With three snow-sprinkled volcanic peaks looming impressively over a bleached stone cityscape, Peru’s second-largest city supplies visual impact in spades. Its grand colonial buildings are made from white sillar stone, and it’s their gleaming complexion that has earned Arequipa its nickname, “White City.” Wander the European-style streets and shop for antiques, handicrafts and high-quality alpaca goods so deliciously soft they beg to be touched. Arequipa has also been a driving force in Peru’s culinary scene, and its picanterías (traditional restaurants) are known for their spicy stews (adobo) and shrimp chowder (chupe de camarones).
Among the top attractions in Arequipa is the stunning Santa Catalina convent, a walled colonial complex. Also of note is the Santa Maria Catholic University’s Andean Sanctuaries Museum, which houses the Juanita Mummy – the body of a young Inca girl who was killed as an offering to the gods in the late 15th century. With its UNESCO-listed historic core and glorious volcanic vistas, Arequipa makes a wonderful stop-off during a private Peru holiday.
The gargantuan Colca Canyon, located just 100 miles northwest of Arequipa, boasts some seriously impressive stats. At 0.6 miles in depth, it is twice as deep as its famous American counterpart, the Grand Canyon. Colca Canyon is also home to several Andean communities who continue to cultivate agricultural terraces that date back to pre-Inca times. Adventurers can embark on canyon trek, before soothing tired muscles in the La Calera hot springs, which are just a short journey away from the largest canyon town of Chivay.
Keep an eye on the skies as you explore the canyon; the Andean condor, one of the largest birds of prey in the world, can occasionally be spotted soaring overhead. Up your chances of a condor sighting by heading to the Cruz del Condor lookout, where the black-feathered beast frequently makes an appearance.