Peru: Colca Valley / Colca Canyon

I liked Peru. I really liked Peru.

In fact, I may love Peru a little bit.

I know when the love part happened. It was when we went to the Colca Canyon. From Arequipa, we boarded a mini bus that took us into the mountains. As we entered the mountain highlands, the scenery became more and more spectacular.

I mean: just look at it.

On the way to the Colca Valley, we came across numerous vicuna, which have the priciest and finest wool in the world. A scarf made from vicuna wool costs about USD $1500… I know what you’re thinking. I need to raise some vicuna!

In addition to the vicuna there was also lots of alpacas and llamas. I was quite excited to see them – who can resist their fluffy appeal? Not me! (Do you know how to tell the difference? Alpacas are much smaller and one easy visual difference is that they have fluffy faces while llamas have bare ones.)

After reaching the highest point on our travels, a pass that was about 4900m high, we headed into the Colca Valley to a small town called Chivay, which is located at 3,635m (11,926ft) above sea level.

It wasn’t a large town, but it was quite nice.

We had a fantastic local guide for the Colca Canyon, but he did take us to a super touristy restaurant in Chivay for dinner – Mistituris.

There was a little snack before proper food – corn nuts and cheese.

We could’ve gone ala carte, but there was a set menu option – 2 courses for 23 soles (less than AUD $9. I KNOW.)

I started with beetroot soup, which was really good.

And Alastair had chicken noodle soup.

And you know how I was admiring alpacas earlier in the day…? I had alpaca steak for dinner. Yeah, I really like alpaca. Cough.

Alpaca meat is very lean and high in protein and tastewise it’s quite mild – I thought it was very similar to veal.

Alastair also had alpaca, but he had it lomo saltado style.

After dinner there was dancing, with poor suckers being pulled up to participate. I *loathe* audience participation, so I heavily resisted any attempts to get me up. (I was successful.)

The next morning we had an early start (leaving at 6am, thank you very much) to drive to the Colca Canyon. The views, ohmygod the views.

At several points during the drive as we looked down the valley, we could see villages, pre-Inca stepped terraces, and the river with the mountains as a backdrop. It was *so* beautiful.

And then the Colca Canyon. It’s said to be the world’s deepest, more than twice as deep as the Grand Canyon, with a depth of 4,160m (13,650 ft). The scenery was amazingly spectacular – deep canyon, massive snow capped mountains – and!

Condors! The reason for the ridiculously early start was so we could see the condors, which tend to use the thermals in the early morning / late afternoon to glide above the canyon. A type of vulture, condors are gigantanormous, with wingspans that range from 2.7 to 3.2 m.

I hung around waiting for a condor to fly over for AGES, and as soon as I left the viewpoint to go to the toilet, that’s naturally when one glided over. FFS. Fortunately I left the camera with Alastair who managed to snap some photos.

Alpacas, condors and amazing scenery. It was one of my favourite parts of our trip. So worth the visit.