Soaring condorOne extremely popular side trip is from Arequipa to Colca Canyon, about 100 miles to the north. The impressive canyon, some 60 miles long and more than 11,100 feet deep, was carved out by Colca River, which feeds the Amazon. The biggest draw here is the Cruz del Condor, a scenic lookout point 4,000 feet above the canyon river where enormous Andean condors fly overhead. Get there by 9am to see the gigantic birds, with wingspans of more than 11 feet, start their flight deep in the gorge and slowly rise until they are overhead. The best shows are during the dry season, from May through October.

There are also a handful of remote colonial-era villages scattered throughout the area. Most date from the 16th century and feature small, ornately decorated churches. These pre-Inca communities still practice ancient customs, wear traditional clothing, and speak their own languages. They also throw energetic festivals throughout the year.

The Colca Valley is also a good place for outdoor adventure sports, such as river running, canyon trekking, and mountain climbing on volcanoes. View of Inca terraces from Colca Canyon tour

It takes several hours to reach Colca Valley from Arequipa . The best way to make this trek is via a guided tour, which you can easily book in Arequipa . Many groups leave before dawn, make a quick stop at Chivay along the way, and return after dark. Most tours include transportation, an English-speaking guide, and park entrance fees. A more relaxing option is a two-day tour, which also includes hotel accommodations and breakfast. View of Arequipa wetland on the way to Colca Canyon