Machu Picchu’s famed status draws millions of tourists a year to Peru (and for good reason – it is just as incredible as any blogger makes it out to be). However, an equally awe-inspiring wonder awaits adventurous travelers willing to get just a bit off the well worn Lima-Cusco-Machu Picchu track: Colca Canyon.
Colca Canyon used to be pretty much unheard of, which is crazy considering it’s just a half day’s drive from the pretty city of Arequipa. Even now, with 2 day tours costing just under $30 (including accommodation), the natural and cultural wonder doesn’t receive the praise it deserves.
I never would have guessed the truth before visiting, but if I had to choose between visiting Machu Picchu and Colca Canyon, I would go with Colca Canyon, especially for any animal-crazed (guys, CONDORS!) nature-lovers like me. And that’s saying a LOT, considering I got horrible altitude sickness and spent much of the trip alternating between clutching my stomach and clawing at my head.
Don’t believe me? See for yourself…
After a day of severe altitude sickness and trying not to die while curled up fetal position, I was happy to just be able to get out of the van… let alone be greeted by this view. The early morning sun beams streaked across the sky, lighting the Colca Canyon valleys to a certain golden hue.
I breathed in deeply, fully enjoying and experiencing the light-as-air feeling that comes with finally feeling good after a period of feeling deathly awful. Wouldn’t it be great to always feel that sense of appreciation for our typical status quo health? In every direction, the Colca Canyon looks so stunning and idyllic, and I intended to take in every breath of it.
The terraces in the hills are used to prevent erosion, and also to create a flatter land more suitable for agriculture. Unintended side effect: serious beauty.
From these view points, we drove on through the hillside. At some points, LITERALLY driving through the hillside.
The van stopped again and we walked briskly along the path (our pace matching the ferocity of the air) to our final, much-anticipated destination.
Eventually, we reached the Cruz del Condor, or Condor’s Crossing. My stomach tightened in excitement. This was the moment I’d been waiting (and hoping) for… my opportunity to see a condor in the wild. We waited, and waited, and waited.
Our patience was well-rewarded, with not one but TWO condors rising up out of the canyon and above our heads. The moved so quickly, yet seemed to be floating.
Is there anything in the world that inspires a greater feeling of connection than seeing such an enormous, ancient animal in its natural habitat, flying free?
It’s moments like these that I travel for.