Driving the dizzying road to Cotahuasi Canyon

Cañon de Cotahuasi is the name of a very challenging canyon located in the Department of Arequipa, in the Province of La Union of Peru. It’s said to be the deepest canyon in the Americas.

Cotahuasi Canyon Road

What is special about Cotahuasi Canyon?

Tucked away in the southern part of the country, the extremely deep canyon separates Solimana and Kopuna ranges, in the heart of the Southern Andes. It’s said to be one of the deepest canyons in the world, more than twice as deep as the Grand Canyon. The landscape here is extraordinary and varied. This is a hard-to-reach area with stunning views. Formed by the Cotahuasi River, at its deepest point, the canyon, also known as Kotausi canyon, cuts roughly 3,354 metres (11,004 ft) into the Earth – slightly deeper than its nearby rival, the Colca Canyon.

Is Cotahuasi Canyon remote?

Cotahuasi is a remote and attractive settlement boasting quaint narrow streets and a small seventeenth-century church, and famous for its canyon. Despite the difficulties of arriving at the territory of the canyon, tourists from all over the world are ready to overcome this path in order to see with their own eyes the beauty of the area, hot springs and waterfalls. Its remote location makes the journey to Cotahuasi Canyon a bit of a challenge. The area has a variable climate but isn’t particularly cold. It’s an ideal trip destinations for watching condors, vicuñas, and Andean foxes. Pre-Incan agricultural terraces and mountain trails are visible along the sides of the canyon.

Can you drive through Cotahuasi Canyon?

The winding road through the canyon is extremely challenging with hairpin curves and dangerous drop offs. Built in the 2000’s, the narrow path is totally unpaved. 4x4 vehicles only. It’s 35km (21.74 miles) long running from Cotahuasi to Quechualla. Protected by the Reserva Paisajistica Subcuenca del Cotahuasi, the narrow dusty road, which is not a road for the faint-hearted, provides stunning views from the start all the way down to the lower canyon. The best time to drive the road is on the dry season (from June to September). The rainy season (from December to March) creates muddy conditions on the road and dangerously high water levels in the river. It is a good idea to bring bug spray to repel mosquitos.
Pic: Juvenal Chamana Buiza