Colca Canyon is a canyon of the Colca River, in the Andes mountain range, in southern Peru. It is more than twice as deep as the Grand Canyon in the United States, but is not as steep. The local people still maintain ancestral traditions and continue to cultivate the pre-Inca stepped terraces. Colca Canyon is located 162 km northwest Arequipa The name Colca refers to small holes in the cliffs in the valley and canyon. These holes were used in Inca and pre-Inca times to store food, such as potatoes and other Andean crops. They were also used as tombs for important people.
The Colca River starts high in the Andes at Condorama Crucero Alto and changes its name to Majes, and then to Camana before reaching the Pacific Ocean. Parts of the canyon are habitable, and Inca and pre-Inca terraces are still cultivated along the less precipitous canyon walls. The small town of Chivay is on the upper Colca River, where the canyon is not so deep but where many terraces are present in the canyon and continue for many kilometers downstream. As the canyon deepens downriver, a series of small villages is spread out over the approximately 35 miles (56 km) between Chivay and the village of Cabanaconde. The canyon reaches its greatest depth and, in contrast, about 15 miles (24 km) to the southeast rises the 20,630-ft (6,288-m) Nevado Ampato, a snow-capped extinct volcano.
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