Things to see and do in Arequipa and the Colca Canyon
Arequipa and the Colca Canyon region are as many places in Peru home to such a wide variety of things to see and do, that it can easily be a holiday destination on its own. Nevertheless, few people have/ take the time to really get to know this proud part of Peru. Following list will probably give you a small preview on the many things this region has to offer;
Visit Arequipa city centre; walk through this beautiful ancient city centre established in 1540 and never lost its importance in Peru. This importance you will feel instantly when setting foot on the main square of this White City and se its galleries and proud Cathedral with the typical two towers.
Visit the Santa Catalina Monastery; This more than 20.000 square meter monastery which today is still in use by about 20 nuns, is a maze of small walkways and patios painted in the most Mediterranean colors. Most of the monastery is open to the public and some areas have been reconstructed to the glory days of this monastery.
Drive to the Colca Canyon; not only the Colca Canyon itself makes the visit a worthwhile one, the drive back and forth to Arequipa or Puno is definitely full of views not easily forgotten. When leaving Arequipa with the Misti volcano at your right hand side, you will be happy to stop now and then to take up the amazing views and sights around. This trip will take you through the Salinas National Reserve, home to many Vicañas, a small mammal family of the llama. Here you will cross what will be for many people the highest point on their trip, “el mirador de volcanos” at 4900 meters above sea level. From here you can see several volcanoes, several active. After this point you will start descending into the canyon until you reach Chivay, the biggest town in the region.
Bath in the thermal baths; Located at 5 kilometers from Chivay, these are maybe some of the nicest thermal baths to be found in Peru. Los Baños Termales de Caleras are fed by water heated by the nearby volcano activity and led into several large pools. The water has temperatures around 32°C. and is in contrary to many other thermal baths crystal clear. That these baths were used in ancient times you can appreciate from the small Inca ruins that are located at the other side of the river running through the valley. Some hotels (Casa Andina and the Colca Lodge) offer private thermal baths to their guests.
Wonder at the Condors floating on the thermal winds; Cruz del Condor, located almost half way in the canyon is probably Peru’s and maybe even South America’s most famous place to spot the mighty condor in its true habitat. This place is home to a large condor family that has been here for decennia. In the morning and late afternoon during most months of the year some members of this family can be seen here drifting on the thermal winds rising out of the canyon. Some will even fly closely over the spectators as if they were giving a show of their dominance in this canyon.
Hike down to the canyon floor and really appreciate the magnitude of this place; not for the fainthearted; going down to the floor of the second deepest canyon in the world. All of the different hikes taking you down will obviously involve a lot of going down and going up. Most people do this on a two day hike going down from Cobanaconde to the so called “Oasis” located on an island in the Colca River. You will descend about 1600 meters before arriving in this beautiful place in the middle of the river and surrounded by palm trees. The next day you will however have to climb again to get out of the canyon. This can be done on a multiday hike but most people do rise the same way as they came down, making this an easy trek to do without guides.