Arequipa and Colca Canyon
As Peru’s second largest city, and nestled between the coast and southern highlands of Peru, the city of Arequipa is home to a wealth of attractions. From its lovely colonial centre, dominating volcanoes and proximity to the second deepest canyon in the world, a visit to Arequipa is brimming with colonial charm, dramatic landscapes and outdoor adventure.
Tucked away at an altitude of 2,380m and surrounded by three snowy volcanoes, Arequipa boasts a magnificent setting. Cobbled streets are lined with colonial buildings grafted out of local white ‘sillar’ stone, giving it the name ‘white city’. Ornate churches and perfectly preserved convents are peppered around the city, and a number of museums housed in baroque mansions delve deep into the mysterious past of the ancient civilisations once home to the area. With so much character and historic integrity, Arequipa is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a real gem found within Peru.
The main square is an impressive place to wander and the beautifully refurbished Santa Catalina Monastery is a real highlight of the city. Resembling a colonial town within a city, the interior is filled with cobbled stones, granite fountains and flower- filled gardens, and is also still home to a number of nuns still living in the convent. Another draw is the fascinating Andes Sanctuaries Museum, which houses the frozen mummy of Juanita, a young Inca girl who had been sacrificed to the gods and perfectly preserved in ice until she was found centuries later. Renowned for its gastronomy, the city is bursting with trendy restaurants hosting an array of dishes to show off their local cuisine, from Rocota Relleno (spicy stuffed peppers) to the more unusual grilled guinea pig, which is a real delicacy within Peru.
Arequipa’s surrounding dramatic peaks and fast-flowing rivers make it an adventure paradise. From climbing volcanoes to white-water rafting along some of the country’s best rapids, there is plenty on offer for those who love the great outdoors. The Colca Canyon is the areas main allure, and as the second deepest canyon in the world, it is twice as deep as the Grand Canyon in America and an area of magnificent beauty. Despite its rugged and wild landscape, the canyon interior is dotted with agricultural terraces and Andean villages offering a glimpse into rural life. As well as its scenic viewpoints, a real highlight is its unrivalled opportunities to see the majestic Andean condor swooping through the valley.