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Peru Travel: Arequipa and the Grand Colca Canyon of South America
Arequipa is a colonial gem in the south of Peru, read about suggested sites from a local travel expert at Peru For Less.
Arequipa is yet another colonial gem located in the south of Peru. Being Peru's second city it was initially a isolated town until the construction of a railway connecting it with the world and fueling industrial development. In close proximity to the town are the great sights of Colca Canyon, the second deepest canyon in the world.
Arequipa itself sits in a fertile green valley and is graced by an overarching volcano that has provided many of the materials used to build the city. The city is known as the 'white city' due to the fact that many of the buildings were constructed using the light colored stone called sillar from the volcano.
The city's colonial heart is around Plaza de Armas which is a beautiful green filled square with flower beds, palm trees and benches for people watching. All of the city's famous colonial buildings are in walking distance from here. You can also take guided open top bus tours from here. From the plaza you can see the great natural wonders that surround the city. Other sites include the Santuarios Andinos Musuem and the wondrous Santa Catalina Monastary. The monestary was closed to visitors until 1970's and the nuns who had lived there had vowed their isolation - so the monastery became as isolated city in itself.
The region is home to a number of pre-Inca and Incas sites and attractions. Many first time visitors to Peru have heard of the Incas, but the whole Andean region was home to a number of similarly spectacular cultures and societies such as the Huari, Tiahuanuco, Chancay from before the reign of the Inca Empire. Arequipa's Catholic University Archeology Museum is home to a number of artifacts, textiles and ceramics that have been recovered from the region, as well as 'Mummy Juanita' which when found was a fully frozen preserved ice maiden from 500 years ago and tests have told scientists much about Inca lifestyle.
Peru is located relatively close to the equator and so is less variable to climatic change throughout the year and Arequipa, being located 7, 808 feet (2380 meters) above the ground, gives the city all year round spring like weather.
Within a spring board distance of Arequipa it is possible to take a tour of the Colca Canyon, which is considered by scientists to be 10, 470 feet (3, 191 meters) making it twice the depth of the grand canyon in the USA. Touring the area as a visitor is a truly majestic sight and being off the traditional 'gringo' trail, as well as the areas remoteness, keeps many of the traditional Andean villages intact with local women still wearing traditional dress. Tours are available for a day, but increasingly adventure traveler tour the area for longer and sometimes camp out in the canyon to make the most of the experience.
While exploring the Colca Canyon you maybe graced by the opportunity to see the majestic Andean Condor- whose wingspan measures up to 18 feet. A good tour would pass by the Crus del Condor on the Canyons south west rim. The best time to see the condors is early morning - about 9am in the dry months of the regions (from May to December).
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