The Valley of the Volcanoes, with a distinctive and impressive topography, is strategically integrated to the most important tourist circuit of Peru, consisting of the great southern attractions of the country, the most notorious being Machu Pichu (one of the new Seven Wonders of the World) Lake Titicaca, the Nazca Lines, the Manu Reserve and the Colca Valley. It is in the slope of the Coropuna (6,400 meters above sea level or 21,079 feet) the highest in Peru and one of the 12 highest in the world, located between two canyons, Colca and Cotahuasi, possibly the deepest in the world.

The valley forms the Mamacocha River basin, called Huancarama in its origin, then Orcopampa, later Andahua and finally Mamacocha, name with which it flows into the Colca; its source is more than 5,000 m high and its first important natural dam is the Corococha Lagoon (4,700 meters above sea level). The valley itself starts at 4,300 meters above sea level, gradually slopes down to the Pampa de Ayo (1,700 meters above sea level) and then sinks abruptly to the Colca River, 1,350 meters below.

Its name alludes to the volcanic activity of the zone, which has developed by means of volcanic cones and eruptive domes or cracks. At present, 36 stubby cones (32 in the valley) and 67 domes have been identified, although there are indications that there could be many more. The place is also well known for the traces of the ancient inhabitants, Inca sites, varied flora and fauna species and picturesque villages where the inhabitants have preserved their ancestral customs and traditions.


The Valley of the Volcanoes is also known as the Andahua Valley and is located in the region of Arequipa, province of Castilla Alta, between 4,300 and 1,350 meters above sea level. The town of Andahua (3,560 meters above sea level) is 315 km from Arequipa by road, crossing the Majes and Viraco Valleys or 387 km by road crossing Chivay, the Colca Valley and Caylloma.

The zone was initially known in 1934 through an article published in the National Geographic magazine that showed the first aerial photographs, dated then. Nevertheless, the valley itself started being known in Peru only in the 60s, thanks to a series of articles published by topographers and volcanologists, as well as through some travelers that risked visiting the area. As from the twenty-first century, finally, tourism is being organized formally and various studies and publications started promoting the place.


The landscape of this valley of volcanoes has been shaped in a complex and particular manner due to different factors: its altitude (between 4,300 and 1,350 meters above sea level) that follows a soft slope; its volcanic activity, which has given rise to the small cones that cover most of the zone and the lava flows that have formed capricious hills or domes and ravines, leaving spaces and cracks where natural vegetation or agriculture grow; and the water, of course, that comes from springs or flows along the river and that has permitted the formation of three beautiful lagoons: Pumajallo, Chachas and Mamacocha.

This setting has determined the existence of vegetation patches, actual oasis distributed like islands, where species that have undergone a long adaptation process have appeared, giving rise to the formation of ecological strata with well differentiated biological and climatic characteristics, as well as a landscape of its own, different from those of the Andean valleys.


The origin of these volcanoes is a tectonic fault located diagonally to the Colca Canyon, where there was an intense activity that generated the appearance of small cinder cones from different eras, forms and heights in the valley itself, and smaller eruptive domes or cracks.

Observing their characteristics it is possible to determine the age of these small volcanoes. The oldest belong to the Pleistocene, the Ice Age (800,000 to 300,000 years ago). They are higher (around 100 m) and with abrupt slopes, chiselled by the erosion on the south and covered with vegetation especially on the north side.

The volcanoes of the intermediate era belong to the Late Holocene (less than 300,000 years ago) and are covered by cactus or bushes. The youngest, only 300 or 400 year old, are about 50 meters high, with a rough and sharp surface, usually steeper and with almost no vegetation, as it has had no time to root.

Their different shapes sometimes are due to the lava that rose on the valley terraces without finding a lateral exit, which encouraged the formation of several meter high cones. In other instances, the slope of the volcanic cone could not withstand the lava load of its dome and created a lateral escape orifice shaped as a half moon, along which the lava flowed. Some of these lava flows reached the river and impounded it, making its course run beneath for 17 kilometers, from the Chachas Lagoon to the Mamacocha Lagoon.

The cone peaks are formed by volcanic bombs, lapilli, ash and lava spatters knitted to the bombs, and even though generally only pyroclastic material came out, some cones have their superior brim ripped and the solidified lava torrents can be appreciated from the crater. At the altitude of Andahua the lava is black or dark grey while at lower altitudes and semi desert zones it is red.

These torrents, the youngest volcanic formations of Peru, have been studied by Professors Andrzej Paulo and Andrzej Galas of the Science and Technology University of Cracow, Poland (Akademia Górniczo-Hutnicza, AGH). The researchers point out that, considering the historical process of successive eruptions, some of them only 300 or 400 years ago, new ones may be expected in the future. It must be kept in mind that the same force that caused the past eruptions, namely, the approximation of the Nazca ocean plate underneath the South American plate is still present. The elevation of the Andes and the breakdown of the small volcanoes in big blocks influence the volcanoes as well.

Volcanoes list table

MAURAS ( ORCOPAMPA) ORCOPAMPA 4000 m. (783384, 8313504)
YANA-MAURAS (CHAPACOCO) CHAPACOCO 4598 m. (770325, 8311264) 168 m.
MAURAS (MISAHUANCA) MISAHUANCA 4275 m. (787022, 8302521)
I ANTARCA (Q. TOROCASA) CHAPACOCO Y PANAHUA 4161 m. (785420, 8302130)
PACQUE PANAHUA 4849 m. (792719, 8298656)
II ANTARCA (Q. TOROCASA) CHAPACOCO Y PANAHUA"%} 4717 m. (787355, 8284943)
CHIPCHANE (SANTA ROSA DE LIMA) STA. ROSA DE LIMA 4158 m. (786157, 8290311) 70 m.
TUEYA I CHILA 5164 m. (798378, 8293108)
TUEYA III CHILA 5243 m. (799084, 8292361)
PUCA MAURA (CHICO) STA.ROSA Y ANDAHUA 4210 m. (785722, 8293030)
PUCA MAURA (SANTA ROSA) STA.ROSA Y ANDAHUA 4281 m. (784944,8292540)
SANI HUAYTA CHILA 4932 m. (796836, 8289252)
TIESHO INGRESO A ANDAHUA 4005 m. (781375, 8286482)
HUANACAURE GEMELO ANDAHUA 3769 m. (783910, 8286304,) 181 m.
HUANACAURE (CRUZ ANDAHUA) ANDAHUA 3755 m. (782708, 8284695) 138 m.
UCHUY CALVARIUYOC ANDAHUA 3737 m. (781614, 8283723)
NINAMANA ANDAHUA Y SOPORO 3400 m. (786805, 8283843)
JATUN CALVARIUYOC ANDAHUA 3809 m. (779462, 8283380)
NINACACA ANTAYMARCA Y SOPORO 3475 m. (786318, 8283049)
ANA CUCO ANTAYMARCA Y SOPORO 3600m. (785312, 8281913) 70 m.
JENCHAÑA SOPORO 3660 m. (784664, 8282346)
CHILCAYOC CHICO SOPORO Y CHACHAS 3324 m. (787693, 8282304) 65 m.
CHILCAYOC GRANDE SOPORO Y CHACHAS 3338 m. (788139, 8282003)
UCUYA SOPORO 3647 m. (785284, 8281463)
PAMPALQUITA SOPORO 3790 m. (784146, 8281108)
JECHAPITA SOPORO Y AYO 3387 m. (788499, 8280856) 121 m.
CHILCAYOC CHAUPI SOPORO Y AYO 3197 m. (790847, 8280756) 143 m.
CHILCAYOC URAY SOPORO Y AYO 3104 m. (791673, 8277322)


According to the bioclimatic diagram of Holdridge, the research carried out determines that there are seven life zones and five big vegetation belts.


The biologists Horacio Zeballos and Elina Linares, among others, carried out research that has helped identifying to date 269 flora species comprising herbs, bushes and trees, 243 wild and 26 cultivated. There are 35 endemic species (10 cacti); 7 endangered cacti; 2 vulnerable; 1 rare, the lloque (Kageneckia lanceolata); 4 out of danger and 61 useful species, among which stand out medicinal herbs, plants for house building and for craft works, as well as for ornamental and mystical purposes.

The patches of cactus are worth mentioning among the flora, a special interest group of varied shapes, sizes and colors, with white, red and orange flowers. So far, 16 species have been identified, 10 are endemic and 10 are at risk.

The lloque has been reported as vulnerable by some researchers due to the pressure it suffers by the extraction of its very hard and resistant wood for firewood, fuel and building material purposes. There is a highly valuable small lloque forest in the zone, and it is vital to protect and preserve it, as anywhere else there are only isolated plants of this species.

The huanarpo (Jatropa macracantha) is used and marketed as an aphrodisiac plant, while the jerjo (Carica augustii) is a wild papaya; both species are threatened as their communities decrease every year, even though no official entity has granted them that status.

Some species that are not found in other similar valleys are observed in this zone; they are characteristic of places with quite different conditions, like the Tillandsia sp. that grows in Cuchillayoc and is rather vernacular in the coastal hills of Atiquipa or the Tillandsias hills in Camaná.


115 bird species (60 genres and 27 families); 24 mammal species (20 genres and 12 families): 3 reptiles (3 genres and 3 families) and 2 amphibians (2 genres and 2 families) have been registered.

The enigmatic otter (nutria) of the Lontra genre, locally known as huallaque, with a small population nucleus in the Mamacocha Lagoon, is featured among the remarkable species living in that zone. Among the artiodactyla stand out the guanacos and two deer species. Bats, particularly around Mamacocha, exhibit one of the thickest densities of Arequipa, with seven species. The most remarkable birds are the Andean Condor, seven pigeon species and eight hummingbirds, the dipper blackbird and the Peruvian woodpecker.

Fresh water shrimps, atherines and trouts are found in the Colca River.


Along the road, on the Orcopampa-Ayo belt, the different life zones and vegetation formations can be appreciated. Places for best direct watching are: the Mamacocha Lagoon, the Ayo Valley, the Sejuela ravine, the Jechapita volcano, the Andahua and Huanacaure Valleys, the Chachas and Pumajallo Lagoons, the varying plains and wetlands, and the river, which changes its name more than once during its course.

Flora List Table

Nombres Comunes y usos de las especies de plantas por los pobladores del Valle de los Volcanes
Species Common name Applications
Acacia macracantha Huarango Building, combustible (firewood)
Acantoxantium spinosum Espina y perro Medicinal, dolor de estómago
Achryrocline satureioides Queto-queto Medicinal, las hojas son usadas para cerrar una herida abierta y sangrante
Adiantum raddianum Culantrillo (helecho)
Ageratina sternbergiana Chifra
Amaranthus hybridus Jatajo
Ambrosia arborescens Jatin, marjko Medicinal, dolor de estomago, y dolores musculares en emplasto con otras hiervas
Ambrosia fruticosa Mochinga, chilhua
Ambrosia meyenni Cancha lagua Medicinal, se toma en infusión para los granos y espinillas, para purificar la sangre
Andropogon flavescens Pasto
Annona cherimolia Chirimoya Comestible, su fruto
Anredera diffusa Lloto del cerro
Argemone subfusiformis, subfusiformis Burundanga Usada, para dormir a las personas. Ayo
Aristida adcencionis Pasto
Armatocereus riomajensis Sanki, sancayo (fruto) Medicinal, el fruto en ayunas para el hígado, en jugos como refrescante y en cóctel
Arundo donax Carrizo Construcción
Asclepias curassavica
Asparagus officinalis Esparrago, introducida Introducida, usada como adorno. Ayo
Asplenium gillesi Helecho
Full list of Flora Here

List of Birds

Bird Species of the Valley of the Volcanoes
Name in Spanish Scientific name
1 Perdiz Cordillerana o Pisacca Nothoprocta ornata
2 Perdiz Andina, Serrana o Llutu Nothoprocta pentlandii
3 Perdiz de la Puna o Kivio, Kiula Tinamotis pentlandii
4 Zambullidor Blanquillo o Plateado Podiceps,occipitalis
5 Garza Bueyera Bubulcus ibis
6 Huaco Común Nycticorax nycticorax
7 Ibis de la Puna o Yanavico Plegadis ridgwayi
8 Flamenco Chileno Phoenicopterus chilensis
9 Ganso Andino o Huallata Chloephaga,melanoptera
10 Pato de los Torrentes Merganetta armata
11 Pato Barcino o Sutro Anas flavirostris
12 Pato Cordillerano o Crestón Anas specularioides
13 Pato Jerga o Jergón Anas georgica
14 Pato de la Puna Anas puna
15 Pato Colorado Anas cyanoptera
16 Pato Andino o Rana Oxyura ferruginea
17 Cóndor Andino Vultur gryphus
18 Gavilán Cenizo o Cheque Circus cinereus
19 Aguilucho Pechinegro Geranoaetus melanoleucus
20 Aguilucho Común Buteo polyosoma
21 Caracara de Montaña Phalcoboenus megalopterus
22 Cernícalo Americano Falco sparverius
23 Halcón Perdiguero o Aplomado Falco femoralis
24 Halcón Peregrino Falco peregrinus
25 Rascón Plomizo Pardirallus sanguinolentus
26 Polla de Agua o Choca Gallinula chloropus
27 Gallareta Andina Fulica ardesiaca
28 Gallareta Gigante o Ajoya Fulica gigantea

Lista completa de Aves Aquí


The cultural development of the zone dates from early times, with the presence of high-Andean hunters who arrived looking for prey as the last glaciation receded 12 thousand years ago. There are places like Allhuire, for instance, with rupestrian paintings with prevailing camelids, men and geometric motifs, mainly in red.

Later on the zone was inhabited by the Kunti (likely around the 15th century) who, apart from developing agricultural and herding activities, were notable for their textiles and utilitarian and ornamental pottery. Traces of a later ethnic group called Chuquibamba have been discovered, whose pottery was found in numerous places along the Chili River Valley and the Department of Arequipa.

The first evidence of early pottery in Andahua comprises some fragments found in the place, dated around 2,000 and 1,000 B.C. The archaeologist Federico Kauffman calls them “magic plates”; they are clay pieces or slate flagstone with strange symbols of different colors painted on one of their surfaces. These symbols would have a symbolic meaning which would turn these plates into magic-religious texts compressed in a primitive writing form.

There is plentif of information as well about the presence of another ethnic group of the Late Intermediate (around the 15th century) called Arunis, whose deity was the Coropuna apu (a mountain considered as a sort of tutelary deity) to which they offered sacrifices of children and animals, according to some chroniclers.

At a later date the area was dominated by the Incas, who incorporated it to the Tahuantinsuyo fundamentally exploiting the agriculture, the camelid livestock and the clay to manufacture pottery. Many of the bigger aríbalos (long-necked amphoras) exhibited at the San Agustín National University of Arequipa come from the Andahua zone. Trepaned skulls have been discovered in the region that were studied by the neurosurgeon Gustavo Rondón Olazábal, who found in them signs that indicated that the people had survived the surgery. This proves that the Incas reached an advanced development in surgical science.

Later on Spaniards settled down, lured by its important gold and silver mine resources. The breeding of llamas became essential to transport these valuable metals.

Colonial chronicles report that the inhabitants were also involved in agriculture and the commerce of wines and hard liquors, and sugar and oil as well. In 1793, the scientist and National Independence Hero Hipólito Unanue pointed out that in the District of Condesuyos there were 9 credos or parishes to evangelize the natives and 18 annexed villages inhabited by 20,145 souls: 35 clergymen, 3,663 Spaniards, 12,011 aboriginals, 4,358 mestizos, 34 free pardos (mulattos) and 44 slaves. Nowadays around 11,000 people live in the Valley of the Volcanoes, which is part of what was the Condesuyos area.


Wandering along the valley enables one to become acquainted with many rituals that have survived through the centuries and have been preserved from generation to generation. A great portion of the population is still dedicated to the precious metalwork, the breeding of llamas as cargo animals to market their products, and to bartering, which they practice from the most remote zones in the cordillera above 5,000 meters above sea level down to the coast, as it was described by the chroniclers. The religious rituals of oblations to the apus and payments to the Pachamama are still actively maintained in these villages that seem to have frozen in time, where the pedestrian or livestock tracks are used the same way they have been used for several centuries.


The Orcopampa mine is located in the sphere of the famous mine district of Caylloma, one of the large producers of silver in Peru during the Colonial era, where mines were discovered in 1626. Spanish mine works (mineshafts) ruins of metal grinders or trapiches buildings and the carved rock wheels found in several places of the valley, show the importance of mining in the zone during the colonial times. Curiously, no references have been discovered about mining activities during previous periods.

Several writings of the time narrate that in 1790 the mayor of Arequipa, Don Antonio Álvarez y Jiménez, visited Orcopampa, Andahua annex, and pointed out that it was ten leagues from Andahua. He visited the mine called “El Manto”, in charge of Francisco Xavier de Boza, where there were eleven mine works, and later on the mine “Los Dolores”, which belonged to Jorge Anselmo de la Rocha and Mariana Espinel, with ten mine works with little water.

Later on, they visited some metal grinders, two of Francisco Xavier de Boza, two of Jorge Anselmo de la Rocha, one of Antonio Vera, one of Mariano Espinel and another one in Huancarama, and visited the conditions and safety of the indians; besides, the texts point out that there were between 300 and 400 mined veins and that “near Orcopampa there are hot springs known to be useful against syphilis and leprosy”.

In 1791, the miners of Caylloma established in Arequipa a “Mineralogical Society” and by the end of the 18th century Arequipa registered the existence of 91 miners (owners of their mining venture) 55 mines and 649 workers.

Other early miners who worked in the place are also known, like Julián García Caballero, Cristóbal Schutt and Mateo Morán, who in 1879 claimed part of the zone, later sold to Mr. Óscar Pardo Heeren and transferred to the Orcopampa Mining Union in 1910.

In 1959, Don Alberto Benavides de la Quintana arrived on horse in Orcopampa; he had formed Buenaventura Mines Company S.A. in 1953. The businessman found there a small homestead with few inhabitants, which today is an important village of 8,000 inhabitants.

In 1991, the Orcapampa mine stood out as the first gold producer of Peru and up to date it has dug out more than 200 kilometers of tunnels and built 140 kilometers of roadways. Nowadays it is still an important gold and vein producer, with a long life ahead.

The company has developed a wise social responsibility policy and has a good infrastructure for the use and comfort of its workers. Given the importance of the zone as a tourist attraction and the need to generate new income sources for the inhabitants, the necessary works have been started to organize and promote sustainable tourism in the region.

The mining activity has boosted the creation of an important development center in the Orcopampa town, where there are some basic hotels and restaurants, a good telephone communication, Internet, medical care and a daily bus service to and from Arequipa.
Inaugural Trips