Peru, South America

Arequipa and the Colca Canyon

Arequipa was established in 1540 and is the second largest city in Peru. This city is home to Peru’s constitutional court and served as the capital of the country for 88 years during the nineteenth century. Arequipa is surrounded by three volcanos which gives the city a unique landscape. Misti is the only active volcano, while Pichu Pichu and Chachani are extinct. This city has the highest amount of solar radiation in South America due to it being closely situated to the Atacama Desert and by the pollution caused by the  city.

Our Bus Experience

We arrived in Arequipa with a slight negative attitude due to our experience with the bus from Puno to Arequipa. We had been sold tickets for a bus that did not exist. Luckily we were able to get our money back and find another bus that was leaving at a similar time to what we had originally wanted. However the new bus had a non-functional bathroom and the trip was 6 hours. Luckily the bus stopped as we had to scan our bags as we crossed over the provincial border. We were also “fortunate” enough to have a truely Peruvian experience on the bus. A man jumped onboard the bus for an hour and tried to sell various items such as soap, toothbrushes and anti-cellulite cream. We had front row seats to his show. Nevertheless Courtney, Andreas (our German travel companion) and I arrived safely in Arequipa. 

Our very loud salesman on the bus.

Our Accomodation

We stayed at a hostel called Mango Hostel. This accomodation was great. Courts and I stayed in a 4 man dorm which was incredibly comftable. The hostel had a really nice roof with hammocks and sold affordable beer. On arrival to our hostel, we bumped into a friend, Michael, who we had met in San Pedro. We all went for dinner and he showed us around town. I really enjoyed the atmosphere of this hosel and it was nice seeing familiar faces.

Enjoying the roof at Mango Hostel.

The view we had when we first arrived at the hostel.

Exploring the City 

We started our stay in Arequipa by doing a free walking tour. This tour took us to all the main downtown sites that included mutplie churches and markets. This was one of the worst free walking tours that we have done due to us not being able to understand the guide. Courtney and I were also unfortunately serperated from the group for the last half an hour. Nevertheless, we enjoyed getting to know the city and we could appriciate the beautiful architecture and volcanoes. Most of our time in Arequipa was spent in the main plaza, Plaza de Armas de Arequipa. This plaza was beautiful with the main attraction being the Basilica Catedral de Arequipa. This plaza had mutplile restraunts were you could get a starter, main meal and pisco sour for R 45 (USD 3). It was also one of the best places to watch the sunset. We went to watch the sunset on three separate occasions and every time was spectacular.

The architecture in Arequipa was beautiful!

Volcanoes could be spotted everywhere.

The volcanoes Misti and Chachani.

Visiting San Camilo market.

Watching the sunset from the left of the plaza.

Our favorite place to watch the sunset was from the right of the plaza.

The colors in the sky were absolutely outstanding!

Enjoying our time together.

The majestical Plaza de Armas.

Colca Canyon 

Colca Canyon is one of the deepest canyons in the world. It is twice as deep as the Grand Canyon, with a depth of 3,270 m. This canyon is famous for its hiking and being home to hundreds of Andean condors. We decided not to hike in the canyon but instead we opted to do a one day tour. We were fetched from our hostel at 3 am and drove for three hours until we reached our breakfast destination. We had a simple breakfast before continuing to our first viewpoint. This viewpoint was of Colca Valley. The view was beautiful as we could see the farm terraces. After this, we travelled to a small town called Chivay. We looked around the town, which had a stunning church and a lot of souvenir shops and ladies that would allow you to pose with a llama or eagle. After this town, we continued to the main attraction, Cruz del Condor. Cruz del Condor is a viewpoint in which one can see many condors starting their days flight (using the thermal wind) over the Colca Canyon. This was a majestic site! The birds were huge and they came quite close to the viewpoint. This was beautiful to watch, but unfortunately Courtney and I felt rushed at this stop. After this we continued to our next stop, the La Calera thermal pools. These pools reach a temperature of 45 degrees celcius and people were given the opportunity to swim if they wanted to. After this we stopped for lunch before continuing to the highest point of the tour. This section of the tour reached an altitude of 5,000 m. We stopped at a viewpoint were we could see 9 volcanoes. We could see some ash coming out of the volcano, Misti. As we got back onto the bus to continue to our last stop, Misti erupted. This was awesome to see the fresh ash coming out of the erupting volcano. Our last stop was a field were we could see vicunas, llamas and alpacas. I really appreciated the amazing views on this one day tour, but I would have liked to spend more time at the viewpoints rather than at the thermal pools and the lunch spot.

You could hold an eagle or pose with a llama. Our guide encouraged us not to hold the eagle as it encourages the locals to capture these wild animals.

Our view of Colca Valley.

Three condors flying over the Colca Canyon.

Watching the condors take advantage of the thermal winds.

It was great getting a close view of the condors.

Admiring Misti before it freshly erupted.

Misti erupting!

Our last stop involved looking at llamas and alpacas. We still can’t tell the difference between the two animals!

I absolutely loved our time in Arequipa! This city has become one of my favorite cities that we have visited in South America. We enjoyed eating, drinking, exploring and watching the sunsets. Definitely an unexpected surprise that I hope others get the opportunity to experience.

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