Arequipa: The How and When to Go!

By Mercedes Marks / Photo by Hua Lin

Travel advice covering the basics when preparing to travel to Arequipa.

When To Go

Like many partly tropical countries, there are primarily two seasons in Peru: wet and dry. The Andean highlands’ dry season runs from June to October, and is, by and large, a better time to visit. (The rainy months of the highlands are December to March.) This is especially true for anybody heading to the Arequipa region of (almost-coastal) southwestern Peru in hopes of trekking the Colca Canyon or other trails: in the rainy season, many rougher trails become dangerous or completely impassable, so plan your trip with accordingly.

However, since the dry season is Peru’s more popular tourist season (for Peruvians and fellow South Americans as well!), the wetter months (rainy season) might be a good time for travellers who prefer leaner crowds, especially if they are sticking to the towns and cities of this Andean-Amazon country.

Getting There

Nonstop flights to Arequipa are as yet hard to come via Canada; but in-country connecting flights are available via Cusco, Lima or Juliaca. Cusco in particular is very accessible, with airlines flying to the city from most major Canadian cities.

There is no public transportation from Rodríguez Ballón airport (AQP), the airport nearest to Arequipa, but a taxi can be taken to the city centre for a flat rate of 25 Peruvian nuevo sol.

Getting Around

Bus and tram availability varies in the Arequipa region, and taxis are an affordable alternative, with a trip across town costing less than the equivalent of one Canadian dollar. Due to its size, the easiest way to get around the city is by foot. The Plaza de Armas is centralized enough that it acts as an excellent wayfinding tool for exploring the area.

What To Do

Visit the City of Arequipa

Arequipa, an Andean city and Peru’s second largest, is a great starting point to explore the Colca Valley region. Check out the city’s Plaza de Armas (town square), with its colonial buildings and heritage, restaurants, cafes and quirky shops. Lying indomitably in the background is Mount Misti.

Conquer Mount Misti

Peru’s most famous volcano, and the discovery site of six Inca mummies in 1998 (on display at the Museo de Santuarios Andinos in Arequipa). You can take many trails to the summit, including the Delantera route (called the historic route), which follows the first recorded ascent of Misti and take about two days. Cycling the descent is doable for most experienced bikers (with operators in Arequipa who rent bikes). Camping, climbing and descending Misti requires no prior permit or licensing arrangements.

The Colca Valley

Explore the Colca Valley by guided tour buses from the city of Arequipa. Home to the stately Andean condor, which you can watch glide across the strong Andean wind at the Cruz del Condor lookout. Also view the region’s magnificent agricultural terraces that are etched into mountainsides and tell ancient stories of survival.

The Colca Canyon

To experience the depths of the canyon, several treks, many offered by local guides and operators, are doable. The most popular is the one from the mountainside village of Cabanaconde (at 3200 m) to the oasis of Sangalle, at the canyon’s bottom. Trekkers can camp cheaply or even lodge-it overnight here, swim in freshwater pools, and be protected from mountain winds by high canyons walls. Limited hot water and electricity, but poolside lounging available. You can also trek around the perimeter of the canyon and its environs, which will take you through many charming and ancient Peruvian villages.

Paddle the Colca River

Slices the Colca Canyon and well beyond, the river has rugged whitewater action for kilometres at a stretch, as well as camping spots along route - it’s a veritable paddler’s paradise! With lots of whitewater multi-class options, though it’s worth noting the river has higher levels of water from january to April.

The Cotahuasi Canyon

The deepest in the world (at 3,534 m), this is “the other” great canyon in Peru, about 375 km from the city of Arequipa. Operators offer multi-day trekking, and excursions can include paddling, mountain biking and even paragliding.

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