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Days: 9
Location: Colca – Arequipa South Peru
Activities: Rafting
Activity Level: Previous experience is required
Season: From June to September


Colca Canyon Rafting Tours
The Colca River Canyon –located in the Arequipa region of southern Peru- has a depth of 3191 meters (approximately 10,700 feet), twice that of the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River in Arizona (if measured from its South Rim). In the year 1979, a Polish expedition carried out the first complete full length river run of the Colca River Canyon. This notable accomplishment in turn led to the beginning of kayaking and river rafting in that particular area of Perú mainly due to the fact that the Polish boaters left their rafts, kayaks and gear with the Vellutino family of Arequipa who had provided them with much needed and unflinching support throughout their entire endeavor.Almost thirty years later, the seed they planted has grown and blossomed heartily: Piero Vellutino (the youngest of the Vellutino brothers) is a Peruvian National Kayak Champion and the only South American Instructor of World Rescue Group –with over 20 expeditions and runs of the Colca Canyon to his name. Piero, along with a staff of professional guides, will be in charge of organizing and leading you and your group on a nine-day adventure charged journey of discovery and awareness through some of the most beautiful and wondrous geographical settings in Peru, while paddling an incredible river that flows down one of the deepest canyons in the world.
Our trip begins in the city of Arequipa, located in the southwestern region of Peru and a one hour flight from Lima. In the afternoon, we tour the old city –recently proclaimed a World Cultural Heritage Site by UNESCO. Among the outstanding sites are the famous Convent of Santa Catalina, as well as the Museum where we can observe the mummified corpse of the young Inka woman (known in present times as “Juanita”) which was found some years ago atop the snowcapped peak of Ampato, in the vicinity of the Colca Canyon.


Morning departure from the city of Arequipa, heading northwest in the direction of the Colca Valley, which lies at an elevation of 3500 meters (approximately 14, 485 feet) above sea level. We shall pass through the National Reserve of Salinas and Aguada Blanca, subsequently ascending to the highland plateaus of Pampas Cañahuas and Tocra were we will be able to observe herds of Vicuña, Llama and Alpacas, as well as the formations of rock outcroppings –or “forests”- of Pueruña and Sumbay, the latter bearing cave paintings. Sometime around this point we will savor our box lunch and continue on our way, amidst the impressive vicinity of the high snowcapped peaks of Ampato (elevation 6,320 meters – 20,730 feet) and Sabancaya (5,976 meters – 19, 720 feet) looming above us. After passing yet another remarkable geological formation known as the Castillo (castle) of Callalli, we eventually reach the town of Chivay, renowned for its medicinal mineral hot springs –the beneficial qualities of which we shall delightfully enjoy. Overnight lodging in local hotel in the town of Chivay. Meals B+L+D



In the morning we will cruise along the south rim of the Colca Canyon, which is the river left side, amid terraces constructed on the steep cliffsides by the ancient inhabitants of the valley. We shall visit some of the several 17th century villages in the area -famed for their remarkable colonial baroque churches- and likewise take in the well known Cruz del Condor, a celebrated natural scenic overlook located 1200 meters (almost 4,000 feet) above the river. From this spectacular site we can observe the magnificent and impressive deepness of the canyon as well as watch very closely the flight and imposing presence of the numerous condors that abound in that region. In the afternoon, we arrive at the town of Huambo (elevation 3300 meters – 10,850 feet,) where we shall stay overnight in a local hostel. Meals B+L+D



We awaken to the whistling of Juan, the wrangler in charge of the burros that will carry our baggage to the river put-in. We hike for 3 hours through farmland and fields of crops, meeting the local folk, exchanging mutual greetings and salutations, eventually reaching the bridge of Huambo, where we stop for lunch. Afterward, we set off once more for 3 more hours, following a narrow winding path leading to the Hacienda Canco. In this location we camp –already on the banks of the Colca river- with tired limbs, soon to be comforted and content by a soak in the thermal waters. Meals B+L+D



In the early hours of the morning –while the guides are readying the equipment- we set off upstream along a 1 km stretch to visit the waterfall named in honor of Pope John Paul II. Upon returning to camp –and following a safety briefing – we put into the river. In the course of this first day we will paddle down a stretch of 4 kilometers (under 3 miles) of Class II and III rapids until reaching the confluence of the Colca with the Mamacocha river. From this point begins the actual Canyon of the Colca River, since the volume of the river flow becomes virtually doubled. After lunch we paddle for another 20 minutes, reaching the campsite of “La Pared” (the Wall), bearing in mind that the following will be an important, strenuous day. Meals B+L+D



After enjoying breakfast on the banks of the inner gorge of one of the deepest river canyons in the world, we put into the river and enter the section known as the canyon of “La Merced”, containing four Class IV+ rapids which, depending on the volume and water level, will either be run or portaged around. We carry on, paddling down an entertaining and enjoyable Class III stretch, until reaching the “Canoandes” rapid. At this point we beach our boats and devote ourselves to lunch. We also take some time off to walk along and scout the rapid in order to discuss it and plan our run. In the aftermath of it, we paddle for another 30 minutes and reach our next camp in the Quebrada (gully, valley) “Jazmín”. From this base we can walk approximately 40 minutes through the surrounding area to better observe the diverse rock formations on the walls of the canyon. Meals B+L+D



This is indeed –and undoubtedly- a most special day. Come morning we set off on a west-by-southwest bound course, noticing the canyon walls gradually come closer together giving the appearance of “lunarscape”. After a half hour of paddling various Class II and III rapids we arrive at the “Ducha del Cóndor (the “Shower of the Condor”), a waterfall dropping hundreds of meters into open -and seemingly endless- space. It so happens that, with the help of the wind, the water becomes a fine spray in the course of its fall, thus becoming a perfect “birdbath” for the gigantic winged creatures. After watching some Condors taking a shower, we move on, paddling down Class III and IV rapids until reaching the entrance to the “Cañón de Chocolate” (the “Chocolate Canyon”), thus named due to the coloring and hues of the canyon walls. We have lunch here and afterwards run through the stretch of whitewater to eventually reach the beach site known as “Mosquito”. This is not only our campsite for the night but also the trailhead of one of the most incredible hikes within the Colca Canyon. Meals B+L+D



This will be a strong and demanding day. We paddle for about 15 minutes to warm up before reaching a section of Class IV and V rapids. Later in the afternoon, awaiting us, lies the imposing portage through the Canyon of Reparaz (a section of Class VI rapids that we will not run), after which we again board our rafts and paddle for a further few minutes until beaching at Playa Esperanza. Here we enjoy a well-earned rest and delight our palates, as in every other evening of the journey, with the exquisite and delicious dinner that our guides have prepared. Meals B+L+D



We depart camp and after a half hour of boating we reach Cañon Verde (“Green Canyon”), also known as Cañon de los Polacos (“Polish Canyon”, in reference to the pioneering expedition of 1979). A section of this canyon will be portaged by clients and guides in well coordinated teamwork, after which we shall 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. This point is our final take-out and the end of our rafting trip. Our transport vehicle awaits us with cold beers to celebrate the running of the Colca River Canyon, and to take us to the home of Mauro who awaits us with a scrumptious lunch of fresh water shrimp and crawfish. In the late afternoon we drive for three hours bacl to the city of Arequipa. Meals B+L+D



Terra Explorer Peru - Certifications



“I first went on a Terra Explorer trip for a privately guided raft trip down the Colca Canyon. I have since been on three more Terra Explorer trips, each one doing the previous. Not to say the first one wasn´t amazing! 

The Colca river is one that should be on every rafting enthusiast bucket list !”

Shelby Sharp – Wyoming USA