Cotahuasi Canyon

  • Arequipa Cotahuasi - © From Flickr user Xtremizta

Key information: Cotahuasi Canyon

  • Claimed to be the deepest canyon in the world, Cotahuasi offers some stunning trekking in an area only recently discovered by foreigners.
  • Discover ancient Inca trails, well-preserved terraces, pre-Inca ruins, rock carvings more than a millennia old and comparatively modern Spanish houses and gold mines.
  • Wonderful mountain scenery, vast cliffs, the Cataratas de Sipia (150m waterfall), hot springs and glaciers make this a diverse and thrilling walk.
  • Walks vary from long treks (with camping), to some day walks; the lack of accessibility makes organized treks a good option.
  • This can be a tough walk, where altitude can cause problems. Come prepared.

Walkopedia rating

  • Walkopedia rating90
  • Beauty34
  • Natural interest17
  • Human interest8
  • Charisma34
  • Negative points3
  • Total rating90

Vital Statistics

  • Length: Variable
  • Maximum Altitude: Over 3,000m
  • Level of Difficulty: Strenuous


Cotahuasi has is widely accepted as the worlds deepest canyon. Reaching a depth of around 3535m (although sources often differ widely), it dominates the surrounding landscape. Isolation adds to its drama; wonderfully elaborate cacti thrive in the arid climate, sheer cliffs rise abruptly from thunderous rivers, and hanging bridges over the canyon provide a daunting path.


The best base from which to explore Cotahuasi is Arequipa, known as La Ciudad Blanca after its grand colonial buildings of white volcanic rock. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the centre has some stunning architecture, and within Peru is considered second in beauty only to Cusco. Make sure you keep in mind, however, that at an altitude of 2,380m, this area will require some acclimatization.


Culture and customs in this area are fascinating. The relative isolation has sheltered many traditions which have disappeared elsewhere, and the strongest influences have come from the Peruvian highlands, rather than from the more developed city of Arequipa. As with the more famous Colca canyon nearby, evidence of the Inca empire and of older cultures is strong around Cotahuasi, with ancient trails, agricultural terraces and Wari tombs.


There are several good shorter treks; near the deepest part of the canyon, one follows a 1200 year old Inca trail down its side to the Marpa valley, rich with ancient ruins, and it is only a 7­-8 hour round walk from Cotahuasi town to the stunning Cataratas de Sipia. However, difficultly in access makes a guided hike worthwhile. Peru Adventure Tours offer a six day trek which looks particularly good, and covers the canyon's attractions comprehensively.

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Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.


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