Arequipa and the Colca Canyon
When traveling the South of Peru, Arequipa and the Colca Canyon are of course two sights not to be missed. Arequipa is Peru’s second biggest city and economically after Lima the country’s most important. With over a million of people living and working in it, many coming from other parts of Peru and South America, it is not strange that the city has a kind of metropolis feeling about it. Located at the river Chili in a plain sided by the Volcano Misti on one side and lower Andes peaks giving out to the coast at 100Km away, Arequipa is also the biggest Peruvian city in the Andes. It has an altitude of 2300 meter above sea level and is surrounded by more than 80 volcanoes, some active some not anymore.
These volcanoes also give Arequipa its nickname of “White City”. The city, especially the city centre is constructed out of sillar, a type of white volcanic rock found in large numbers in the Arequipa region. The Plaza de Armas, reputedly the most beautiful main square in Peru is especially marked by the use of this stone. The square on three sides delimited by galleries made of this volcanic rock and on side by the impressive Cathedral of Arequipa, with its two typical towers. From one side of the square one can see the Volcano Misti right in between the two towers of the Cathedral. The city centre is laid out in dam pattern and this makes it easy to discover this city on your own.
Apart from strolling through the city centre, Arequipa is also known for its Monastery. The Santa Catalina Monastery is on of the biggest monasteries in South America and compromises around 20.000 square meter, several city blocks. The building started in 1580 and lasted about a hundred years to finish it to size of today.
That the city and region where important before the arrival of the Spanish is proven by the Juanita Museum. This museum, officially known as the “Museu Santuarios Andinos”, has as sole exhibition the mummy of Juanita, also known as the Lady of Ampato. This mummy was found on one of the volcanoes as a sacrifice from the Inca’s to their gods.
Another region, visibly touched by the Inca’s and another reason why people visit the Arequipa region is the Colca Canyon. This canyon located at about 160Km from Arequipa, is the second deepest canyon known in the world. Twice as deep as the Colca Canyon it is a true impressive sight. The deepest canyon the Cotahuasi Canyon is also located close by but with only 150 meters more depth and lesser view the Colca Canyon is the canyon to see. The Colca Canyon is a canyon starting gradually to go down from Chivay, the main city in the canyon. In the beginning it is quite wide and not as deep, but as you go along you can more and more appreciate the sheer drop this canyon shows at times. Once you reach the Cruz del Condor, halfway the canyon you can see that the Canyon already has a depth of over 1500 meters. The deepest point of the Canyon is over 3000 meters. Cruz del Condor is the other reason people come to this canyon. This is one of the few places where the chances on seeing a condor are quite existent. Especially in the morning and the late afternoon, the hunting times, you can see these magnificent animals flying by. Flying, floating maybe better said as they seem to fly effortless, floating on the warm turbine winds rising out of the canyon.
Of course this area is a prime hiking and outdoor activities paradise and many activities such as multiday hikes, river rafting and mountain biking can be done in this region.