The main attraction in the Cotahuasi area is the Cataratas de Sipia, an impressive waterfall located in the heart of the canyon. The falls are very impressive as the Cotahuasi River plunges 150m through a very narrow gorge where the canyon is no more than 10 metres wide.
However, more than just the falls, the entire setting is spectacular. The views from Sipia are wonderful, and climbing above the falls there is a superb view downriver. Although not at its deepest point, the canyon is still very deep and beautiful here, with the cliffs being many shades of reds, browns and greys.
It is possible, although quite frightening, to walk right up to the edge of the cliff and look down over a vertical drop of several hundred metres.
Sipia is a three-hour walk from Cotahuasi, mostly downhill. It is possible to take a combi halfway to the bridge at Quellao, although many beautiful sights are missed this way. To begin, walk down Calle Arequipa as far as the football pitch.
Cross this and then you generally follow the road towards the canyon, although there are plenty of shortcuts through agricultural terraces.
After about one hour you descend into the canyon following the river, crossing it twice. The views of the canyon walls are amazing, forming a wonderful contrast with the deep blue skies. It is difficult to get lost, and there are several signs pointing to Sipia or Cataratas.
It is best to set off early in the morning if you are planning on returning the same day, as it gets very hot in the canyon. The return walk takes around 4 hours, as it is uphill.
There are plenty of places to get water from the river, although bear in mind that this is downriver from many agricultural areas, so will not be very clean. It is possible to camp quite near to the falls.
It is possible to continue beyond Sipia, and there are several towns along the canyon. This is a spectacular journey, although it cannot be done in one day, and camping is required. You will have to return by the same route, as there is no easy exit point, unless you carry on to the Pacific Coast at Ocoña, a journey of around 11 days.