The Colca Canyon is a canyon of the Colca River in southern Peru, located about 160 kilometres (99 mi) northwest of Arequipa. With a depth of about 1000 – 2000 m (3300 – 6600 ft) (whereas bottom is at cca 2000 m and edges are at 3000 – 4000 metres above the sea level), it is one of the deepest canyons in the world. Its length is about 70 kilometres (43 mi). The Colca Valley is a colorful Andean valley with pre-Inca rooted inhabitants, and towns founded in Spanish colonial times, still inhabited by people of the Collagua and the Cabana cultures. The local people maintain their ancestral traditions and continue to cultivate the pre-Inca stepped terraces, called andenes.

It is Peru's third most-visited tourist destination with about 120,000 visitors annually.

 Woman with a tamed hawk in Yanque, one of the three main tourist towns of the Colca Canyon

The Quechua-speaking Cabanas, probably descended from the Wari culture, and the Aymara-speaking Collaguas, who moved to the area from the Lake Titicaca region, inhabited the valley in the pre-Inca era. The Inca probably arrived in the Colca Valley around 1320 AD, and established their dominion through marriage, rather than through warfare. The Spaniards, under Gonzalo Pizarro, arrived in 1540, and in the 1570s the Spanish viceroy Francisco de Toledo ordered the inhabitants throughout the former Inca Empire to leave their scattered dwellings and to move to a series of centrally located settlements in a process called "Reductions". These settlements remain the principal towns of the valley. Franciscan missionaries built the first chapel in the valley in 1565, and the first church in 1569.The tribe known as "Los Collaguas" lived in the high part of the valley of Colca, in which when members of their tribe passed away they would dig a hole along the steep rocky valley mountain and mark it with red paint. The faint red stains can still be seen as one drives along the valley at the very top of the rocky valley mountains.

No passable roads existed between Arequipa and Chivay until the 1940s when a road was completed to serve the silver and copper mines of the region. More roads were built in the 1970s and 1980s by the Majes Hydroelectric Project, a program to divert water from the Colca River to irrigate crops in the Majes region. Access today is usually via Arequipa.

In May 1981, the Polish Canoandes rafting expedition, led by Andrzej Pietowski, made the first descent of the river below Cabanaconde and proclaimed the possibility of its being the world's deepest canyon. It was so recognized by the Guinness Book of Records in 1984, and a National Geographic article in January 1993 repeated the claim.[1] The joint Polish-Peruvian "Cañon del Colca 2005" expedition verified the altitudes of the river and the surrounding heights via GPS.[citation needed]

^ Kane, Joe (January 1993). "Roaring Through Earth's Deepest Canyon". National Geographic. National Geographic Society. p. 118.
Photographies by:
Pedro Szekely from Los Angeles, USA - CC BY-SA 2.0
Pedro Szekely from Los Angeles, USA - CC BY-SA 2.0
Leon petrosyan - CC BY-SA 4.0
world-wide-gifts.com - CC BY-SA 2.0
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