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Discovering COTAHUASI


After celebrating NYE in Arequipa, Peru, I decided (after getting recommendations from few travelers) to go to Cotahuasi Canyon instead of going to the more famous and touristy, Colca Canyon.

Cotahuasi Canyon is located in northeast of Arequipa, approx. 10 hours travel time by bus.

discoveringCotahuasiOnly 2 companies, Cromotex and Reyna, go to Cotahuasi with daily departures at 5:00pm from the main bus terminal and cost around 35soles.

Arriving in Cotahuasi at 2:00am, I stayed at the terminal until the sun is out and headed to Linda Cotahuasina, my sleeping lodge for the next 5 days. I rang the bell at 6:00am and was lucky that someone came to the door who also turned out to be the owner. (Note: Not many tourists go and visit Cotahuasi so these hostel owners are not used to accepting guests at such an early time. In fact, during my stay, I only saw 3 other tourists.)

I received a warm welcome and was directed to my bed, where I slept instantly until midday. I woke up in time for lunch and decided not to spend any more time in bed, I made my way out and explored the town or what little it has to offer.

Since I don’t know much about Cotahuasi, I went to the tourist information and ask for details so I can plan my itinerary. I was given a map, which was a necessity and cost me 3soles. So much information was given that in my mind, 5 days may not be enough after all as there was so much to explore in the world’s deepest canyon. I, then, went to the bus terminal to get bus schedules and ticket prices based on my itinerary:

  • Quechuella – bus departs every day at 6:30am and costs 6.50soles.
    • Travel time: 2hours (Note: also passes through Catarata de Sipia, which is an hour away from Cotahuasi town proper)
    • Return time: 9:00am and 4:00pm
  • Huaynacotas – bus departs every day at 5:00am and costs 5soles.
    • Travel time: 1.5hours (Return time: 1:00pm)
  • Pampamarca – bus departs every day at 5:00am and costs 6soles.
    • Travel time: 2hours (Return time: 12:30pm)
  • Alca – bus departs every hour and costs 3soles.
    • Travel time: 1hour

Since there are so many places to visit in Cotahuasi, I only chose these locations given my 5-day limit:

1st day –

Campanario de Colonial, Mirador and Laguna Chaquicocha – all these are walking distance from Cotahuasi town proper. To reach Laguna Chaquicocha, it would take you 1.5hours depending on your speed.

2nd day –

I made my way to the bus terminal at 6:15am to be able to get on the bus to Quechuella. After 2 hours, we reached our destination but to be able to get to Quechuella proper, I had to walk and trek for 2.5hours one-way.

I wasn’t really sure what to do next when I alighted the bus so it was a good thing that a local was also on his way to Quechuella. It must have been my lucky day! Anyway, the trek was tiring mainly due to the heat but enjoyable and the view along the way was breathtaking. And though my Spanish still sucks, I managed to have a decent conversation with this guy.

Quechuella is a small town with only 8 families. It is also famous for its grapes, which are in full bloom during February and March. The families also serve food to tourists at a measly cost and it’s good enough for its price.

I decided to head back alone to where the bus will be waiting and true to my nature, I got lost somewhere along the way. I started having panic attacks thinking I might miss the bus and sleep somewhere. It’s not really a bad thing when you think about it but when you are tired and sweaty, you just want to go home to your own bed and have a nice shower.

So, I calmed myself down, started remembering our earlier route and instantly, I found footprints along the way which helped me heaps. I made it on time with 20minutes to spare. Whew!

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3rd day –

Still tired from the previous day, I decided to sleep in and got out of bed at 8:00am thinking there were buses leaving every hour to some destination. It seemed I only had 2 options – Alca by bus or Catarata de Sipia on foot. I chose the latter thinking I’d be able to go to Alca some other day. As I started walking, I bumped into the same guy from yesterday and again, he directed me to a shorter route to Catarata de Sipia.

Walking under the scorching heat made me really tired, took me 3hours and I was dangerously running out of water. I wanted to catch the 1:00pm bus back to Cotahuasi, which was an hour away from Sipia, but I already know I wouldn’t make it so I just took my time around Sipia, admiring the view and getting ecstatic when I saw a rainbow.

The walk back would take me another 3hours and my water is running low so I decided to get down to the nearby river to refill my water bottle. Water was clean and safe to drink so no need to worry about getting sick. I started walking back and since it was around midday, the weather was so hot.

After 45mins of walking, I was already exhausted and felt as if I wouldn’t make it but I really have no choice. I continued walking and just after 5minutes, a bus was heading my way and I was so relieved! The bus ride back to Cotahuasi town proper took about 45minutes and I was really happy to be on-board.

4th day –

I decided to catch the 5:00am bus to Huaynacotas and stay there overnight to be able to go up Santuario de Llamoja, which would take 6hours travel time on foot. But upon arriving, the weather was cold and common sense would tell me that it would be colder when you get on higher ground.

So right then and there, I changed plans and decided to just walk around the town, which also has amazing views. While wandering, another heaven-sent local, named Roxanne, told me that I can reach Luicho (hot springs near Alca) by foot from Huaynacotas, and even showed me a short-cut.

So I made my way down and upon reaching Luicho town proper, I met another local named Antonio, who showed me the way to the hot springs and gave me the tastiest peaches I’ve had so far. I reached Luicho Baños Thermales, paid the 6soles entrance and enjoyed the warm bath for 45minutes.

From Luicho, I headed straight to Alca, which was a 30-minute walk, and had lunch for 7soles. During lunch, another local, named Noah, started talking to me and he also turned out to be the bus driver. We had a good conversation despite my poor Spanish and at 2:00pm, we headed back to Cotahuasi town proper, which took about an hour, and the surprise of the day was he didn’t let me pay. Luck was on my side apparently.

5th day –

My last day. I already decided the night before to go to Pamparca, so I have to catch the 5:00am bus yet again. I was starting to get lazy to get out of bed and good thing I managed to do so because it turned out to be my favorite.

The bus ride took 2 hours and I was told that the hike up would take 4hours roundtrip, so I immediately started hiking, considering how slow I can get sometimes, as soon as I got out of the bus so as not to miss the bus back to Cotahuasi, which departs at 12:30pm.

10mins on my hike, the bus driver was trailing behind and it turned out, he also planned on going up Bosque de Piedras. Just my luck yet again because now, I don’t have to worry about missing the bus because I’m with the bus driver!

The hike up was fairly easy but due to the altitude (4,000masl), I had a hard time with breathing mainly. We reached the top after 2.5hours, took some photos and headed back down, which was easier and only took us 40minutes.. The view was spectacular and I even saw a few Condors flying high.

It was such a perfect ending to this trip.

I was alone in this trip and would easily get lost if it weren’t for the locals who walked with me, helped me willingly, offered fruits and gave me directions. I sincerely hope that travelers get to visit this place because it has a lot to offer – from breathtaking views to warm and friendly locals, and not to mention, it would help the local livelihood.