Andean condors in Peru live in places with windy conditions where they can easily glide on air currents in search of their next meal. Despite what their name suggests, these majestic birds do not only inhabit high elevations in the Andes Mountains. They are also found in the lowland deserts, open grasslands, and the coast of Peru.
While bird sightings are never guaranteed, the following destinations are known for hosting Andean condors.
- Southern Andes of Peru
- Pacific Coast of Peru
- [Birder Highlight] Colca Canyon, Peru
Southern Andes of Peru
- Colca Canyon is the most famous place in Peru to observe Andean condors. Continue reading about the iconic condor lookout point called Mirador Cruz del Condor below. A Colca Canyon trek is another memorable way to spot a condor.
- Apurimac Canyon can be visited for condor sightseeing on a one or two day trip from Cusco. The on-foot journey to the condor overlook begins in the village of Chonta and takes about two hours to reach.
- Santuario Animal de Ccochahuasi cares for wild animals, including a handful of Andean condor rescues. Learn more about Ccochahuasi Animal Sanctuary, a family-run project just 40 minutes from Cusco, and ask your Travel Advisor how you can visit during your custom trip to Peru.
Pacific Coast of Peru
- Paracas is a 3-hour drive from Lima and widely known for the marine wildlife that inhabits the nearby Ballestas Islands. The word paracas means “raining sand” in Quechua and references the winds that whip through the bleak pampa terrain. Andean condors enjoy windy conditions and if you venture to the remote southern region of the Paracas National Reserve by car, you may spot a few birds gliding overhead.
- San Fernando National Reserve is another coastal enclave for condors. Further south from Lima than Paracas, this reserve is more remote and generally not visited by travelers coming to Peru. But if you make the trip, it’s possible to see condors flying over the Pacific Ocean from a lookout point above the cliffed shores.
Condors in Colca Canyon, Peru
Colca Canyon is the second-deepest canyon in the world and the most popular destination in Peru for close-range viewings of Andean condors.
Arequipa to Colca Canyon
Most visitors set off on a Colca Canyon tour from Arequipa, a beautiful colonial city. Arequipa is famous for buildings and churches built from a white volcanic material called sillar. In fact, the city’s historic plaza is a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site.
Along the 3-hour drive from Arequipa to Colca Canyon, you pass highland landscapes and the Aguada Blanca National Vicuña Reserve. Here, herds of the elegant vicuña roam by the side of the road. Additionally, keep your eyes peeled for viscachas, native rodents that look much like rabbits, at the Patapampa Pass and lookout point.
Colca is fertile and inhabited, with extensive pre-Columbian terraces and unspoiled, traditional Andean villages. Chivay is where most tours start in earnest and the main town and the linking point between the two sides of Colca Canyon. The town is also home to a lively market, shops selling high-quality handicrafts, and a short walk from the hot springs of La Calera.
From Chivay, most tours head west through other small Andean villages and reach the grand finale at Mirador Cruz del Condor (10,000 ft, or 3,050 m).
Mirador Cruz del Condor
Descending to deeper parts of the canyon, around a 1-hour drive from Chivay, you reach the Mirador Cruz del Condor. This iconic viewing platform is ideal for both amateur and professional birdwatching, and the best spot in Colca Canyon to regularly observe the legendary Andean condor.
The condor population is dwindling due to loss of habitat in parts of South America. But in Colca Canyon, visitors have the advantage of being able to see the birds at close range as they fly past the cliff-edges. May through December is the peak dry season for spotting condors in the region.
The best time of day to observe condors at Cruz del Condor is between 9 am and 12 noon. Therefore, when it comes to condor-spotting, early birds get the proverbial worm. On-time arrival to the lookout point translates into a 4 am to 6:30 am departure from Chivay. Mirador del Condor is small and often overcrowded at peak hours.
Plan a Trip to Spot Condors in Peru
The sight of condors soaring gracefully on thermal drifts is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Contact our team of experts to begin planning an epic, custom trip to Colca Canyon, Peru, and any other destinations in Latin America to spot condors and other rare wildlife in South America.
*Article updated in July 2020.
Rachel lives and breathes travel. She has become particularly fond of Peru as she loves big mountains and ancient cultures, so she ended up living there for six months. She likes the challenge of traveling on a budget and she makes a point of really getting to know places inside-out.