Peru's second largest city, Arequipa sits in a valley cradled by three active volcanoes near Colca Canyon, the world's deepest. With a plethora of rafting, climbing, hiking and trekking activities available, Colca Canyon and Arequipa are popular destinations in Peru for outdoors enthusiasts. The fact that Arequipa and Colca Canyon receive over 300 days of sunshine a year doesn't hurt the regions reputation as an adventurer's haven.
"Arequipa" loosely translates to "the place lying behind the peak", referring to El Misti, the volcano that towers over the whitewashed city. Though many travelers use Arequipa as a stopping point on the way from Cuzco to Lake Titicaca, the city is worthy of exploration in and of itself.
Known as the White City of Peru because if its distinct sillar architecture using a white volcanic stone in colonial and republican-era architectural styles. The historic center surrounding the Santa Catalina Monastery is a particularly well preserved section of the city showcasing the unique style of construction that has come to define the image of Arequipa.
Sitting at the heart of the city, the Monasterio de Santa Catalina is one of the most popular attractions in Arequipa. Full of narrow hallways, bright colors, blooming flowers, and the classic sillar architecture the Monastery is a true Peruvian gem. Nearby numerous picanterías line the streets, where you can sample chicharron, a typical Peruvian dish of fried pork among many other local specialties. A stroll around the Monasterio de Santa Catalina on a sunny day is one of the most pleasant things to do in Arequipa and possibly in all of Peru.
While its elegant churches, colonial mansions, and museums make Arequipa a charming historic city, for many the appeal to Arequipa is as a convenient base for those seeking a bit of outdoor adventure.
In the surrounding region one can raft the rapid rivers, climb rugged volcanoes and trek across dozens of trails in the Colca Canyon. About three hours from Arequipa, Colca Canyon is a must-see for travelers to Peru. Twice as deep as America's Grand Canyon, with rafting and hiking opportunities for outdoors enthusiasts of all skill levels, Colca Canyon is an adventure seekers paradise.
For those who want to spend more time in Colca Canyon and less in Arequipa, the quaint town of Chivay is a great place to spend the night. A lively local market and nearby hot springs provide additional entertainment for those who chose to stay there.