Although the walls of Colca Canyon are not as vertical as those of the Grand Canyon in Arizona, this Peruvian gorge is much deeper. The canyon was formed by the Colca River, which eroded its banks over the last billion years, carving a tremendous ditch in the surface of the planet.
Colca Canyon Geography
Located in Southern Peru, the Colca River begins high in the Andes Mountains, and heads westward, towards the Pacific Ocean where it empties. Colca Canyon is not too deep around the upstream parts of the river, but further west, it is much deeper. The gorge is very wide, so the vertical depth is not too impressive when compared with the canyon’s width and the slope of its walls, but it is certainly a sight to see. The main part of the canyon is found about 100 miles northwest of Peru’s second largest city, Arequipa. Colca Canyon’s lowest (in altitude) point is the valley where the river flows, known as Colca Valley, an area once occupied by the indigenous Inca. The upper reaches of the walls are mountain peaks, some of which are snow capped.
Description of Colca Canyon, Peru
Colca Canyon is not in a dry, arid region like that of the Grand Canyon and Mexico’s Copper Canyon, but rather it lies in a more lush natural environment. The walls of the canyon appear green instead of red or brown in the lower altitudes, as vegetation is more visible than dirt or rock. Higher up and further back from the river, the vegetation stops, and more barren rock begins, as the walls form part of the Andes Mountains, the longest range on Earth.
Wildlife in Colca Canyon
Wildlife abounds in Colca Canyon. The lowland parts of the canyon, closer to the river, are very tropical and forested, offering habitat to monkeys, parrots, iguanas, and many other tropical species which may be found. In higher elevations, alpacas, guanacos, vicuñas, and llamas, all New World members of the camel family, may be seen grazing. Mountain lions and spectacles bears are also found in these areas. Colca Canyon is also arguably the very best spot in the world to get a glimpse of the rare Andean condor, the largest flying land-bird in the world.
Colca Canyon in Peru is truly an amazing natural sight. Walls of lush, green vegetation that transform into some of the snow capped peaks of the Andes as the sides of the canyon raise up from the river are visible to visitors. And although it lacks the steepness and vertical nature of walls seen in the Grand Canyon, it is over twice as deep as its Arizona counterpart, making Colca Canyon, with a depth of over 10,000 feet, (about 3200 meters) the second largest canyon in the Western Hemisphere, after the neighboring Cotahuasi Canyon, also in Peru.