Getting off the bus in Arequipa in the morning, I felt super dizzy. Was it the unsound sleep? Was it the altitude? Was it a mix of both? Who knows.

Even a little shaken, I fell in instant love with this white, elegant city where recent nobel prize winner Mario Vargas Llosa was born in 1936. 

Plaza de Armas
In front of the Catedral de Arequipa, protests from the workers of the mines surrounding Arequipa. They are digging for ore, silver, and gold - a trade, that destroys the nature and the workers.
Start your tour at the Plaza de Armas and just walk the streets and alleys with your eyes wide open. This colonial town is just so beautiful.

Don't miss the highly interesting Museo Santuarios Andino where life in the Andes is explained and the mummy "Juanita" is on display; although when I was there, Juanita had a couple of days off for restoration so that her colleague mummy "Sarita" had to fill in. Actually I don't know if there's a big difference in the appearance of 500 years old mummies.

There are many police women in Peru, and many of them look like wearing a 'sexy cop' costume.

Another beautiful and highly interesting place is the Monasterio de Santa Catalina. It can be visited individually, but of course it's more informative if you join a guided tour.

monasterio de santa catalina
Just getting lost in the alleys connecting the former nuns' cells.

View of the whole complex - a quite impressive size.
Why Arequipa is also called the "White City" is quite self-explanatory: Most of the buildings in the city center are made of sillar, a white volcanic stone. That's probably the reason why the facades of the many, many churches are so elaborated.

Iglesia de San Agustín - just one block from the Catedral at the Plaza de Armas.
Or just stroll up and down Arequipa's street and enjoy the intriguing view on the snow covered mountains behind the long colonial boulevards.

Calle Bolivar - with a great view of Monte and Volcano Chachani.

Arequipa is also the gateway to the Colca canyon, and an organized tour shouldn't be missed.
As I explained in an earlier post, pre-booking of tours - and of hotels, for that matter - is not recommendable in Peru, you will pay a much higher price when booking over the internet. Just go to one of the offices and bargain a little bit and you'll be much better off.
Even though the pick up is at 2.30 a. m. and due to the fatigue and the wee hour, you will be freezing like never before. But after the breakfast at about 7 you'll slowly defrost and the outer temperature begins to rise and you can appreciate the first stop, the picturesque town of Chivay. 

Chivay - nestled in the Colca Canyon.

dance in chivay
Traditional dancers are welcoming tourist at Chivay. A bit cheesy, but colorful and pretty just the same.

In Chivay, too: Beautifully elaborated church facades.

I did the tour with Colcandina Travel and it was fine. The price seemed not so bad, but I'm sure you can bargain a bit when you don't book the tour over the internet but just walk in at their office. Remember: there is competition on the spot that does not have the means to advertise on the internet.

They also offer hiking tours through the Canyon. Sounds alluring, but keep in mind that any form of physical activity is much more exhausting due to the altitude.

Colca Canyon
Majestic vastness of the Colca Canyon.

One of the trip's highlights is definitely the stop at Pampas Cañahuas, were herds of Alpacas and Llamas can be observed. Usually another stop at Patapampa (over 4.800 meters / 15,900 feet - freezing again) and an optional stop at the Thermal Pools of Calera is included.

To read a post on the mountainous region around Arequipa and the Colca Canyon, Puno and Lake Titicaca as well as Cusco, the Sacred Valley of the Incas and Machu Picchu, go to this special post.

Do you want to read about all the other beautiful places I've visited in Peru? 
Then go to the main post and take your pick!

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