Offering stunning vistas of the surrounding landscape and drawing travelers to see the graceful flight of the Condors in its deep canyon, it is no wonder that the Colca Canyon is one of Peru’s most visited destinations. With over 11,989 travelers visiting the area in January 2014, the recent popularity is rising just as the mighty Condor does through the valley. The Colca Canyon makes the Grand Canyon in the USA look nothing more than a pothole as it is twice as deep as its American counterpart. One of Peru’s classic adventure destinations, you’ll go for the views, but you’ll be drawn further in by the hospitable locals with their strong links to their ancient farming traditions. From the ladies in their delicate and colorful ponchos, to the seemingly bottomless canyon and the hypnotizing flight of the Condors, you will find yourself being enchanted by this off-the-beaten-path destination. Peru is home to a staggering 10% of the world’s bird population, and what better way than to marvel at one of the finest, the almighty Condor in the Colca Canyon.
The Immortal Condor
You don’t have to be a birding enthusiast to appreciate the Andean Condor and the setting that surrounds you at the Colca Canyon. With the largest wingspan of any land bird as well as being one of the world’s longest living birds, the Inca’s believed them to be immortal. A local legend has it that when the Condor begins to feel old, it commits suicide by launching itself from the highest rocky peak and folding in its wings, only to rise up and be reborn again. This eternal view of the Condor has made it important to the Andean civilizations that have populated the area saying the bird has medicinal powers in its organs and bones as well as portraying a symbol of health, freedom and power. Gliding gracefully at heights over 22,900 ft. the revered Andean Condor was a source of inspiration which can be seen in cave paintings, local art, ceramics and sculptures, depicting the bird as an icon with religious and spiritual significance for the Andean civilization.
Get your binoculars out
There are an estimated 6,200 Condors remaining in the world with the majority calling the Andean Mountains their home. It is at the Colca Canyon that you are most likely to see the Condor in its natural habitat with more than fifty making it their home and who could blame them with the view they get from their nests built into the rocky sides of the canyon. The Cruz del Condor is one of the most popular and spectacular viewpoints as the supreme Condors circle just feet above your head allowing you to take unbelievable images and close-ups of the birds with the stunning Colca Canyon landscape in the background. It’s a mesmerizing scene and atmosphere, especially in the early hours of the morning as the Andean Condors glide effortlessly on the thermal air currents rising from deep within the valley. The spectacular 3,900 ft. drop to the river below and the Nevado Mismi mountain towering over 9,840 ft. above the canyon floor on the other side of the ravine will make you trigger happy with your camera.
When to go
The dry season in the Peruvian Andes runs from June to August and is usually one of the best times to spot the Condors although sightings can never be guaranteed. If you don’t get to see the Condors you will not be disappointed as the surrounding, picturesque views will certainly keep you entertained. Although not the best time to see the Condors, the wet season from December to March, provides a completely different landscape to the one you will see in the dry season as the Colca Valley springs to life with flowers and greenery. The Condors are generally best spotted in the morning, meaning the earlier you get there, the more likely you are to see the Condors as well as having a more private viewing with fewer observers wanting to catch a glimpse of the bird. Their presence and appearance aren’t limited to specific times or places and you may find that having not seen any at the viewpoint, one of the mysterious Condors will appear unannounced above your head in search of food.
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