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Cotahuasi canyon
Written by sophie et jeremy   
Saturday, 09 June 2018

For us to reach this canyon, the world’s deepest with 3354m, we have decided not to use the most common way, nor the easiest. It’ll be much more fun to go through the altiplano for a few days, where roads are bad and none have seen a tourist recently. One more chance to freeze at nights!

cotahuasi 1 cotahuasi 1

After having visited the “Peruvian Sistine chapel”, which hosts the biggest retable of Peru and pretty frescoes, we leave civilization and gain high. A first canyon, very narrow, is cut by a suspended Inca bridge, made of straw. It doesn’t look very trustworthy, but they say it’s strong, even if they have to be rebuilt it every year after the rainy season. A bit further is the village of Pisquicocha, we see schoolgirls in uniform, with strange hats, looking like the magician of Oz. They looked at us and we understand foreign cars shouldn’t be many around here. We are the thing of the day, everyone comes to us to ask us where we are from, why we are here and if we like Peru, that’s really fun.

inca bridge inca bridge altiplano 1 altiplano 1

The next day starts the serious stuff, there are no more villages, and the road gets really broken. We drive at 10km/h, there are holes everywhere and sometimes no road at all, washed away by the last rain, and it goes up steeply. Fortunately, it’s very beautiful too, and with our average speed, we have plenty of time to admire the landscape. After that stretch, we reach a basaltic plateau, covered with ashes. We spend the night here at 4700m. No surprise, it’s cold, the next morning the car is completely frozen, outside and inside.

altiplano 2 altiplano 2 altiplano 3 altiplano 3

altiplano 4 altiplano 4

The landscapes are even more magnificent the next day : sand dunes, colored mountains green to orange, snowy passes at more than 5000m, frozen basaltic columns and green meadows. Our GPS invents a road, or makes a main road of a cow track, and leads us to a vertiginous downhill in a pretty canyon dotted with waterfalls and terrace fields. We meet kids who have to walk 10 km to school everyday, hundreds of lamas and alpacas again, and we take a good bath at Luichi thermal springs in an incredibly clear hot water. We needed it!

altiplano 5 altiplano 5 high meadow high meadow

altiplano 6 altiplano 6 high road high road

altiplano 7 altiplano 7 snowy pass snowy pass

altiplano 8 altiplano 8 altiplano 10 altiplano 10

altiplano 11 altiplano 11 altiplano 12 altiplano 12

We eventually are in Cotahuasi canyon, where we climb again more than a thousands meter height to admire the deepness of the canyon. The view from the top is worth the detour (even if we haven’t seen any condor).

cotahuasi 2 cotahuasi 2 cotahuasi 4 cotahuasi 4

After a (warm) night at the bottom of the canyon, surrounded by red rock formations and giant cactus, we head to the valley of the volcanoes. The road (part of it is even asphalted!) goes again to very high altitudes across great scenery, before arriving near lava fields and volcanic cones. There is an old Inca village made out of volcanic rocks!

cotahuasi 3 cotahuasi 3 valle de los volcanos 1 valle de los volcanos 1

valle de los volcanos 2 valle de los volcanos 2 valle de los volcanos 3 valle de los volcanos 3

We go then to Arequipa, driving across a nice desert valley colored of various pinks tones along the rio Camana. A stop at “toro muerto” and its thousands of pre-inca petroglyphs (old stone carvings) and we finally arrive in populated area after 10 days in the wild altiplano!

Camana 1 Camana 1 Camana 2 Camana 2

Camana 3 Camana 3 toro muerto toro muerto


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