Surrounded by some of the most impressive and intensive ancient terracing in South America, CHIVAY, 163km north of Arequipa and just four hours by bus from there, lies at the heart of fantastic hiking/mountain-biking country. Although notable as a market town, it is not actually a good place from which to observe the canyon. Chivay is nevertheless bustling with gringos using the town as a base for exploring the Colca Canyon region.
The market itself is located along Avenida Salaverry, where you’ll also find a slew of artesanía shops. The town has a growing range of accommodation, restaurants and bus services for these visitors, making it a reasonable place to stay while you acclimatize to the high altitude. Serious trekkers will soon want to move on to one of the other canyon towns, likely Cabanaconde.
Just 5km east of Chivay, slightly further up the Colca Canyon, the road passes mainly through cultivated fields until it reaches the tiny settlement of LA CALERA, which boasts one of Chivay’s main attractions – a wonderful series of hot spring pools, fed by the bubbling, boiling brooks that emerge from the mountain sides all around at an average natural temperature of 85°C. Said to be good for curing arthritis and rheumatism these clean and well-kept thermal baths are not to be missed. There’s also a small museum on site with models and artefacts demonstrating local customs, such as making an offering to the pacha mama, Mother Earth.