I liked Arequipa a lot, great colonial atmosphere and vibe in the city, with the volcanoes Chachani, Misti and Pichu Pichu in background. Nice and good boutique hotels, shops and restaurants. The Cañón del Colca is located 165 km away from Arequipa and is a very impressive natural highlight in Peru. Seeing the condors fly on the thermal in the deepest valley of the world is something I will never forget. This is a must visit area in Peru! See below in more details on this unforgettable tour.
I booked again the Cruz del Sur Bus from this time from Puno to Arequipa. I was a journey of about ±6,5 hours. Left Puno at ±15:00 and arrived in hotel around 21:30. Taxi offer their service at the station and take you to your hotel for about ±10S.
My next destination after Arequipa is Cusco. I booked a night bus with Cruz del Sur at 20:30; the ride was warm, winding and bumpy. I did not sleep that much and arrived at 6:30 in Cusco. My hotel was in walking distance of the station, so no taxi needed.
Monasterio de Santa Catalina is one of the most amazing religious building in Peru. The monastery covers 20.000 m2 and is a city within the city. It was founded in 1579 by a rich widow and only upper class Spanish women were accepted but in 1871 the rich women were replaced by servants and slaves.
The nuns lived in the three cloisters:1) Novice Cloister, with a rubber tree in its center 2) the Orange Cloister, named after the orange trees in the center, representing renewal and eternal life and 3) the Great Cloister with the chapel and art gallery with murals along the walls.
Within the monastery you will find a mortuary, housing (for 450 in the peak period), washing area and communal kitchen all made of volcanic rock. The area is full with flower and cacti The structures were damaged by two earthquakes and forced the nuns to move to the new building next door.
In Arequipa you can find a couple of Artesian markets, which I love. Searching for nice and original souvenirs to take home as a memory. Next to the Artesian markets you can find more modern shops in the Calle Mercaderes. Other sightseeing’s are the Plaza de Armas de Arequipa, Basilica Catedral de Arequipa and Plaza e Iglesia de San Francisco across the Historical Museum. Arequipe is a nice town to stroll, have good coffees and has a good vibe, perfect as a base for visiting the Cañón del Colca.
Tour Colca Canyon (2-days)
The Colca Canyon is one of the world’s deepest canyons with 3,270 meter!!. Next to that it is located in the colorful Andean valley with pre-Inca influences and towns founded in the Spanish colonial period. The dresses and hats from the locals you see in this valley are amazing, traditional and colorful. The traditional Inca terracing agriculture look stunning in the valley.
I booked my 2 days tour with the Colca Trek agency which is located at Calle Jerusalén 401, Arequipa. Colca Trek offers non touristic tours and routes. What I loved about my tour, that is was including a biking part. I’m Dutch, so love to cycle, but I’m used to flat and low land cycling, not high and in the mountains! The tour was more expensive (530S) than the other tours offered in town, but this tour was definitely more special, luxury and including food and drinks, the biking part and a comfortable night at an amazing lodge. A private van picked me up at 7:45 at my hotel and drove around the Chanchani volcano and stopped underway to take some pictures and made a long stop at the Choqolaqa Rock Forest.
Here we drank Inca tea and hiked for about an hour in this impressive landscape. Next stops was the pampas Cañahuas with the Llamas, Alpacas and Vicuñas (wild camels with the finest wool in the world). Great view with the grass and water parts where I could make great pictures.
Next we drove to the highest point at 4910 meter, here you can spot the volcanoes: Ampato, Sabancaya, Hualca Hualca and Mismi (source of the Amazon river!). The view is amazing and at the top where you can build you own rock formation. The green moss rocks that you can you can find over here; I had never seen before.
Tip: Because of the height the oxygen in the air is low, you could get headache, feeling dizzy and exhausted very fast; drink coca leaf tea and stay calm.
Next stop is Chivay to have a traditional lunch including alpaca steak. Then we headed with the bus to a nice viewpoint over the valley with terrace fields. This watering system that was invented by the Incas is similar to rice fields in Bali. Close to our lodge we did a long walk at the beginning of the Colca Canyon in the town Pinchallo. The room at the Colca Trek Lodge was luxurious with a great view over the valley.
Dinner was delicious with local ingredients like trout and Pisco Colca. After dinner there was time to chill and talk with your fellow travelers around the cozy fire place. Went to bed early, I was exhausted after today and had an early wake-up call tomorrow!!
Indeed at 6:00 I woke up to see the sunrise out of my window. After early breakfast at 6:20 we headed with the bus (20 min) to the Cruz del Condor, because we are so close we were the first ones. But no luck, no condors yet…. Then we stepped on our bikes!! We cycled 15 km downhill and including 1 km uphill; this was hell, the height killed me, no energy my longs were on fire, I live below sea level remember! We cycled all the way to the town of Cabanaconde. The route is spectacular, we stopped a couple to times to hear the story behind the towns across the canyon.
The view is stunning and the feeling is great being on the bike. In Cabanaconde we put the bikes on the truck and went back to Cruz del Condor; around 9:00. And now we were lucky, we spotted 4 condors in total! Impressive to see the world’s largest bird fly almost fly up to 7000 meter and could get 85 years old. Satisfied we headed back to the lodge to pick up our luggage and dropped off the bikes.
Tip: The tour offers to drop you off in Puno instead of Arequipa, this saves you time and transport.
Time to go back to Arequipa not before another stop at Choquetico where we had another great view and ate the cactus (tuna) as a snack.
In a small town Yanque we saw the traditional women wearing traditional clothing and hats. Now it’s time to relax in the Hot Springs of Calera. The water was warm and busy with both tourists and locals. We had lunch at the same traditional restaurant in Chivay. Then it was time for the long ride back to Arequipa. The weather changed from sunny to mist and rain; I felt asleep in the bus I was so tired. Luckily the driver was driving perfectly and dropped me off at my hotel around 17:00.
Accommodation and Restaurants
Arequipa has a lot of nice hotels and hostels and the same for the restaurants. Perfect for each travelers budget you can find anything. All is well arranged and organised! See below my recommendations.
Hostal Casona Solar is located at Calle Consuelo and has good value for money with secret garden close to the main square of Arequipa. The rooms are huge with a vide and beautiful exposed-pillar brickwork made of white volcanic stones. This place has a great history of 300 years as a colonial gentleman’s house that was built in 1702. Breakfast buffet is included.
Crepisimo is a located at Calle Santa Catalina 208, in an hold colonial house and this place was packed with tourists. The owner is French and offer great breakfast and coffee. I went for the coffee met crepe Nutella but you chose one of the 99 other crepes!
Chaqchoa is located next to Crepisimo at Calle Santa Catalina 204, is a chocolate and coffee café. I liked the look and feel of this place, they have their own chocolate factory in the back, a chocolate store and the café where they sell fresh cakes and coffee.
ZigZag is located at Zela Street 210 and is a very neat and colonial Peruvian restaurant but for a reasonable price. I had the fish with quinoa risotto with was very good. I love the Peruvian kitchen!!
The Colca Canon trip and Arequipa is a must do when you are in Peru!!!