If you want to go kayaking instead of rafting, agencies will often loan you a kayak on the easier rivers such as the Urubamba and lower Apurímac. Some agencies, such as Erik’s Adventures, offer kayaking schools.
There are many excellent rafting and kayaking options around Cusco . The easiest, and most common, are day trips along the Class III rapids of the Río Urubamba in the Sacred Valley  (US$40–55). They often include one night of camping near Ollantaytambo , mountain biking, and a chance to see ruins the next day.
December–May, when the river is swollen, agencies tend to raft the upper section above Pisac . When the water drops after June, they run the section of the river lower down between Ollantaytambo and Chilca. Farther downstream, the water rushes onward to Machu Picchu  in great cataracts of unnavigable, Class VI water.
Another day option is the easier stretch of the Río Apurímac below the Cusco–Abancay highway, a gentle stretch that passes the foundations of an Inca hanging bridge made famous by Thornton Wilder in his classic The Bridge of San Luis Rey. The Apurímac here is generally sunny and subtropical, so bring sunscreen, a hat, mosquito repellent, and swimwear because a quick dip in local hot springs is often included.
A popular three-day rafting trip is on the upper Apurímac (US$400–650), which can only be run between June and October. The Apurímac plunges through a steep and wild gorge and an endless series of Class III–V rapids. Agencies that operate this section of the river usually also offer trips on Cotahuasi  (US$1,950 approximately), a similar though more exacting canyon near Arequipa  that takes 10 days to navigate in a full-scale, supported expedition.
Our vote for most spectacular rafting expedition, though, goes to the Río Tambopata (US$1,500–2,500), which is a great way to combine a mountain rafting adventure with world-class Amazon biodiversity. This 10- to 12-day trip begins in cloud forest north of Lake Titicaca  with a few days of Class III–V rapids and ends floating on torpid jungle waters through the pristine Parque Nacional Bahuajua Sonene.
Participants usually stay at the Tambopata Research Center , a rustic lodge operated by Rainforest Expeditions that is minutes from the world’s largest macaw clay lick. Floating silently through this untouched rainforest provides a good opportunity to spot a jaguar or tapir and a huge range of birds and more common animals such as capybara, turtles, and giant otters. The trip includes a flight back to Cusco  from the jungle city of Puerto Maldonado .
Like trekking prices, rafting rates vary greatly based on the season, the number of people in the group, the difficulty of the rapids, and the section of the river. Prices for a daylong rafting trip on the Urubamba River are typically US$25–100 per person per day, including lunch. For the four-day Apurimac River trip, which includes Class III–IV rapids, prices are typically US$300–1,100. Most operators, however, charge US$500–600.
One of the most professional rafting companies in Peru is Amazonas Explorer (Collasuyo 910, Urb. Miravalle, tel. 084/25-2846, www.amazonas  explorer.com). It runs a variety of innovative trips in Peru, Chile, and Bolivia, including canoeing, mountain biking, trekking, and rafting. One of the best trips is a 16-day expedition that begins with sightseeing in Cusco  and Lake Titicaca  and ends in rafting down the Río Tambopata and two nights at the Tambopata Research Center .
ExplorAndes (Av. Garcilaso 316-A, tel. 084/23-8380 or Lima tel. 01/715-2323, www.explorandes.com ) also offers high-end rafting trips. ExplorAndes is described further under Trekking Agencies .
The following are less expensive but also experienced agencies. They are recommended for easier trips.
Apumayo Expediciones (Jr. Ricardo Palma N-5, Santa Monica, tel. 084/24-6018, www.apumayo.com ) is run by Pepe López, a kayaker with a lot of experience on Peru’s rivers. He recently built an adventure center on the banks of the Río Urubamba, downstream of Ollantaytambo . The center, which shares profits with the nearby community of Cachiccata, offers hikes and mountain biking for the rafters who arrive here after descending the Río Urubamba. Apumayo runs trips down the Apurímac, Tambopata, and Cotahuasi and offers reforestation cultural treks and the classic Inca Trail .
Mayuc (Portal Confituras 211, Plaza de Armas, tel. 084/24-2824, www.mayuc.com ) is one of the pioneering rafting companies and operates an excellent day trip on Río Urubamba. It also does rafting trips on the Apurímac and in Tambopata.
Loreto Tours (Calle del Medio 111, tel. 084/22-8264, loretotours [at] planet [dot] com [dot] pe) provides varied rafting itineraries and good quality equipment.
Terra Explorer Peru (Santa Ursula D-4, Huanchac, tel. 084/23-7352, www.terraexplorerperu.com ) is owned by Piero, the youngest of the Vellutino brothers, all dedicated and well known adventure sportsmen and white-water rafters. Terra Explorer offers all kinds of rafting trips including Cotahuasi and Tambopata, mountain treks, and mountain biking.
Munaycha (based in the Sacred Valley, tel. 084/984-77-0108 or 084/984770381, www.munaycha.com ) belongs to Duilio, the oldest Vellutino brother, and also offers rafting on Peru’s best known rivers as well as sea kayaking trips off the coast of Arequipa  and on Lake Huyñaymarca, a rarely visited part of the Titicaca.