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Cotahuasi Village and Vicinity
Cotahuasi is the largest town in canyon country and the first you'll stumble upon. In the hills at 2,680 meters (8,620 feet), whitewashed colonial-style homes line slim, straight lanes before a backdrop of Cerro Hiunao. Most visitors kick off their stay in this Quechua-speaking community of 3,500 residents, where there are a few basic hostels, restaurants, a small tienda (grocery store), a bell tower, and the Plaza de Armas. It's also where most hiking trails begin or end. Many families rent burros (mules) to tourists to help carry their load, especially kayakers who walk eight hours down to the gorge with their boats.
Three hours farther south along a thin track against the canyon wall—which climbs to 400 meters (1,312 feet) above the river—you'll reach Chaupo, a settlement surrounded by groves of fruit trees. You can camp here and hike through Velinga to ruins at Huña before reaching Quechualla, where you can see the ancient farming terraces of Maucullachta, an old Wari city across the gorge.
In Cotahuasi Village the route forks, leading northeast along the Río Cotahuasi or due north. Either way is possible by 4x4, colectivo, or on foot. Heading northeast, about 10 km out of town, you'll discover the village of Tomepampa. After that is the small town of Alca, near the hot springs of Luicho. Even farther east is Puica, at 3,700 meters (8,440 feet). Traveling northwest from Cotahuasi Village will lead you to Pampamarca, a town known for weaving exquisite rugs. Two hours by car, Pampamarca is three hours from the hot springs of Josla and Uskuni.
Cotahuasi Village and Vicinity at a Glance
Elsewhere in The Southern Andes and Lake Titicaca
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