Get to know this expansive area by following these four suggestions of how to make a great trip to Arequipa into a trip that will change your life.
Get to know the city and its history
Arequipa is a city of clear blue skies, and imposing buildings made from white volcanic rock known as Sillar. It is also a city of art and culture, where you can still get a feeling of the traces from early activity that gave birth to the city that we know today. We’ve seen the city go through dramatic changes over the years, but the city maintains its identity. If you go there, you can feel great spirit of the city’s history.
Historian Eusebio Quiroz Paz Soldan explains:
“Arequipa’s cultural identity is nothing if not a mixture of elements both occidental and Andean. This identity forms part of the awareness of our people and makes sense of the sense of regionalism of which we are so proud. We feel we are different because we know we have these complex values that are different to those of other people”. And this is reflected in each cultural manifestation: literature, music, gastronomy, architecture, etc. That is why exploring Arequipa means discovering secrets; so the first piece of advice for visitors is “go on foot”.
Each street has its secrets, which you have to keep your eyes open for in order not to miss. There are old houses where sepia photos of the city’s old inhabitants are kept in shoe boxes; old bookshops that still jealously hold onto valuable collections; galleries where rising artists display their work. And the picanterias! Great restaurants that are meeting places for politicians, poets, writers, and lovers of food.
In the countryside surrounding the city, on which the urban sprawl is beginning to encroach, you can still find that intense green pasture and villages where the afternoon people gather in the main square to eat buñuelos and talk about the day’s doings – that eternal village atmosphere untouched by the passage of time. The shared experiences of a large town, that living contrast that makes Arequipa unforgettable.
Rafting: Tame the white waters of Cotahuasi
Getting to the rapids is a big part of the journey
The ascent of Cotahuasi begins in the villages of Siguas, Corire, and Aplao (Majes, Arequipa). The trail passes through Chuquibamba to reach more than 4500 meters at a place that lies between the Solimana and Coropuna volcanoes. From there the river descends to the Cotahuasi Canyon, considered to be the fourth deepest on the world (3535 meters), after Yarlung Tsangpo (China, 5590 meters), Apurimac (Peru, 4691 meters) and Kali Gandaki (Nepal, 4375 meters). It is navigable, but only if you are prepared, and if you are brave. You’ll probably need to take the route in a 4×4 truck, and the expedition will last three to four days. You can make the trip by booking a tour, and generally, everything will be included.
In addition to observing the flora and fauna in the area, you’ll shoot through the Sipia rapids while visiting interesting archaeological sites and pre-Inca ruins that lie along the margins of the canyon. This is not an adventure to be taken lightly. Although the guides are experts, some experience is necessary, and you have to be able to swim: the rapids on the River Cotahuasi are level III and IV, with a few class V.
Make a journey on the Sillar route
What is Sillar?
Sillar is a volcanic rock used in the finest buildings in the city of Arequipa. People have built churches, houses, bridges, and irrigation canals from stone taken from Añashuayco Ravine. The oldest building made of sillar rock is the Jesuit church, just off the Main Square.
What is the Sillar route?
The Sillar Route is more than 50 kilometers long and includes quarries in the districts of Cerro Colorado, Uchumayo and Yura.
The visit includes 7 of the 17 active quarries in the city, as well as different workshops where the sillar rock masons themselves describe the techniques involved in working the blocks that make up the celebrated “White City.”
You can also visit unused quarries and outcrops of the white stone that have been worked but not removed.
Go see the condors and visit Colca Canyon
(Photo: Ultimate Journeys Peru)
Nowhere in Peru is better for watching condors in flight than the Colca Canyon. This impressive bird, with its black plumage and white neck, takes wing early in the morning displaying itself to watching admirers. The Colca is the fifth deepest canyon in the world at 3200 meters, after the Cotahuasi Canyon and the principal vantage point in the valley is Cruz del Condor, where you can see condors flying down from the mountains to the sea every morning.
Give yourself some time to visit the Colca Canyon
You need at least three days for a visit to Colca in order to enjoy its enchanting villages. Each offers its own special characteristics. For example, Chivay is the starting point for the trip, where you decide whether you are going to take the left or right bank of the River Colca. On the right bank are Coporaque, Ichupampa, Lari and Madrigal; while Yanque, Achoma, Maca, Pinchollo, Cabanaconde, and Tapay are on the left. To the northeast, an unmade road leads to the villages of Tuti, Callalli, and Sibayo.
Check out the textiles
Embroidery from Colca is famous throughout the country for its color and beautiful finish. The villages of the Colca give the traveler the chance to live the simple country life through community experiences with lodgings and meals.
Diego Oliver is a Peruvian writer and author whose work can be found in the travel magazine Ultimate Journeys. He loves to focus on Peruvian culture both modern and classic, traveling the country, as well as social responsibility.