Peru, home to the origin of the mighty Amazon and great canyon rivers, has some stunning opportunities for white-water rafting. Whether you're a total novice or a world-class river runner, Peru has fantastic white water suited to your abilities. The rivers flowing through the Colca and Cotahuasi canyons, other rivers nearer to Arequipa, and the Andean rivers of the Urubamba Valley stand out. A good adventurous experience is rafting in the Amazon jungle on the Tambopata River. There's also good white water on the Río Santa in the Callejón de Huaylas.
If you're just experimenting with river rafting, stick to Class II and III rivers. If you already know your way around a raft and a paddle, there are plenty of Class IV and V sections to run. Hard-core runners come to Peru for some fantastic, multiday rafting trips to Class V and even Class VI rivers in remote canyons. The best months for rafting are May through September, when water levels are low. (During the rainy season, canyon rivers can be extremely dangerous.)
A half-dozen agencies in Arequipa, Cusco, and the Sacred Valley organize a range of local white-water opportunities. Specialists include Amazonas Explorer (tel. 084/252-846; www.amazonas-explorer.com), which offers white-water rafting tours that can be combined with Inca Trail treks. Trips, which feature small groups, can be booked from abroad. Among its Peru trips are rafting on the Río Apurímac, inflatable canoeing on the source of the Amazon (combined with trekking the Inca Trail), rainforest rafting, and extreme Class IV to VI in Cotahuasi, the world's deepest canyon. SwissRaft Peru, Plateros 369 (tel. 084/264-124; www.swissraft-peru.com), based in Cusco, organizes 1-day rafting trips year-round on the Apurímac, Cusipata, and Chuquicahuana, as well as 4-day trips on the Apurímac.