Chivay : First Glimpse of Colca Valley

Lady in traditional dress Chivay
One of my favorite pictures from our trip. I loved the pride in traditional dress we saw in Chivay

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My husband bought me a Peru travel book for Christmas one year. I planned and re-planned my trip to Peru over and over again with this book. I had many of the typical sites on my list, and a last minute addition was the trip to Arequipa and Colca Valley, primarily to see Colca Canyon. While Arequipa was wonderful, Colca Valley took my breathe away.





Chivay serves as the introduction to Colca Valley. Coming from Arequipa, we descended into Colca Valley in the afternoon and I was immediately enamored with the area. You will stop at the entrance to obtain a Boleto Turistico to pay for your visit to the Mirador for the Condors in Colca Canyon or any of the churches in the Valley. We had a great lunch at a local buffet before heading into the town center.

buffet at Balcon de Don Zacarias

Delicious buffet at Balcon de Don Zacarias.

I felt like Chivay gave us our first feel for normal Peruvian life. Most of Arequipa centered around the Historic Center, and we learned a lot about the history of the area. The drive through Salinas y Aguada National Reservation introduced us to the local wildlife, but Chivay introduced us to the people.

Main Square

The main square of Chivay shares the story of the Wititi dance, a very specific dance to the Colca Valley. The story says that a soldier from a rival town fell in love with a woman. He wasn’t allowed to see her, so he dressed like another woman to be able to dance with the woman he loved.



Chivay still retains much of its tradition and originality. It is welcoming to tourists, but it is not centered around tourism as much as other cities you might visit in Peru. The market, therefore, had some items for purchase for tourists but still largely serves as the primary location for purchasing food and goods for the Valley.


We learned about all of the many products of Peru at the local market. I had no idea that there were almost 4,000 varieties of potatoes native to Peru. We learned how they still dehydrate the potatoes for storage, much like the Inca used to do as well. There were amazing flowers, and even an area for fresh alpaca meat. The ladies working here would cut it specifically for you. Many grains were also sold in the market.


Chivay was also the first place we learned the significance of hats for women in Peru. You can tell where a woman is from by the hat she wears. We began to be able to identify women from Chivay, Puno, and the areas by the traditional hats they donned.  In many places, especially Cusco, you will see people in traditional dress for tourist purposes, often offering pictures for a price. Here in Chivay and Taquile, which we would visit later, traditional dress really comes from pride in ones heritage and part of their everyday.

They did have hats and clothes for sale in the Market. Even the Barbie dolls were dressed differently depending on their heritage, Cabana or Collagua. The difference in hats could also be seen in the Watiti statues in the main square.

On to the Condors

The Colca Valley is largely visited and known for Colca Canyon, home of the Andean Condors. The imagery could be see all over the city, from the playground to the benches. After our tour through Chivay, we headed for our hotel and a hopeful view of the Condors the next day!

For more on how we came to Chivay, you can read about our road trip from Arequipa here.

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