6 Amazing Things to See in Cusco that are Not Incan Ruins Series: #5

6 Amazing Things to See in Cusco that are Not Incan Ruins Series: #5

Miguel Angel Gongora Meza

Are you a bird lover and would like to see the endangered Condor soar its wings?

5. The Condors lookout at Chonta, Limatambo, Cusco

Most travelers are quite familiar with the impressive flying of the Condors at the Mirador del Condor in the Colca Canyon in Arequipa. Condors are one of the most vulnerable and endangered species in the Andes and to have a chance of seeing them fly in their natural environment is quite a privilege.

However, one does not need to go all the way to Colca to see the Condors. The Condor lookout at Chonta offers a unique opportunity for those travelers who wish to go off the beaten track and experience such a wonderful sighting.

Chonta is located in the mountains flanking the Apurimac Canyon, one of the deepest in the world. It is a place that if not for these beautiful gigantic flying birds, would otherwise be confined to its fate as another farming town. At 3,400 meters of altitude, with an impressive view of the Salkantay Mountain and the Vilcabamba Mountain range, Chonta becomes the perfect place for these birds to survive and be protected by the local people living in this area.


(Photo: Flavio Huamani Quejia/Facebook)

The spectacular flying of these birds can be seen twice during the day. The first one, early in the morning, right after the sunrise. And the second one in the afternoon before sunset.

The impressive display of beauty and majesty of the flying of these birds brings back to mind the reasons why they were once considered gods by the Incan people, who erected for them many temples for worship like the ones at Machu Picchu and Ollantaytambo.

It is such a breathtaking experience to see them gliding around the area as if they were purposely performing their moves to entertain the few people who gather there to watch them. Sometimes they dive as close as thirty feet away from the visitors, exposing their massive wingspan, which reaches up to ten feet in some cases. Their wings don’t move, but they can ascend quickly and gain a lot of altitude in a matter of seconds. Perhaps that is why they were considered messengers of the mountain gods; they can climb so high with no effort and tame the air currents, which is something only they can do. The whole show lasts for about an hour before they slowly disappear into the depths of the Apurimac canyon, so they can come back the next day and perform the same show all over again.

Condors can be seen flying in the areas nearby the Ausangate and Salkantay Mountains and sometimes on the Inca trail as well. However, they do not live in these regions, and their presence is only intermittent. Historically, Condors have inhabited areas all throughout the Andes in South America. Sometimes they can be seen on the coast and in the Amazon basin, but human activity has forced these animals to move to more isolated areas where they struggle for survival.


(Photo: Flavio Huamani Quejia / Facebook)

The people from the community in Chonta are the ones responsible for the protection of this area and the promotion of this wonderful event. It is because of their efforts in the preservation of these animals and their natural habitat that people can enjoy such an incredible show.

Details:

  • Dates: All year around
  • Location: Chonta, Limatambo, Cusco
  • Weather: Warm during the day 23C /73 F

How to get there:

  • Take a minivan leaving from Paradero Arcopata, Cusco to Mollepata, two hours more or less. From Mollepata, take a “combi” to Chonta. 45 minutes approx.
  • Walk from Chonta to the Condor lookout. One hour approx.

What to do to to get the best out of it:

  • Stay in the designated areas for people to watch the condors.
  • Do not scream, or make loud noises. Condors are noise sensitive animals.
  • Do not wear bright colors, red, orange or similar colors.
  • Do not litter.
  • Take drinking water, sunscreen, and a sun hat.

Miguel is a professional Peruvian tour guide from Cusco, he has been leading tours throughout Peru for almost 20 years. Graduated from the Antonio Lorena Institute School of Tourism in Cusco, Peru, he has a vast knowledge of the rich cultural and ecological diversity of his beautiful country. Miguel specializes in leading tours to the Inca Trail and other alternative routes to Machu Picchu, such as the Choquequirao and Salkantay treks. Since 2003, he has traveled to the US and other countries to lecture about cultural appropriation and sustainable tourism. Miguel is a strong advocate of ecotourism and science. He values the role that tourists play in the development and protection of sensitive cultures and ecosystems and dedicates his work to raise the awareness of such players with the aim of furthering such a powerful tool. Also, he is the co-founder of Evolution Treks Peru a worker-owned travel company based in Cusco.

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