, on a comfortable bus, makes two stops along the way. One in Patapampa for a snack and one more chance to peruse the Artisan Market and the other at Lagunillas to see many of the native birds, including flamingoes. The bus arrives at 7:00pm, with an incredible view of Puno as the lights glow among the hills and the banks of the lake. Check out a tour comparison website with heaps of info and all the different options for taking that trip of a lifetime.

ENTERTAINMENT TIP: If looking for fun at night, or to watch sports during the day, or even a taste of home after returning to Arequipa from the Colca Canyon, visit the Wild Rover Hostel in Arequipa for great food, sports and beer! Entrance to their bars is free even for non-guests

Peru Travel Recommendations:

  • The Eco Inn in Yanque has the most amazing vistas from every room; overlooking the valley, you can see for miles.
  • Be sure to visit the thermal baths near Chivay. Especially in the late afternoon, early evening, looking at the stars and enjoying a Cusqueña, it’s quite the experience.
  • If travelling to Arequipa from Lima we strongly recommend to follow Peru Hop’s route along the coast to Arequipa. Peru Hop, the first Hop on Hop off bus service in Peru, covers the whole South of Peru,taking in world famous stops.


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