Cusco is on all travellers bucket list, as it is a start point to visit the ancient Inca citadel of Machu Picchu and the surrounding Sacred Valley of the Incas. Opposed to the traditional tours, Cusco also offers an alternative, non-traditional tours. One of my favourite, less visited tour with breath-taking views is the Condor sighting in the Apurimac canyon where you can observe the Andean Condors soaring in their natural habitat.
This tour is an excellent option for those who were unable to visit Colca Canyon and those who want to visit less touristy places.
Apurimac river canyon is one of the deepest canyons in South America, and home to numerous Andean Condors, the world’s biggest and heaviest flying bird with a wingspan of up to over three meters, and the longest-lived bird on the planet. The Condor is a protected species since it is on the verge of extinction and Apurimac canyon is one of the few places where you can see them in its natural habitat.
The Andean Condor is a majestic bird that was considered one of the Apus (Gods) of the Hanaq Pacha (Upper World). The Incas worshipped the Andean Condor since they thought it was the god that connects the upper world, Tayty Inti (The Sun), Mama Killa (The Moon) and others with the Kay Pacha (Earthly World).
To observe the condors flying in their natural habitat, you must go to the Chonta village by Limatambo Valley in the Apurimac Canyon.
The easiest way to get there is to book a full day Chonta Condor sighting tour in Cusco. This tour cost 40 USD/person for a group of two and includes a professional guide, archaeological zone of Quillarumiyuc, lunch and the canyon of the condor. I booked this tour with Orellana Expedition in Cusco. My guide
Tour starts at around 8:30 and takes approximately three hours of driving to Chonta. First stop is at the Quillarumiyoc, the moon temple, ceremonial place during the Inca times. This site was built for adoration to one of the most important deities “Mama Quilla”, the moon.
The hike takes 1 hour one way, and on your way, you can enjoy views over the Apurimac canyon, as well as Chonta village. You will have 2-3 hours to observe the condors soaring upwards, being transported by thermal winds.
Return to Cusco is at around 20:00.
If you do not want to spend too much money on tour, you can do this tour on your own, as the trail is quite easy and well-marked. To see the condors you will need to be patient. They usually fly over the canyon between 15:00 and 16:30. To get there, you can hire a taxi in Cusco, or take a bus in combination with a taxi.
To go there by public transport, you can take a bus to Limatambo from Arcopata Street in Cusco, or get a colectivo from Cusco to Limatambo. In Limatambo changed to a taxi to the Chonta village.
Due to the lack of time, I was unable to visit the Colca Canyon and was very happy to find this tour from Cusco. On this tour, I saw many condors, at a very close distance, just as they were coming into their nests for the evening.