June 7, 2023

Peru’s “White City” and the condors of Colca Canyon

To ensure you don\’t miss the majestic birds in Colca Canyon, Peru, reserve stops along the scenic route for the trip back.
Nicknamed the White City for its sillar (white volcanic stone) buildings, Arequipa is in one of Peru’s most beautiful settings—circled by three enormous volcanoes and green terraced farmland. The nation’s second-largest city has a sophisticated restaurant scene and plenty to see and do.

Start with a photo of the stunning scenery from the Mirador Carmen Alto, a few miles from the city center. Then visit two top sights: the Church of San Juan Bautista (c. 1750) and Arequipa’s Plaza de Armas, where the 19,000-foot El Misti volcano rises behind a 17th-century twin-spired cathedral.

In the afternoon, tour the 16th-century Santa Catalina Monastery. At nearly 5 acres, it is the size of a small village and once housed 450 nuns—now just twenty. Afterward, depart Arequipa for the 100-mile drive to the verdant Colca Canyon, with excellent views of volcanoes en route. Check into luxury eco-hotel Las Casitas del Colca and spend the afternoon and evening enjoying the valley view from the patio of your private casita and exploring—on foot or horseback—the lakes and hiking trails on the 24-acre property.

Get up early the next day for the high point of any trip to Colca Canyon: Mirador Cruz del Condor. From mountainside trails, watch as giant condors—carnivorous birds with impressive 10-foot wingspans—gracefully circle the 3,937-foot canyon.

Spend the rest of your time in the Colca Canyon stopping in at traditional villages, hiking the stepped hills, fishing, or relaxing at the hotel’s 6,500-square foot spa.

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