Where to see Condors in South America
They are one of the great symbols of South America and the Andes Mountains, a combination of power and grace that stirs a sense of wonder in visitors from far and wide. They are often seen gliding along powerful winds up high, their razor-sharp eyes peeled and their wings spread wide, up to 10 feet in total. Whilst condors live throughout the continent's Andean regions, they are most commonly seen further south and there a few spots in Peru, Chile and Argentina where it is possible to get a close look at these majestic creatures in their natural habitat, without disturbing them, damaging their environment or risking ongoing conservation efforts. So let's have a look at five of the best places to see condors up close in South America.
Cruz del Condor, Colca Canyon - Peru
Probably the most well-known place to observe the great birds is at the Mirador Cruz del Condor in the immense Colca Canyon in the south of Peru. The canyon is reached via the attractive 'White City' of Arequipa, famed for its colonial buildings and leafy squares, itself a short flight south from the capital Lima. Colca Canyon is considered to be one of the deepest in the world, far deeper in fact than its more famous contemporary in the Arizona Desert.
The highlight of a visit here though is the chance to hike up to the Mirador, located 3,200 metres above sea level. Condors swoop and circle back and forth, almost within touching distance, as the vertiginous walls of the canyon provide a suitably epic backdrop. Where possible, it is always best to arrive here as early as possible to see the birds at their most active and also to share the experience with fewer guests.
See our tours to Colca Canyon
photo by Randal Sheppard
Enchanted Valley, Lake District, Argentina
The wonderfully named Enchanted Valley is situated at the confluence of two rivers, in the heart of the Argentina Lake district, some 40 miles from the town of Bariloche. It is an area of astonishing beauty, where verdant hillside forests converge with reflective lakes and towering centuries-old volcanic rock formations. These 'sculptures' have taken some vivid names thanks to their resemblance to castles, lions, trains or cathedral towers. There are also caves in the area, used by nomadic tribes for shelter and protection.
It is a truly enchanting place where visitors can not only admire the scenery, but also partake in a number of activities, including water-sports. But of course, it wouldn't be on this list if it wasn't somewhere where you'd stand a good chance of seeing Andean Condors in flight. A nearby nesting site increases the chances of seeing them on your visit to the Enchanted Valley.
See our tours to Bariloche and the Argentine Lake District
Estancia Huechahue - Argentina
Estancia Huechahue is a cattle farm estate spread out over rolling plains, grasslands, forests and wetlands in the foothills of the Andes in Northern Patagonia. A stay here allows intrepid travellers to immerse themselves in the Guacho way of life, riding horses, eating asado style barbecues, helping to herd the cattle and even learning how to throw a lasso. There are also a range of other activities on offer, including rafting, fly-fishing, bird-watching and hiking.
Walks through the vast estancia afford panoramic views of the perfectly conical Lanin Volcano, as well as bringing you closer to their condor nesting site. According to the estancia, the best time to see soaring condors is between mid-September to mid-November and from mid-March to the end of April.
As well as condors there are some 170 different bird species living within the estate.
Learn more about Estancia Huechahue
El Calafate's Balcony - Argentina
El Calafate is best known as a base from which to visit the nearby Perito Moreno Glacier or cruise down narrow Patagonian channels to the more remote glaciers at Upsula and Spegazzini. But a lesser visited sight is the Calafate Balcony, a natural viewpoint which affords sweeping views across the Andes Mountain range, Lake Argentina and the glaciers around Boca del Diablo.
The Balcony also happens to be a great place to see Andean Condors soaring in the powerful Patagonian wind.
See our tours to El Calafate
Ascencio Valley & Cerro Cóndor, Torres del Paine - Chile
Torres del Paine is one the continent's premier hiking destinations, a wonderful national park charactarised by towering granite peaks, powerful glaciers, shimmering turquoise lakes and open pampas. It provides a home to wandering guanacos, reclusive pumas and, of course, soaring condors.
From Mirador Cerro Cóndor you can enjoy a sumptuous panoramic view of Lake Pehoe and the three towers after which the park is named, as well as a chance of spotting a condor in flight, given the proximity of several nesting sites here.
See our tours to Torres del Paine
Inspired by our any of the places in our guide to the best places to see Andean condors? We'd love to help you realise your dream and see the majestic birds up close. You can browse below for a selection of tours that to some of these places, or if you want something a little more bespoke, drop us an email and we'll get straight back to you to start planning your adventure!
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