All about the Choqolaqa Stone Forest
What is it?
Choqolaqa is a stone forest formed hundreds of years ago due to the eruption of a volcano and the erosion of the air. The set of rocks has, in addition to different shapes, a peculiar color formed by ash and a mixture of volcanic gases. The stone forest offers one of the most beautiful landscapes in the Arequipa region.
The stone forest is also known as 'Nauqqa Arequipa' (Quechua word that means 'ancient Arequipa') because local legends indicate that there existed an ancestral city that was buried and converted into the Choqolaqa. Today, local people offer their traditions and culture to visitors. It is also a cultural immersion.
Where is it?
The Choqolaqa stone forest is located in the district of Tisco, in the province of Caylloma, in the department of Arequipa (Peru).
How high is it?
Choqolaqa is located at 5,200 meters above sea level (17,060 feet altitude).
Peru is home to some of the most fascinating stone forests. In addition to Choqolaqa, the stone forests of Huayllay (Cerro de Pasco), Sukuytambo (Cusco), Los Frailones (Cajamarca), Pampachiri (Apurimac), Hatun Machay (Áncash), Sechapite (Huancavelica), Macusani (Puno), Marcahuasi ( Lima) and the Imata stone forest, also in Arequipa.
How to get there?
To get there you must take ground transportation from the city of Arequipa (approximately 5 hours trip). Tours include transportation.
What to see?
The landscapes offered by the Choqolaqa stone forest are fascinating. It resembles an old citadel stopped in time. It is a set of rock formations of different shapes and sizes, as if it were a sacred place. Some figures that resemble angels, seals, elegant, women, castles, towers and streets stand out. Visitors who arrive there will be amazed at the incredible views. It is an excellent option to take good pictures.
One of the adventurous options is to take short hikes inside the Choqolaqa stone forest. To do this hiking route it is necessary to be accompanied by a tour guide or a local who knows these paths.
Culture and traditions
The inhabitants of Tisco encourage tourism in the place by carrying out different types of cultural activities, such as ceremonies of 'payment to the land', handicraft displays, typical dances show as well as tasting of drinks and typical foods of the region. They wear their typical colorful clothing, characteristic of all Andean communities.
Legends of Choqolaqa
The Choqalaqa stone forest is full of stories, legends and myths, such as:
The legend of the origin of Choqolaqa – Legend has it that the ancient settlers who existed in Choqalaqa disobeyed the gods, for which they ended up turned into stone along with the streets, temples, palaces and gardens of the beautiful city in which they lived.
The climate in Choqolaqa is cold. During the day, the temperature can reach a maximum of 17ºC. (62.6ºF) while at night, the cold can drop to 0º. (32ºF). Warm clothing is recommended, especially if you are spending a night in town.
How much does it cost to go?
The 1-day tours have an approximate cost of 200 Peruvian soles per person (62 US dollars). The 2-day tours have an approximate cost of 350 Peruvian soles per person. (109 US dollars). All services include: transportation, entrance fees, tour guide and lunch.
When to go?
The best time to visit the Choqolaqa stone forest is during the dry season months (from April to October). On those days there is little chance of rain, which makes the walk easier. On the other hand, the rainiest months are January, February and March.
What to bring
- Sports and warm clothing.
- Hiking shoes.
- Hat or cap.
- Rehydrating water.
- Photographic camera.
Every year on August 1 the 'Tisco - Choqolaqa Artisan Tourist Festival' is celebrated where local people show tourists their handicrafts as well as some edible products harvested from the land. Tourists, for their part, have the opportunity to learn more about the culture of the Andean peoples.
In the town of Tisco (where the stone forest is located), a colonial church was built in the 18th century under the administration of the Franciscan order. Simple baroque architecture with influences from the Cusco, Collagua and Arequipa styles stands out.
The Choqolaqa stone forest is located in a high altitude region where it is normal for visitors to suffer from some of the symptoms of altitude sickness: nausea, shortness of breath when doing physical activity, fatigue, etc. To reduce these discomforts, it is recommended to drink plenty of water and acclimatize to the geography of the city of Arequipa at least two days before the visit.
Most tours to Choqolaqa last 1 or 2 days. If you are traveling on your own, you will have to find accommodation in the town of Tisco. Remember that to visit the stone forest you must contact a local tour guide. In any case, the best option is to hire an all-inclusive tour.