Spectacular nature and living cultures
Above all else, the Colca Valley is a breathtaking geological formation. Created millions of years ago by the river from which it takes its name, it has continued to grow uninterruptedly over time. The abrasive force of the water that descends from the mountains carved through the weakest points of rock offering the least resistance. Gradually, a fertile valley was born; and with time, so, too, was one of the deepest and most spectacular natural canyons on the planet. The valley begins near the picturesque town of Chivay and runs northwest for over 60 km (37 mi.) to the point known as Cruz del Cóndor, near the district of Cabanaconde.
After that, the valley grows significantly narrower, turning into the famous Colca Canyon, one of the world’s biggest, with an estimated average depth of 3,400 m (11,150 ft.), measured from its highest points: the mountains of Yajirhua (5,212 m (17,100 ft.) above sea level) and Lucerna (4,245 m (13,927 ft.) above sea level).
Its abrupt, almost vertical cliff faces descend from the Andean snows of the imposing Cordillera de Chila, whose white peaks—such as Mismi, the most distant source of the mighty Amazon River—stand over 5,000 m (16,404 ft.) high, on the right bank of the Colca River. Over the course of another 40 km (25 mi.), they drop with dizzying speed until reaching the confluence of the Andamayo River, marking the end of the canyon and the start of the Majes Valley.
The river is known by three different names, which change as it nourishing waters follow their path down to the flatlands. At its highest elevations, it is the Colca River; in the middle stretch, the Majes; and in the coastal desert, just before emptying its waters into the Pacific Ocean, it is the Camaná.
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