The ancient abandoned city of Machu Picchu attracts many travelers from around the world. The rich & famous and not-so-rich, not-famous-at-all, well they all go there. Luxury travelers ride the first class Hiram Bingham train with Perurail and backpackers hike the Inca Trail. They go by the thousands. Up to 2,500 people per day will explore the Machu Picchu ruins. I want to go somewhere different.
Not as many visitors make it to the other destinations in Peru, including Colca Canyon. Perhaps the biggest obstacle is the geography. There is no train and driving requires hiring a vehicle and driver in Cusco or Puno, and traveling over the highlands of Peru, across a 16,000 ft mountain pass and into an area that has only been opened to outsiders since the 1980's! Even the roads are limited and the last 35 km to the end of the canyon is on dirt and gravel. But the views are worth the effort and the landscape is unmarred by billboards, gas stations and other services.
Most people fly to Arequipa where they hook up with tours to the canyon and nearby Chivay, a charming village nestled in the Colca Valley. There are hot springs, hotels and the quaintest little indigenous dinner theater you ever saw!
Whatever your motivation, the effort to go to the Colca Canyon will be rewarded with views of valleys and mountains that few will see and if you're lucky, a glimpse of the mighty, majestic Andean Condor.