Expedition Colca and Cotahuasi Rivers


In a “self support” kayaking trip it is required that kayakers have solid Class-V skills and experience. The kayak participants will be hauling all of their own personal gear and commissary, thus making it a true expedition.

With our many years of experience of boating the rivers of Peru, we feel very confident, capable and assured of success in our endeavor of leading you down the rivers, showing you the best lines, as well as the ideal campsites and side hikes.

The purpose and goal is to run the two deepest navigable river canyons in the world, during one single expedition! First, the Colca, with a depth of 3,191 meters (approximately 10,700 feet) -characterized by the impressive sheer walls of its inner gorge and otherwise lunar landscapes; and then the Cotahuasi, with a depth of of 3,535 meters (approximately 11,600 feet) -possibly the deepest river canyon in the world- containing among its features a significant amount of remarkable archaeological sites and remains strewn along its entire course. Both of these rivers are Class- IV and Class V with some portages.

Trip itinerary and description

Day 01
Arrival in Lima and board connection to Arequipa. Transfer on private coach to hotel. After resting, we have lunch and proceed to tour the famous “White City” of Arequipa. Come nighttime, we all go out to enjoy a welcome dinner and the official start of the expedition.

Day 02
Early departure from Arequipa. We have lunch in Chivay, the main town and population center of the Colca Canyon region, situated at an elevation of 3567 meters (11,700 feet) above sea level. In the afternoon we continue on our way along the south rim of the Colca Canyon, corresponding to the left bank of the river below. We pass through a succession of 17th century villages strung out along the valley, famed for their remarkable colonial baroque churches, all the while taking in views of the snow-capped peaks of the Ampato range, a section of the Cordillera Volcánica, in turn part of the Cordillera of the Andes. We eventually arrive at the town of Huambo (elevation 3300 meters – 10,850 feet, above sea level), the staging point for tomorrow’s hike. Here we shall overnight in a local hostel.

Day 03
In the early morning, all our gear is loaded on burros and we hike for 6 hours until reaching the Hacienda Canco, our first camp on the banks of the Colca River. Over the next few days we will be running the impressive and ever-changing rapids of the Colca. Because of frequent rock-falls and flooding, the rapids may change from year-to-year and we will scout and/or portage whenever necessary. Your trip leader is well-skilled in swiftwater rescue techniques and knows both rivers very well. We will err towards being conservative because the consequences of a bad swim or injury are severe. There is no hiking out of the canyon, but the trip leader will have a satellite phone for emergency contact with the outside world.

Day 04
We put in the river in the morning and paddle down a stretch of 4 kilometers until reaching the confluence of the Colca with the Mamacocha river. From this point the actual Canyon of the Colca River begins, since the volume of the river flow virtually doubles. We proceed on and reach the section of “La Pared” (the Wall), which possesses Class-IV rapids. After lunch we run the “Canoandes” rapid and reach our next camp in the Quebrada (gully, valley) “Jazmín”. From this point an interesting hike can be undertaken.

Day 05
Today we run Class-IV rapids, pass by the “Ducha del Cóndor (the “Shower of the Condor”), a waterfall dropping hundreds of meters into open space. With the help of the wind, the water is atomized into a fine spray in the course of its fall, thus becoming a perfect “birdbath” for the gigantic winged creatures. After watching some Condors enjoying a shower, we move on through the “Cañón de Chocolate” (the “Chocolate Canyon”), run the “Cholo “rapid (so named after “Cholo” Ibañez, a pioneer kayaker of the Colca, followed the rápido del desastre (Disaster rapid) and wind up the day portaging around the rapids of the Canyon of Reparaz. After putting in again, we reach our campsite at Playa Esperanza.

Day 06 
We set off from Playa Esperanza and after a half hour of paddling we reach the impressive Cañon Verde (“Green Canyon”), also known as Cañón de los Polacos (“Polish Canyon”, in reference to the pioneering expedition of 1979) around which we portage. After this we again take to the river and boat down a few kilometers of Class II and III water and come to the confluence of the Colca with the Andamayo river. At this point we take out, have lunch, board our 4×4 all terrain vehicles and drive to the town of Cotahuasi where we spend the night in a local hostel.

Day 07
Following a six-hour trek –during which we will pass by the impressive Sipia Falls, a waterfall with a vertical drop of 150 meters (approx. 495 feet), as well as through a grove of giant cacti- we eventually reach the village of Belinga and our first campsite on the banks of the Cotahuasi River.

Days 08 to 10
In the course of these four days we shall boat down the canyon running Class-III, IV, and some Class-V rapids. Every night we will camping in the vicinity of archaeological sites of pre-Inka origin and we will set out from our campsites on exploratory hikes. The Cotahuasi is a very continuous river – almost no pools – we will get out to scout and/or portage if needed.

Day 11
After its confluence with the Marán river, the Cotahuasi becomes the Ocoña river, with easy Class-II rapids. We paddle and float down the Ocoña, avoiding the local fishermen’s traps that stretch through areas of current, until reaching out take-out at the town of Iquipí. Here, our vehicles await our arrival laden with cold beers to celebrate the success of our trip and take us back to the city of Arequipa. That night we indulge in a well earned and exquisite celebratory dinner.

Day 12
Flight from Arequipa to Lima and from there homeward bound !


Services included:

  • Private Transfers Airport-Hotel-Airport (in Arequipa).
  • Hotel accommodation in Arequipa (02 nights).
  • Local Hostel accommodations in Huambo and Cotahuasi.
  • All meals on expedition.
  • Private transport in 4×4, all-terrain vehicles Arequipa-Huambo and Andamayo-Cotahuasi.
  • Private transport Iquipi-Arequipa.
  • One or more (depending on the size of the group) professional safety kayaker (Swift Water Rescue and First-aid Certified).
  • Commissary Equipment.
  • First-aid kit.
  • Satellite phone link.

Services not included:

  • Flights: Lima-Arequipa-Lima.
  • Expenses and services beyond those specified.
  • Sleeping bag and mat.
  • Meals in Lima and Arequipa.
  • Kayaking equipment (paddle, helmet, PFD, etc…).
  • Kayak (PVP rents kayaks – $ 200.00 per person for entire trip – please contact us to see our selection of kayaks).