12 Glorious Reasons to Visit Cotahuasi Canyon in Peru
El Cañón de Cotahuasi (Cotahuasi Canyon) is in Peru, a country full of wonderful places to visit such as El desierto de Huacachina (the Huacachina desert), Las líneas de Nazca, (the Nazca lines), La montaña arcoíris (Rainbow mountain), or Machu Picchu.
El cañón de las maravillas (The canyon of wonders) is another name for Cotahuasi Canyon, and it has earned it. This deep, Peruvian canyon has breathtaking views, waterfalls, bosques de piedra (stone forests), giant cacti, and much more to discover.
If you’re ready to uncover the wonders that Cotahuasi Canyon has to offer, lay back and join me till the end of this post.
Facts About Cotahuasi Canyon, Peru
Before we dive in, I’ll take a minute to share some practical information with you about Cotahuasi Canyon’s climate and location, as well as the possible meaning behind “Cotahuasi.”
Cotahuasi Canyon Location
A Cotahuasi Canyon map would tell you that the canyon is about 250 mi (400 km) NorthWest from the city of Arequipa, in the homonymous department, in Peru and about 700 mi (1,150 km) from Lima, Peru’s capital. There are three ways to get from Arequipa to Cotahuasi Canyon and vice versa. The longest one can take you up to 11 hours, while the shortest one will take around 8.
Cotahuasi Canyon Climate
The Climate in Cotahuasi Canyon, as in any other canyon, is varied due to the difference in elevation present in the place. However, the best time to visit Cotahuasi Canyon is between May and November because there’s much less rain than the rest of the year. The temperature varies between 46°F (8°C) and 82°F (28°C) all year long.
The Meaning Behind “Cotahuasi”
The word Cotahuasi is not a Spanish word per se but it either comes from two Peruvian indigenous languages: quechua o aymara.
- Ccoto means “reunion” in quechua, and huasi means “house” meaning “The reunion of the houses.
- Ccoto can make reference to “goiter” , a sickness derived from eating a certain type of salt, meaning “house of the goiter”.
- In aymara cota means “lagoon” so it can mean “house of the lagoon”.
1. Cotahuasi Canyon Is the Deepest in the Americas
The Cotahuasi Canyon is the deepest canyon in the Americas and the third deepest in the world, only surpassed by the Yurlung Zangbo in China and the Kali Gandaki in Nepal.
The Cotahuasi Canyon in Peru has 11,598 ft (5,353 m) of depth compared to the highest hill around it. This is roughly 3,652 feet (1,113 meters) deeper than the Grand Canyon, which is 7,946 feet (2,422 m) deep.
However, It is a little bit smaller than the Grand Canyon in terms of extension. The Cotahuasi Canyon has 490.500 ha. while the Grand Canyon has 492.600 ha.
PRO TIP: One of the biggest (not necessarily deepest) canyons in the Americas is Copper Canyon, in Mexico.
2. Visit the Sipia Waterfall From Cotahuasi Canyon
If we think about a canyon, it is only natural that the responsible for this natural phenomenon is erosion, that rivers cause, specifically, the Cotahuasi river, which La cascada o catarata de Sipia (the Sipia Waterfall) comes from.
The Sipia waterfall falls three times before arriving to the deepest part of the canyon, and it falls for 347 ft (106 m). This is by no means the biggest waterfall in Peru, but it causes some amazing rainbows which are beautiful to look at when you’re visiting this amazing place in the Cotahuasi Canyon.
3. Take a Bath in the Luicho Hot Springs
If climbing and trekking up around the Cotahuasi Canyon got you tired, you will love to relax at the Luicho hot springs in the Huaycanotas district—located 78 mi (127 km) from the Cotahuasi district.
The Luicho hot springs offer medicinal properties and there are three pools which you can get into, one of which is an indoor pool in case rain gets to you. The temperature of the water varies between 91°F (33°C) and 100°F (38°F), which is perfect to lay back and relax after a long day of trekking in the Cotahuasi Canyon.
Additionally, from here, you can visit three Inca ruins that are closeby:
4. Check Out a Stone Forest
If you’ve arrived in the city of Arequipa, before heading for the Cotahuasi Canyon, you can go NorthWest and enter La Reserva Nacional de Salinas y Aguda Blanca (The National Reserve of Salinas and Aguda Blanca) to find the Imata Stone forest.
This stone forest is in the coldest region of Peru, which, in the winter (June-August) can reach temperatures of -13°F (-25°C), due to its elevation of 14,800 feet above sea level (4,500 meters above sea level).
In the Itapa Stone Forest you’ll find naturally sculpted rocks which you can explore. You also have a small market to buy souvenirs and a great view from the Misti volcano, the 8th (out of 16) tallest volcano of Peru.
PRO TIP: The Misti volcano is an active volcano, so it is unsafe to climb.
5. Explore Arequipa
Even if Arequipa is somehow far (248 mi or 400 km) from the Cotahuasi Canyon, visiting it is a great experience. If you land in Lima on your trip to Peru, the best way to go to La ciudad blanca (the white city) is by flying 1 hours and 15 minutes.
Arequipa will be the first place you’ll set foot before going to the Cotahuasi Canyon, so it’s worth exploring it. In its center—which UNESCO declared a world heritage site in 2000—you’ll be able to find countless museums, churches, and cultural centers.
Arequipa also has the most typical dishes in Peru, counting around 500 of them, so doing a gastro tour would be an amazing alternative.
FUN FACT: Arequipa is one of the few places in Peru in which its inhabitants use el voseo.
6. Explore the Giant Cacti Forest!
El bosque de cactus Judío Pampa (The Jewish Pampa cacti forest) is a great place to explore close to the Cotahuasi canyon. Don’t be fooled by the dessertic plants, this place is still chilly since it is 6,351 feet above sea level (1,936 meters above sea level.)
In this cacti forest you can find many different cacti, ranging from 2-inch (5-centimeter) cacti, all the way to 45-feet-tall (14-meter) cacti! In this place you will be able to find many interesting fauna, especially birds, foxes and a certain type of endangered bat that acts as a bee, because it drinks nectar from the cacti and it spreads their seeds to far away places.
7. See the Agricultural Terraces
In the Cotahuasi canyon you can find impressive agricultural terraces that the Incas built. Besides their peculiar look, these terraces were highly useful for the Incas because they could harvest several different crops there. The ones in the bottom belonged to a tropical climate, and the ones in the top were part of a cold climate.
Close to the top you can find corn crops, and even higher you can find potato and yucca crops as well. These agricultural terraces are similar to the ones you can find in Písac, Peru, where there’s a difference of 36°F (20°C) between the top and the bottom of the terrace.
If you’re lucky, too, in high places of the Cotahuasi Canyon, you’ll be able to spot sheep, alpacas and the always-funny-looking llamas.
8. Climb to El Mirador de la Cruz Del Cóndor
In NorthWestern Arequipa, you’ll find El Mirador de la Cruz del Cóndor (The Condor’s Cross Lookout). Standing at 10,784 feet (3,287 meters) you’ll be able to see the Cotahuasi Canyon at its finest.
But this lookout didn’t earn its name only from the lookout. You can also see Andonian condors flying by if you’re lucky. These animals can be as big as a person, and some of them can fly 9 feet (3 meters) above your head!
Additionally, you can find places with handcrafts to buy more souvenirs from the Cotahuasi canyon!
PRO TIP: Be sure to arrive early, as multiple people report that the place gets full and it gets difficult watching Condors.
9. Hike in Coropuna or Solimana
Are you ready for a major level up? From Cotahuasi Canyon you can see two amazing Peruvian volcanoes. El volcán Coropuna and El volcán Solimana.
The Coropuna volcano is the highest volcano in Peru, with its overwhelming 21,079 feet (6,425 meters) that also give it the status of the third-highest elevation in Peru, only behind the Huascarán mountain—which has 22,204 ft (6,768 m), and the Yerupajá mountain—which has 21,765 ft (6,634 m.) The Coropuna, however, has to be only for sightseeing, since it is an active volcano, it would be unsafe to climb it!
The Solimana volcano, on the other hand, is an inactive volcano, and it is Peru’s third highest volcano, with 19,990 ft (6,093 meters.) In theory, you could climb it, but it is a very difficult volcano to climb due to its altitude and the cold temperatures registered there. If you’re up for the challenge, you’ll need a bunch of specialized equipment. If not, only seeing the imposing volcano is enough.
10. Visit Quechualla Village
Quechualla is a municipality in Peru with 236 inhabitants and 13,500 ha. but the most interesting part about this town is that it is Cotahuasi Canyon’s deepest town. Nevertheless, this little town is still 6,263 feet above sea level (1,909 meters above sea level.)
Visiting it can be a surreal experience since it is close to the Solimana volcano—19,990 ft (6,093 meters) giving you a difference of 13,727 ft (4,184 meters!)
11. Do Some Rafting in the Cotahuasi River
If you’re up for some adventure (and let’s face it, if you’re visiting the Cotahuasi Canyon you definitely are) rafting in the Cotahuasi river is a must for you!
But before you start packing, keep in mind that arriving at the entrance point won’t be easy. It can take you a 12-hour car ride and a 2-day mule trip, all of it while being in a very high place. If you are still up for the challenge, rafting through the Cotahuasi river will be an amazing but challenging experience, since it crosses the whole Cotahuasi canyon.
This experience can take you five days, rafting 2.7 mi (4 km) on the first day, 44 miles (65 km) on the next four days, descending to the Pacific Ocean, in which you’ll find class III, IV, and V rapids. On the last day, you’ll cover around 13 mi (20 km) where you’ll arrive in Iquipí.
FUN FACT: The Lonely Planet magazine labeled the Cotahuasi River as the 8th best river in the World in which to do rafting
12. Check Out the Colca Canyon
The Colca Canyon is close to the Cotahuasi Canyon in Peru, and it is very impressive as well. In this Canyon, you’ll be able to see cougars, and the native vizcachas—a 31-inch (80 cm) hare with dark gray fur, a white stomach, and black and white face—and Llama’s furrier cousins, alpacas.
The Colca canyon is the fourth deepest canyon in the world and it has 10,498 feet (around 3,200 meters) of depth. Here you’ll be able to find three different Peruvian ethnicities:
Additionally, in the town of Pinchollo, you’ll be able to find geysers and a lot of different Peruvian fauna!
Visit the Grand Canyon’s South American Sibling Speaking Spanish
Hiking mountains, trekking, and rafting are all amazing ideas to do in the Cotahuasi Canyon when exploring this nature’s wonder in Peru. But if you want to visit the Grand Canyon’s South American proper, you ought to learn some Spanish!
Sign up for a free Spanish class today and let one of our friendly teachers introduce you to this wonderful language, that will open the door, not only to Cotahuasi Canyon and Peru, but to a whole new continent for you! (plus 53 million people solely in the U.S.!) and even, help you earn more money to pay for your trip to Cotahuasi Canyon more easily!
Check out all the benefits we have, including flexible schedules, earned high school credit, and great pricing!
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