All about the Cotahuasi Canyon
The Cotahuasi canyon has a depth of 3,535 meters, making it one of the deepest on the planet, surpassed only by the Yarlung Tsangpo canyon (5,590 meters), the Apurímac canyon (4,691 meters) and the Kali Gandaki canyon ( 4,375 meters). The canyon is part of an extensive valley where there are rivers, lagoons, mountains, streams, platforms and more. At the top, the Solimana volcano (6,093 meters above sea level) and the Coropuna volcano (6,425 meters above sea level) look impressive.
The Cotahuasi Valley is considered a landscape reserve protected by the Peruvian State. The place was inhabited by the Wari culture (7th - 13th century) to later be conquered by the Inca empire who built the first roads, platforms and enclosures there. During the colony, the mineral deposits in the area were exploited. Today, the canyon and the entire environment that surrounds it is an important natural tourist attraction full of culture and beautiful landscapes.
Where is it?
The Cotahuasi canyon is located in the district of the same name, La Unión province, Arequipa region in southern Peru.
How to get?
Most tours depart from the city of Arequipa, located 368 kilometers by road. There is another alternative route that crosses the provinces of Parinacochas and Paucar del Sara Sara in the Ayacucho region, although this route is longer and more rugged.
The Cotahuasi valley
The Cotahuasi Valley is an extensive geographical area where Andean towns with many traditions, huge stone forests, waterfalls, a great diversity of flora and fauna, as well as the famous Cotahuasi canyon are based. The valley receives the waters of the Cotahuasi river, which descends from the two great mountains of the place: the Coropuna and the Solimana. From the different viewpoints such as 'el mirador de Allhuay' you have a privileged view of the Andean towns and their cultivated fields that make up this beautiful valley. The town from where the trip to the canyon is organized is 'Villa de Cotahuasi'.
The 'Canyon of wonders' (it is also known by that name), if one considers the bottom of the river to the highest peak of one of its mountains, it could be considered the deepest on the planet, reaching 6,093 meters. This peculiar geography is ideal for adventure sports such as rappelling, paragliding, boating, cycling, rock climbing and more. The Cotahuasi River descends from the high peaks of Solimana and Coropuna until it empties into the Pacific Ocean, after traveling the depths of the canyon. Although this place is not as popular as the Colca canyon, for many it is even better.
The Sipia Falls
One of the best attractions in the Cotahuasi Valley is the Sipia Falls. This waterfall is located in the district of Toro, province of La Unión. It has several waterfalls that in total add up to 500 meters in 3 divisions (one of the highest in Peru). This beautiful place is ideal for rock climbing or cycling. To get there, in addition to the car trip, you must take a short hiking route. Due to the beauty of all the natural surroundings, the falls are an excellent option for taking pictures.
The thermal baths of Luicho
The Luicho thermal baths are one of the most famous recreational centers in the province of La Unión and the Cotahuasi valley. They are located just 25 minutes from the town of Cotahuasi, capital of the province. The three pools of hot water flow from a spring that comes from the Luicho hill, located at the top of the place. Their temperatures vary from 33ºC. up to 38ºC. divided into three pools (two outdoors and one indoors). Its waters are recommended for people with some ailments such as: rheumatism, stress, arthritis, muscle ailments and more. The visit is recommended for tourists, after making the exhausting walk to the Cotahuasi canyon.
The Cotahuasi canyon, in its more than 3 kilometers deep, has up to 12 ecosystems with different altitude levels and climates. The point most visited by tourists is the Andean highlands, which offers a temperate climate that varies from 23ºC. up to 9ºC. Rains usually occur at any time of the year, especially from October to March.
What to bring
During your visit to the Cotahuasi canyon, do not forget to bring with you:
- Cap or hat.
- Poncho for the rain.
- Ideal shoes for walks.
- Backpack with water and snacks.
- Documents and extra cash.
When to go?
The best time to visit the Cotahuasi canyon is during the dry season, which runs from April to September. In those months the rains are less frequent, which allows a better terrain to carry out the required walks. The rainy season runs from October to March.
The Cotahuasi Valley, in addition to the famous canyon, offers other lesser-known tourist attractions such as the Huancarama cave paintings. These are located north of the town of Charcana. They consist of several rock drawings that show the relationship between the first men who inhabited the place and their natural environment.
Another of the little-known tourist attractions of the Cotahuasi valley is the Huarmunta stone forest, whose huge rocks of volcanic origin, caused by the erosion of the wind, the sun and the rain; they took various forms. According to the villagers, their figures resemble the silhouettes of a woman. It is located in the district of Huaynacotas.
The town of Huaynacotas, located 93 kilometers from Cotahuasi, has two tourist attractions that you must visit: the Huarmunta stone forest and the Llamocca fortress. This last place was built by the Wari culture, as a temple where sacrifices were possibly made to the 'apus' or tutelary mountains of the place: the Solimana volcano (6,093 masl) and the Coropuna volcano (6,425 masl).
If you like the incredible landscapes and the living culture of the Andean peoples, definitely an excellent option is to visit the famous Colca canyon, which (as well as the Cotahuasi) is one of the deepest on the planet and is located in Arequipa. There it is possible to see the flight of the condors, enjoy thermal baths and learn about the lifestyle of the Andean peoples. Tours depart from the city of Arequipa. It is the second most visited tourist attraction in Peru, after Machu Picchu.