The town of Chivay
Chivay is the gateway to the Colca canyon. It is 163 kilometers by road from the city of Arequipa. Its streets, squares and churches have the typical characteristics of a mountain town with a peaceful life and many traditions. Among the main tourist attractions are the thermal baths of La Calera, the Colca planetarium, its colonial church as well as the routes that lead to the Colca canyon. You can visit this town on your own or on an all-inclusive tour.
Everything about the town of Chivay
The town of Chivay
The town of Chivay is the capital of the province of Caylloma in the department of Arequipa. Its fame lies in being located in the upper part of the Colca Canyon, the second most visited tourist attraction in Peru (after Machu Picchu).
The name ‘Chivay’ comes from the Quechua word ‘Chuay’ which means ‘Plate of clay’ and is related to the hollow shape of the town. Its origins date back to times before the Incas. The Collawas and the huts, heirs and forgers of the Wari and Tiahuanaco cultures, lived there. Later these settlers would join the Inca empire.
After the Spanish conquest the town was founded during the government of Viceroy Toledo. In its beginnings the town enjoyed great importance due to the gold, silver and lead mines. However, the Inca and pre-Inca traditions remain very present in its inhabitants. A great example is the dance of the ‘wititis’, which represents the alliance between Incas and Collawas.
Currently, Chivay receives hundreds of tourists attracted by the famous Colca canyon. In addition, the municipality manages the income from the La Calera thermal baths. Despite tourism, the 5,000 residents of Chivay maintain many of their customs and traditions. It is one of the most touristic towns in Peru.
Chivay is located 163 kilometers by road from the city of Arequipa. This district is also the capital of the Caylloma province, in southern Peru.
Geographically it is located on the western slope of the Andes Mountains, in the highest area of the Colca canyon and 3,635 meters above sea level. The town is surrounded by volcanoes. On its banks is the Colca River.
How to get there?
Tours to the Colca canyon also include tourist transportation to Chivay. In case you want to go on your own, you must get public transport at the land terminal of the city of Arequipa. The trip is approximately 4 hours and costs approximately $ 10. Another option is to travel first to the town of Cabanaconde and, once there, take another bus to Chivay.
History of Chivay
The geographical area where Chivay sits was inhabited by three pre-Inca cultures differentiated from each other by their language and clothing. These were the Collaguas, the Cabanas and the Tapay. During the Inca expansion, the ruler Mayta Cápac (1290 – 1320) arrived in the region to seek alliances and consolidate Inca power in the south. The Inca falls in love with the princess Mama Yachi whom he handcuffed after building a palace and the bridge that connects the current town of Chivay. Thus, the Incas would sustain their alliance. From this union the famous dance of the ‘wititis’ would be born, considered Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity according to Unesco.
From Inca times to the present day, Chivay has been divided into three sectors: the Ccapa sector (the main neighborhood), the Urinsaya sector (used for crop fields) and the Hanansaya (in the upper part of the town). During the colony, Chivay and the neighboring towns enjoyed a leading role in the gold and silver mines. However, exploitation brought poverty with it. From those years the colonial bridge over the Apurímac River is still preserved. The church of Santa Úrsula and that of San Sebastián also date from colonial times. Finally, the ‘Indian reduction’ of Chivay was created during the viceroyalty of Francisco de Toledo (16th century).
During the Republic of Peru, Chivay became a town without gold or silver and its prominence declined. However, as a result of the tourist boom in the beautiful ‘Colca Canyon’, the town once again generated sources of income other than agriculture and livestock activities. Today, it is one of the most touristic places in Peru. Despite the influence of tourism, its nearly 5,000 inhabitants preserve much of their traditions of Inca origin and prior to the Incas. Chivay is a famous destination among Peruvians and foreigners.
The route to Colca – From Chivay you start on an incredible adventure route to the Patapampa sector, where you have the highest view of the Colca canyon, at 4,800 meters above the level of the sea. From Chivay you can also visit other sectors of the Colca canyon such as the famous viewpoint ‘Cruz del Cóndor’.
The church of Chivay – The ‘Nuestra Señora de la Asunción’ temple in Chivay was built in the middle of the 18th century and is characterized by the use of volcanic stone. Its simple structure of a single nave crowned by a barrel vault. The church is soberly decorated with religious-themed works that give an account of the date the temple was built.
The planetarium – The mountainous geography where Chivay is located is precise for the observation of stars and other stars in the sky. Thus, the ‘Planetarium of Chivay’ provides a space with the necessary instruments for this activity. It is recommended to go on a night with a clear sky (opening hours are from 6.30 pm to 9.30 pm).
La Calera thermal baths – Almost 4 kilometers from Chivay are these thermal baths that offer visitors a relaxing break. The hot waters that flow from the five pools come from the Cotallumi volcano. At the beginning these have temperatures of up to 80ºC. but, for the use of tourists, these are tempered up to 38ºC. The residents say that the sulfur, calcium and zinc in the waters are beneficial for skin diseases as well as muscle and bone pain. The cost of admission is 10 soles (3 dollars, approximately).
Adventure sports – The mountainous geography of Chivay is ideal for practicing different adventure sports, especially hiking. However, it is also possible to do other sports such as cycling (from the Patapampa sector). In addition, there is a recreational center where you can practice the zipline, also called zip lining.
Other destinations near Chivay
Cruz del Cóndor viewpoint – Almost 60 kilometers from Chivay, in the town of Cabanaconde, there is one of the most famous viewpoints of the Colca canyon. It is about ‘Cruz del condor’, a place from where, in addition to the beautiful landscape, you can appreciate the flight of several condors that take advantage of the air currents of the site. Preferably it is recommended to go between 8 in the morning and noon. To appreciate this and other attractions of the Colca Valley, you must buy the ‘Colca Tourist Ticket’.
The town of Sibayo – 66 kilometers from Chivay is Sibayo, another Andean town with a lot of tradition. It is known as the ‘Town of stones’ due to its streets, squares and church made of stone. In this place, you can also visit the archaeological site of Huañaccascca as well as the viewpoint of Santa María. Its inhabitants preserve traditions from their Collagua ancestors. You can also do experiential tourism.
The oasis of Sangalle – 53 kilometers from Chivay, near the town of Cabanaconde, is the so-called ‘oasis of Sangalle’. This attraction is on one of the slopes of the Colca canyon. It stands out for the scenic beauty of the place as well as a very attractive hiking route. On the way you can see the Layja-Machai cave, the Chuirca waterfall as well as the Troja rumi rock. Unlike other parts of the canyon, the climate is warmer.
Chivay has a cold temperate climate that varies slightly depending on the time of year. From December to April, the highest frequency of rains usually occur. From May to November these are rare but the cold increases at night. During the days the highest temperatures can reach 19ºC. while at night the cold can drop to 0ºC. or even less.
Chivay and the towns of the Colca Valley are famous for the Wititis dance. Its origins date back to the warlike encounter between the Incas and the Collawas and Cabana settlers that inhabit the Caylloma province. It should be noted that men wear a battle suit while women wear traditional clothing.
In Chivay, every December 8, the festival is held in homage to the Virgin Immaculate Conception. The festival takes place in three days where troupes and dancers from various neighboring towns participate. The dance of the ‘wititis’ stands out, declared Cultural Heritage of the Nation in Peru.
A few steps from the center of Chivay you can see the ‘Inca Bridge’ made of stone and improved over the centuries. It is said that the Inca crossed the Colca River by that bridge during the Inca period.
Some tips for the trip
Chivay is a town with many traditions and that preserves various aspects of its cultural heritage for several centuries. However, the tourism development of recent years has brought with it the construction of acceptable tourist services such as hotels, restaurants and more.
Chivay and Cabanaconde are the most visited towns during the Colca Canyon excursion. However, the visit to these tourist attractions would not be possible without the purchase of the ‘Colca Tourist Ticket’ whose cost is: 70 Peruvian soles (22 dollars), 40 soles for Latin Americans (13 dollars) and 20 soles for Peruvians (6 dollars).
Chivay has a cold climate as it is 3,635 meters above sea level. Stay warm (with sweaters, socks and jackets). To reduce the symptoms of ‘altitude sickness’, drink plenty of water and avoid high-fat foods.