When most people think of Peru,(and until recently, myself included) their minds immediately jump to Machu Picchu. Who could blame them? Machu Picchu is a globally recognised Wonder of the World. It's beyond incredible, awe inspiring, surreal even. But honestly... There were just so many tourists.
Near the southern city of Arequipa is Colca Canyon, disputed as being one of the deepest canyons in the world, twice the depth of the Grand Canyon. Not wanting to miss out, we organised a hiking trip down to the reachable, aptly named, 'Oasis' at the bottom. The first stop was at the nearby Cruz del Condor, a valley populated by huge condors. The views were incredible.
Next up, we made our way to Colca, beginning the seven hour descent into the breathtaking canyon. As we approached the edge of the precipice, the canyon stood before us in all its glory.
The descent was a steep, dusty, adrenaline-pumping decline. As we skidded and slowly edged our way down the canyon wall, it was difficult to focus on the ground.
All around us was the most indescribable beauty. The contrast between the arid sandstone and cactus strewn landscape, and the fertile greenery of the environment nearing the bottom created the essence of both desert and tropical forest. It was here in the oasis that we spent one night and prepared for the near vertical accent in the morning.
Beginning the three hour hike up the canyon wall at 5:30am, we hoped to beat the burning sun to the top. The thigh-aching hike was at times dangerous, as rock falls are common. After witnessing one, we quickly ran over the freshly fallen rocks to safely continue the ascent.
When we finally reached the top, the strenuous hike was more than worth all of the effort.
En route back to Arequipa, there were soothing hot springs and several incredible vista points throughout the Chivay region. The drive reached altitudes of 5,100 metres above sea level, from here we could see a steaming volcano in the distance.
Colca Canyon is one of Peru's hidden gems. So when you're planning a trip out there, and don't want to only visit the Peruvian Disney Land of Machu Picchu, head west, and experience one of the deepest canyons in the world.
Written by Emma Gaffney.