The spectacular canyon country around the city of Arequipa – a UNESCO World Heritage-listed gem home to Spanish churches, stately mansions and volcanic sillar-white stonework – is one of high altitude deserts and sweeping terraced valleys.
Plunging more than 3,000 metres from the cactus-studded desert near Arequipa, this spectacular river canyon is the second-deepest on earth. But, it's not just its scale that impresses. Along its 100 kilometre length, the changes in landscape are just as awe-inspiring, ranging from barren rocks and steppes to terraced farmlands peppered with tiny villages and grazing llamas. And, high above, condors soar on thermal currents. Giant birds of prey with two-metre wingspans, they're best seen from the popular viewpoint at Cruz del Condor, some 1,500 metres above the canyon floor.
Peru's second city is tiny compared to the Lima. And, that's no bad thing. There's no wasted space here, with everything from the grand colonial masterpieces of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed centre, all carved from white volcanic sillar stone, to a full spread of superb restaurants – think everything from high-end dining to locals' favourite picantería eateries – crammed into a space ten times smaller than the sprawling capital. Of particular note is the main cathedral, one of Peru's most impressive Spanish-era buildings, set against the backdrop of the conical El Misti volcano.
Top itineraries in Arequipa & Colca Canyon
Explore the very best of Peru's beautiful beaches, majestic mountains and fascinating culture on this tailor-made journey. Visit Lima, Arequipa, the Colca Canyon and Lake Titicaca before heading to the Andes and the ancient sites of Cusco, Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley.
Top places to stay in Arequipa & Colca Canyon
The natural beauty of the Colca Valley is complemented by the rustic luxury of this garden-ringed retreat.
This Belmond hotel is Peru at its traditional, and luxurious, best. Stay in a stylish stone cottage where rustic charm is married with private pools and designer four-poster beds just a stone's throw from spectacular Colca Canyon.
Where to go in Arequipa & Colca Canyon
The Colca Canyon is an area of outstanding beauty. Once thought to be the deepest canyon on earth - that accolade now goes to nearby Cotahuasi Canyon - visitors now flock here to witness giant Andean condors gliding on rising thermals.
Arequipa & Colca Canyon articles
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