Over Thanksgiving weekend I took a break from my recent usual tasks of writing, project management, interviews, and data analysis to go to Arequipa and Colca Canyon with some friends. This was my first opportunity to spend a number of days outside of Lima, so it was a much-appreciated vacation. I’ll share parts of it with you today.
The city of Arequipa is the capital of the region of the same name. It’s the second-most populous city in the country and actually served as the capital of Peru for about fifty years during the 1800s after Peru gained independence.
Arequipa was particularly loyal to the Spanish government during the colonial period and is unique in Peru in that it retains a lot of Spanish character. These include streets and buildings reminiscent of the Andalucía region in Spain that were a welcome throwback to my time living and studying abroad in Sevilla; below are pictures from Arequipa’s Yanahuara district (left) and the Santa Catalina Convent (right).
Arequipa is also known for the volcanoes that surround it: Misti, Pikchu Pikchu, and Chachani. Only Misti (which can be seen in the background of the photo on the left, below) is still active, with its last eruption in 1985. Chachani, the tallest of the three, is visible beyond the idyllic scenery of Carmen Alto on the right.
Other highlights of Arequipa included: seeing the mummy Juanita, a girl sacrificed as an offering to Incan gods in the 1400s, who remains remarkably well-preserved in an Arequipa museum since she was frozen where she was buried high in the Andes; visiting an old mill in the district of Sabandía; touring the 16th century founder’s mansion; and, of course, enjoying delicious Peruvian cuisine.
We spent the latter part of the break in the relatively nearby Colca Canyon. (Fun facts: At 3270m deep, Colca Canyon is more than twice as deep as the Grand Canyon. The deepest canyon in the world, the Cotahuasi Canyon, is also in Peru.) Apart from its breathtaking scenery, it’s famous for the giant Andean Condors that often fly over it. I wasn’t able to see any, but luckily some of our group had better timing. Here are a couple of shots of the canyon from the top.
One of my friends and I chose to see the canyon with a two-day trek, while the other three opted for a bus-only tour of the area. Unfortunately, my trekking buddy got sick on the ride from Arequipa and decided (wisely) to stay at a hostel, so I completed the hike instead with a kind, well-traveled couple from New Zealand. It was such a fun and beautiful experience!
After hiking down the first day, we spent the night in bungalows near the buildings you see here.
more than halfway back up, enjoying the sunrise
We made it! Our guide Orlando (right) hikes there 6-7 days per week…wow!
Finally, on our way back, we came across a little piece of Indiana. And of course some alpacas ;-)