Colca Canyon is one of the largest, and considered by many to be the most beautiful, canyon in South America. Carved by the Colca River through the Andes Mountains, it is not only a place of great beauty but of ancient historic sites and exotic wildlife. Located somewhat off the beaten tourist path, it is one of Peru’s lesser known sightseeing gems but growing in popularity.
A number of pre-Columbian cultures thrived here including the Cabanas and Collaguas peoples. The canyon area was part of the Incan Empire from the 14th to the 16th century. Under the Spanish the area was largely depopulated, though missionaries were active in the canyon. Colca Canyon started to attract tourists after roads into the region were completd in the post-war era.
Colca Canyon is an immense rift that runs through the Andean Mountains, with a maximum depth of three quarters of a mile from the rim to the river. The canyon is lined with small villages, some very ancient, agricultural steppes where crops are still grown, and archaeological sites. The most remote source of the Amazon River can be found within the canyon.
Colca Canyon is somewhat remote, and while growing in popularity is still off the beaten path, with only a little over one hundred thousand visitors annually. Hiking the rim is probably the most popular way to see the canyon. Wildlife roaming the area includes the Giant Hummingbird, one of the definitive avians of the Andes Mountains. Web: www.colcaperu.gob.pe (official website).