Updated May 29th, 2017.
The White City has its charms and I have to say that I know them very well (this being one of my favorite places in the world). With a city centre built of volcanic rock Arequipa is not only one of Peru’s most stunning cities it is also it’s second largest. We Peruvians call it a small city, even a little town, but with more than one million habitants, three volcanoes watching over her and two of the deepest canyons of the world this place is anything put a blip on the map…
The stunning city center, note the snowy mountains in the background!
Here are just five reasons why you should include Arequipa on your list when travelling Peru!
1. The Cotahuasi and Colca Canyons
Two of the world deepest canyons reside just outside the city of Arequipa, both are more than 3km deep at their deepest part!
Colca Canyon: is just three hours away from the city and has many options for trekking. Almost all agencies offer a three day/ two night tour or a two day/one night one. It is also possible to go to the canon on your own, although it takes more time and the chances of getting lost increase slightly (so bring a map). Chivay, the canyons main town, is the principal point to start all treks; it has a lot of cheap hotels and some rough public transportation to the canyon.
Cotahuasi Canyon: About ten hours away from Arequipa is Cotahuasi Canyon. Most agencies go only under private tours and take at least three days. Although it takes more time it is a bit more rewarding than Colca Canyon, because it is less developed. Here you will find true life in the Andes and people will be less accustomed to travelers. The treks are superb and the views stunning, but don’t expect to find fancy restaurants and five star hotels.
Viewing point into the Colca Canon
2. The Volcanoes
Six hours away from Arequipa, about 350kms northwest of the city, lies the Volcano Valley, with more than 80 volcanic cones to see! Close to the city are two of the most popular hikes into the volcanic valley: Misti volcano, almost 6 thousand meters above sea level, takes two days/one night to climb it. It is not that hard and if weather is good you can see views all the way to the ocean! Chachani volcano is one of the easiest if you want to get higher than the six thousand meter high line. It only takes around 14 hours to reach the top; a car can take you up to five thousands meters high. Although for this hike you will need to rent more technical equipment, so it will be more expensive than Misti.
Just outside the city lie some pretty impressive mountains to climb- great views gauranteed!
3. A Perfect Balance- Weather and People
The best part of the city has got to be the lovely mix of locals and foreigners that gather here! Arequipa is somewhere in between Cusco and Lima; meaning it is both urban and used to backpackers pouring through (however much less than Cusco). In Arequipa you will find all the elements of a developed city, without the stress and noise of a capital, also you will find the diversity travelers bring to the culture.
Arequipeneans are people used to a blue sky with an intense sun; we have a clear sky 95% of all mornings and we love summer afternoon rains. It never gets too hot or too cold so we are used to outdoor activities. This is what makes the White City a perfect place to rest, chill out, and let the weary side of your backpacking adventures melt with the sun.
Sunny weather almost year round, makes even the llamas happy
4. The Food
With a special taste for food, Arequipa is the birthplace of the famous (some would say disgusting!) Cuy Chactado (roasted guinea pig). If you are looking for truthful Arequipenean food head to Arancota and get inside one of the many picanterías, ask for some Rocoto Relleno with Pastel de Papa and forget everything else.
5. The Location Could not be Better
Surrounded by mountains, volcanos, the worlds deepest canons, and the beach? It’s not often that you find a city with so many of natures showcase settings in one accessible area! Yet in just an hour an a half you can traverse snow covered peeks and find yourself tanning on the beach. Not bad Arequipa!
Mountains and the beach- Arequipa you’ve outdone yourself!
Written by: Andres Nunez del Prado