Cotahuasi is the largest settlement in canyon country and the first you'll stumble upon. In the hills at 2,680 meters (8,793 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 grocery store, a 17th-century church with a bell tower, and the Plaza de Armas. Most hiking trails begin or end here. Many families rent burros to tourists to help carry their load, especially kayakers who walk eight hours down to the gorge with their kayaks.
Driving northwest from Cotahuasi Village for two hours will lead you to Pampamarca, a town known for exquisite woven rugs; it’s three hours from here to the hot springs and waterfalls of Josla and Uskune. On the other side of the valley, a demanding trek leads adventurers past Huari ruins to the rock formations of the Bosque de Rocas de Wito, where you can take in the peaks of extinct volcanos Solimana and Firura.