The largest town in the Colca Canyon region is Chivay, a small, battered-looking village with a population of about 5,000. Most tourist facilities are here, which are not many, but include restaurants, hotels, a medical clinic, a tourist information center, and the canyon's only ATMs. Make sure to withdraw enough cash for your stay. As you approach Chivay, you'll pass through a stone archway signifying the town entrance, where AUTOCOLCA, the government authority over Colca Canyon, stops cars to ask if they are headed to see the condors. If you're headed to Cruz del Condor or any of the churches in the 14 villages, you must purchase the S/70 Boleto Turistico, which will be asked for again at the entrance of the Mirador and will also get you into specific attractions like La Calera Hot Springs and the church at Cabanaconde. Most agency tours do not include this entry fee in their prices.

Please note that the popular 2D/1N Colca Canyon tours leaving from Arequipa are very rushed and barely scratch the area's surface. They tick off must-see sights such as the Cruz del Condor viewpoint and La Calera Hot Springs, but offer very poor insight in the area's local life and traditions and don't even enter the canyon proper at Cabanaconde. We recommend taking a longer tour which includes some hiking, or visiting the area by yourself—these days, roads and transportation options from and to Arequipa, Puno, and Cusco are excellent and easy to organize.

Chivay marks the eastern end of the canyon's rim; the other end is marked by Cabanaconde, a small village hemmed by green mountains where most multiday hikes into the canyon begin and end. As you come into Chivay, the road splits off into two: one, less traveled because of its rocky rutted surface, goes along the canyon's northern edge to the villages of Coporaque, Ichupampa, and Lari; the other is perfectly paved and follows the southern rim, leading to Cruz del Condor and the small towns of Yanque, Maca, and Cabanaconde.

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