Inspired Family Takes On Arequipa and Colca Canyon (PHOTOS)

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Michelle Gaudet

Michelle Gaudet and family leave the salty shores of Peru to pursue new “depths” in the Andes Mountains.

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After 2 years of planning, my family had taken a leap into travel and worldschooling. Spending 6 weeks exploring the Peruvian coastal cities and towns of Lima, Paracas, and Ica, it was time for our family to travel into mountains.

We caught the evening bus to leave our beautiful oasis paradise in Ica. My family settled in our seats and traveled for 14 hours overnight, up the Andes Mountains until we reached Arequipa the next morning. We quickly found a taxi to take us to our hostel, Los Andes. It was located just 500 meters from the Plaza d’Armas and had a rooftop balcony with amazing sunset views of 3 local volcanoes.

Arequipa, “La Ciudad Blanca” is named for its baroque buildings constructed from sillar, a white volcanic stone. The historic center is anchored by the Plaza d’Armas, flanked by a 17th-century Basilica Cathedral on the north end, a staggering provincial government building to the south, commercial buildings with stately balconies to the east and west, surrounded by gardens and a water fountain in the center. Outside the city, 3 volcanoes (El Misti, Pikchu Pikchu and Chachani) one of which is still active, tower over Arequipa.

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(Photo: Michelle Gaudet)

Our family spent time wandering the streets of this beautiful city, looking through the shops, and tasting delicious local cuisine. You can fully explore the incredible architecture of days gone by as there are many little squares and nooks that are still original, hidden among the restaurants and shops facing the streets. We took advantage of the free city walking tour, led by local tourism students who showed us around the downtown area of Arequipa, and taught us about the some of the history. Visits to La Compania Jesuit Church, the San Camilo market, Mundo Alpaca, and the local chocolate museum were all on the itinerary.

We were sad that we didn’t spend more time in this amazing city, but after only 4 days it was time for us to move on and up through the mountains to spend some time in the towns along Colca Canyon.

We woke up early and got on a local bus to take us on the 5-hour trip up and through Colca Canyon to the home of the Cruz del Condor, Cabanconde. The mountain landscape of the area gave us the most spectacular views we had ever seen. The bus ride was truly a memorable experience with its narrow twisty roads through the high mountain passes. I have a fear of heights so it was a difficult bus ride for myself but Mark and the kids enjoyed the unforgettable views. Colca Canyon is known as one of the deepest canyons in the world, reaching a depth of approximately 4160 meters, or 13,640′.

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(Photo: Michelle Gaudet)

For the next two weeks, we made the towns along the Colca Canyon our home. We spent our days hiking in and around the countryside and spending time in the towns of Cabanaconde, Yanque, and Chivay. The area is still almost untouched by the tourist industry. We were able to explore the ruins of Uyo Uyo with the entire site to ourselves. Our evenings were filled with stargazing and eating traditional local cuisine made by our hostel hosts. The area is home to two distinct ethnic groups the Collaguas and the Cabanas. The ladies still adorn the stunning handmade traditional hats of the indigenous cultures which are both uniquely gorgeous and strikingly different.

My family and I were captured by the majesty of the Colca Canyon region, but it was the people in the area that touched our beings. People living in balance with the nature and animals around them, in a way left behind long ago by many, left a mark on us that won’t soon be forgotten.

Our next bus ride took us even deeper into the Andes mountains, through the Salinas and Aguada Blanca National Reservation, to our next stop Puno Peru on the shores of Lake Titicaca.

Michelle Gaudet is a Canadian writer, artist, and photographer. Last year Michelle and her family took their first family travel adventure backpacking southern Peru for 3 months. She currently lives in Canada while traveling and worldschooling with her family as much as possible. Michelle is the Director of Digital and Social Media for Spiritual Niagara and is building a new career in travel focusing on family adventures and group retreats. You can find her family’s adventures on Instagram at www.instagram.com/Inspiredtraveladventures.

 

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