Arequipa, sometimes referred to as the ‘Cuidad Blanca’ or White City has perhaps one of the most dramatic backdrops of all of Peru’s colonial cities. Its small size makes it perfect for exploring on foot and it is a charming and beautiful city with many architectural treasures set around its main square. Surrounded by some beautiful volcanic snow-topped peaks, these Andean mountains hid many Inca ceremonial sites, including a ritual sacrifice site. A perfectly preserved body of a young girl was found up in these hills embedded in ice and is now on display at the small but well designed museum. You may also be fascinated by the ‘city within a city’ that is the walled Santa Catalina convent.
As you leave Arequipa and head deeper into the Andes, the Colca Canyon forms a deep valley set deep within the mountains towards the higher plains that lead to Lake Titicaca. Little local villages and ancient pre-Incan farming terraces, still used today, dot the lush landscape. Delightful local lodges with incomparable panoramic views dot the terraces of the canyon and provide one of the best places to relax in beautiful surroundings and enjoy pampering spa treatments after active days walking or riding in the countryside. Indulge in a luxuriating dip in a natural hot springs in and around the village of Chivay.This is a great spot to stretch your legs by taking a hike to small villages and Inca sites dotted around the canyon rim or even explore by mountain bike or on horse-back.
This is also the best place in Peru to observe condors, sacred symbol of the Inca, as they swoop above your head on the canyon rim, riding the thermal currents. These majestic birds have a wingspan of up to 3 metres and from a spectacular viewpoint, observe them hovering and gliding effortlessly above your head. For those looking for serious trekking challenges, the Cotahuasi Canyon is even deeper than Colca – both are deeper than the Grand Canyon – and offers some exhilarating multi-day trekking in this remote spot.