Arequipa & Colca Canyon, Peru

Arequipa was my “Welcome to Peru” city.  I had heard from repeated backpackers that the city center was really lovely, and that the nearby Colca Canyon was something that shouldn’t be missed on a good tour of Peru.  So of course, I headed straight there.

21-arequipaUnfortunately, I was sick with a cold while in Arequipa.  It did not stop me from enjoying the beautiful plaza, chocolate shops on every street corner, white water rafting, stunning volcanic views, and the impressive main market.  I opted against doing a 2,3 or 4 day trek in the canyon.  I figured being sick was not the time to attempt an already difficult high altitude hike.  But I wasn’t going to miss out on seeing the canyon completely.  There are lots of bus tours that drive you through various parts of the canyon for 2 or more days, and these tours include a visit to see the soaring giant condors, and take a dip in natural thermal pools.

This first set of images in thie entry is taken in and around the main plaza, Plaza de Armas, where I spent most of my time while in the city proper.

An element of Arequipa that I don’t think should be missed is a trip to the central market.  This is the place where you can buy almost anything you need, and typically for quite a bit less than anywhere else.  Fruits, veggies, (dare I say…) meats, clothing, electronics, craft and sewing supplies, flowers, pet supplies, and on and on… Or you can go just to visit some of the many caseras (sales-women) making fresh food, and fresh squeezed juices of any sort you can imagine, right in front of you.

There are also more adventurous ways to enjoy Arequipa.  You can book tours to hike the active or dormant volcanoes which surround the city.  You can also rent mountain bikes and visit the mountains or volcanoes by bike.  Since I had already trekked an active volcano in this journey, I chose to try my hand at white water rafting.  It was tons of fun.  Warning: glacier water… is very, very cold!

And of course a trip to Arequipa is not complete without visiting Colca Canyon.  En route to Colca, I visited a natural reserve for lamas, alpacas and vicuńas, small quaint towns rich with indiginous culture, and relaxed in natural hot springs.  The views of Colca Valley and Colca Canyon were absolutely stunning.

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