The imposing Cotahuasi canyon in Arequipa
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The imposing Cotahuasi canyon in Arequipa

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The imposing Cotahuasi canyon in Arequipa

The Grand Canyon is the most famous canyon in the world, but one of the most spectacular and deepest is not in the United States, but in Peru, 400 kilometers from Arequipa. This is the imposing Cotahuasi canyon.


Twice the size of the Grand Canyon, Peru's Cotahuasi is one of the most amazing. Its depth is 3,535 meters and it was created by the erosion of the river. It sinks between the Coropuna mountains (whose peak reaches 6,425 meters high) and Solimana (6,093 meters).


The canyon is a unique landscape in the world, as it houses traditional Andean farms, fields and terraces, steep walls, deep ravines and remains of pre-Inca and Inca constructions, testimonies of the wonders of the ancient civilizations that inhabited this area.



The Cotahuasi sub-basin coincides spatially with the province of La Unión, in the Arequipa Region, in southern Peru, approximately 380 km northeast of Arequipa.


The village of Quechualla is its deepest point, 6 or 7 hours from the town of Cotahuasi. Nearby lies the highest point: the extinct volcanic massif of Nevado Solimana.



The Cotahuasi canyon was formed by the erosion of the waters of the river of the same name plus the influx of the Huayllapaña and Huarcayatiene rivers. It has a depth of 3,535 meters, in the Ninancocha sector.


This canyon is part of the province of La Unión and is located within the Cotahuasi sub-basin Landscape Reserve. It comprises twelve life zones and three ecological regions, and, throughout the 100 kilometers of extension that the valley forms, different altitude levels can be seen, each one of them possessing endemic species of both flora and fauna.


Being such a remote place with almost no traces of the hand of man, it maintains the incredible landscapes of what could be a virgin land. It has 12 ecosystems that include unique species of flora and fauna, among which the Andean condors stand out.


The deep canyon is protected by the Cotahuasi Sub-basin Landscape Reserve, which not only cares for and watches over the local flora and fauna, but also favors a traditional lifestyle based on the crops of the region's inhabitants.


Higher up, almost at the top, the dominant crop is corn, as well as kiwicha, quinoa and tarwi. Above are cooler and higher areas, where the most important crop is potatoes and other tubers.


However, on the top of the plateau it is not possible to grow anything, since it is a very dry and cold area, which forces the peasants to raise alpacas, llamas, sheep and cattle. The inhabitants of Cotahuasi preserved their traditions and customs, the farmers still use very old tools and perform ancient rituals to protect the land and bring abundant harvests.


Although this canyon is ideal for extreme sports such as rafting, mountain climbing and kayaking, due to its depth, the numerous rapids of the Cotahuasi River and the steepness of its landscape make it a challenging place in which you have to be very careful and experienced.



The Cotahuasi Valley is surrounded by beautiful and picturesque towns with colonial churches, most of which maintain their traditional characteristics. Its archaeological attractions range from cave paintings from time immemorial to roads and Inca constructions of great splendor.


At the bottom of the Canyon is the Sipia Waterfall, which has a free fall of 150 m, where beautiful rainbows are frequently formed, which are liked by tourists who come to this area.


In addition, we cannot fail to mention the imposing valley of the volcanoes, the stone forests, the various sources of thermal waters and the beautiful Puyas Raimondi forests.


Climate in the Cotahuasi Canyon

Considered the best season to travel to Cotahuasi is during the months of May and November, months in which the days are sunny, cool nights and absent rains.


Between the months of December to March the rains occur more frequently, the temperature varies from 8°C to 28°C.



According to research, its highest point in the Cotahuasi Canyon reaches a depth of over 3,535 meters. This zone comprises 12 life zones and 3 ecological regions.


Surrounding towns

The Canyon of Wonders is surrounded by 10 small towns that still keep their cultures and traditions alive, some in change and others in improvement. The 11 indigenous towns are the following: Cochacallan, Cancha, Cabracancha, Acobamba, Colca, Tacaupo, Piro, Cuno Cuno, Taccac Cascahuilca and Geography.


Flora and Fauna in Cotahuasi Canyon

This route is surrounded by a great biodiversity of Andean Flora and Fauna, of which you can observe are the following, Flora: Puya de Raimondi Forests, Cactus Forests, Broom Flower, Yareta and Ichu. Fauna: Andean Condor, Vicuñas, Tarucas, Andean Fox, Skunks, Eagles, etc.


¿When is the best time to visit?

The best season to visit Cotahuasi is during the months of May and November, when the days are sunny, the nights are cool and there is little rain. On the other hand, the rainy seasons go from December to March. Due to the fact that the area has different altitudinal floors, it has a thermal amplitude that goes from 8 °C to 28 °C.


Best Tours in Peru

Many are the routes that take you to Machu Picchu, but none is like the Inca Trail Tours, the most famous pedestrian path in the Americas. After flying from the capital of Perú, Lima, you will arrive in Cusco to walk for four days along a path through forests and dense fog, millenary stone steps and discovering the ruins of ancient fortifications and Inca cities, and all the time enjoying majestic views.

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