Peru features more than a dozen rivers that are more than 600 km long. The five largest rivers alone total 7,000 km within Peru.
Polish adventurer Yurek Majcherzyck and his friends introduced rafting into Peru, and after several attempts, managed to paddle down the thundering Colca River and its 300 rapids in the heart of Arequipa. Ever since then, a group of Peruvian rafting enthusiasts have made major efforts to open up new routes around the country.
The sport depends on rubber rafts which are powered by paddles and generally steered by the helmsman through the foaming rapids.
Internationally, rapids are qualified on a scale of I to VI according to the degree of difficulty (Class VI rapids are impossible to run, and portage is necessary).
Rafting along the coast
The Caņete River, south of the city of Lima, is without a doubt a rafting favorite amongst Lima enthusiasts. The stretch that can be paddled, near the pleasant fruit-growing region of Lunahuana, 160 km southeast of Lima, features Class II-IV rapids. The rafting season runs from October to April.
The Tumbes River, which flows through the Tumbes department, is the fastest-flowing river along the Peruvian coast. The stretch chosen for rafting, between the communities of Figueroa and Rica Playa, includes Class II-IV rapids along a two-three day journey through the scenic dry forests of the Tumbes Reserved Zone, which teem with alligators, river otters and iguana lizards. The rafting season runs from May to October.
The Santa River, which winds through the Callejon de Huaylas valley, in the department of Ancash, splits the Cordillera Blanca and Cordillera Negra mountain ranges. The stretch used for rafting runs between the towns of Caraz and Yungay, and features Class II-III rapids. It can be rafted from May to October, making it an ideal complement to a visit to the region.
The Colca River is famous for whitewater rafting, and its rapids are widely respected for their degree of difficulty. The river, which runs through the Colca Valley 300 km north of Arequipa, can be run without undue risk down the stretch between Cabanaconde and Tapay. The river can be rafted from May to October and features Class II-IV rapids. Tours set out from Chivay. With a depth of 3,091 meters, the Colca Canyon is, after Cotahuasi (3,354 meters, also in Arequipa), one of the world's deepest gorges, twice as deep as the Colorado Canyon.
The Mayo and Huallaga Rivers, located in the department of San Martin, are striking rivers which have only recently been added to the commercial circuit. The rivers feature Class II-II rapids and can be run from May to October. Tours set out from the jungle city of Tarapoto.
The wild and tumbling Tambopata River is without a doubt the most spectacular rafting route in Peru. The tour starts out at Puno, at Putina Punku (1,900 meters) and descends through some of the most exuberant jungle as far as the department of Madre de Dios (at an altitude of just 200 meters in the Amazon watershed). The trip, which mainly runs through the country's largest uninhabited region, takes 7-12 days and requires some complex logistical planning. The river features Class III-IV rapids.