Cotahuasi to Aplao

Cotahuasi – Abra de Viscos – Abra Viraco – Viraco – Tipan – Aplao

This quiet route in the Departamento de Arequipa begins with a long climb out of the Cotahuasi canyon, loops round Nudo Coropuna to a pass at nearly 5,000m before a long long descent to Aplao. The scenery is great on most of the route, there is a day on roads that are barely used by vehicles, and part of the descent is on a road that goes through a spectacular, deep quebrada. Cycling this route in the opposite direction would mean an incredibly tough climb to Abra Viraco, especially if you’re not acclimatized.

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Total dist. Stage dist. Description
0km Cotahuasi (2,710m). Town with accommodation, restaurants, bank that changes USDs but no ATM.
43.4km Long climb. Surface is paved for 15kms and we passed work crews on the climb, so more of it will be paved soon. Great views, with Solimana visible from about 4,000m when you reach the lip of the Cotahuasi canyon, and Coropuna coming into view near the pass.
43.4km Abra de Viscos (4,695m – GPS01).
18.9km Descend to a bridge (4,280m) 18.3kms from the pass, then continue 0.6kms to a junction.
62.3km Junction (4,310m – GPS02). Go L for Viraco road. Straight is the main way to Chuquibamba.
34.1km After 2.4kms stay straight/R on the main road at a junction. In a further 5.1kms pass through the small village of Mauco Llacta (inhabited but no facilities). There are three streams to cross in the few kms after the village, but then we saw no water until Viraco still quite a few hours away. 22.6kms after the village stay R on the main road at a junction. 4.0kms from here to the bigger Viraco-Orcopampa road.
96.4km Junction (4,860m – GPS03), at the base of a hill with a big mast on it. Go R for Viraco, L goes to Orcopampa.
43.0km Climb 2.9kms to the Abra Viraco (4,940m – GPS04), then begin the long, long descent. Descend 35.4kms to a junction (3,180m). Surface is a real bike-breaker. L goes to Machaguay (a small town just off the road), but go R for Viraco and Aplao. 4.7kms from the junction to Viraco.
139.4km Viraco (3,200m). Large village with accommodation, restaurants, shops, internet, and the first water we’d seen for a while.
79.6km Descend 20.9kms to a junction (2,060m). Stay L (descend) to Aplao, R goes to Pampacolca. Pass through Tipan soon after, where there is a short paved section. 27.1kms (all of which is spent in a spectacular quebrada) from the junction the paving begins, at the confluence of the river you’ve been following and the Colca. About 24.8kms from the start of the tarmac arrive at the main Aplao-Chuquibamba road. Go L and in about 6.8kms arrive in Aplao.
219.0km Aplao (630m). Town with accommodation, restaurants, shops, internet, ATM.
Time taken – 3 days and amount climbed – 3,240m 6 hours: Cotahuasi – Abra de Viscos (2,000m climb).
6 hours: Abra de Viscos – Abra Viraco (850m climb).
8 hours: Abra Viraco – Aplao (390m climb).
Traffic One an hour to the turn-off to Viraco. One truck in over a day from there to Viraco. Some traffic from here, more as you near Aplao.
When we cycled Late November 2010.
Difficulty 3/4
How much we had to push on this route Not at all

GPS Point Description Lat/Long/Altitude
GPS01 Abra de Viscos 15.3278 S, 72.8456 W, 4,695m.
GPS02 Junction 15.4185 S, 72.7391 W, 4,310m.
GPS03 Junction 15.5170 S, 72.4818 W, 4,860m.
GPS04 Abra Viraco 15.5396 S, 72.4911 W, 4,940m.

View Cotahuasi – Aplao in a larger map
Nearby routes:        Abancay to Cotahuasi

5 Responses to “Cotahuasi to Aplao”

  1. Stephen Fabes 02/07/2012 at 19:37 # Reply

    They have paved 28 km out of Cotahuasi now. There’s currently no work being done on the rest.

    Steve –

  2. Salva Rodríguez 01/09/2013 at 14:25 # Reply

    The roads is still same, in August 2013, no tarmac beyond the first 28 kilometers. Once you are in the ‘pampa’ along the Coropuna, is quite sandy.
    The village in the middle has not got a shop yet, and it seems it will not. Streams to cross, specially the third one, were a bit complicated to cross this winter, too much water, they were not long, but deep.
    I took the detour to Orcopampa. It is a rocky downhill until the river, then easy road to follow in a wide valley.

  3. Leah Manning 06/07/2017 at 17:25 # Reply

    The road from Viraco to Aplao is currently being paved with road closures during the day. In my experience, they allow bikes to pass..the lack of traffic should make up for the roadworks 🙂 I host on warmshowers in Viraco if anyone is passing through.


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