It took 2 planes and 2 days, a car and private driver, and the courage to pass through territory reminiscent of the Shining Path, but I saw them! The majestic condors of southern Peru’s Colco Canyon.
WHAT’S A CONDOR LIKE?
There are 2 types of condors: Californian condors and Andean condors. I went in search of the South American variety.
Condors are bald-headed (sort of like a big ole’ turkey vulture), up to 30 pounds, sporting 10- FEET wingspans. Below is what they look like compared to a human:
Condors are so heavy that they could never fly unless they hung out in windy areas like the shore or very deep canyons like, yes, the Colca Canyon.
WHERE DO THE CONDORS LIVE?
Andean condors love the Colca Canyon, in southern Peru, about 100 miles NW of Arequipa.
It is almost 13500′ deep — actually deeper than our own Grand Canyon! — but the 2 are visually and topographically very distinct.
While our own Grand Canyon has massive geological formations, the Colco is more narrow, and useable. You’ll see terraces where the Incans (and the Quechuans still) farm,
small towns where locals raise alpacas,
and of course, the Andean condors which are a major attraction.
Some people hike there, past the condors and down to the Colca River which is a tributary to the Amazon. If this fascinates you, check out Walking the Amazon, the true account of Ed Stafford who took 860 days to walk from the headwaters of the Amazon, all the way to the Pacific – a portion of which took him through the condor’s canyon.
WILL I SEE A CONDOR?
Almost definitely, you will see a condor.
To be honest, this is my best condor photograph. The condor is that tiny black speck a bit above the ridge, on the right side:
But I got much closer!
The condors do these “fly by”s! You’ll be looking out into the canyon and they’ll zoom right over your head from behind…. or they’ll soar up from the canyon depths, right before you.
Condors fly so quickly, and so randomly, that it’s hard to keep your camera poised for the perfect shot.
I have it in my heart, though!
A professional, with gear, could get a condor photo more like this:
|a male condor (evident by white ring around neck), soaring in Colca Canyon|
HOW DO I GET TO CONDOR COUNTRY?
We flew into Arequipa from Lima, and met a car/driver for the 4+ hours to Colca. The road climbed over mountain passes where huge bonfires flared, and meandered through endless desert:
WHAT ELSE CAN I DO, AFTER I EXPERIENCE THE CONDORS?
The local life down by the condors is untouched, remote. Yet the locals are friendly, and accessible.
There are hot springs to soak in,
small villages with bazaars to wander through (and grab a touchstone to bring back home),
and if you’re lucky, like we were, you might even grab a futbol (soccer) game with the Cienzianos! You’ll be the only non-Peruvian there, for sure!
What about in other areas of the country? Meet Hilda, on a homestay with a Quechuan family, high in the Andes:
Want to go see Peru’s condors?
I’ve been there and can share all my insider knowledge!
Grab a FREE 20-min appointment here, to talk about it!