Colca Canyon

May 19th, 2008

Twice as deep as the Grand Canyon in the United States, the Colca Canyon in Arequipa is the second deepest in Peru and the Americas, second only to the Cotahuasi Canyon just a short distance away.

It’s difficult to measure the exact depth. Do you measure the deepest point or the average depth, how do you choose the deepest point, do you measure from the peaks that line the canyon, peaks that tower not only over the canyon but also over all the surrounding area?

It is said though, by some measurements, that the deepest point is 3501m, a depth so huge in such a wide sloped canyon that the altitude and air pressure vary as you descend and so do the ecosystems.

Inhabited for millennia, pre-Inca farming terraces cover the terrain and are still farmed today by the Collagua and Cabana people who live in these parts. When the Spanish arrived, they built Spanish-style towns for the people to live in, part of their attempt to do away with their traditions and lifestyle.

But they couldn’t do away with everything. The canyon is named Colca after the holes that exist on the cliff faces, once used by the Incas and pre-Incas for storing food and burials of their elite.

Today visitors come to the canyon to hike, see condors and visit typical Andean villages.

Expanded from original article with more photos here.

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