The city of Arequipa and the nearby Colca Canyon are firmly established stops on the tourist trail in Peru. However, the region has far more to offer the visitor than just this, from stunning scenery in the world’s deepest canyon – The Cotahuasi Canyon – to the amazing Valley of Volcanoes, with over 60 mini-volcanoes rising out of an incredible moonscape.The city of Arequipa itself, surrounded by spectacular volcanoes, has a beautiful historic centre with the amazing convent of Santa Catalina. Additionally, Inca tradition is brought to life in the small but wonderful Museo Santuarios de la Altura, where the ice mummy ‘Juanita’, an Inca child sacrifice, is on display.
The Colca Canyon was thought to be the world’s deepest canyon until it was discovered that nearby Cotahuasi Canyon is in fact deeper still. Nevertheless, a visit to the Colca Canyon is an incredible experience, not just for the spectacular setting, but also to see the giant condors. These birds, with a wingspan of over 3m and weighing up to 12kg, glide past on the thermals only meters away.
For those wishing to leave the gringo trail, the Cotahuasi Canyon offers some beautiful scenery and superb trekking, and the Valley of the Volcanoes provides a landscape unlike any other. The petroglyphs of Toro Muerto, over 2,000 carved rocks under the desert sun, is an incredible archaeological site visited by few tourists.
Adventure in Arequipa is also easy to find, with plenty of 6,000m-plus mountains and volcanoes easily accessible for climbing, and excellent trekking in the Colca Canyon and in the Cotahuasi Canyon. For those seeking greater thrills, some of the world’s best white-water rafting is possible in the region, through the Colca and Cotahuasi Canyons. For those wanting to ride the rapids without so much danger, good rafting is also found in Majes.