Rafting came to Peru from Poland thanks to the adventure enthusiast Yurek Majcherzyck and his travelling companions who, after many failed attempts, managed to defeat the Colca river torrents and its 300 rapids in the heart of Arequipa.
Since then, rafting has gained a large following within Peru who attempt to open new rafting routes throughout the country.
The Colca river is synonymous with rafting, and its rapids are world renowned for their difficulty. Located in the valley of the same name 300 kilometres north of Arequipa, the river can be run for 40 kilometres between Cabanaconde and Tapay. The river is navigable between May and October and the rapids have classes from II to IV.
Tours leave from the town of Chivay. The Colca canyon, through which the river runs, is located behind Cotahuasi canyon, also in Arequipa, the second deepest canyon in the world, with double the depth of Colorado Canyon.
Mountaineering in the Peruvian Andes is unmatched anywhere else. As a result, Peru is a true magnet for mountain climbing lovers in the Americas. The reason for this is that there is a unique concentration of mountains without crowds of climbers, a mild climate for the majority of the year, it is relatively easy to access but is also totally isolated from urbanity. This unique combinaton makes Peru one of the most attractive destinations for mountaineers from all over the world.
Arequipa is synonymous with volcanoes and mountains, blue skies and endless pampas. Known as the White City (due to the volcanic ashlar used to construct the buildings), it is located in the western foothills of the mountain range and is the starting point of many ascents of varying degrees of difficulty, all characterised by beautiful scenery, easy access and enormous cultural value. The summits of these volcanoes were chosen by the ancient Peruvians to make human sacrifices to honour their gods, or Apus. An example of one of these sacrifices is “Juanita”, a mummified young Inca girl who was found in an unbelievable state of preservation at the summit of Ampato.
El Misti volcano (5,825 metres) is an emblem of Arequipa. Its ascent, rather than an escalation, consists of a 2 day walk on loose terrain with high slopes. The most popular route of ascent starts in the city and continues to Tambo Inca and the base camp Nido de Aguilas, in order to climb to the summit on the second day.
Chachani (6,075) metres is the second volcano that dominates the city. It can be attacked by taking a spectacular path that ascends to the Pampa de Arrieros. The Colca valley (4 hours from Arequipa) also has many summits of great beauty and popularity amongst climbers: the Ampato volcano (6,025m), Sabancaya (5,976m) and the snowy Hualca Hualca (6,025m) are some of the most important. Finally, the Cotahuasi Valley has the snow-topped Coropuna (6,425m) which offers an amazing view of the region. You can get there from the Pallarcocha lagoon, which is just a 2 day journey overland from Arequipa. For more information on access to these and other mountains, there are many tourism agencies located in Arequipa that provide data and can co-ordinate local guides and porters.
Peru is a true paradise for avid hikers. Virtually all of the highlands, including valleys, plateaus and ridges are homes to trekking tours of various levels of difficulty. However, some of them have become more commercial tours, but there are many unexplored routes awaiting anyone who wishes to explore the magical ways of the Peruvian Andes, with its extraordinary network of pre-Columbian trails and more than 12,000 lagoons, the deepest canyons on Earth, glaciers and snow-capped peaks, forests and waterfalls, beautiful villages and, above all, the most hospitable people that you can imagine.
El Valle del Cola, or The Valley of Wonders, as Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa called it, offers many trekking tours which boast beautiful scenery. Located 150km north of Arequipa, it consists of a winding network of horseshoe roads that go through the mountains, connecting unusual colonial hamlets of rare beauty. They add a touch of interest to the route, along with pretty lakes, unique rock formations and an abundance of rare wildlife species, such as the condor and vicunas, and the queñual and rodales trees that have stood for hundreds of years. The most impressive attraction on the route would be the snow capped volcanoes, some of them active. Some of these volcanoes include Hualca Hualca (6,025m), Sabancaya (5,976m) and Ampato (6,288m), among others.
Colca was, for time immemorial, home to the Collagua and Cabana ethnic groups, two peoples who descended from the Pucurá of the Altiplano and the Quechua of Cusco, who reached an extraordinary level of development in hydraulic engineering: the spectacular system of agricultural terraces that adorn the steep slopes of the valley is true evidence of the high technical skill achieved by the farmers.
One of the most popular trekking routes in Colca is the one that joins the towns of Cabanaconde and Tapay, a circuit that takes two to three days. You can enjoy the breathtaking scenery, dotted with settlements and many pre-Hispanic ruins. Like in the city of Arequipa itself you can find many tourism agencies in the Colca valley (the villages of Chivay and Yanque in particular) that offer organised packages for hiking and horse back riding. There are also many hostals and restaurants to suit all tastes and budgets.
It is recommended to do the hikes between May and September.