Hiking in Cotahuasi Village and Vicinity

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Hiking

Cotahuasi Canyon is an awesome place to explore by foot. The backdrop of snowcapped Volcano Coropuna and Solimana is fantastic, the high desert plains offer a rest from the steep upward rocky canyon terrain, and the untouched villages provide a cultural aspect. Hikes can go between 1,830 meters (6,000 feet) and 6,400 meters (21,000 feet) in height, so prepare for the altitude. Temperatures remain about 65–70°F during the day, dipping below 45°F on any given night. Ancient Inca paths wind throughout the canyon and its terraces. Beware: Many of these ancient trails are narrow, rocky, and hang over the side of the canyon. Newer trails parallel some of the ancient ones, and are generally safer.

Sipia Falls is a solid three- to four-hour trek from Cotahuasi Village, and it's a hard-on-your-knees hike down that includes two bridge crossings, but the first taste of being in the canyon is a surreal experience. It's also possible to reach the falls by hailing a colectivo or driving your own 4x4 from the Cotahuasi road to the Sipia Bridge, where the road ends. From here it's a 45-minute hike to the falls.

If you're going on a multiday excursion, continue on the trail from Cotahuasi to Sipia to the Chaupo Valley and the citrus-tree village of Velinga, a good place to camp. From Velinga it's on to Quechualla, where you'll pass through the 1,000-year-old Wari ruins, rock forests, and cactus forests. One of the last major points along this route is Huachuy, where you can again camp. Beyond this point things get trickier, as you'll have to cross the Rió Cotahuasi. Many guides use a cable system to reach Yachau Oasis, Chaucalla Valley, and eventually Iquipi Valley.

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