Arequipa & the Colca Canyon
Introduction to Arequipa & the Colca Canyon
With the snowcapped El Misti, Chachani and Pichu Pichu Volcanoes towering gloriously above the city, the rolling green campiña and sunshine all year round; Arequipa – nicknamed La Ciudad Blanca (The White City) – is one of Peru’s most stunning cities.
Arequipa rivals Cusco for the title of Peru’s second most important city. With famous people such as the Nobel Prize Winner for Literature, Mario Vargas Llosa, among its citizens, and arguably the most delicious cuisine in Peru – if you don’t believe us just try a rocoto relleno or chupe de camerones washed down with a shot of anisado – this city has a lot to be proud of! People from Arequipa have a strong sense of their identity and are often considered stuck up by the rest of the country – in fact, you can even buy fun Arequipeño passports here!
Just 3 hours from Arequipa is the breathtaking Colca Canyon, which is thought to be almost twice as deep as the Grand Canyon. The journey there is a great experience in itself – you climb up to Andean plains where you can spot herds of vicuñas and llamas and then dip down into the canyon itself to find small traditional villages with young boys herding cattle and women in colorful and traditional clothing. Stand on the edge of the canyon and wait to see giant condors drift on thermal winds above. Once you’ve done all that, why not relax in the thermal waters at the end of the day? You’ll have earned it!
What not to miss in Arequipa & the Colca Canyon
Arequipa City Center
The heart of the historic city of Arequipa begins in the Plaza de Armas. A beautiful fountain dominates the Square alongside the city’s Cathedral. Several large white buildings made from sillar (the volcanic white stone from the local area) surround the Plaza and provide the city with its nickname “La Ciudad Blanca” (the White City) from its beautiful ash complexion.
The Santa Catalina Monastery
At 215,280 sq.ft. (20,000 sq.m) the Monastery is a fascinating miniature city of its own! Closed to the public up until the 1970s, you can spend ages wandering through the narrow passageways, streets, and small squares hidden behind its walls.
The Colca Canyon’s Culture & Condors
From La Cruz del Condor, 1,181ft. (360m) above the Colca Canyon, watch the gigantic Andean Condors swoop above you. Take time to discover the Collaguas and Cabanas cultures and admire their intricately woven clothes.
Pay Homage to the Ice Princess
The Juanita Mummy also known as, the Inca Ice Maiden, is housed in Arequipa’s Andean Sanctuaries Museum. This Inca girl which was discovered perfectly preserved in ice, is thought to have been ritually sacrificed.
What you need to know
When to go
Arequipa has a sunny, dry climate. There is very little rainfall, so Arequipa is good to visit all year round. It is best to visit the Colca Canyon in the dry season from May to November with the greatest numbers of Condors seen between June and September.
How to get there
Air travel is available between Arequipa and the cities of Lima, Juliaca and Cusco. LATAM, Aero Condor and Star Peru each offer daily nonstop flights between these cities.
While passenger train services are no longer available, many bus lines travel frequently between Lima and Arequipa. The journey between the two cities via the Southern Pan-American Highway takes about 14 hours. These bus companies provide non-stop journeys, with meals, air conditioning and comfortable seats. There is also a limited bus service available between Arequipa and the cities of Cusco, Puno, Pisco, Nazca, and Tacna.
Where to stay
There are several different types of accommodations to choose from in Arequipa. Hotels range from the deluxe variety to those for the more budget minded traveler. There are also numerous hostels available for the city’s independent visitors from which to select.
Arequipa has many upscale restaurants in and around the best hotels however this does not mean that a nice meal cannot be found elsewhere. There are a variety of other restaurants available at all price ranges to be found in and around the city.
Public transport in Arequipa is available by bus and minibus which cover specific routes.
Taxis can be hailed from the sidewalk and since drivers usually work independently, fares are reasonable. However, while the taxis may have a meter machine none of the drivers use it. A price for your destination should be decided upon before getting in the car and it is possible to bargain a bit. Be aware that some cab drivers may try to overcharge you by saying prices are per head but it is always one price per ride for all passengers. If you have excess luggage a minor extra amount may be charged.