Arequipa is one of Peru's most attractive cities with its fine whitewashed colonial buildings, pretty squares and a skyline dominated by three volcanoes: El Misti, Chachani and Pichu Picchu. This pretty city known as 'La Cuidad Blanca' or white city is a great place to stay before heading higher up into the Colca Canyon, where you can explore remote villages and see magnificent condors soaring over the valley below in the early morning.
Arequipa's historic centre has a number of attractions including an impressive main square and the Santa Catalina Monastery, one of Peru’s most important religious monuments. A visit to the beautifully restored convent of Santa Catalina, built in 1579 and now open to the public after 400 years of seclusion, is a real highlight. It offers a remarkable step back in time, beautifully refurbished with period furniture, cobbled streets and original colonial art work.
Equally fascinating is its museum which houses the mummy of Juanita, a young girl sacrificed in an Incan ceremony and perfectly preserved over the centuries by ice high up in the Andes before she was discovered and brought to Arequipa.
At an altitude of just under 2,400 metres, Arequipa is a gradual introduction to attractions at higher altitude, such as the Colca Canyon.
The Colca Canyon
Colca Canyon is the deepest canyon in the Americas and twice as deep as the Grand Canyon. The scenery here is breath-taking and the area is home to vicuñas, llamas and the majestic condor. Travel either from Arequipa or Puno through the fertile landscape of the Colca Valley, stopping at traditional villages surrounded by pre-Inca agricultural terraces, some of which are still in use today.
There are some very comfortable lodges close to the Mirador and with spectacular views over the valley and terraces below. In the early morning, go to the Mirador overlooking the steep canyon below where you can watch majestic condors soaring above on the thermal currents. Then relax in hot springs, take hikes or horse-rides in the canyon or simply enjoy the peace and tranquility in this high Andean landscape.