Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Colca Canyon: One of Our Favorite Places in Peru

Today we had about 3.5 hours of driving to do to get to Colca Canyon.  Once getting out of the dusty, cramped city of Arequipa the drive was BEAUTIFUL! We began the day at about 65 degrees and by a little over midway through the drive we were standing on top of a snow  covered mountain!  We had beautiful views of mountains, volcanoes, rocky and grassy fields and TONS of lamas, sheep, alpacas and vicunas, which are the "wild" ancestor of other Peruvian camelids.  In fact, vicuna fur is even softer than alpaca, but due to conservation efforts (as well we continued customs carried on from the Incas) the vicunas are only sheared around 1x every 2 years in a big ceremony.

Let's play hidden picture...can you find the Vicuna?
Vicunas in action 

and more!


See the snow on this mountain?!  This is the highest point of our travel!


coming into the town

Although the drive was beautiful and engaging, we also frequently feared for our lives- seriously.  The road is windy and does not often include barriers at the edges, not to mention the squiggly roads, large busses and occasional black ice.  Never fear, we made it alive and well to this beautiful place.

This is the city!

our resort

Las Casitas Del Colca was one of our favorite places to stay.  The room was so cozy, the staff friendly and the scenery beautiful.  We also loved our excursions, the animals and the food!

our casita

bedroom/sitting room

porch and plunge pool

best bathtub ever that overlooked our herb garden

Day one was just a relaxation day for us.  My favorite thing about this day was feeding the baby llamas and alpacas!  We actually tried to feed them every chance we got (3x a day!).  Look how cute they are!  We also walked around the property where we got to see the goats, guinea pigs (Cesar offered to let us go pick one out to eat for dinner one day, which we declined), rabbits, chickens and their organic garden.

this is a giant hummingbird!

observing the alpacas and llamas from afar


feeding time!

highlight of my day!

I want one...or two :)

so cute!

sunning after lunch!

a little laundry time before dinner!

The next day we headed out early with Paulo aka Pablo aka Paul (nice guy, but he asked a few awkward questions; plus, his description of how one of the Pre-Incan Colca cultures used to sacrifice babies by removing their hearts and smashing them onto rocks was a bit graphic) to the Condors Cross.  This little excursion was filled with more death defying driving and beautiful scenery. Here's what we saw:

the beautiful hotel grounds

the canyon

low clouds


Check out this terracing!  The whole canyon/valley is terraced and it was all done in 40 years!

little tunnel

Russell is on top of a rock, on the edge of the deepest canyon in the world waiting for a glimpse of the condors...yikes!

Check out these GIANTS!  Their wingspan is over 6ft wide!

On the way back from Condors Cross, we stopped briefly in the small town of Maca where we were treated to a quick tour, a photo opportunity with a domesticated eagle, and a couple of "Colca Sours", which are the Colca Canyon cousin of the famous Peruvian pisco sour.

This man makes Colca Sours all day...they weren't really for me. 

Check this guy out- he's a 20 year old eagle!

This was the "corn museum" There was a ton of corn in all different colors...

...all on this table and pretty much they just wanted tips to come see it.  

We went for another walk around the property:
This horse (as all horses) hated me. 

view from the trail around the property

Hey baby goat!

I want a baby goat too...
The guinea pigs, rabbits, chickens AND turkeys!

green houses where tons of our food came from!

That night we enjoyed an included cooking and pisco sour class!  Much to Russell's enjoyment we learned to make Lomo Saltado, a sauteed beef dish made all over Peru that has become his new favorite dish!  We also learned how to make sea bass and trout ceviche which was surprisingly simple and so good!

hard at work!

lomo saltado with cheesy quinoa...cannot be beat

ceviche made with the trout from the pond!

learning all about the different types of pisco
the finishing touch

enjoying our piscos!

As for the pisco sour class, I still am not a huge fan of them (very similar to margaritas), but it was fun to take a stab at being Peruvian mixologists.  Plus, Las Casitas had a few of their own house-made piscos with various infusions (ginger, coca, mint, etc.) that made things a little more exciting!

Day 3 we went on a 3 hour hike with a hotel guide.  We were worried that choosing the 3 hour hike equaled the "baby" hike (there was a full day 6 hour option and an overnight into the bottom of the canyon option) and we would be bored.  Let me tell you, 3 hours was all we needed!  The altitude had turned us into heavy breathing wusses!   Our guide, Patricia (who apparently also works the front desk as well as in the spa), took us on foot from the hotel through the nearby town of Yanque all the way to some Inca/Pre-Inca ruins called Uyo-Uyo, which are basically a mini Machu Picchu.

In this valley, people let their animals roam free for most of the day. 

...I also want a donkey

with our guide learning about this church

another pretty cathedral

our stray dog buddy...I wanted to take him home too

learning about the aquaduct
view from our hike

another one

beautiful ruins

takin' a break!

more ruins

this was a great little old town, believed to be used as a school

more terraces...these were so cool to us!

On our last evening, we took a bread making class to learn to make outstanding carrot bread.  Its not like dessert carrot bread but like carrot rolls.   We will be having them at our house soon!

It's worth pointing out that we also met an interesting Texas family during the cooking class.  They were a bizarre mix of friendly and loud....very typically American tourists.  And, well, they were clearly loaded as they talked about all the places they'd stayed, the success of their family construction business, their private driver to take them all over Peru, etc.  Plus, as an added bonus, during dinner they enjoyed a rather overly loud, pointed conversation about Christian oppression of women.  We struggled to stay uninvolved at a couple of points and found ourselves consciously trying to balance friendliness with distance as it was clear that the other guests weren't their biggest fans!

We ended this leg of the trip with one last llama and alpaca feed, a leisurely breakfast and a farewell to the concierge Cesar.  He was one of our favorite parts of the resort and he was also leaving the resort for a new job that day.  Casitas del Colca will miss him!

Our little kitty friend on our back porch on our last day.  She really wanted to come inside!


  1. We Bought a Zoo...the movie kept playing over in my mind!!!

    1. I love that movie so much and had fun pretending like I had a zoo on vacation!