The irresistibly sexy city of Arequipa, known as the Ciudad Blanca (White City), is surrounded by some of the wildest terrain in Peru. This is a land of active, snowy volcanoes, high-altitude deserts, thermal hot springs, salt lakes and, last but not least, the world’s deepest canyons.
Whether your heart desires trekking, mountain biking, river running (white-water rafting) or clambering up Andean peaks, Arequipa makes the perfect base camp. No other place in southern Peru delivers the best of both urban and outdoor life – you can slalom down a sandy volcanic summit and still be back in your colonial mansion guesthouse in time for a dinner of spicy arequipeño food and all-night dancing in a sizzling-hot nightclub.
Peru’s second-largest city is often dismissed as an overland layover en route from Nazca to Lake Titicaca and Cuzco. True, it’s an invaluable intermediate stop for acclimatization to high altitudes. But don’t leave before exploring the city itself, at least to wander down the hidden passageways of the Monasterio de Santa Catalina and marvel at the icy Inca mummies in the Museo Santury.
Don’t miss the spectacular landscape that surrounds the city either, not least the famous Cañón del Colca, shadowed by snow-topped volcanoes and possessing one of the best places to marvel at the flight of the Andean condor. More untrammeled roads, such as those in the Cañón del Cotahuasi, await adventurous souls, passing ancient ruins, waterfalls, hot springs and even dinosaur footprints. What more could you possibly ask for?