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Peru: Cotahuasi – Allegedly the Deepest Canyon in the World

Published: 10.7.2017
While in Peru, we couldn't decide to visit or not to visit Colca or Cotahuasi canyons. Some say that Cotahuasi is deeper. Some say it's Colca. Perhaps this is only a way to bring more tourists to both canyons. Both canyons are about 3500 meters. The rivers which carved both canyons out flow through the Ande summits rising as high as 6000 meters above the sea level and end up in the Pacific Ocean. Both canyons feature rare Andean condors.

Eventually, we decided to go to Cotahausi. The fee for entering Colca canyon and many tourists discouraged us from going there. Cotahausi canyon was a good choice   as it would turn out eventually.

Cotahuasi village

You can reach Cotahuasi village by going from Arequipa. It is about a 10 hour ride by bus through night. We expected the jounrey to be longer yet we managed to arrive at 2 in the morning. And it was quite cheap. On the following day, we set off to find out information we needed. We acquired a map, and the hotel owner also gave us some advice. It is important to plant better. Buses travel once a day only.

Pampamarca   around Pampamarca

On the following day early, we start off on a bus in the direction to Pampamarca. We better checked by the driver when he returns back from Pampamarca. We plan to make a trip to Bosque de Piedras Huito. It is not that difficult to get there. But be prepared to go steeply uphill. On the ohter hand, the total distance is mere 4 kilometers with 700 meters of elevation. There are amazing vistas and we were enchanted by a "stone forest". We saw something like this for the first time in our lives. Moreover, we were not entirely alone. Condors made several circles up above our heads. The way down was quick. As we still had some time at our hands, we set off behind the village. There was a scenic platform. Moreover, there was a canyon with many waterfalls, amazing vistas over the mountains around and colorful fields belonging to the locals. 

Bosque de Piedras Huito   Bosque de Piedras Huito

Next we wanted to make a two- or a three-day trip through the villages of Charcana and Quechualla. We reached Charcana village in the evening. They say a bus ride is rather for the callous. Rather peak not out of the window for the bus rides on narrow, dirt roads with cliffs lining them on the side. Usually, there is a guest house where you can stay over night. Therefore, you don't need to drag any unecessary things with you, perhaps a sleeping bag because it would be foolish to expect clean bedsheets there. And it gets really cold here at night. We start off early in the morning for we have a strenous trek ahead. It was dusk when we set off. However, the path has been beaten already by herdsmen who take cattle to pasture and come back in the evening. In our opinion, it must have been hard and strenous life especially from the European viewpoint. 

road to Quechualla village

We follow contour line in the first part of the journey. The best vistas over the mountain open up when we go down to the canyon in the direction to Quechalla village. Beautiful, rainbow mountains are beautiful beyond belief. We know that a bus departs for Cotahuasi in the afternoon. A local lady tells us that the bus stop is another 9 kilometers further down the road. With 23 kilometers in our legs, we did not feel like making another 9. Therefore, we decided to stay in Quechalle. Here we took rest. The owner made us lunch, dinner and prepared breakfast on thefollowing day. Then we move on to catch our bus. On our way we went through Bosques de Cactus de Judiopampa, sort of a "cactus forest".

kaktusový les

the road to Quechualla village   around the waterfallCatarata de Sipia

On our way from Quechalla, we stopped at Catarata de Sipla, a 150-meter waterfall. The land is very colorful. At that time, we knew there are no more colorful mountains in Peru. Cotahausi canyon fulfilled our expectations about colorful mountains.

GPS: (canyon) 15°12'16.4"S 72°53'55.6"W


Text and photos: Tomáš Novák

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