The village of Huancas (pronounced 'wankas') is a small, sleepy village, located at 2,558 m (8,392 ft), and just a 15-minute car ride away from Chachapoyas. One theory posits that people of the Huanca culture relocated here from the Huancayo region, some 1,000 km (600 miles) further south, in the current department of Junin, having been dislodged by Inca conquest.
The way of life here remains little-changed, with the men largely engaged in small-scale agriculture and women continuing to hand-make pottery (alfareria) - such as cooking pots and jugs (cantaros) - that are decorated with reliefs and incisions and fired using open, wood-burning ovens.
Aside from a large Colonial church overlooking the main square, and a relaxed atmosphere, there is not in town much to attract the tourist. However, its spectacular location, bordered on three sides by deep canyons, makes this a must-see destination.
The best known of the canyons is Sonche, which is about 1 km (0.6 miles) from the centre of Huancas, heading east. After paying the minimal entrance fee at the small information centre, you then walk to a lookout tower, five minutes away. From here, there are magnificent views down to the Sonche River, some 962 m (3,156 ft) below, as well as of a number of smaller canyons joining at right angles.
The entirety of the canyon is 11 km (7 miles) long and its width ranges from 1.4 km (0.87 miles) to 2.7 km (1.7 miles).
Additionally, if you head north from Huancas, walking for about an hour, you climb gently up Huanca Urco hill, from where there is an equally impressive vista of where the Sonche, Vitaya and Utcubamba Rivers meet. On a clear day, the top part of Gocta Falls can be seen, along with a number of less sizable waterfalls.
If this superb panorama was not sufficient, here is also the site of Chachapoya ruins, and a variety of orchid species.
Once sated with the views, it is possible to walk the 6.5 km (4 miles) to Chachapoyas. It is a gentle downhill hike, through fields, descending about 200 m (650 ft) in total, with the city continually in view. Allow about two hours to do this, at a gentle pace.
Please note that a visit to Huancas is included on our Chiclayo - Cajamarca 6D / 8D itinerary.