Arequipa is known for cobblestoned streets full of beautiful pearly white stone architecture, all thanks to the volcanic ash building material from the nearby Misti Volcano. Its eternal spring-like weather, also as has produced famous Peruvian authors such as Mario Vargas Llosa, making this city a great pleasure to live in, and even more a place to visit in style.
More incredible are its local culinary traditions that embody the sensual complexity of traditional Peruvian cuisine.
Enjoy a sunlit day in Arequipa’s gorgeous Plaza de Armas to complement your trip to Peru.
Visit the Ice Maiden Mummy, make your way out into the rustic countryside, and then get ready for a journey through one of the world’s deepest canyons, the Colca or the Cotahuasi.
All of our sample luxury itineraries are fully customized for you.
Evidence of pre-Inca settlement by indigenous peoples from the Lake Titicaca area leads some scholars to think the Aymara people first named the city ("Ari" means 'peak' and "Quipa" means lying behind' in Aymara; hence, Arequipa is 'the place lying behind the peak' of El Misti). However, another oft-heard legend says that the fourth Inca (king), Mayta Cápac, was traveling through the valley and became enchanted by the zone and weather. He ordered bis retinue lo stop, saying, 'Ari, quipay' which translates as 'Yes, stay.' The city was refounded by the Spaniards on August 15, 1540, a date that is remembered with a week-long fair.
Arequipa is built in an area highly prone to natural disasters; the city was totally destroyed by earthquakes and volcanic eruptions in 1600 and has since been rocked by major earthquakes in 1687,1868,1958,1960 and, most recently, in 2001. For this reason, many of the city's buildings are built low for stability. Despite the disasters, many fetching historic structures survive.
Even if you have overdosed on colonial edifices, this convent shouldn't be missed. Occupying a whole block and guarded by imposing high walls, it is one of the most fascinating religious buildings in Peru. Nor is it just a religious building the 20,000-square meters complex is almost a citadel within the city. It was founded in 1580 by a rich widow, doña María de Guzmán. Enter from the southeast corner.
The best way to visit Santa Catalina is to hire one of the informative guides, available for 20 Soles from inside the entrance. Guides speak Spanish, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, or Japanese. The tours last about an hour, after which you're welcome to keep exploring by yourself until the gales close. The monastery is also open two evenings a week so that visitors can traipse through the shadowy grounds by candlelight as nuns would have done centuries ago.
Alternatively, you can wander around on your own without a guide, soaking up the meditative atmosphere and getting slightly lost (there's a finely printed miniature map on the back of your ticket if you're up for an orienteering challenge. A helpful way to begin is to focus a visit on the three main. After passing under the silence (silence) arch you will enter the Novice Cloisters, marked by a courtyard with a rubber tree at its center. After passing under this arch, novice nuns were required to zip their lips in a vow of solemn silence and resolve to a life of work and prayer. Nuns lived as novices for four years, during which time their wealthy families were expected to pay a dowry of 100 gold coins per year. At the end of the four years they could choose between taking their vows and entering into religious service, or leaving the convent the latter would most likely have brought shame upon their family.
Graduated novices passed onto the Orange Cloiser, named for the orange trees clustered at its center that represent renewal and eternal life. This cloister allows a peck into the Profundis Room, a mortuary where dead nuns were mourned. Paintings of the deceased line the walls. Artists were allotted 24 hours to complete these posthumous paintings, since painting the nuns while alive was out of the question.
Leading away from the Orange Cloister, Cordova Street is flanked by cells that served as living quarters for the nuns. These dwellings would house one or more nuns, along with a handful of servants, and ranged from austere to lavish depending on the wealth of the inhabitants. Ambling down Toledo Street leads you to the cafe, which serves fresh-baked pastries and espressos, and finally to the communal washing area where servants washed in mountain runoff channeled into huge earthenware jars.
Heading down Burgos Street toward the cathedral's sparkling Sillar tower, visitors may enter the musty darkness of the communal kitchen that was originally used as the church until the reformation of 1871. Just beyond, Zocodober Square (the name comes from the Arabic word for 'barter') was where nuns gathered on Sundays to exchange their handicrafts, such as soaps and baked goods. Continuing on, to the left you can enter the cell of the legendary Sor Ana, a nun renowned for her early accurate predictions about the future and the miracles she is said to have performed until her death in 1686.
Finally, the is bordered by the chapel on one side and the art gallery, which used to serve as a communal dormitory, on the other. This building takes on the shape of a cross. Murals along the walls depict scenes from the lives of Jesus and the Virgin Mary. The monastery is located on Santa Catalina street 301. The admission cost 40 Soles per person. It is open from 8 am - 5 pm. Tuesday and Thursday the schedule is extended until 8 pm. Last entry 1hr before closing.
There's an escalating drama to this theatrically presented museum, dedicated to the preserved body of a frozen 'mummy,' and its compulsory guided tour (free, but a tip is expected at the end). Spoiler: the climax is the vaguely macabre sight of poor Juanita, the 12-year-old Inca girl sacrificed to the gods in the 1450s and now eerily preserved in a glass refrigerator. Tours take about an hour and are conducted in Spanish, English, and French.
Before presenting Juanita herself, well-versed student guides from the university lead you through a series of atmospheric, dimly lit rooms filled with artifacts from the expedition that found the 'mummy.' There is a beautifully shot 20-minute film about how Juanita, the so-called 'lee Maiden,' was unearthed atop Nevado Ampato in 1995. From January to April, Juanita is switched for a different 'mummy.' It is located on La Merced street 110. Admission is 20 Soles per person. The museum is open from 9 am - 6 pm. From Monday to Saturday. Sunday is open until 3 pm.
Arequipa's main plaza, unblemished by modern interference, is a museum of the city's Sillar architecture - white, muscular, and aesthetically unique. Impressive colonnaded balconies line three sides. But, our admiration is given over to Peru's widest cathedral, a humongous edifice with two soaring towers. Even this is dwarfed by the duel snowcapped sentinels of El Misti and Chanchani, both visible from various points in the central park.
Once the noisy stage for political protests and honking taxis, in mid-2015 protests and traffic were (controversially) banned in and around the plaza to make it more tourists friendly.
On the Plaza de Armas, this building stands out for its stark white Sillar and massive size it is the only cathedral in Peru that stretches the length of a plaza. It also has a history of rising up from the ashes. The original structure, dating from 1656, was gutted by fire in 1844. Consequently rebuilt, it was flattened, again, by the 1868 earthquake. Most of what you see now has been rebuilt since then.
An earthquake in 2001 toppled one enormous tower and made the other slump precariously, yet by the end of the next year, the cathedral looked as good as new.
The interior is simple and airy, with a luminous quality, and the high vaults are uncluttered it also has a distinctly international flair; it is one of fewer than 100 basilicas in the world entitled to display the Vatican flag, which is to the right of the altar. Both the altar and the 12 columns (symbolizing the 12 Apostles) are made of Italian marble. The huge Byzantine-style brass lamp hanging in front of the altar is from Spain and the pulpit was carved in France. In 1870, Belgium provided the impressive organ, said to be the largest in South America, though damage during shipping condemned the devout to wince at its distorted notes for more than a century. The Cathedral is open from 7:30 am - 7:30 pm. From Monday to Saturday. Sundays from 7 am - 1 pm and 5 pm - 7 pm.
If Arequipa's cathedral seems too big, an interesting antidote (proving that small can be beautiful) is this diminutive Jesuit church on the southeast corner of the Plaza de Armas. The facade is an intricately carved masterpiece of the churrigueresque style (think baroque and then some a style hatched in Spain in the 1660s). The equally detailed altar, completely covered in gold leaf, takes the style further and will be eerily familiar to anyone who has visited Seville cathedral in Spain. La Compañia is open from 9 am - 12:30 pm and 3 pm - 6 pm, from Sunday to Friday. Only the Saturdays it is open from 10:30 am - 12:30 pm and 3 pm to 6 pm.
To the left of the altar is the San Ignacio Chapel, with a polychrome cupola smothered in unusual jungle-like murals of tropical flowers, fruit, and birds, among which mingle warriors and angels. It is open from Sundays to Fridays 9 am - 12:30 pm and 3 pm - 6 pm. Saturdays are open from 10:30 am - 12:30 pm and 3 pm - 6 pm. Admission 4 Soles per person.
Next door, and accessed via Calle Santo Domingo, the beautiful, semi-outdoor shopping center Claustros de la Campañía continues the ornate theme.
Bibliophiles will delight in this musty monastery’s huge library, which contacts more than 20,000 dusty books and maps; the oldest volume dates to 1494. The scholarship was an integral part of the Franciscans' order. The library is open for supervised visits; just ask at the entrance.
There is also a well-known museum of Amazonian artifacts (including preserved jungle animals) collected by the missionaries, and an extensive collection of pre-Conquest artifacts and religious art of the Escuela Cusqueña (Cusco School).
The monastery was constructed on the west side of the Río Chili in 1648 by Franciscan friars, though now it has been completely rebuilt. Guides speaking Spanish, English, French and Italian are available; a tip is expected.
It's located in a dicey neighborhood a short cab ride from the city center. Specifically, in La Recoleta 117. Admission is 10 Soles per person. the monastery is open daily from 9 am to noon and 3 pm - 5 pm. Only Wednesdays and Fridays it is open until 8 pm.
This gorgeous 17th-century Carmelite convent is open to the public as a living museum the Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, from 9 am - 5 pm. Only Fridays, it is open until 8 pm. The colonial-era buildings are justifiably lamed for their decorative painted walls and restored rooms filled with priceless votive objects of art, murals, precious metalwork, colonial-era paintings, and other historical artifacts. It is all explained by student tour guides who speak Spanish, English, French, German and Portuguese. The tips are appreciated. A charming shop at the front of the complex sells baked goods and rose-scented soap made by the nuns. You can visit it on Melgar street 303. The admission cost 20Soles per person.
Built-in 1730, this stylized baroque house is named after the 200-year-old mulberry tree in its central courtyard.
Owned by BCP (a private Peruvian bank) since 2003, it is now a museum notable for its antique maps, heavy furniture, religious art, and extensive Peruvian coin and banknote collection (courtesy of BCP). Explanations are in Spanish and English. As its name indicate, the house is located on Moral street 318. It is open from 9 am - 5 pm, Mondays to Saturdays. Admission cost is 5 Soles.
Built-in 1738, the ornate Casa Ricketts has served as a seminary, archbishop's palace, school, and home to well-to-do families. Today it is the most splendiferous working bank in the city - possibly even Peru. Even if you're not here for a transaction, it's worth nosing around its small gallery of Arequipa art, and dual interior courtyards with their puma-headed fountains. It is located in Casa Tristán del Pozo, in San Francisco street 108. It is open from 9 am to 6 pm, Mondays to Fridays. Only the Saturdays it is open until 1 pm.
This 17th-century mansion was once owned by Arequipa's founder Garcí Manuel de Carbajal, has been restored with original furnishings and paintings, and even has its own chapel.
The mansion is in the village of Huasacache, 9km from Arequipa's city center, most easily reached by taxi (round-trip S20). Local city tours often stop here.
Initially built in the 16th century, several earthquakes badly damaged this church.
It still stands, however, and visitors can see a large crack in the cupola - testimony to the power of quakes. Other colonial churches around the city center include San Agustin, la Merced, and Santo Domingo. It is located in Jiron Zela, cuadra 1. It is open from 9 am - 12:30 pm and 3 pm - 6:30 pm. Monday - Friday. The admission cost is 5 Soles.
This university-run museum has interesting little displays on local excavation sites and some artifacts, including surprisingly well-preserved ancient ceramics. Guided tours are available in Spanish and English; tips are expected. It is located on Cruz Verde street 303. Open from 8:30 am - 4 pm. Monday to Friday. The admission is a voluntary donation.
Arequipa and Peru's historical trajectory is showcased in this educational if unexciting museum split into different rooms dedicated to different epochs.
There's pre-Hispanic, the independence era, the republic era, and the War of Pacific. It is located in Plazuela San Francisco 407. It is open from Mondays to Saturdays 9 am - 5 pm. The Sundays it is only open until 1 pm. The admission cost is 10 Soles.
Once you're done counting the many dead heroes, pop into the adjacent Museo Arqueologico Chiribaya; located in La Merced 117. Its admission cost 15 Soles and it is open from 8:30 am - 7 pm. Mondays to Fridays. The Saturdays it is only open from 9 am - 3 pm, which houses an impressive collection of artifacts from the pre-Incan Chiribaya civilization, including well-preserved textiles and the only pre-Inca gold collection in southern Peru.
One of many small university-run museums in Arequipa, this one’s a little more esoteric than most with themes jumping between archaeological remains, baroque furniture, and colonial art from the Peruvian "Cusco School". It is located on Alvarez Thornas street 200. The admission cost 2 Soles and it is open from 9 am to 4 pm. From Monday to Friday.
Arequipa is the center of a raft of nebulous sights and activities dotted around the high country to the north and east of the city.
Trekking, mountaineering, and river running are the big three activities, but there are plenty more.
The spectacular canyons around Arequipa offer many excellent hiking options. Trekking agencies can arrange off-the-beaten-track routes to suit your timeline and fitness level.
Trekking solo in the well-traveled Canon del Colca area is popular and easy, but, if you're nervous about hiking without guides or want to tackle more untrammeled routes, you can contact us to arrange guided treks through all Arequipa.
Superb mountains for climbing surround Arequipa. Adequate acclimatization for this area is essential and it's best to have spent some time in Cusco or Puno immediately before a high-altitude expedition. Cold temperatures, which sometimes drop to -29°C at the highest camps, necessitate very warm clothing.
The Association of Mountain Guides of Peru warns that many guides are uncertified and untrained, so climbers are advised to go well informed about medical and wilderness-survival issues. Most agencies sell climbs as packages that include transport so prices vary widely depending on the size of the group and the mountain, but the cost for a guide alone is around US$80 per day. Although you can trek year-round, the best (the driest) time is from April to December and, the best form to do it will be through a responsible travel agency.
Maps of the area can be obtained from Colca Trek in Arequipa or the Institute Geográfico Nacional and South American Explorers Club in Lima.
Arequipa is one of Peru's premier bases for river running and kayaking. Many trips are unavailable during the rainy season (between December and March) when water levels can be dangerously high.
The Rio Chili, about 7km from Arequipa, is the most frequently run local river, with a half-day trip suitable for beginners leaving almost daily from April to November (from US$ 40 per person). Further afield, you can also do relatively easy trips into which the Río Colca flows. The most commonly run stretches pass class II and III rapids.
A more off-the-beaten-track possibility is the remote Rio Cotahuasi, a white-water adventure not for the fainthearted - that reaches into the deepest sections of what is perhaps the world's deepest known canyon. Expeditions here are infrequent and only for the experienced, usually taking nine days and passing through class IV and V rapids. The Rio Colca was first to be toured in 1981, but this is a dangerous, difficult trip, not to be undertaken lightly. A few outfitters will do infrequent and expensive rafting trips, and easier sections can be round upriver from the canyon.
The Arequipa area has many mountain biking possibilities. Many of the same companies that offer trekking or mountain climbing trips also organize downhill volcano mountain-biking trips at Chachani and El Misti or can arrange tailor-made tours. If you have the experience and wherewithal, these agencies can rent yon high-end bikes and offer expert trip-planning advice to help get you started on your own.
(Holy Week) Arequipeños claim that their Semana Santa celebrations leading up to Easter are similar to the very solemn and traditional Spanish observances from Seville. Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday processions are particularly colorful and sometimes end with the burning of an effigy of Judas.
Arequipa fills up for this festival, celebrated in the Polobaya district.
The founding day of the city is celebrated with parades, dancing, beauty pageants, climbing competitions on El Misti, and other energetic events peppered through the fortnight leading up to August 14. The fireworks show in the Plaza de Armas on the evening of August 14 is definitely worth catching.
Going to Arequipa and missing out on the Canon del Colca is like going to Cusco and neglecting to visit Machu Picchu. For those with more time, there’s a whole load of other excursions that merit attention, including climbing the city's guardian volcano El Misti, rafting in the Majes canyon, visiting the petroglyphs at Toro Muerto, exploring El Valle de Los Volcanes, and trekking down into the world's deepest canyon at Cotahuasi. Most of these places can be visited by a combination of public bus and hiking. Alternatively, friends can split the cost of hiring a taxi or 4WD vehicle and driver; a two-day trip will set you back more than US$ 150.
The trouble with all those organized Colca Canyon tours is that they rush through one of southern Peru's finest protected reserves, Reserva Nacional Salinas y Aguada Blanca's vast Andean expanse of dozing volcanoes and brawny wildlife forging out an existence against the odds several kilometers above sea level. Drives take you up to an oxygen-deprived 4910m where, in between light-headed gasps for air, you can ponder weird wind-eroded rock formations, trek on old Inca trails, and watch fleet-footed vicuñas run across the desolate pampa at speeds of up to 85km/h.
As a national reserve, Salinas y Aguada Blanca enjoys better protection than the Colca Canyon, primarily because no one lives here bar the odd isolated llama-herder.
Its job is to protect a rich raft of high-altitude species such as the vicuñas, tunica’s Envinados (Andean deer), guanacos, and various birds, most notably flamingos. Both El Misti and Chachani volcanoes are part of the reserve.
The only civilization between Arequipa and Chivay, save for a few scattered farmsteads, is this fork in the road that acts as a kind of truck/bus stop and fill-up point (buses head southeast for Puno every hour). A few snack shacks pepper the scruffy by the way while a kilometer or so beyond the Puno turning you'll run into El Chinito (Highway 34A s/n, San Antonio de Chucha; snacks from 5 Soles), the favored breakfast stop for early-morning tour buses. Next door to the restaurant sits various handicraft stores.
Close by and accessible via a short off-piste drive is the Bosque de Piedras, a surreal collection of mushroom-like stones eroded by the wind that stand sentinel over the Río Sumbay.
Pampa de Toccra, a high plain (pampa) that lies between El Misti/Chachani and the Colca Canyon, has an average height of around 4300m and supports plentiful bird and animal life. You're almost certain to see vicuñas roadside in the Zona de Vicuñas on the approach to Patahuasi. At a boggy and sometimes icy lake, waterfowl and flamingos reside in season. Nearby is a birdwatching mirador.
The Centro de Interpretación de la Reserva Nacional Salinas (9 am - 5 pm) has detained notes in English and Spanish about the area's geology and fauna. All four members of the South American camelid family thrive at the pampas in this region: the domesticated llama and alpaca and the wild vicuña and the timid and rare guanaco.
The highest point on the road between Arequipa and Chivay is this almost lifeless pas: which, at 4910m, is significantly higher than Europe´s Mont Blanc and anywhere in North America's Rocky Mountains. If your red blood cells are up to it, disembark into the rarefied air al to view a muscular consortium of eight snowcapped volcanoes; Ubinas (5675 m), El Misti (5822 m), Chachani (6075m), Ampato (6310 m), Sabancaya (5976 m), Huaka Hualca (6025 m), Mismi (5597 m) and Chucura (5360 m).
Less spectacular but no less amazing is the scrubby Yareta, one of the few plants that can survive in this harsh landscape. Yaretas can live for several millennia and their annual growth rate is measured in millimeters rather than centimeters. Hardy ladies in traditional dress discreetly ply their wares at the mirador during the day - this must be the world's highest shopping center.
Looming 5822m above Arequipa, the city's guardian volcano El Misti is the most popular climb in the area. It is technically one of the easiest ascents of any mountain of this size in the world, but it's hard work nonetheless and you normally need an ice ax and, sometimes, crampons. Hiring a guide is highly recommended. A two-day trip will usually cost between US$50 and US$70 per person. The mountain is best climbed from July to November, with the later months baling the least cold. Below the summit is a sulfurous yellow crater with volcanic fumaroles hissing gas, and there are spectacular views down to the Laguna de Salinas and back to the city.
The ascent can be approached by many routes, some more worn-in than others, most of which can be done in two days. The Apurimac route is notorious for robberies. One popular route starts from Chiguata, and begins with a hard eight-hour slog uphill to reach base camp (4500m); from there to the summit and back takes eight hours, white the sliding return from base camp to Chiguata takes three hours or less.
The Aguada Blanca route is restricted to a handful of official tour operators and allows climbers to arrive at 4100m before beginning to climb.
Determined climbers can reach the Chiguata route via public transportation. Buses going to Chiguata leave from Av g Sepulveda in Arequipa (8 Soles one way, one o hour) hourly beginning at 5:30 am and will o drop you off at an unmarked trailhead, from 5 where you can begin the long trek to base camp. On the return trip, you should be able to flag down the same bus heading the opposite way. The more common method to reach the mountain is hiring a driver in a 4WD for around 2.50 Soles, who will take you up to 3300m and pick you up on the return.
One of the easiest 6000 m peaks in the world is Chachani (6075m), which is as close to Arequipa, as El Misti. You will need crampons; an ice ax and good equipment, here are various routes up the mountain, one of which involves going by 4WD to Campamento de Azufrera at 4950m. From there you can reach the summit in about nine hours and return in under four hours.
Nevado Sabanacaya (5976 m) is part of a massif on the south rim of the Cañón del Colca that also includes extinct (6025 m) and Nevado Ampato (6310 m). Sabancaya erupted in 2014 after 15 dormant years, and should only be approached with a guide who understands the geologic activity of the area; neighboring Ampato is a fairly straightforward, if strenuous, three-day ascent, and you get safer views of the active Sabancaya from here.
Other mountains of interest near Arequipa include Ubinas (5675 m), which used to be the easiest mountain to the summit but from 2013 to 2015 it was spewing enough toxic ash that it is not recommended for climbing. Nevado Misti (5820 m) is a fairly easy three- or four-day climb on the north side of the Cañón del Colca. You can approach it on public transportation and, with a guide, find the lake that is reputedly the source of the Amazon. The highest mountain in southern Peru is the difficult Nevado Coropuma (6613m).
The spectacular countryside around Arequipa rewards a few days' explorations, with some exciting and adventurous possibilities for trips from the city. Most people visit these sites on an organized trip with one of the tour companies in Arequipa. If you are prepared to put up with the extra hassle, you can visit many of the sites by much cheaper public transport.
The attractive village of Sabandia and the historic Casa del Fundador are both within 20 km of the city Centre; further afield the Inca ruins of Paucarpata, at the foot of El Misti volcano offer excellent scenery, great views, and a fine place for a picnic. Climbing El Misti is a very demanding but rewarding trek, but should not be attempted without a professional guide. The attractive village of Chapi makes a good day trip, while the Cuevas de Sumbay, just a few hours' drive from Arequipa on the road towards Caylloma, contains hundreds of unique prehistoric paintings.
Yet the greatest attraction here is easily the Colca Canyon, some 200 km to the north of Arequipa, usually accessed via the quaint town of Chivay and second only to Machu Picchu in its ability to attract tourists it is developing fast as a trekking and canoeing destination (best in the dry season, May-Sept). On route to Colca, the road passes through the Reserva Nacional de Aguada Blanca, a good place for wildlife. One of the canyon's pulls is the Mirador Cruz del Condor, where several condors, symbols of the Andes, can be seen flying most days. Called the "Valley of Marvels" by the Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa, it is in places nearly twice the depth of Arizona's Grand Canyon and one of the country's most extraordinary natural sights.
Around 120 km west of Arequipa, you can also see the amazing Toro Muerto petroglyphs and perhaps go on to hike amid the craters and cones of the Valley of the Volcanoes, roughly 25km to the northeast. A little further north is the Cotahuasi Canyon, which some people believe could usurp Colca's claim to being the deepest canyon in the world.
Colectivos leave every 30min from the comer of Av Salaverry and San Juan de Dios street in Arequipa to Paucarpata (ticket cost around 2 Soles); otherwise, it's a 2hr stroll.
Set against the backdrop of El Misti, Paucarpata is a fine place to while away an afternoon with some wine and a picnic lunch. About 7 km out of central Arequipa, this large village is surrounded by farmland based on perfectly regular pre-Inca terraces. There's a small colonial church on the southwestern edge of the suburb that contains a few Cusqueña School paintings.
Another 2-3km beyond Paucarpata lies Sabandia, where you'll find a reconstructed colonial mill fronted by lawns with alpacas and llamas, and an attractive riverbank nearby. Built in 1661 to supply the city, along with three others in the region, the mill operated continuously for some three hundred years and was capable of milling 800kg of grain in one eight-hour shift with a single operator; it was only abandoned when industrial milling took root. The surrounding scenery, characterized by Inca terracing and broad vistas of surrounding mountains, is also home to a restored seventeenth-century windmill, which makes for an interesting visit. A return taxi trip from Arequipa costs between 25 to 30 Soles. Colectivos cost 5 or 3 Soles per person. It is open daily from 9 am - 5 pm. Admission 5 Soles per adult and 2 Soles per child.
Daily 10am-5pm • Free Return taxi from Arequipa S/30-35
Ten kilometers beyond Sabandia, through the fertile Socabaya Valley, the Casa del Fundador houses a colonial museum with period furnishings and attractive gardens. Once owned by García Manuel de Carbajal, the original founder of Arequipa, it became the property of the Jesuits, who built a small chapel within the mansion. The mansion was restored in 1821 by Archbishop José Sebastián de Goyeneche y Barreda, one of Arequipa's greatest nineteenth-century benefactors, who converted the building into a country estate and rural palace for ecclesiastical and civil dignitaries. After the Jesuits were expelled from Peru, the building was bought at auction and then resold to the Goyeneche family, who kept it until 1947 when the estate was sold off. It was lovingly restored once again in the late 1980s by some local architectural enthusiasts.
Angelitos Negros buses (3 hrs trip; S/10 one way per person) leave from San Juan de Dios Street in Arequipa for Chapi at 6 & 7 am.
Chapi, 45km southeast of Arequipa, is easily manageable as a day's excursion. Though less dramatic than the Colca Canyon, the landscape here is still magnificent, surrounded as it is by mining territory but few peaks much over 5000m. Chapi itself is famous for its white church, the Santuario de la Virgen de Chapi, set high above the village at the foot of a valley, which itself is the source of a natural spring. Thousands of pilgrims come here annually on May 1 to revere the image of the Virgin - a marvelous burst of processions and fiesta fever. There’s no hotel, so if you intend to stay overnight you'll need a tent, but there are several basic places to eat.
Buses (marked "Chiguata"; 1 hr. of the trip; S/10 ticket per person) leave from Av Sepulveda in Arequipa and will drop you at the trailhead
If you feel compelled to climb El Misti (5821m), 20km northeast of Arequipa, bear in mind that it's considerably further away and higher than it looks from Arequipa.
Covering some 300,000 hectares of plateau behind El Misti is the Reserva Nacional de Aguada Blanca, the largest protected area in this region, located at 4000m above sea level. A cold and dry puna (a high Andean ecological zone located above the tree line), it's a great place to spot groups of wild vicuñas-, while its reservoirs — El Farile and Aguada Blanca - are known for their excellent trout fishing. This reserve is crossed by vehicles during the first hour on the Chivay and Colca road from Arequipa as it climbs high above Arequipa's valley floor.
Las Cuevas de Sumbay • S/5 • It is only possible to stop here with a private tour group or in your own vehicle.
There are signposts showing the entrance to las Cuevas de Sumbay from the main road that continues towards Chivay and also Cusco. To stay at Sumbay you'll have to camp, but if you have a vehicle it's easy enough to stop for an hour or so on the route, following the signpost (at Km 103 from Arequipa) down a bad track to the village of Sumbay (4532m), about 1.5km away. At this point, you'll need to find the guardian of the cave (often just a small shepherd child) who can open the gate for your car to continue another kilometer to a parking area.
From the gate, it's a ten-minute walk to the caves, down into a small canyon just before the bridge. The guardian will have to unlock another gate to give you access to the site. Although small, the main Sumbay cave contains a series of 8000-year-old rock paintings representing shamans, llamas, deer, pumas, and vicuñas. The surrounding countryside is amazing in itself: herds of alpacas roam gracefully around the plain looking for Ichu grass to munch, and vast sculpted rock strata of varying colors mix smoothly together with crudely hewn gullies.
Surrounded by some of the most impressive and intensive ancient terracings in South America, Chivay, 163km north of Arequipa and just tour hours by bus from there, lies at the heart of a fantastic hiking/mountain-biking country. Although notable as a market town, it is not actually a good place from which to observe the canyon. Chivay is nevertheless bustling with gringos using the town as a base for exploring the Colca Canyon region.
The market itself is located along Avenida Salaverry, where you'll also find a slew of artesanía shops. The town has a growing range of accommodation, restaurants, and bus transportation for these visitors, making it a reasonable place to stay while you acclimatize to the high altitude. Serious trekkers will soon want to move on to one of the other canyon towns, likely Cabanaconde.
Hot springs • Daily 5 am - 7 pm • S/10 per person; includes museum free • Colectivos (S/1) leave approx. every 20min from the church-side corner of Plaza de Armas in Chivay; walking takes under an hour
Just 5km east of Chivay, slightly further up the Colca Canyon, the road passes mainly through cultivated fields until it reaches the tiny settlement of La Calera, which boasts one of Chivay's main attractions - a wonderful series of hot spring pools, fed by bubbling, boiling brooks that emerge from the mountain sides all around at an average natural temperature of 85°C. Said to be good for curing arthritis and rheumatism these clean and well-kept thermal baths are not to be missed. There's also a small museum on-site with models and artifacts demonstrating local customs, such as making an offering to the Pacha Mama (the Mother Earth).