Cotahuasi River – Peru

Cotahuasi River – Peru

Cotahuasi River, Peru                                                 Class V+                                                                        Early June On Request

Many factors come into play in describing a river—landscape, rapids, ruins, weather, access, use level, camps, and intangibles like feeling and the spirit of the place.  The Cotahuasi, a challenging technical flow in a Peruvian desert canyon, has something going for it in every one of these categories.  For a rafter who enjoys the challenge of Class V water, it is hard to think of a more perfect trip.  The trip has been featured in National Geographic and Outside magazines, and for good reasons.

In June of 2009 John Yost, JJ Yost and Russell Kramer decided to give it a try, and organized a private trip to the river.  Wow!  It was everything we had hoped and more.  The setting is spectacular, a deep, deep dry canyon, sometimes claimed to be the deepest in the world.  The whitewater is even better, with more than 40 miles of Class III-IV water dotted with Class V rapids, some runnable, some to be portaged.  For four days it just does not let up, and a more fun (and sometimes scary) run would be hard for an engineer to design.  On the shore ancient Incan and Wari ruins line the banks for our hiking, exploring and camping pleasure.  Click one of these links if you want to see a video or photos of our trip:  ( (

It’s a long drive and a short hike to get to put-in (mules carry the gear in), which, together with the very short run-off season, has the great benefit of keeping most boaters away.  The river is very little-used, and the very rocks emanate an ancient aura that makes the visitor feel privileged to be there.

Wantok offers this spectacular river on demand only, in June of any year..  We’ve worked hard to get great equipment and local guides together for the trip, and have organized the trip with our usual philosophy of safety and quality without excess, so that we can offer it at a great price.  The guides who are involved work directly with a Peruvian outfitter, eliminating the middleman, and giving you great value for your money.

Check out this itinerary, then join us for the excitement!



Unless you have a reason to spend time in Lima, it works best to book connecting flights through Lima from the US to Arequipa.  There are at least some flights that do this from most major airports in the US, though it can be a bit challenging from the west coast.  On arrival in Arequipa, grab a cab to our hotel (details provided to anyone on the trip) and join the group. Our hotel is near the main plaza of the old Spanish colonial city, so if you arrive in time there is some great sightseeing to do. We’ll have an orientation meeting and a welcome dinner.                                                                                                 Casa Andina or similar…D


Today we head out from the city, bound for the town of Cotahuasi. This involves a lengthy ride in 4-wheel drive all terrain vehicles through the Andes. Along the way we will surmount a mountain pass  at an altitude of 4000 meters (approx. 13,400 feet) above sea level;  come in close vicinity of the impressive snow capped peak of Coropuna (second highest mountain in Peru and among the 10 highest in the Western Hemisphere) and go through several ancient towns and villages where time seemingly came to a standstill centuries ago. After about 10 hours of driving we reach Cotahuasi and lodge overnight in a local Hostal.  Dinner is on your own in Cotahuasi.
Cotahuasi hostal…B,L


After flying in from the US and driving out to the river, a day of rest will be welcome, and Cotahuasi is a great place to do it.  We’ll enjoy the pleasant village, do some hiking in the area and head to the nearby Luicho hot springs to soak out the stiffness and get ready for the river.                                                                                                    Cotahuasi hostal…all meals


We drive to the road-head (thus sparing ourselves a two-hour hike). Upon reaching the bridge at Sipia we are met by the “burros” –the pack donkeys and mules- and their wranglers, who will henceforth bear and transport our gear and raft to the river put-in.  Following a half-day hike –in the course of which we shall have passed by the  cascade of Sipia, 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 Velinga and  our first riverside campsite.                                                                                                                                               Camp…all meals


Come morning, we ready all our gear and other logistical infrastructure, pump up the boats, enjoy lunch and put into the river. In the following couple of hours we paddle downriver through 4 kilometers (approx. 2.7 miles) of Class III and IV rapids and reach our second campsite.
Camp…all meals


After a good healthy breakfast we began our rafting journey. We will be running many Class IV and some class V rapids for the next 4 days, with about 45 miles of thrilling and fun-filled Class III-V rapids. Between the rapids we will have many opportunities to hike and explore the numerous amazing pre-Incan and Incan ruins that we are going to encounter on our descent towards to the Pacific Ocean. The canyon also supports an abundant population of birds, eagles and many condors. Each night your guides will prepare a healthy meal and we will camp under the starry southern sky.  One of the highlights of the rafting is negotiating several spots on the river where the canyon narrows down to less than the width of the rafts!        Camp…all meals


On this day we cover the final 20 kilometers (approx. 13 miles) of our river trip expedition. This last day in our rafts will spent on the Ocoña river with some class III and IV rapids. The river changes names at the confluence of the river Maran. Here the nature of the river changes as we wind our way down to Iquipí  (near to Pacific Ocean) where our transport will be waiting to take us to Arequipa and our hotel at the city. 4-5 hours drive back.  Farewell dinner.                                                                                                                   Casa Andina or similar…all meals


Take a morning flight to Lima and connect out to your final destination.                                                           B


Available on request for four or more participants

Price varies based on group size.  Approximate costs for 2013 are from $2800-$4000

Trip costs are based on double occupancy. Should you prefer single rooms and tent, a single supplement cost of about $300 will be added. Should you be traveling alone but willing to share rooms and tent, we will try to match you up with a roommate. If we are unable to do this, the surcharge for involuntary singles is $200.

Airfare is not included.  You will need international flights to Lima, Peru with domestic flight connection to Arequipa.


Included in the land cost for your trip are
• Wantok leadership on the trip and planning assistance before it
• accommodations in hotels or inns in cities and villages
• all arrangements in the field, including camp meals, cook staffs, group gear and rafting equipment
• meals as noted
• sightseeing and activities as noted in the itinerary
• ground transportation


Excluded from the basic trip cost are
• international airfare
• domestic flights within Peru as listed above
• insurance
• optional tipping off-river and to leader, guides and river staff
• excess baggage charges
• airport taxes
• any meals noted as “on your own”
• personal items like drinks, laundry, souvenirs, etc.