Andagua is a town in southern Peru about 200 km northwest of the city of Arequipa, between the Colca and Cotahuasi canyons. It is the major centre for visits to the Valle de Los Volcanes (Valley of Volcanoes.)
As with most Peruvian towns, Andagua is centred around a main plaza, in this case filled with bushes clipped into a variety of shapes (and often with sheep or alpacas brought in to trim the grass.)
Though the local authorities have been trying to develop tourism in the area, the Valle de Los Volcanes and Andagua are still far off the southern Peruvian tourist circuit. As a result tourist facilities are limited. However this also means that it provides a fine opportunity to see the traditional rural way of life on the Peruvian altiplano, relatively untouched by outside influences.
Andagua's residents are very friendly, and virtually everyone you meet will at least offer a pleasant greeting or, more often, stop to chat for a bit. Because the town is so far removed from main tourist routes, virtually no English is spoken. As such at least a bit of Spanish language skill will be very helpful when visiting the area.
There are two primary routes into Andagua: from the south or the north.
From the south buses run directly from Arequipa (10-11 hours, over poor roads).
Reyna Tours buses depart daily from the Terrepuerto depart at 16:00, arriving at around 02:30 the following morning (S/40 (soles) as of April 2013.)
It is also possible to catch this service as it passes through the towns of Corire (~20:00) or Aplao (~21:30.) These towns can be reached directly from Arequipa or from Nazca or other coastal cities by taking an Arequipa-bound bus, then changing buses at the turnoff from the main road, about 60km inland from the town of Camana.
The journey is breathtaking, passing through dizzyingly deep river valleys and over a 4800-m pass on the shoulder of 6425-m Volcan Coropuno. Most of the bus journey takes place in the dark. The very early arrival times of the Reyna tours buses can also be problematic.
From the north it is possible to reach the mining town of Orcopampa via collectivos from Cabanconde in the Colca Canyon. The daily Reyna tours bus departs Orcopampa for Andagua at 14:00, arriving around 16:00.
Andagua is a small town. All of the town and most of the nearby sights can be reached on foot.
The plaza principal is at the centre of town with the church on its north side and the municipality office on the west.
Andagua is set in a spectacular location near the head of the Valle de Los Volcanes (Valley of Volcanoes.) It is surrounded by small volcanic cones ranging from about 50 m to 300 m high, many of which can be easily climbed for views out over the town, fields and valley. Ancient lava flows cover large expanses near the town and towering mountains and cliffs form the valley walls.
Once you get beyond the irrigated areas near town the arid landscape of the area is particularly impressive, filled with a variety of cacti and other desert flora. Alpine lakes, rivers and waterfalls dot the area around Andagua.
Wildlife that can be spotted in the area include Andean Condors, the giant hummingbird, and wild vicuñas.
Man made attractions include the large pre-Colombian ruins of Antaymarca, 3 km south of town. The ruins are fairly well preserved and unusual in that they are constructed entirely of black volcanic rock on top of a lava flow. Nearer to town the traditional pastures and farm fields, all surrounded by rough stone walls are worth exploring as well. The cemetery to the west of town is a veritable forest of large wooden crosses and crypts and is also worth a look.
The valley is a superb area for hiking. The above attractions can generally be reached on foot using well worn paths or rough roads. Most sights are marked with large stone signs, though the signs are sometimes difficult to read and follow. However finding your way isn't too difficult, as any locals you meet while walking will invariably be happy to help out with directions. The walk out to the Antaymarca ruins and the mirador immediately above them is easy (except for the final climb up to the mirador) and especially worthwhile.
Most sights are also reachable by mountain bike, or as part of a horse or llama trek.
A free pamphlet (Spanish only) outlining the main tourist attractions of the area is available at the Municipality building on the west side of the plaza (open 09:30-13:30 and 14:30-16:30). The entrance is, rather confusingly, not through the main doors but to their right into the courtyard containing the public toilets, then upstairs.
The municipality staff can also arrange local guides (S/30-50 per day) and horses or llamas for longer treks.
A number of small shops line the plaza selling cookies, bread, cheese, fruits and vegetables, soft drinks, etc.
There are two restaurants in town. The more central of the two is on the southwest corner of the plaza (in the shop with the Trebol Bus company sign above the door.) Two-course breakfast and lunch menus are available at the appropriate times of day for about S/6.
The other restaurant is open for breakfast lunch and dinner. It can be reached by heading west from the centre of the plaza past the Hostal Trebol. It is about 300 m from the plaza, just after the road makes a right turn.
A shop on the south side of the plaza sells very good fresh yogurt in the afternoons. Thicker and less sweetened than the drinking yogurt that is popular elsewhere in Peru (S/1 per glass). The same shop sells fried snacks and sandwiches in the evening.
Hostal Trebol, Calle 15 Agosto #106 (About 150m west from the centre of the plaza.), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. The most comfortable option in town. Private rooms (singles and doubles available) include bathroom, hot water, cable TV and new, clean beds. S/20 per person per night.
Hostal Puca Mauras (near the northeast corner of the plaza.). Slightly rundown but less expensive than the Trebol.
It can be difficult to rouse hotel owners when the bus from Arequipa arrives at 02:30, so it may be necessary to spend a few hours waiting in the plaza until morning. It's entirely safe, but can be quite cold at night, so be sure to have warm clothes handy when you arrive.
There are public telephones outside the municipality offices and Hostal Trebol.
An internet cafe and call-shop can be found by walking two blocks north and half a block east from the northeast corner of the plaza.
If heading to Arequipa, catch the direct Reyna tours bus which departs Andagua at 15:30.
For Nazca or the coast catch the same bus, but get off at the Pan-American Highway turnoff, or (better, since the bus arrives at the unlighted turnoff around midnight) spend the night in Aplao or Corire and continue your journey the following day.
For the Colca Canyon the only way onwards is to take the Reyna Tours bus to Orcopampa leaving at 02:30, then continue by collectivo.
Make sure to buy tickets for all buses a day in advance to be sure of a seat.