4 amazing days in Arequipa

By on July 22, 2024

We arrived in Arequipa very early in the morning after an overnight bus ride from Nazca. After an early breakfast we headed out to book tours for the coming days. After a bit of research we chose Waiky adventours as they spoke English and offered reasonable prices (as with most agencies they are mostly a storefront and it is a bit random what guide you end up with). If you are serious about hiking some of the larger volcanos Waiky adventours does however seem very legit with all equipment available in the store and detailed advice about the climb. We ended up deciding on rafting, a full day trip to the salt lake and the 2D/1N Culca Canyon trek. Jesper and Noah considered climbing the Chachani volcano (6057 meters) up until the last minute but given the quite extreme schedule starting at midnight and ending late evening the following day for the “bullet climb” and not the least our constant struggle with sickness they ended up deciding against it. In retrospect that was the right decision as sickness hit us once again.

Free city tour

After booking the tours we signed up for the free city tour http://freetourperu.com/product/free-tour-arequipa/ which proved an insightful walk around the historical part of the city. We got to see several viewpoints and churches, got detailed knowledge about alpaca and llama wool production, learned how even old buildings had been designed to withstand earthquakes and how racism against the original Andean people still prevails to this day (just being able to speak Quechua is enough to be discriminated). 


The tour definitely deserves the 5 star rating and you are free to choose whatever tip you find appropriate

Laguna de Salinas 

As with pretty much every tour in Peru you have to get up very early (we were picked up around 5am). First stop was a beautiful viewpoint of the Misti Volcano.

After a breakfast stop we hit the gravel road and a roughly two hour drive to the lake. On the way we enjoyed the beautiful mountain views and the abundant alpacas, vicunas and llamas.

We spent around 1,5 hours at the lake. Extreme amounts of rain meant that the entire lake was still covered in water at this point in the dry season but on the plus side many flamingos were still there. 

After the visit to the lake we went to the “hot” springs. With temperatures around 31 they were however not nearly warm enough for our taste and we felt we had to swim to stay warm. A flock of vicunas were grazing near the mini “volcano” (used to be a geyser) but overall we did not quite feel this stop was worth the time and money (10 soles per person).

It was quite difficult to explain afterwards why we had felt it was a great tour. The spot was quite touristy, the hot springs too cold, the salt lake was “just” a lake, the drive was extremely long and most of it on gravel roads and there was little hiking and only on “paved” paths. Somehow the fresh air at the high altitudes (4600 meters) and the beautiful views along the way must have made up for it.

Rafting the Chili river  

As stated earlier our rafting experience in Banos Ecuador had not quite been the adrenaline ride we were hoping for. Rated as a class 3+ to 4 we hoped the Chili river in Arequipa would prove a bit more exciting.  On the drive to the river we were informed that being the dry season the river was now only a class 3 and we could not help feeling a bit of a deja vu.

We were, however, positively surprised. The Chili River is narrow and as such quite a technical river to raft with lots of rocks and rapids. It is probably even more fun in the wet season but nonetheless we had a great time. At 65 soles (roughly 18 USD) it was definitely worth the money. 

We did not bring our GoPro camera this time since photos were advertised at 10 soles. It did however turn out to be 40 soles per boat (which they cleverly divide by 4 people), not that it was a huge expense but given the many rafting pictures we already have and the false advertising we decided against buying them. However, our great rafting guide Paco from Cusipata Rafting took a few pictures of us with his cell phone and shared them with us on WhatsApp. Thanks Paco!

A very challenging Colca Canyon 2D/1N trek

90% of people visiting the Colca Canyon, basically ride a bus to a few viewpoints before returning to Arequipa. The trek however, seemed to serve both as a nice warm-up to our Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu as well as a great chance to get the full Colca Canyon experience. Boy, did we get that wrong 🙂

With usual bad timing Noah felt nauseous when we woke him up at 2.45am to be ready for the pickup at 3.10. At first we just accredited it to the early hour but when he refused to eat at the breakfast stop around 7am we started to get nervous. At the first viewpoint he threw up and we were starting to doubt the sanity of starting a 1100 vertical meter hike down the 2nd deepest canyon in the world.

The next viewpoint offered a chance to see majestic condors. Touristy? – yes, crowded? – absolutely but still a very unique experience. Getting a sharp picture did however prove difficult and a few more hours studying the settings on our Panasonic FZ-300 would probably have resulted in much better pictures.

At about 9.30 we were ready to start the hike down the canyon. Noah insisted he was feeling well enough but for the first time ever he was not constantly in front.

With 400 meter vertical drops right next to the trail (reasonably wide so not dangerous as such) it was however Line’s vertigo that proved the biggest challenge and we were all expecting her to turn back any minute. The views were stunning but be ready for some serious drops and burning calves from 3 hours of nonstop steep downhill hiking.

Impressively she made it to the bottom of the canyon (probably as much from fear of having to walk the same path back up), but had there been a chance to grab a reasonably priced taxi out of there we had little doubt she would have taken it (a taxi out of the canyon was about twice the price of the entire tour).

At the bottom of the canyon it was a more regular half an hour hike to our lunch stop.

After lunch and a considerable amount of coaching from both Jesper and the tour guide, Line and the rest of the group were ready to continue the 3 hour remaining hike to our overnight stay. Having eaten very little breakfast and lunch both Noah and Vitus were seriously drained of energy and despite the easier terrain Jesper had his hands full pushing Vitus up the last climbs. That, however, was just a small taste of what was to come.

Though Vitus did not eat much at dinner we really enjoyed our overnight stay. The rest of us found the food plentiful and enjoyable and after the usual round of cards and a Mojito for the adults we went to bed early to be ready to start the morning hike at 4.45am. 

Waking up at 4.30 Noah was back to his usual self and ready to take on the 1100 vertical meter climb to the top of the canyon. Vitus however was not exactly at the top of his game.

Having eaten very little for lunch and dinner the previous day he was complaining of nausea and headache. Hoping he would get better once he started walking we started the hike in the dark. While Noah was basically running up the mountain Vitus threw up twice within the first 500 meters and wanted to stop every few meters. 

A decision was made to split up the group. The guide stayed back with Vitus and Jesper, Noah joined two rock-climbers pacing up the mountain while Line found an intermediate pace together with a guy from Belgium. 

Jesper and Vitus made an agreement to walk for 5 minutes and rest for 1.5 while Jesper pushed Vitus. Step by step they picked up the pace and to everybody’s surprise Jesper and Vitus overtook Line after about 2 hours and made it to the top in 2 hours and 56 minutes. Four minutes less than the scheduled time of 3 hours with Vitus having had almost nothing to eat for the past 20 hours. What a little hero and the guide was truly impressed.

After the trek it was time for a visit to the hot springs. And this time they were really hot. The colder ones starting at 35 while the real hot ones were too hot for us to stay in more than a minute.

Our Colca Canyon trek concluded our 4 nights in Arequipa and the next morning we boarded the bus for Puno and the Titicaca lake. We will spare you the details of how that ride was almost canceled by Jesper getting a bad case of stomach problems the night before departure.

We really loved Arequipa. We found a spacious apartment right in the center of the white city (historical center) and truly enjoyed the atmosphere and the beautiful buildings. Had we had more days to spare (and less sickness) we could easily have found much more to do.

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