Hotels and excursions in the White City and Colca Valley
Include a couple of days of your holiday to Peru in this once hidden valley in the Andes inland from Arequipa. If you are travelling between Arequipa and Lake Titicaca by land, we recommend you route through the canyon and linger there a couple of days: you can spot condors, visit traditional villages, bathe in thermal baths and take part in outdoor activities such as hiking, cycling or riding.
Peru's tranquil second city, Arequipa basks in the sun in a vivid garden oasis. The white-stone city of colonial squares, churches and mansions, graced with palms and ablaze with flowers, contrasts with its setting: the volcanoes, canyons and wind-eroded rocks of some of the continent’s most brutal scenery.
Your visit to the Convent of Santa Catalina will be a highlight of your stay. This is an enclosed village within-a-city where courtyards, alleyways and flights of secret steps are splashed with cobalt blue, marble-white and terracotta hues. Only birdsong and the tinkling of fountains disturb the serene silence.
At the Museum Santuarios Andinos you will be able to view the mummy of "Juanita," a beautiful young maiden, discovered preserved in ice, who had been sacrificed to the Apu Ampato by Inca priests - a moving experience.
Arequipa is also the gateway to the isolated Colca Canyon. There, giant amphi-theatrical terraces out-scale the tiny settlements with their baroque churches; villagers wear elaborate embroidered costume, and the craggy cliffs are the territory of the soaring condor. Colca Canyon offers enchanting countryside in which to relax, stroll, enjoy hot-springs and visit indian ruins.
Continue from the Colca Canyon towards the shores of Lake Titicaca. The staggering scenery along the road, will leave you punch-drunk - though that may have something to do with the altitude (passes of 4,000m above sea level are crossed). Vicuñas may be spied as you descend into the valley. Spot the giant condor soaring above the viewpoint at Cruz del Condor. (This journey can be done in reverse).
Read more about Arequipa and the Colca Canyon
Doug McKinlay, a writer for The Times and The Guardian, explores Peru's Colca Canyon and Arequipa beneath condor-filled skies. He wrote about his travels in our online magazine, Papagaio.
Where condors fly
For an off -the-beaten-track experience, read this fascinating article also first published in Papagaio
The Road to Cotahuasi
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Santa Catalina Convent, Arequipa
Condor in the Colca canyon