5 Ways to Make the Most of Your Time in Arequipa
5 Ways to Make the Most of Your Time in Arequipa
A few weeks ago, my girlfriend and I decided to take a trip to Arequipa to experience the city and to hike down into the Colca Canyon, the second deepest canyon in the world! It was just after the 477th anniversary of the founding of the city by the Spanish and the city was still buzzing from the festivities.
Our time in Arequipa and the surrounding area was remarkable, and we came back with many recommendations. Here are the things you must see and do while in the “white city” of Peru: 5 Ways to Make the Most of Your Time in Arequipa.
1. Explore the Historic Center and Take in the View of the Surrounding Volcanoes
Arequipa was established by the Spanish back in 1540, and there is a distinct “European” feel to the city for that very reason. Its architecture boasts a beautiful blend of European and native characteristics represented through the ornate temples and religious convents, with probably the best example of this being the Monasterio de Santa Catalina (Monastery of Saint Catherine).
World Heritage Site
Designated a Cultural World Heritage Site by UNESCO almost twenty years ago, the historic center of Arequipa was described by the UN as “an example of ornamented architecture, representing a masterpiece of the creative coalition of European and native characteristics. A colonial town challenged by the conditions of nature, the indigenous influences, the conquest process and evangelism as well as for a spectacular natural scenario.”
We really enjoyed walking through Arequipa due to its warm and sunny climate, relative lack of hills and delicious traditional restaurants, or “picanterias”, that line every street. The historic district is also built almost entirely from “sillar”, or ashlar, a white stone that was formed by the lava of the volcanoes that preside over the city (the aforementioned Misti, Chachani and Pichu Pichu). This makes Arequipa brighter and provides a magnificent contrast against the perfectly blue sky.
2. Trek Through Colca Canyon
A challenging, yet gorgeous, trek: the Colca Canyon Trek. The journey begins at the sleepy town of Cabanaconde. From there, you wind down rocky switchbacks until you make it down to a bridge overlooking the Colca River. Traveling down into the canyon, and enjoying the accompanying increase in temperature as we made our way down, our guide entertained us with local myths as well as information about the flora and fauna within the canyon.
We then had a delicious lunch of typical Peruvian lomo saltado accompanied by pieces of cantaloupe before heading to the Oasis of Sangalle inside the canyon.
Once at the oasis, we were able to relax our muscles as we swam in the warm pools and ate dinner before heading to bed. The next morning we were faced with an early day. At 4:30 a.m. we began the steep climb back up the canyon, finishing two and a half hours later at the top. It was a struggle, but well worth it when you get to stare at the immense canyon below as the sunrise gently grazes the peaks of the canyon walls.
3. Don’t miss the Condor Viewpoint “Cruz del Condor”
As two enthusiastic birdwatchers, our trip to Arequipa was carefully planned around the opportunity to see the condors spread their wings as they roamed the canyon. Once back up the canyon (and after a very relaxing time at the hot springs nearby!), we traveled a short distance to the aptly named Cruz del Condor, or “Condor´s Cross”. Here condors wander most days and where we were lucky enough to see and take pictures of the amazing animals. It is truly a fascinating sight to see the largest bird of flight in the world glide through the canyon as it searches for prey (hopefully not a trekker!).
Luckily, and to our surprise, we stopped at two more miradores on the way back to Arequipa, Antahuilque. Here two beautiful lakes sat below us, one of which is well-known for having the shape of Peru. And the second one was Hauyya Kpuncu (door of the wind) which offered spectacular views of the Inca and Pre-Inca terraces growing potatoes and corn.
4. Take a Tour of the Monasterio de Santa Catalina
Probably the most striking, and fascinating, feature of the historic center (and maybe of our entire trip to Arequipa) is to wander through the Monasterio de Santa Catalina (Monastery of Saint Catherine. Here you experience some of the Peruvian history that has taken place there since roughly the beginning of the city over four hundred years ago.
To truly appreciate the history and understand the different rooms within the monastery, we recommend the services of a guide. Our guide made us relive some of the experiences of the nuns who lived and worked in this monastery in Arequipa hundreds of years ago. We ultimately finished the Santa Catalina Tour by eating some delicious cookies that were made the current nuns! Times have surely changed since its inception (see pictures above of the nuns playing volleyball just a few years ago!)
5. Hike to the top of the Misti Volcano
Unfortunately, due to lack of time (and probably strength, courage and numerous other virtues needed, although I´m sure my girlfriend would tell me to speak for myself!) we did not climb to the top of the imposing inactive volcano, Misti, that gloriously dominates the cityscape.
The most popular symbol of Arequipa, Misti peaks at an altitude of almost 6,000 meters. This makes the climb more about not succumbing to the effects of soroche, or altitude sickness, and less about the technical aspects of climbing. For this reason, many people who feel strong at altitude, but who are maybe not the most skilled climbers, try their luck and ultimately are rewarded with may be the best view the city has to offer!
Not to mention the ability to say that you climbed to the top of a volcano in Peru!
|Are you planning a trip to Arequipa? Feel free
to contact one of our Peru trip advisors
or read more info about Tours in Arequipa.
Thanks to Daniel Wood.