Toro Muerto Petroglyphs

Arequipa & Canyon Country

A fascinating, mystical site in the high desert, Toro Muerto (meaning ‘Dead Bull’) is named for the herds of livestock that commonly died here from dehydration as they were escorted from the mountains to the coast. A barren hillside is scattered with white volcanic boulders carved with stylized people, animals and birds. Archaeologists have documented more than 5000 such petroglyphs spread over several square kilometers of desert.

Though the cultural origins of this site remain unknown, most archaeologists date the mysterious drawings to the period of Wari domination, about 1200 years ago. Interpretations of the drawings vary widely; a guide can fill you in on some of the most common themes, or you can wander among the boulders yourself and formulate your own elaborate interpretations of the messages these ancient images aim to tell.

Reaching the Toro Muerto petroglyphs can be difficult with public buses and it is much easier to go with a tour company. It is possible to go first to Corire with Transportes del Carpio (S12), or on buses bound for Cotahuasi with Reyna or Cromotex (S30), but you need to ask if they will pass near the petroglyphs on that particular service.

To reach the site by public transportation, take a bus to Corire from Arequipa (S12, three hours, hourly). If you don’t want to sleep in Corire, take an early bus (they start as early as 4am). Get off at a gas station just past the sign that denotes the beginning of the town of Corire. From there, you can walk the hot, dusty road about 2km uphill to a checkpoint where visitors must sign in. Otherwise, continue to Corire; from here you can catch a taxi to take you to where the petroglyphs start (from S45 round-trip if the taxi waits).

In Corire, Hostal Willy has basic accommodations and can provide information on reaching the site. Bring plenty of water, sunblock and insect repellent (as there are lots of mosquitoes en route). Buses return from Corire to Arequipa once an hour, usually leaving at 30 minutes past the hour. The Toro Muerto petroglyphs can also be visited more conveniently on expensive full-day 4WD tours from Arequipa.