MESSAGE: Arequipa, Peru *Videos*

Arequipa, Peru’s second largest city, is one of my favorite in South America! It’s known as the “White City” because much of the city is made from sillar, a form of white volcanic stone, which make the entire city shimmer in the sunlight.

Designated as an UNESCO heritage site, the colonial-era town is encircled by the Andes Mountains and guarded by El Misti, one of many snow-capped volcanoes. Sound pretty? It is! Here’re 7 fabulous activities to do in Arequipa:

MEET (Cool Meet Ups) – Colca Canyon. Meet fellow hikers anywhere in the depths of Colca Canyon, the world’s deepest canyon (more than twice as deep at the Grand Canyon). Situated about 100 miles northwest of Arequipa, Colca Canyon is surrounded by pre-Inca stepped terraces which are still used for cultivating crops. Setting off at 2:30 am, I made a full day of my visit and thoroughly enjoyed the multihued vistas the canyon offered at sunrise.

EAT (Tasty Eats) – Stuffed Stuff. I hear Peruvian cuisine is all the rage in London these days, and no wonder – it’s tasty! It’s particular known for its stuffed foods or “rellenos.” Here are recipes for two favorites:

SEE (Must-see Sights) – Flight of the Condors. Colca Canyon is also a condor sanctuary and home to the Andean Condor, a species that has conservationists on high alert. The condors are best seen in the morning, at a spot deemed “Cruz del Condor,” where you can see these magnificent birds swoop through the canyon.

Here’s an up-close look at the flight of the condors:

Can’t see the video? Click on this link: Condors in Flight

SHOP (Gotta Have) – Plaza de Armas. This picturesque square is the heart of Arequipa, offering a central foundation and park surrounded by colonial buildings and palm trees. The Cathedral de Arequipa occupies the northern side of the plaza, its architecture is a beautiful mixture of neo-Gothic and Renaissance with 70 columns lining the façade.

The buildings rimming the square host cafes and all forms of shopping so you can buy authentic “Inca wear,” specifically Peru’s famous embroidered skirts, hats, vests, and blouses. I visited several times, but on a Sunday afternoon it was particularly packed with children, pigeons and ice cream carts. Fun!

ACTIVITY (Gotta Do) –Whitewater Rafting. A trip rafting the Colca River through the deepest canyon in the world lasts anywhere from half a day to 3 days, and offers an intoxicating mix of Class III & IV rapids, with an idyllic drift down river between two flanking volcanoes.

The river flows more than 221 miles (355 kilometers) from the Andes to the Pacific Ocean. As a bonus, rafters get to camp each night on the bank of the river. I’m not sure how I missed this cool adventure – next time for sure!

GIVE (Greatest Need) – Intiwawa. A local children’s charity, I found out about Intiwawa while staying at my hostel in town. The nonprofit organization is dedicated to fighting poverty in the slums of Arequipa, focusing on the settlement called San Isidro on the outskirts of town.

Most of the inhabitants of San Isidro are brick makers, an unhealthy and poorly paid profession and most families suffer from the negative effects of water pollution, malnutrition, and high levels of illiteracy.

Interested in helping out? Click here for more information on volunteering and making a donation. For my part, I dropped off school supplies and was offered an opportunity to volunteer with the children next time I pass through!

ENJOY (Extra Fun) – Llamas & Alpacas & Vicuna – oh my! Ok, these distinct South America species are hard to tell apart (especially when you add in the guanaco). Here’s what I learned:

Llama: A cousin of the camel, llamas are pack animals known for their wool (which is lanolin-free) and meat. They live up to 30 years and can be nearly 6 feet tall.

Alpaca: Another cousin of the camel, alpacas are bred specifically for their fiber, which comes in 52 natural colors. Alpacas are smaller and fluffier than llamas, with shorter necks.

Guanaco: Along with the vicuna, guanacos are wild camelids, indigenous to South America. They live in the high alpine areas of the Andes.

Vicuna: The national animal of Peru, the vicuna appears on the country’s coat of arms. It is a wild ancestor of the alpaca, and its wool is even more precious since it can only be shorn every 3 years.

We passed by a national park on the way back from Colca Canyon and got to try and sort out the differences up close. Can you tell, which animals are which?

Can’t see the video? Click on this link: Llamas & Alpacas

Interested in reading about my 7 tips on exploring other travel hotspots? Check out:

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This entry was posted on Monday, November 12th, 2012 and is filed under Messages by Country, South America.

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