Going over the 15,800’ pass was cold and breath-taking. We had no idea the drive to Colca Canyon would be so scenic. We’d planned this side trip many months earlier and had forgotten any details of what the drive would entail. The day before, we reviewed our itinerary and looked at a map. Somehow it had escaped us that we’d be driving through the very large Salinas and Aguada Blanca National Reserve, home to a volcanic range with mountains in the 20,000’ (6,100 m) range.
Our first stop offered us great mountain views and vicuna grazing in the distance.
A mid-way stop offered a bit of everything: coca tea (for the altitude), snacks, stalls for purchasing handicrafts, photography of mountains and rock formations.
Another stop offered us the chance to see a herd of alpacas not far from the road. Our guide explained the economics of llama and alpaca to us, with white alpaca wool worth considerably more in the marketplace than all the others.
At the highest point on the road, the view is clear to Misti Mountain (5,822 meters/19,101’), a volcano that last erupted in 1985.
Cabana and Collagua peoples live in the valley. Their elaborate embroidery differed greatly from the work we’d seen while in northern Peru.
Just as the van was ready to descend into the Colca Canyon valley, one last stop was made for a herd of sheep to cross the road.
The canyon is 13,640’ deep (4,160 meters), twice the depth of the Grand Canyon. We expected Colca Canyon to be an interesting destination – but had no idea that the journey there would be so scenic.