Photo by Victor Miguel Ponce



Text and photos by Victor Miguel Ponce

Canyons around the world stand majestic as monuments to time. One such canyon, unique due to its narrow width (about 3 m) is the Tomas Canyon, located in the headwaters of the Cañete river, in central Peru. On a recent visit to the canyon, the author documented its features for the enjoyment of many would-be travelers.

The alternate road to Huancayo

There are two ways to reach Huancayo from Lima, Peru: (1) the established way, and (2) the adventurous way. The established way is through the Central Highway, which runs through the city of La Oroya. This highway is paved, with buses making the trip in about 6 hrs. For most people, this is the only way to get to Huancayo. A lesser known way is through Cañete and Yauyos provinces, via Lunahuaná, Magdalena, Alis, and Tomas. This road is now paved up to Magdalena. Yet, the trip from Lima to Huancayo through Yauyos is not for the faint of heart. It is an enduring and almost magical 10-hr trip, full of adventure and surprises.

Photo by Victor Miguel Ponce

The most pleasant surprise, about three-fourths of the way along, is a canyon so narrow that a tunnel had to be carved in one of its walls to make space for the road. Near Tomas, the Cañete river breaks through a near-vertical gorge about 3 m wide and close to 100 m high. For those in search of breathtaking experiences, this one certainly does it. One cannot help but wonder how such a narrow passage could have been formed. Here, geology married time to perform a natural marvel of hydraulic engineering. We can only admire the constancy with which water chiseled, one iota at a time, the massive batholith of the Andes to create the magnificent Tomas Canyon.

Photo by Victor Miguel Ponce

How to reach Tomas Canyon.   From Lima, take the Panamerican Highway south to Cañete (144 km, 1.5 hr); then take the road east to Magdalena (127 km, 5 hr). Continue in a northeastern direction to Tinco (32 km, 2 hr), and then take a right turn toward Alis (3 km, 0.2 hr). Tomas Canyon is located about 7 km past Alis, near the headwaters of the Cañete river, before reaching the town of Tomas. If you must overnight in Yauyos, take the left turn at Magdalena (12 km, 0.5 hr).

Victor Miguel Ponce teaches civil engineering at San Diego State University and welcomes visitors to his website