Home of Volcanoes and Canyons
The spectacular geographic and biological diversity and rich cultural heritage of the Arequipa department make it a worthy destination for travelers of all interests. Here you'll encounter the vestiges of ancient peoples, traditional villages perched on the edge of two of the world's deepest canyons and in the lap of towering volcanoes, endangered wildlife reserves, unique natural landscapes that border on the surreal, beautiful beaches and culinary artistry that's second to none.
Without question one of the department's most famous attractions is the Colca Canyon. With a depth of 10,500 feet it is more than twice as deep as the Grand Canyon in the United States and makes for an ideal vantage point to observe the majestic Andean condor in flight. Here, the pre-Inca Collagua and Cabana people built agricultural terraces which continue to be cultivated to this day by their descendants, who proudly dress in the same colorful hand-woven garments their ancestors did centuries ago. Travelers can visit the villages' old colonial churches and participate in outdoor sports such as trekking, mountain biking and river rafting.
Further to the west lies an even deeper canyon, which at 11,597 feet deep is Earth's most profound, but it receives fewer visitors due to its remote location. Those who do make the trip to the Cotahuasi Canyon are rewarded with views of the snowcapped peaks of Coropuna and Solimana, hot springs, waterfalls, Wari and Inca agricultural terraces and picturesque villages populated by native people relocated by the Spanish in colonial times.
Arequipa is also a land of magnificent volcanoes popular with climbers of all abilities. Misti, the stunningly symmetrical volcano that looms over the city of Arequipa, is an excellent choice as is Ampato, the inactive volcano where the world's best-preserved pre-Hispanic mummy, known as Lady of Ampato, was found. One of Arequipa's most unique attractions is the Valley of Volcanoes which has the highest concentration of volcanic peaks in the world. The landscape reminds one of the moon with its 80-odd small peaks.
Pre-historic peoples also left their mark on this intriguing corner of Peru in the form of cave paintings and petroglyphs. Paleolithic people painted 500 images depicting camelids, rheas, felines and hunting scenes in the Sumbay Caves and in the Majes Valley huge volcanic rocks can be found with over 3,000 petroglyphs dating back to 1,100 AD known as Toro Muerto.
Those interested in observing wildlife in its natural habitat can visit the coastal wetlands of the Lagunas de Mejía National Sanctuary with its abundant bird life and the highland Salinas y Aguada Blanca National Reserve which protects tarucas, flamingos, vicuñas, guanacos and a number of threatened bird species.
Just outside the department capital you'll find delightful little villages known for their colonial-era churches, mansions and a mill, excellent picanterías (traditional restaurants), medicinal hot springs and lively celebrations. The coast boasts fine sand beaches for camping and bathing as well as some great fishing spots. Other sites worth visiting include the Imata Stone Forest and the ruins of Puerto Inca.